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Big Changes Conceptualized for Hechinger Mall, Carver Langston

Suburban style Hechinger Mall sits on a hill between Maryland Ave and Benning Rd NE.
Concept developed by H Street Main Street. Maryland Ave NE is center, Benning RD is one the right.
Late last week Bizsow reported on a new concept in for the Hechinger Mall area in the form of a pitch by city the business development program H Street Main Street to the owners of the mall property. Important to consider: this is just a concept -- not a rendering of a planned building or anything binding. However, it is a harbinger for the future of the Starburst intersection, Benning Road NE, and H Street NE. But, wow is it a departure. The reporting is great and much more than I can elaborate on in a blog post, so:

Read the full article here: H Street Group Pitches Major Hechinger Mall Development As Activity Moves Down Corridor (Bizsow)
A few tidbits:

"The team has sketched a vision for the site that could include several buildings up to 11 stories tall with as many as 3,000" multifamily units, ground-floor retail and potential hotel and office components."

"In between the CVS and Hechinger Mall sites, the concept design creates a landscaped, pedestrian-only plaza that extends from the existing Starburst Plaza up to Neal Street, diverting traffic away from Maryland Avenue and creating a large area for outdoor events."

"To move forward with such a large project, the owners would have to file a planned-unit development application with the Zoning Commission to increase the site's density. The site is currently zoned MU-7, allowing for medium-density mixed-use development."

"...Capital City Real Estate is preparing to break ground in early 2018 on 1701 H, a 180-unit multifamily building."

The owner of Hechinger Mall is Ashkenazy Acquisition, a truly massive real estate firm that owns or holds the lease for local projects such as Union Station, Mazza Galliere, and HarborPlace in Baltimore. Further afield, they control various high end shopping centers, hotels, and other properties in cities including New York, Miami, Chicago, and San Francisco.

The H Street Main Street pitch to Ashkenazy is conceptual, but you have to figure that Hechinger Mall, as is, has less than a decade left. The move to larger residential and mixed used construction on Benning Road NE is already happening an will continue. The Valvere (1625 Benning Rd NE) and 1701 H (17th and Benning) are already in the pipeline, and Flats at Atlas II is on the board as well.

The housing crisis in DC could be stated another way: a housing shortage. We need much more of it. We need a variety of housing options for our variety of housing needs. Multi-family buildings with smaller units on key corridors is great. However, we need a variety of new structures including mutli-family buildings with 3+ bedroom units, and single-family homes that are affordable for purchase. It seems we're only making it attractive to build multi-family buildings with smaller, high cost per square foot units, that have 0, 1, or 2 bedrooms. And the affordable requirements for all projects are low across the board. With a slew of new, larger buildings, we should be eager to get more out of developers, not less. They are likely looking to add density and the city should use that to our advantage.

Benning Road is going to change. A wave of new construction is coming. If the city is going to pitch plans like these to developers, they must manage the growth in a way that serves to better address the housing access issues that persist.

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