Southwest residents are speaking out against the Shakespeare Theater Company's (STC) plans to construct a multi-story building, called "The Bard." The proposed development will include administrative offices, rehearsal spaces, classrooms, shops, and dorms. The most controversial aspect of the project is its plans for market-rate housing, which many residents argue will harm the neighborhood. One unnamed Curbed commenter wrote, "This should not happen. It is a RESIDENTIAL neighborhood and a landmark Brutalist building. It is also a BIG BUILDING—too big for this little neighborhood There are plenty of spaces for Shakespeare to go in more commercial areas. Get out now." Opponents of the project argue that the project will worsen traffic and availability for parking, create an "echo chamber," and block out sunlight for homes and the nearby elementary school playground. Opponents are also asking the developer to downsize the development and remove the apartment component. In June 2015, community residents launched a petition in opposition of the project, which has since raised roughly 75 signatures online and nearly 250 on paper.
The proposed development would house roughly 150 residential units. The southernmost section would rise nine stories, while other parts of the building would rise eight and three stories. Washington City Paper reported that apartments would make up more than half of the building's total height, and many of the STC's operations would be below the ground floor. No price has been set yet on the project.
STC argues that the housing is necessary to fund the headquarters. Currently, the STC leases approximately 30 apartments for visiting artists and directors, and the theater company's offices and studios are spread throughout Washington, D.C., reported Washington City Paper, the land that the STC has bought to build its headquarters, though, is currently zoned R-3, meaning that the land is only for single-family homes, churches, and schools. The only way that the STC will be able to build the development is if it petitions the Office of Zoning for a variance or goes through the Planned Unit Development process. Washington City Paper reported that STC has yet to do either. Instead, the developer is working hard to win over residents with community outreach, but some residents see the efforts as simply "intensified public relations," according to Washington City Paper.
To make room for the development, the STC filed a raze permit for the Southeastern University building last year. In May 2014, the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly (SWNA), a private nonprofit citizens' organization, filed a historic-landmark application that if approved would have stopped the development's progress. Four months later, SWNA dropped the application in exchange for $60,000. The building was razed earlier this summer.
STC is working in partnership with Alexandria-based real estate firm Erkiletian to build the headquarters. Washington City Paper reported that the Erkiletian president sits on the STC board and has donated tens of thousands of dollars to the theater company.
· The Bard Sell [Washington City Paper]
· Shakespeare Theatre Company to Demo Potential Landmark [Curbed DC]