Developers of Steak ‘n Egg Property Present Revised Plans to ANC
“More steaks. More eggs.” That’s what the future will hold for the Steak ‘n Egg diner and its devoted customers, according to Richard Foster, the architect behind a new residential and retail building at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Chesapeake Street.
As Tenleytown, D.C. first reported in December, the beloved diner will close during construction of the new property, but will reopen in an expanded ground-level restaurant – a commitment owners Frank and Dina Economides reiterated at the October 9 meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3E. Economides, Foster, and attorney Carolyn Brown attended the October meeting to present revised design plans and seek ANC support of a request for minor zoning relief.
As previously planned, the new building will include 16 residential rental units – primarily one-bedroom or junior one-bedroom apartments – on three levels. The first floor will consist of approximately 3,800 square feet of retail, a little over half of which will be taken up by an expanded Steak ‘n Egg restaurant, which will also feature outdoor patio seating. The owners do not have a prospective tenant yet for the second retail space.
The major design changes relate to parking and plans for below grade retail. According to current zoning regulations the original proposal for the new building, which included three residential floors and two retail levels, would have required 19 off-street parking spaces – eight for residential tenants and 11 for retail tenants. Initially, the developers requested a waiver of parking requirements, citing lot size and slope. The proposal instead included three parking spaces and one level of below grade retail space in lieu of parking.
The Office of Planning, however, determined that it was possible to include parking at the rear of the property, utilizing an existing alley easement. Accordingly, Economides and Foster revised the building plans to eliminate below grade retail, replacing it with eight parking spaces for residential tenants – one handicap parking space, three full size spaces, and four spaces for compact cars. The latter would require a zoning exception.
The new plans do not include parking for retail tenants, although zoning regulations would require three parking spaces associated with the first floor retail space. However, the developers’ plans to recapture green space along Steak ‘n Egg’s current parking lot, eliminating the existing curb cut, would de facto create three on-street parking spaces that do not currently exist. A zoning exception would also be required to waive retail parking.
Responding to the revised design plans and request for zoning relief, ANC chairman Jon Bender said “the burden on the neighborhood would be very slight,” and was outweighed by the public space improvements and amenities being offered by the developers in a memorandum of understanding with the commission.
In the MoU, the developers have committed to installing permeable pavers, preserving existing trees and planting additional trees and/or landscaping, installing a fountain, providing a green roof, and locating mechanical equipment on the roof of the building to minimize noise for residential neighbors (a measure anyone familiar with disputes between Chevy Chase Pavilion tenants and neighbors will appreciate). In addition, the developers will designate a transportation management coordinator to ensure delivery traffic does not negatively impact neighbors and to educate tenants and customers about public transportation options. A copy of the draft MoU presented at the ANC meeting is available here.
While Commissioner Tom Quinn “would have preferred retail instead of car storage,” a sentiment shared by Commissioner Sam Serebin, he acknowledged that the decision was out of the developers’ hands. Serebin added that he would have liked to see units available for both rent and purchase, as well as slightly larger units. “Essentially you are catering to the law school that is coming to town,” said Serebin to Economides. While he said he understood “the business side of it,” Serebin would have preferred the new building meet the need for greater diversity in housing options for Tenleytown residents, including those who are transitioning into home ownership or out of single family homes.
Despite these comments, the ANC unanimously voted to support Economides’ request for a waiver of retail parking under the terms of the MoU.
The Board of Zoning Adjustment will hold a hearing on the project on October 28, 2014. Depending upon BZA approval and the resulting D.C. permitting process, Economides projected that work might begin in late spring or early summer of 2015.