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Old Italian Embassy Redevelopment Moves Closer to Implementation With Neighborhood Groups and Developer Agreeing to Community enefits Package

[Note: Photographs accompanying this news story in the print edition can be viewed in the full PDF copy in the Current & Back Issues Archive.]

By Anthony L. Harvey

At a crowded, standing room only meeting on July 5th of the Adams Morgan ANC’s Planning, Zoning, and Transportation Committee, the proposed Il Palazzo Planned Unit Development (PUD) project for the long-vacant former Italian Embassy site at 16th and Fuller Streets was unanimously endorsed by the committee, together with amenity or community benefits package for transmittal as an agenda item at the full ANC’s July 6th monthly meeting, where passage, after further discussion, was also unanimously adopted.

A community amenities package is required by the District’s zoning regulations for all applications for PUDs; this package, developed by the applicant in collaboration with ANC commissioners, will be submitted — when adopted by the ANC — together with necessary architectural, construction, and zoning details prepared by the applicant for consideration by the DC Zoning Commission at a public hearing on September 8th.

The package adopted, which includes such on-site items as 60-80 below grade parking spaces, design and fabrication of new tree box fences for the entire Il Palazzo site, and the preservation of the common spaces in the original embassy building — the entrance hall, ballroom, and grand staircase, for example –- also provides for the employment and on-the-job training of 12 apprentice-level construction positions for the duration of the project with a monitored compliance procedure that includes a $3,000 penalty for each month the project is non-compliant; a $249,000 renovation and expansion of the nearby Festival Center’s kitchen facilities, which will greatly expand the Center’s ability to train unskilled and semi-skilled workers in marketable cooking, culinary, and catering skills. Specifications for the proposed Festival Center kitchen renovation and expansion were eloquently presented, both in writing and by the Center’s staff. Well-known and lauded throughout the community for its many programs serving the poor and disadvantaged, the Center works closely with Jubilee Jobs, Jubilee Housing and many other faith-based non-profits and the neighborhood at large.

The Committee also endorsed in concept a detailed and equally eloquent proposal from the Reed-Cooke Neighborhood Association (RCNA) that the Il Palazzo developers provide decorative tree fences for the 600 trees (at a cost of $700 retail for a single fence, less for a bulk rate) in tree boxes throughout the neighborhood as part of the developer’s obligation to provide public benefits in connection with the PUD process. RCNA buttressed its proposal with an analysis of the magnitude of increased height and density being requested by the developers, which includes, asserted the RCNA  analysis, “an additional 40 feet of height, and a little more than 46,000 additional square feet of building space above and beyond the approximately 48,000 square feet that they would be permitted to build as a matter of right on that portion of the lot when considering floor area ratio (FAR) alone.” Both RCNA and the developer pledged to work collaboratively and bring a joint proposal on tree box fences to the committee for consideration at its August 1st meeting.

The RCNA proposal was also endorsed by the Kalorama Citizens Association (KCA). The Adams Morgan ANC, at its July 6th meeting, also endorsed the RCNA proposal and agreed to consider whatever RCNA and the developer will jointly propose at the ANC’s September 7th monthly meeting.

Ed. Note: This historic embassy building, with accompanying vintage photographs, was the subject of the March 2006 “Scenes from the Past” feature and may be found at page 12 of that issue’s PDF in our website’s Current & Back Issues Archive. See also in that same issue the lead story, “Former Embassy Designation as Historic Roils Adams Morgan Residents; ANC and Preservation League at Odds With HPRB.”