EastBanc to Reintroduce Key Bridge Exxon Condo Designs

3601 M St., NW
Courtesy of EastBanc
3601 M St., NW

It is back to the future for developer EastBanc and its proposed condos at the Key Bridge Exxon property on Canal Road. Expect a repeat performance of design questions and neighbors' opposition.

With its 1055 Water condo project well on its way to completion, the developer will turn back to its condo plans for the gas station property, next to the "Exorcist" steps and the Car Barn. In April 2011, EastBanc's plans called for a 35-unit building to rise to the height of Prospect Street properties above. With some neighborhood opposition and designs overly revised, EastBanc head Anthony Lanier sidelined the project.

Designs for the M Street-Canal Road condos at the site will be re-introduced at the March 3 meeting of the Georgetown-Burleith Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E as well as the Old Georgetown Board meeting on March 6. According to EastBanc, plans call for 26 to 28 units, "averaging 2,500 square feet in size," each with two parking spaces.

Mary Mottershead of EastBanc offered more details to the Georgetowner: "The latest plans for this project at 3601-3607 M St are fairly similar in massing to the previous studies we undertook several years ago as they also follow the C-2 A zoning guidelines for the site.  However, the new design is very different with the idea of being a quieter, more neutral design which does not compete with all the different very busy townhouse elevations above nor with the wedding cake design of the Arthur Cotton Moore building to the west nor with the massive and heavy design of the Car Barn to the east. …"

"As for the neighbors above," she continued, "the roof height of our building is below the lowest levels of those townhouses.  However, our building needs space above for elevator overruns and stairwells and mechanical units and exhaust pipes and the like.  By zoning, buildings are allowed 18-foot penthouses to accommodate mechanical equipment, but in consideration of the sightlines of these neighbors, we have undertaken many studies to look at other options which limit the impact to the views of the neighbors.  Hence, we have spent a lot of time with our mechanical engineers and our landscape architects, OVS, to design a rooftop with equipment and penetrations that are lower in profile and also well screened with green roof areas where possible."

And, as for those neighbors above on the 3600 block of Prospect Street, whose houses would overlook the condos, EastBanc met with some of them individually about two weeks ago to discuss the new designs.

According to one neighbor, who requested anonymity, they were "surprised by the three-week notice" before the public meetings. As for the new design, the person said: "We will be vocal in our opposition. … The proposed building is more of what was presented last time: a massive contemporary structure."

The homeowner cited the five-story condo design's lack of historic context, saying it is a highly visible gateway to Georgetown, vibrant with a historic wall and steps and the spires of Georgetown University in the distance. Add to the new view the obscuring of greenery along the hill. "Is this the kind of design we want all to see? It will be a huge statement."

Acknowledging that some views from their homes and backyards would be obstructed, the homeowner also cited environmental issues. The hillside part of their back property is fill dirt from earlier construction at Georgetown University and requires some neighbors to re-enforce their house, back yards and walls: "Construction would jeopardize the stability of the hill, which holds up our property." With the soft dirt on the hill, the homeowner said that one house on Prospect Street sustained hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage because of the August 2011 earthquake.

Neighbors seek a four-story condo complex at 40 feet above street level. Prepare for some serious discussion at next week's public meetings.

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Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:58:46 -0400

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