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Tweaks Eyed for EastBanc Development

By Brady HoltCurrent Staff Writer

EastBanc is working on design changes to its polarizing proposal for a new mixed-use building at 2715 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, the current site of a gas station across from the Four Seasons Hotel.

The company is responding to last month’s feedback from the Old Georgetown Board, which supported the general idea of a new five-story building on the site but had reservations about the way all upper-story windows would be deeply recessed into the facade. EastBanc is planning eight rental apartments of about 2,000 square feet apiece atop a ground-floor restaurant, sitting at the eastern gateway to Georgetown.

EastBanc’s Mary Mottershead said the project’s European architecture team is now “looking at the western facade of the building,” the area facing the corner of Pennsylvania and M Street. The architects are also considering whether to shift a proposed service driveway from the western side of the building, as currently planned, to the eastern side.

Asked whether EastBanc intends for its next design proposal to be largely similar to the version the firm presented a month ago, Mottershead said that’s a difficult question to answer at this stage.

“It depends on what you think of as largely similar,” she said. “To you it might be largely similar; to the architects it probably wouldn’t be.”

Mottershead added that EastBanc hasn’t seen what the architects are working on, and the firm doesn’t expect to go before the Old Georgetown Board again until October. The board reviews projects in the neighborhood to ensure architectural compatibility with the federally protected historic district.

In the meantime, EastBanc filed an application with the Zoning Commission on July 31 to seek permission for greater height and density than allowed on the property, and to forgo an on-site parking requirement.

Most of the parcel is currently zoned to allow buildings up to 50 feet tall with a floor-area ratio of 2.5, matching the buildings along M Street, but part of it has no current zoning category. EastBanc would like the whole property to be granted the higher limits that are allowed south of Pennsylvania Avenue, and also to have a smaller minimum setback from the rear property line than would otherwise be permitted. Also, although the zoning rules would ordinarily require three parking spaces, EastBanc would like to include none.

EastBanc is seeking the flexibility through the planned-unit development process, in which a developer offers community benefits intended to offset the impacts of its project. At 2715 Pennsylvania, EastBanc says its project offers superior architecture and better use of space compared to the 1950s gas station. The firm also pledged to improve the area of Rock Creek Park immediately to the east of the property with new trees and other plantings, new benches and permeable pathways.

Meanwhile, to prevent tenants from parking on nearby residential streets, EastBanc committed in its application to preventing the building’s residents from obtaining Residential Parking Permits, to providing at least eight long-term bike parking spaces, and to offering residents a choice of a Capital Bikeshare or car-sharing membership.

The Georgetown advisory neighborhood commission earlier this summer voiced support for the project in general, while raising questions about the architecture. The commission will weigh in on the revised project this fall before it returns to the Old Georgetown Board.

This article appears in the Aug. 12 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.