Staff editorial: Mixed-use redevelopment would improve AU Park, Spring Valley
A grocery store and residential units both bring benefits.
The 4330 48th St NW lot in the AU Park neighborhood behind the law school campus has been empty since late 2013 when the Fresh & Green’s grocery store closed. Developers are proposing to fill that void with a mixed-use redevelopment that would bring a grocery chain and other retail to the site as well as 200 to 250 residential units over five stories.
First and foremost, the Editorial Board supports the effort to build a new grocery store in the vacant space. Many students live in the surrounding area, and even more will likely live there as the student population increases per the Campus Plan in the years to come. The nearest grocery store for students living in Spring Valley right now is the Tenleytown Whole Foods, which is over a mile away and challenging to access without a motor vehicle. Not to mention, the Safeway on 42nd Street NW will be closing soon for a redevelopment project by the adjacent Georgetown Day School.
A Harris Teeter, one grocery chain the developers are talking to, or a comparable store there would make it more convenient for those students to shop for food.
The proposed residential units are controversial with some members of the community. One woman described the development ominously as “creeping urbanism” at a community meeting on Oct. 28. Another attendee proposed the entire development be exclusively townhouses.
We do not find this line of criticism credible and believe the housing development would improve the neighborhood. Though the developers have not yet decided what type of housing units to build, the community would be better served by units that are apartments instead of condominiums.
D.C. is facing a housing affordability crisis that is only getting worse as more people move to the District. Increasing supply of housing units by building more is the best way to combat this problem. While one development won’t solve a comprehensive issue, the proposed project is the type of step that will help at the margins. Ten percent of the units will be set aside for affordable housing, per D.C. law, which will help lower and middle-class individuals.
The revenue from the housing units will also help to fund other parts of the project, according to the comments of Will Lansing of Valor Development at the Oct. 28 meeting. To the extent that residential units are needed to make the grocery store viable, we think opposition from some in the community should not be an obstacle.
We urge the Tenleytown Advisory Neighborhood Commission to support this project at its Nov. 12 public meeting.