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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Neighbors Fight Latest Parkside Plans

Neighbors of the Parkside development in Ward 7 remain frustrated at the lack of attention developer CityInterests has paid to retail, parking and the current residents of the community. With an already difficult transportation situation and limited access to transportation resources, the influx of potentially 400 new residential units with residents by 2020 (factoring in Parkside’s other developments) has many longtime neighbors worried.

On Feb. 22, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 7D took up the issue at a special meeting on the developer’s latest design request for Parkside’s apartment project and voted to oppose. ANC 7D07 Commissioner Justin Lini said that while CityInterests showed changes to the traffic and parking plans, the community wants more work and studies on the plan before it moves forward.

“Many people are worried that new development is not for them, but for someone else,” Lini said.

CityInterests has worked in Ward 7 for more than a decade, and some people don’t feel they’ve contributed enough to the growth of the overall community, said Eastland Gardens Civic Association President Rochelle Frazier Gray.

“I believe that CityInterests is not a good community partner and developer for that area,” she said.

CityInterests has worked with the community since it started the project more than a decade ago and wants to continue the dialogue, said CityInterests Partner Jonathan Novak.

Parkside is a three million square foot, roughly $100 million project with the Parkside Center for Learning and Career Development, 1,500-2,000 residential units, 750,000 square feet of office space and between 30,000 and 50,000 square feet of retail.

Traffic Jam
Interstate 295 already isolates some residents on the west side of the highway from reaching retail and grocery stores without a car. Those with a car have to deal with the traffic from those major roadways and commuters coming in and out of Maryland just to get from their home to the store and back. But if a developer adds additional car traffic with apartment complexes, that will aggravate the problem, Lini said.

“It’s a lot of development for a small area,” he said.

CityInterests started the Parkside development plans in 2006 and included a $3 million pedestrian bridge plan that would connect the Parkside development on the west side of the 295 to the Minnesota Avenue NE Metro rail station on the east side. But the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) didn’t move on the project until recently.

Many residents remain isolated if they can’t drive to get out for work and groceries.

Access to the roads into the Pepco Benning Service Center that borders Benning Road just south of those communities could alleviate traffic woes. But CityInterests, DDOT and the community have not finalized any plans with the company for that access.

Novak said they want to address the dissatisfaction with the transportation, but it’s going to take cooperation and conversations among them, DDOT and the community.

“We did a study almost a decade ago and highlighted the challenges that exist in making that connection (to Pepco),” Novak said. “They’re not insurmountable, but do require multiparty cooperation.”

CityInterests brought revised plans to the Feb. 22 meeting that unbundled the parking from the rentals, which would require residents to pay for parking. It also included more diagrams on how Metro Rail would be made more accessible for tenants.

But the plans still need more research, Lini said. The community asked the developers to factor in car shares, bicycle shares and Metro bus stops to the parking plan.

“What really came out of the discussion with the community on this was that the impacts on street parking need to be explored more thoroughly…” Lini said. “It’s clear more work needs to be done to satisfy their concerns.”

Retail Desert
Ward 7 residents continue to face a dearth of options when it comes to retail and grocery stores within walking or close commute distances. Gray has argued with the CityInterests developers at ANC meetings about their plans for roughly 17,000 square feet of divided retail and no concrete ideas on if it will get a grocer.

“They said they know we need retail, but they don’t build it,” she said. “It’s nothing that really benefits the community.”

Residents have asked about options for grocery stores or food stores since the nearest major shopping store is the crowded Benning Road and 40th Street NE Safeway. CityInterests suggested a “Save A Lot” discount grocery or a Wagshals delicatessen and gourmet market, Gray said.

But the first option lacks the quality neighbors seek and the second more fits a person living in an apartment in the city than the homeowners that have traditionally lived in the area, Gray said.

“I asked CityInterests if they knew where most of the residents shop for their groceries,” she said. “They did not have a response.”

The developer does have plans to bring in several retailers, including a small-format grocery store, Novak said. The largest planned retail square footage allowance is between 15,000 and 16,000 square feet, so large stores like Safeway or Giant don’t fit that market demand.

“There’s an unmet need for a neighborhood-serving grocery,” he said. “We believe the Parkside developments will capitalize on that opportunity.”

Disregard for Current Residents
Neighbors in the Parkside, Kenilworth and Eastland Gardens area community want to know the developers take their needs into account, too, Gray said. How can a developer planning on entering into an already established community not consider the fact that some residents don’t have a pharmacy close by to get their medication or their food, she asked.

“They continue to ignore what the residents need and continue to plan for their future profit,” she said.

CityInterests has cited outdated data on the retail and economic situation, as well as for the traffic issues, Gray said. She also wants them to share the numbers that show the area needs more rentals, not more small homes to buy.

“It’s always a fight,” she said. “It’s never a collaboration.”

Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent C. Gray (D) declined to comment.

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