Split Decision on Harris Teeter Site

This is a brief update to inform the community about today’s happenings.  I will update this post on Wednesday with additional details.

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Quick Summary

The prospect of closing the alley needed to move forward with the Harris Teeter development had a mixed day on Tuesday.  In the morning, the DC Council Committee of the Whole unanimously approved the first reading of emergency legislation offered by Chairman Phil Mendelson to approve the alley closing.  From my understanding, there will be a second and final reading of that bill by the Council on June 27th.

This evening, ANC 4A heard Commissioner Stacey Lincoln’s Resolution to rescind the ANC’s support for the alley closing.  Opponents of the development were out in full force.  After a spirited debate, the Commission voted 5-2 (with one abstention) to approve the Resolution.

Chairman Steve Whatley stated that is rare that the Council will rescind a vote that it has taken on a bill, but that the ANC would “take its shot” and see what happens.

The 351

ShepherdParkTrafficStudy

I’ve posted a link to the traffic study because it clear that the number 351 has become a Rorschach test for this project: your definition of the number changes based on your stance on the development.  In the trip generation summary on page 13, it states that 351 vehicles/hour is the peak Saturday in and out traffic that will be generated by this project.   This is not the “hourly” rate (implying constant) it is the highest rate projected over the course of the week.

Furthermore, the 351 vehicle trips are NOT all slated to affect Kalmia Road (meaning entering into the neighborhood).  Exhibit 7 on page 23 shows the projected vehicle trip distribution for each of the six routes to and from the garage entrance for retail visitors.  Kalmia Road is expected to carry only 22% of those in/out trips, not 100% as some opponents imply.  Residential traffic is included in the 351 number, but its rate of usage of Kalmia Road is much lower, down at 8.3% (page 21).

trip distribution

 

The bottom line is that the vehicle impact on Kalmia and interior of the Shepherd Park neighborhood is really 294 x 22% = 64.7 PLUS 57 X 7.3% = 4.1.  Total PEAK impact is approximately 69 vehicles traveling east- and westbound, or a bit more than 1 car per minute. That is not zero, but it sure is a far cry from 351 cars on a residential street.

No Right Turn

no right turn sign

The text from page 16, paragraph six of the Study stands on its own:

It should be noted that the surrounding community has expressed interest in limiting traffic approaching the site to and from the west along Kalmia Road. Given that DDOT has expressed reservations with the implementation of curb designed strategies to prohibit site trips to and from the west on Kalmia Road, it is expected that southbound right turns from the driveway exiting the site onto Kalmia Road will be restricted via signage. With the orientation of the site toward Georgia Avenue, this restriction is expected to most apply to residents immediately west of the development in the Shepherd Park neighborhood between Georgia Avenue and 16th Street. Should this restriction be implemented, it is expected that residents of the neighborhood west of the site would be required to exit the site to Alaska Avenue or Georgia Avenue (to Eastern Avenue) to return to the west. However, in order to present a conservative scenario in the capacity analysis for the intersections west of the site along Kalmia Road, this restriction has not been accounted for in the site trip assignments.

If implemented and enforced, this signage would reduce the impact on Kalmia Road to 35 vehicles/hour at peak (Page 13: 150 x 22% PLUS 28 x 7.3%), a bit more than one car every two minutes.  Not a heavy burden by any estimate.

This paragraph has been amended to show that DDOT rejected the implementation of the “No Right Turn” signage.

In the DDOT Analysis of the Traffic study, please see page 11:
“As noted earlier, the Applicant proposes to install signage to restrict rights out of the parking garage onto westbound Kalmia Road.  This is expected to increase vehicle delay at the Georgia Avenue/Alaska Avenue/Kalmia Road intersection by adding additional volume on an already impacted intersection.  Accordingly, DDT does not support the proposed signage or restriction.  The parking garage should operate will full access in order to distribute site traffic and reduce impacts to the Georgia Avenue/Alaska Avenue/Kalmia Road intersection.”

Moving Forward

The bill is now in Chairman Mendelson’s hands while it awaits the second reading later this month.  Despite Chairman Whatley’s assessment above, I believe that this project remains at risk.  Should the Council change course and kick the decision back down,  the ANC will take up the issue no sooner than September after its summer break.  In the meantime, the community, the developer and the retail tenant  will be left waiting and wondering.  Harris Teeter can likely walk away at any time.  Jemal is well known in the city’s development community for its patience; they could sit on this blighted and 3/4 empty property for a generation until market conditions or facts on the ground change.

site plan

Commissioner Lincoln’s Resolution envisions the “solution” to neighbors’ concerns about traffic is moving retail garage entrance from Kalmia Road to Eastern Avenue.  Take a look at the site map.  There doesn’t seem to be room for another garage on that side of the building.  This “solution” is dependent on the Terra Nova property changing hands in a multi-million dollar transaction.  Are you taking odds on that happening any time soon? I am not.

I congratulate the development’s opposition for a well-mobilized effort.  The Commission’s practice of deferring to the Single Member District commissioner certainly worked in their favor here; several commissioners admitted to not understanding the Resolution but voted for it anyway. It is a bit frustrating to watch other communities in the city gain walkable amenities like grocery stores, shops and restaurants while we sit on the sideline, effectively by our own choosing.  Every development has costs and benefits.  What price is the community is willing to pay to receive the benefits that it asked for?

Other Business

Because I also have to sleep and work, I have to give the bullet point treatment here:

  • The ANC approved a resolution to exempt full-service grocery stores within 4A03 ONLY (Walter Reed) from the Ward 4 Liquor license moratorium.  If approved by ABRA, a grocery store on the site would be able to sell beer and wine.  Separately, Councilmember Todd introduced a bill that would exempt all full-service grocery stores in the entire Ward from the moratorium.
  • The ANC passed a resolution to support Hine-Atlantic’s in-progress design work on building IJ on the Walter Reed site.  Humorously, the 4B Design Review committee battered the designers over the “monolithic” look of the center building last month.  They changed the design and added a glass feature.  The audience last night did not like the changes.  You can NEVER please everyone.
  • Recruiting procedures for the new 4A Design Review committee were approved.

 

 

 

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