EastBanc’s “Entrance to Georgetown” new housing development finally cleared
Last hurdle finally cleared for a new housing development in Georgetown
After a protracted approval process, the old Valero gas station at the corner of M Street and Pennsylvania Avenue has finally been torn down. DC real estate developers EastBanc has plans for a five-story, new housing development to rise in its place.
The new building will boast eight residential units, at a whopping 2000 square feet each, atop a restaurant space. The building itself will be a LEED Gold Certified structure. It will also include improvements and maintenance of the adjacent park, currently maintained by the National Park Service.
Why it has taken so long
The long and winding road to clearing the land for the new housing development was caused by a quirk of DC law that blocks redevelopment of gas stations. The law originated in the late 1970s. A combination of crippling fuel shortages and the rapid loss of full-service gas stations in the city caused the City Council to place a moratorium on the redevelopment of land used for the stations or the conversion of stations to any other use.
The only exceptions to this law were for owners who could prove that they faced financial hardship by keeping the station open. Even those exemptions required approval by the Gas Station Advisory Board. The problem? The Board has been defunct for years. Even if an owner wanted to apply for an exemption, there was no Board to apply to.
The law has provoked controversy and lawsuits for years as developers sought ways around the outdated rule. Some movement has begun, however, since the publication of a legal opinion by DC’s Attorney General Karl Racine.
Last year, Racine took up the issue of the law and the Board after a lawsuit which sought to reestablish the Board and change its membership composition. In his opinion, Racine incidentally mentioned that the law could be effectively ignored. That is, if one were willing to pay the $20,000 fine required for violations.
Shortly thereafter a number of gas stations began to be closed or converted. No one knows for sure if that is what happened to the old Valero station, but it has in any case finally come down and the long-awaited EastBanc development appears to be gaining momentum.
After many years the project is finally taking form
EastBanc President Anthony Lanier has called the site one of the most important in the city. This is because of its placement at the entrance to Georgetown. With frontage on Pennsylvania, M, and 23rd Streets, the building will be extraordinarily prominent. The planned ground floor restaurant will offer outdoor seating facing Rock Creek Park.
Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura’s design makes use of a red brick exterior in a nod to the traditional. The plan proposal won the support of the Georgetown advisory neighborhood commission. They mentioned the lack of new developments in Georgetown as the reason. The plan also includes a variety of exterior improvements and the inclusion of a Capital Bikeshare Station.
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