McLean Planning Committee Shares Letter Sent to Elm Street Developer

Comments on Iconic Building Proposed for Elm Street

A Washington developer formally unveiled plans in March for a new apartment building in downtown McLean that would resemble the Williard Hotel and classic apartment buildings along Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C.

The McLean Planning Committee then commented on those plans in a letter to the developer JBG. Ghassan Abukurah, chairman of the McLean Planning Committee, asked McLean Patch to share a copy of the letter with McLean residents.

Here is the letter verbatim and a copy of the letter accompanies this story:

6862 Elm Street ‐ Preliminary MPC Commentary April 18, 2012

6862 Elm Street: McLean Planning Committee Preliminary Commentary

Approved by vote of the MPC on April 18, 2012

The developer, JBG, presented a conceptual design proposal to the MPC at its February 2012 meeting. JGB asked MPC for preliminary feedback/commentary on the following project features of their proposed design: density, usage, layout, massing, and architectural character. MPC offers the following in response:

1) Density, Massing, and Layout: The MPC is encouraged by the proposed concept and has no significant objections to the proposed density, massing and layout. At this preliminary stage we offer the following comments:

Small Commercial Building: The MPC has several concerns about the long‐term viability and impact of the proposed 3‐story structure (estimated 15,000sf) fronting on Elm Street: This structure does not develop the Elm Street block face in a manner consistent with existing buildings (too short/small) and it will likely eliminate the possibility of consolidation with the corner property (a small parcel with limited inherent redevelopment potential). MPC would advocate for encouraging the developer to forgo building this structure in favor of developing the entire portion of the site as a publically accessible urban park/green space with the long term goal of consolidation with the corner property and redevelopment of the combined sites.

Traffic and Parking: The MPC has not been presented with the necessary information about the occupancy, form of unit design (number of bedrooms, types of units), ownership structure (rental vs. condominium), etc. The parking solution for the entire site has not been presented to the MPC and thus its impact on surrounding streets and traffic in general remains unknown. The MPC is particularly concerned about traffic impacts and we will pay acute attention to this matter. MPC will expect the developer to provide ample details about these elements and credible supporting data on parking and traffic impacts. We will expect the developer to provide the MPC with empirically derived evidence that this development will have minimal impact on street parking and minimal negative traffic impacts. MPC will have particular interest in measures that may promote use of public transportation for building residents and tenants of the office building.

Thru‐block Access: MPC will expect the developer to create a through‐block access point (for both vehicular and pedestrian traffic flows) to properties located to the south of this parcel.

Playground: The small playground in the northeast corner of the site (along Fleetwood Dr.) seems detached from the rest of the site. It would seem that this area would be more appropriate for some sort of outdoor space that would support ground floor dining or retail. More information is needed to evaluate this open space as the plans develop.

2) Usage: The MPC is encouraged by the mixed use concept and has no objections to the proposed use as a multifamily residential occupancy. We would encourage the developer to provide ground‐level retail, services and/or dining at facades which face Fleetwood and possibly the newly created internal street.

3) Architectural Character: The MPC is generally supportive of a "traditionally" styled architectural design. However, the current design should be simplified so as to not be such a literal copy of 19th century "Parisian" style. Facades are overly complex and excessively ornate, especially at the dome/cupola element. The MPC understands the design challenges within the surrounding context, however we have concerns about the statement the architectural style is making by being so distinctly different from any structure in the CBC.

6862 Elm Street ‐ Preliminary MPC Commentary April 18, 2012 MPC will expect all service areas to be fully screened from view from neighboring properties and all trash areas to be fully enclosed within the building.

4) Next Steps: MPC will expect the developer to submit more fully developed and detailed site and landscape plans (including exterior lighting and signage), building floor plans, exterior elevation drawings of all building facades, perspective views, traffic and parking analyses, etc. for our review, comment and approval. In the interim, the MPC's Elm Street Subcommittee recommends intermittent meetings with the developer to discuss these points in further detail during the development of the schematic design. We will rely on the developer to alert the MPC as to when they would like to meet with the Subcommittee. End of Document.

Bristolbell May 08, 2012 at 01:57 PM
I live in this area of McLean and appreciate the McLean Planning Commission's detailed, reasoned comments on this potential structure. The traffic impact alone on Elm Street and adjoining Fleetwood Road would make this a hazardous traffic area. I am not in favor of the existing plans for the use of a very, very small piece of property. Nineteenth century Paris and the Willard Hotel are not good designs for this tiny piece of property.
Citizen E May 08, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Sorry to make this same point again, but just because nothing but hideous buildings have been approved in the past, will that really limit us to nothing but hideous buildings in the future?
Bendy Viragh May 24, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Good question, Citizen E. What used to be, to normal people like you and I, hidious, has become "cool". If it is really weird, then it is elevated to "imaginative" or (stealing from the French to sound cool) "avant garde" or "innovative". Generally, all that means is that it is in bad taste, ugly to look at, and out of touch. My own "innovative" question is, why do we need more buildings? How about a no-traffic plaza? Now, that would be cool. Or, if we must build, so that we can jam more people into our little city and creating another Rosslyn, how about something traditional, reflecting our own American culture and heritage? Nevertheless, I thank the Planning Committee for sharing its comments. Since some other civic groups tend to operate in secret, this refreshing.


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