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Shipping Container Home Plan Knocked Down by ANC 6A

by Andrea Swalec — March 19, 2015 at 10:35 am 4 Comments

(Updated at 11:05 a.m.) A modernist developer wants city approval to build apartments inside recycled shipping containers in Rosedale, but local leaders said the plan is wrong for the area and will snatch up too many parking spots.

The zoning committee of ANC 6A voted last night to submit letters of support for two competing plans to build affordable and market-rate housing on the 1600 block of Kramer Street NE — and send only a “letter of appreciation” regarding the shipping container proposal.

“One side looks like a mall and the other side looks like projects or something,” ANC 6A Commissioner Sondra Phillips-Gilbert said. “It looks like the haves and the have-nots. It looks so rich and expensive, and then you have the other side [of adjacent buildings].”

Neighborhood Development Company and Travis Price Architects proposed turning a vacant, District-owned lot two blocks south of Benning Road into 22 homes made inside 8-by-40-foot sea containers. Eight of the units would be affordable, with four units sold at 50 percent the Area Median Income and four units sold at 80 percent AMI. Fourteen units would be sold at market-rate. The development would create eight parking spaces, which the zoning for a multiunit building allows.

Commissioner Matt Levy said the development would put more cars on already-crowded streets.

“You have potentially 14 cars with no places to park on a block already full of cars,” he said.

An NDC representative said he expected many residents of the building would rely on public transportation.

And architect Travis Price, who was interviewed this week by The Washington Post, defended the look of the building.

“We’re very much in step in terms of spirit of place, not literal copy,” he said. “What’s great about D.C. is it’s a town full of authenticity and great history. And one of the great defining moments of history is when it changes.”

The nonprofit developer Manna, Inc. proposed 10 units in five two-story buildings, each with their own parking space. Six of the units would be sold at market rate, two would be sold at 50 percent AMI and another two would be at 60 percent AMI.

“The city’s interest is to get affordable housing soon, and that’s our interest, too, so this will be quick,” Manna’s director of construction, Matt Engel, said.

The nonprofit developer Mi Casa, Inc. proposed 12 townhouses that would also each have a designated parking space. Two would be sold at market rate, five would be sold at 50 percent AMI and five would be sold at 80 percent AMI. The buildings would be net-zero energy, generating as much power as they consume.

“We wanted to develop a design that was keeping with the context of Kramer Street … and take it to the next level in terms of energy,” a Mi Casa representative said.

ANC commissioners said these two proposals for more conventional homes fit in better with the look of the neighborhood.

Another two organizations have filed proposals for construction on the block, ANC 6A zoning committee head Dan Golden said he was told by a DHCD official. The full ANC will discuss the committee vote at their next meeting, on April 9.

NDC and Travis Price Architects will continue their bid for the space, Price said.

“The irony was we look too good for less money.”

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