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Despite SW Resident Complaints, Shakespeare Theatre Files Plans for Mixed-Use Project

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This week, Erkiletian Development Co. and the Shakespeare Theatre Co. filed plans with Washington, D.C. for a mixed-use project that has Southwest residents up in arms. The project, known as The Bard, is planned to house everything from residential space to artist studios to non-profit office space to educational space. The development will also house the Shakespeare Theatre's costume fabrication studio.

The entire development will span 149,298 square feet with 131,273 square feet tailored for residential space. The height will vary from roughly 42 feet high to a little over 73 feet high. Expect all of the residential units to be apartments with 93 market-rate and nine inclusionary zoning. For the Shakespeare Theatre, 29 of the units will be set aside for actors and five will be for for fellows. There will also be an underground parking garage. 36 spaces will be for residents, 16 spaces for non-profit office use, nine spaces for art use, and nine spaces for education use. Despite the limited number of spaces for residents, the site, 501 I Street SW, is only a couple blocks from the Waterfront Metro station. 10 short-term bicycle parking spaces will also be provided, according to UrbanTurf.

In opposition to the development, there is a website and Twitter account that delve into what concerns residents have with the project. In a recent blog post, D.C. resident and blogger Andrea Pawley described the Shakespeare Theatre as "tone-deaf" and further accused the organization of misrepresenting neighborhood opposition in a narrative portion of a Planned Unit Development (PUD) document. According to Pawley, the project will affect "nearly every household within 200 feet of the proposed rezoning."

In the effort to appease residents' concerns, the developers reduced the height and the number of units planned, reported UrbanTurf. In the PUD, the developer also lists proposed benefits of the project. These benefits include: free use of the assembly spaces/conference rooms for community meetings; annual donations to the multi-day festival, SW ArtsFest; and scholarships to sponsor up to 10 low-income children to attend the Shakespeare Theatre summer camp. With this project, the developer hopes to further satisfy three goals in the D.C. Office of Planning's Southwest Neighborhood Plan. These goals are to strengthen I Street as a cultural corridor, grow the presence of the arts throughout the Southwest neighborhood, and build on and market existing cultural assets and institutions to reinforce the concept of an arts and cultural destination.

Despite this, Pawley as well as over 50 neighbors in the immediate vicinity of the site argue that the Shakespeare Theatre is attempting to undermine the Southwest Neighborhood Plan. Rather than a mixed-use development, Pawley wrote that residents would prefer townhouses or properties built for educational purposes, none taller than 40 feet.

The site of the development is the former home of Southeastern University, reported UrbanTurf. The area is currently vacant and consists of approximately 36,476 square feet of land area. Shalom Baranes Associates is the architect of the project.

· Out, Damned Developer! Out! [Official Website]
· Shakespeare Theatre Files PUD For 136-Unit Mixed-Use Project in Southwest [UrbanTurf]
· All Shakespeare Theatre Company coverage [Curbed DC]