Woodley Park Community Issues: The JBG/Marriott Project

Probably the biggest thing going on in Woodley Park has been the construction -- and the plans for more construction -- at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. The JBG Companies, which owns the property, has described its plans to various agencies of the DC Government and to WPCA. These plans have changed from time to time since the project was first announced.

The Original Plans

At the outset, in 2005, JBG said it would

  • enlarge and partially enclose the loading dock along the eastern side of the Hotel and remove another open loading dock,
  • construct a new underground garage for 289 cars,
  • demolish an existing ballroom and construct a new one,
  • construct an eight-story residential tower with a three-level underground garage for 459 cars and
  • convert the existing Wardman Tower and Park Tower to residential use.

Plans changed from time to time after that. For a while, the Wardman Tower was going to remain part of the Hotel. The final plan divides the buildinng between residential and hotel uses. Nothing has been done to convert the Park Tower to residences.

The First Phases

The first stage of the project was to build new loading dock areas on the 24th Street side of the Hotel. This permitted the closing of the loading docks on the west side of the property, which were accessed from Woodley Road.

JBG obtained the permits needed to construct a garage under the front yard of the Hotel. WPCA believed, and ANC 3C agreed, that that this construction was not permitted by DC zoning regulations, and they appealed the ruling of the Zoning Administrator that allowed it. The Board of Zoning Adjustment held a hearing on this appeal on December 12, 2006. There are links to WPCA-ANC prehearing statement and their presentation at the hearing below. On February 6, 2007, the Board voted to deny the appeal.

Construction of the underground garage was completed in May 2007 and the landscaping completed over that Summer.

Work was the done on the interior of the Hotel. The most significant change was the closing of the large Hotel swimming pool behind the main Hotel tower, enclosing that area and turning it into a ballroom.

The Woodley Road Driveways

JGB originally made applications for two additional driveways along Woodley Road (in addition to the three driveways that already exist) to serve its proposed condominium building. JBG also proposed to move the Hotel entrance driveway closer to Connecticut Ave. WPCA and ANC 3C opposed those applications. On August 24, 2006, the Public Space Committee held a public hearing on JBG's applications. Several WPCA members testified against the additional curb cuts. The Committee voted against allowing JBG any new curb cuts for its proposed condo building, but permitted it to move Hotel entrance driveway. In January 2007, JBG submitted a new application for a driveway to serve the condo building. This driveway would be directly across from 27th Street. On March 12, WPCA adopted a resolution opposing this application. ANC 3C considered the application at it March 19th meeting, but took no position on it. On April 26th, the Public Space Committee granted that application and that driveway has been built.

The New Residential Tower

In November 2006, JBG applied for the permits necessary to construct its condo building. The plans submitted to DCRA show a building that is roughly 260 feet wide (the side facing to the east) and 90 feet high from the ground to the roof line. It contains some 120 units, the largest of which is 4145 square feet. The original plans called for a three-level below-ground garage with spaces for 314 cars, but JBG application included two-level, 230-vehicle garage. Many in WPCA believe that the Zoning Regulations do not permit the 90-foot-tall building JBG wanted to construct. In January 2008, DCRA granted the permit for this construction, and on March 4, WPCA voted not to appeal the issuance of the permit.

Even though JBG had all the permissions it needed to begin construction of the condo by 2007, it put the project on hold because of economic conditions.

In late 2010, JBG finally began this work. First, it removed asbestos from inside an existing garage and ballroom area, and the site was certified as "clean".

Along the way, JBG changed its marketing plan for the building: instead of condos, it would be rental; instead of 120 units, it would be 212; the name would simply be "2700 Woodley," rather than "Wardman West". It also changed the exterior design, making it a little more traditional to mirror the Wardman Tower building on the eastern side of the property.

Heavier construction activities on the grounds began in April 2011. In the first few months, there was limited demolition, and new construction operations primarily related to a ramp to permit vehicles entering from Woodley Road to reach the Park Tower garage on Calvert Street. Excavation activities related to the new building will get going in September or October. Trucks should approach the site on Woodley Road from Connecticut Avenue and should leave the same way or via Calvert Street. Access was via the driveway across from 27th Street. JBG expects construction to be complete by early 2014.

The Wardman Tower

Since the beginning, JBG said that it would convert some or all of the Wardman Tower building at the Hotel to residential units. During the Summer of 2013, it started to move ahead with that part of the project.

The Tower building, constructed in 1928, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Proposals to change the exterior of the building must, therefore, be approved by the DC Historic Preservation Review Board. No special approvals are needed to change the interior. JBG received approval for the concept of its proposed changes (below) at the Board's meeting in September 2013, except for its request to enlarge the porte cochere at the building's entrance on Woodley Road.

Two floors in the Tower will remain part of the Hotel, the floor that connects to the main Hotel building and the one above it. These will be suites, meeting and other function rooms. That renovation was completed in May 2014, reducing the number of Hotel rooms in the building from 199 to 50.

The rest will be converted to condominiums, with a total of 32 units on six floors. They will range from 2300 to more than 4500 sq ft in size. There will be a health club and other amenities. The entrance to the residential portion of the building will be through the Tower entrance on Woodley Road, near the Metro elevator.

JBG will build a 70-vehicle garage into the side of the hill on the Connecticut Avenue side of the building for the use of its residents. Additional spaces can be made available in the Hotel garage.

The pool has been closed and that area will be made into a garden for the residential building. The Hotel built a new pool for the use of Hotel guests.

The interior demolition was completed in August 2014. Work on the building fa├žade -- repointing, replacing windows etc -- began in June and continued for more than a year. Garage construction and site work will take a year starting in September 2015. Construction vehicle access will be via the 24th Street service road entrance.

Occupancy is scheduled for late-2016.

And Then...

JBG contacted WPCA in February 2016 to say that it wanted to discuss its "long-term plans" for this property. Those plans, it turned out, involved two Planned Unit Developments, up-zoning the entire property to high-density residential, constructing a residential building on the "front lawn" along Woodley Road, demolishing the hotel and replacing it with four new residential buildings. JBG also said that it hoped for a change in the DC Comprehensive Plan that would permit it to include retail in the buildings that replaced the Hotel.

On June 24, JBG filed two PUD applications. The first asks for permission to construct a large (220,000 sq.ft.) residential building in the green space along Woodley Road. The second contemplates demolishing the hotel and replacing it with five residential buildings. The construction schedule JBG proposes for this second phase would extend into the 2040's.

The applications have been referred to the Office of Planning, which will submit a report to the Zoning Commission and make a recommendation as to whether the Commission should consider the applications (set them down for hearings). Under the new zoning code, ANCs may also make a setdown recommendation to the Commission. ANC3C submitted its report, making a strong case aganst setdown.

In October, JBG withdrew its second PUD application (the one for the hotel part of the property) and announced that it would file a modification of it application for the "north lawn building" to reduce its size.

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