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Group Seeks To Downzone Property To Block Development Near Meridian Hill Park

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Meridian International. Center 2300 16th St. NW
A rendering of the development planned at 2300 16th St. NW

A group that opposes a development near Meridian Hill Park is charting a new course to try to stand in its way. 

The Keep Meridian Hill Green Civic Association filed a rezoning application Tuesday to decrease the allowable density on the 2300 16th St. NW site where a 110-unit apartment building was recently approved. 

The Board of Zoning Adjustments in July approved the development plan on the site. Meridian International Center, in partnership with Westbrook Partners, proposed a nine-story, 110-unit multifamily building. The project, on the edge of MIC's campus, would also include 9,600 SF of office and conference space for the nonprofit. 

The development would be built directly across 16th Street from Meridian Hill Park. Keep Meridian Hill Green Chair Gary Youngblood said the new group consists of 25 active members and over 400 people have signed up for its mailing list. He said the motivations vary among the members, but the group was named over the concern that that the development would require cutting down trees. 

"A number of people are interested in the trees that are going to be moved or cut down, especially a number of heritage trees overlooking 16th Street," Youngblood said. "Our goal is not to oppose this project. Our goal is to look at development around the park at a reasonable level so we can enjoy the park." 

16th Street NW
The view up 16th Street NW, with the site of the proposed project on the left and existing buildings The Envoy and The Diplomat on the right

Multiple existing buildings on 16th Street facing the park, including apartment buildings The Envoy and The Diplomat, reach seven stories or more in height. Youngblood acknowledged that the city needs new housing to meet its growing population, but he said he doesn't support the scale and style of the proposed development. 

"It's great we have people who want to live here and we have development, but I'm more along the lines of reasonable development and affordable development," Youngblood said. "I'm not sure 110 luxury one- and- two-bedroom units are what we need." 

While the group just formed this week, some of its members opposed the development throughout the BZA process. The local Advisory Neighborhood Commission July 11 voted unanimously to reject the application. ANC 1C08 Commissioner Amanda Fox Perry, who represents the site, said some neighbors are concerned about the size of the project.  

"The impact this is going to have on the community is a huge part of the concern," Fox Perry said. "The increase in density is a concern, we already have unsafe intersections, and this could create nightmares."   

The group's application, first reported by Urban Turf, seeks to rezone a portion of the property from RA-4, which allows for buildings up to 90 feet tall with a three-and-a-half floor-area-ratio, to RA-2, limiting buildings to 50 feet and 1.8 FAR. The strategy is a departure from the typical method opponents have contested D.C. developments, appealing the project's approval with the D.C. Court of Appeals. Over a dozen projects have been appealed in recent years, with at least three successfully blocked by the court, delaying thousands of units in the process. Fox Perry said an appeal is still a possibility. 

"There's nothing to suggest there won't also be an appeal of the BZA order," Fox Perry said. "I wouldn't rule that out yet. I would just say this is one more step."