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Shakespeare Theatre Co.’s Planned Mixed-Use Project Faces Revisions, Further Public Criticisms

Expect more below-market housing and community benefits

In February 2016, the Shakespeare Theatre Co. (STC) filed plans to construct The Bard, a mixed-use development in the Waterfront that will house residential units, offices, classes, and artist studios. UrbanTurf recently reported that there have been updates to the planned project with a higher number of below-market housing and community benefits to the Amidon-Bowen Elementary and Jefferson Academy schools.

In partnership with Erkiletian Development Company, STC’s project will be located at 501 I Street SW, the former site of Southeastern University. It will span seven stories and house 136 residential units and 70 parking spaces. According to UrbanTurf, there will be 11 apartments for households earning up to 80 percent of the area median income. For top staff recruits at the Amidon-Bowen Elementary or Jefferson Academy schools, there will be two apartments set aside for rent at 40 percent below market-rate.

Other additional benefits for the Amidon-Bowen Elementary or Jefferson Academy schools include the development of twice-weekly workshops and twice-yearly in-school live performances. UrbanTurf further reported:

Up to 100 students and teachers will also attend one STC production each year with all transportation fully paid-for and accompanying pre-performance workshop, teacher preview and professional development.

The community benefits package also includes such provisions as five years of financial support for the SW ArtsFest, free use of assembly rooms in The Bard for community meetings, summer camp scholarships to ten low-income children, and discounted acting class tuition for neighborhood residents.

These amendments come after Southwest residents spoke out against The Bard, describing it as too big and with the potential to worsen traffic and the availability of parking. D.C. resident and blogger Andrea Pawley also created a blog, called "Out, Damned Developer! Out!" with the purpose to provide information and criticism on the project.

In a recent blog post, Pawley didn’t express much positivity in the face of these new promises the STC has made to community groups. She listed the promises the STC made two years ago to the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly (SWNA) that have yet to be completed.

These promises were made in July 2014 after the SWNA filed an application to designate the Southeastern University building a historic landmark. In the application, the SWNA described the Charles Goodman-designed building as "the only private school erected in an urban renewal area in the nation."

In order to have the application dropped, the STC donated $60,000 to the assembly and promised a variety of community benefits. In Pawley’s post, she wrote that one of these unmet promises include a meeting with the SWNA and the Townhouse Residents with 3-D models of the proposed massing concepts presented and discussed. Another promise was for the STC to coordinate with immediate neighbors to minimize impacts of demolition on residents.

For the full agreement, you can find the document here.