by Mary Beth Ray
ANC 3F03 Commissioner
Architects John Torti and Sarah Alexander of Torti Gallas, and John Collich of Saul Centers, Inc., presented their new design for the property currently known as Van Ness Square at ANC 3F’s meeting on Tuesday, April 16th.
A slide presentation was followed by extensive Q&A, and unlike the Cafritz development further up the Avenue, neighbors left feeling optimistic with the design and with the sense that Saul welcomes community input. (Read what architect and Forest Hills neighbor Ken Terzian thinks of the Park Van Ness project here.)
Office Depot and Pier One move out in the next few weeks, and demolition of the current structure begins this summer. Construction begins Fall 2013 and is estimated to take 30 months.
Saul anticipates opening in Winter 2016. There will be 271 luxury apartments (1, 2 and 3 bedroom), 224 below-grade parking spaces, and 10,000 square feet of neighborhood retail, including at least one sidewalk cafe. Twenty-six units are considered “affordable housing”. The building is LEED certified, has a green roof, and meets all zoning requirements.
Neighbors expressed interest in including “Forest Hills” in the project name, which Collich and Torti embraced. Saul will allow a tour of the existing structure for any who might be interested in the historical/architectural aspects of the current building.
ANC Commissioner Mary Beth Ray (3F03) requested that landscape architect Michael Vergason share his tree box design so that it might be replicated along Connecticut Avenue to create an elegant and consistent street presence for our main throughway (view the tree boxes and other drawings of Park Van Ness in this two-page PDF by clicking here). She also requested that BF Saul commit to participating in cleaning up Soapstone Valley, which is clearly an essential design component of the project. Saul also agreed to work with WASA to clean the sewage pipe behind the property and to minimize runoff and erosion.
At Yuma Street, the building has a “peek through” where pedestrians will be able to look through and see the park; unfortunately however, for security concerns, Saul will not allow the public to access the park through that gate. Several neighbors praised the dark windows on the rear of the current structure, which allow the large building to blend into the forest setting, and Saul agreed to consider revising the design of the rear of the new building to hide its large mass from the trail and from Albemarle neighbors. Landscape architect Vergason has met with the National Park Service, and Saul is eager to connect with the park and the neighborhood in a positive way.
Commissioner Sally Gresham (3F04) expressed concern for keeping Soapstone clean during the construction and Collich agreed to provide neighbors with contact numbers for the contractors. Saul plans to meet with DC Public Space this week, and they are in the process of getting permits. According to law they will propose a traffic control plan during construction. Neighbors requested that noise be minimized, and that Saturday work be avoided. Commissioner Manolis Priniotakis (3F05) suggested that the development include a Capital Bikeshare station and a ZipCar parking space, and Saul welcomed both suggestions as positive amenities for their tenants.