The Planning Commission took the unusual step Tuesday night of recommending an amendment to the City Master Plan and approving the rezoning of an individual site. It was done to accommodate the construction of a residential condominium building that could become a signature landmark to the city's entrance.
"This building is one of the best-designed buildings we've seen in a long time in this city," said Poul Hertel, a member of the North East Civic Association and Land Use Planning Task Force, speaking in support of a proposal by Diamond Slaters, LLC., to construct a 28-unit, four-story residential condominium structure on the present site of the Nordic-Press building.
"When this was first proposed to the civic association it did not look at all like it does today. This building really looks good and they [Diamond Slaters] got a standing ovation by the civic association when they presented it to us," Hertel told the planning Commissioners in his testimony.
This was buttressed by Mary Ellen Posey, president, North East Civic Association. "This project has been unanimously endorsed by the association," she said.
WHAT WAS RECEIVING all the accolades was the design of the 50-foot tall, approximately 28,000-square-feet, residential structure to be erected at 800 Slater's lane. It will also be "the first large scale, private development project" that will meet all the necessary requirements to be designated a LEED silver-level rated Green building, according to the Planning and Zoning Department staff report.
"The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building rating system represents the U.S. Green Building Council's effort to provide a national standard for what constitutes a "green building," staff noted in their analysis. Projects are evaluated using a point system.
Located just west of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, the site "provides an opportunity to eliminate one of the last remnant commercial-industrial uses and enable an extension of the pedestrian-oriented and urban development pattern that is occurring with the ongoing redevelopment of Slater's Lane," staff stated.
NOTING THAT APPROVAL of the application also calls for a change in both the Master Plan and the Zoning Ordinance, to convert the site from commercial-industrial to residential, Jeffrey Farner, P&Z division chief, said, "This is a rezoning and generally staff discourages rezoning outside an area plan."
However, he noted, that the Slater's Lane is in transition along with the influence to the area of the proposed Potomac Yard Development. "What has changed on Slater's Lane since 1999? Almost all of it has changed, " Farner said. "This is a proposal we felt is reasonable."
Harry Hart, attorney for the applicants, also said, "We are proffering this building for this plan." He explained it was the desire of the applicant to provide one on-site affordable unit. "Therefore, the applicant has made a voluntary contribution of $125,000 to the City's Affordable Housing Trust Fund," according to staff.
This amount was based on the anticipated $300,000 selling price of a one-bedroom unit. "The current rate for a one-bedroom unit within the city is $175,000. Therefore, the difference between the market and affordable unit is $125,000," according to staff.
The rectangular-shaped site consists of three parcels totaling 22,463 square feet with frontage on Slater's Lane. Present uses to the north include an office building, a future 1.5 acre public park and the 15,000-square-feet Potomac Plaza retail center that is under construction.
Upon completion, the new building, with its landmark corner-tower edifice, will consist of nine one-bedroom units and 19 two-bedroom units. They will range in size from 784 to 1,317 square feet.
A two-level below grade parking garage will provide 47 resident spaces. In addition, there will be seven grade-level visitor spaces. Entrance to the underground garage will be by controlled access.
Other amenities include public open space, an improved pedestrian streetscape, and pedestrian crossings. The ground-level open space is accessible and visible from Slater's Lane. It consists of a mixture of an eastern courtyard, outside seating, and landscaping.
Diamond Slaters has agreed to provide a public access easement for the open space on the eastern portion of the site to function as a public pocket park. "The proposed open space will visually connect to the future public park on the north side of Slater's Lane," according to staff.
The Master Plan amendment, the zoning change, and the building proposal were all approved unanimously.