Blog Archives

The Court of Discontent is a Whale of a Problem

A blue whale grows more than thirty pounds a day and doubles in size in its first six months of life.  Every developer wants to land the whale of a deal.  Many big deals in the District of Columbia require complicated entitlements before the Board of Zoning Adjustment or the Zoning Commission.  Unfortunately, the District’s zoning world has fallen prey to a growing number of challenges before the DC Court of Appeals, and the court is only feeding the problem. What we are seeing is not only an increase in zoning cases that are being appealed, but also greater scrutiny from the Court of Appeals over decisions made by the Board of Zoning Adjustment or the Zoning Commission.  Simply put,

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Uncategorized

Alley Dwellings: The Next Frontier or A Zoning Headache?

As the recent census data show, more people are moving to the District each year and sticking around.  While huge cranes dot the skyline in many areas of the city, there may be an unexpected answer to the District’s housing conundrum: alley dwellings.  Throughout the District, the development of alley lots is being embraced as a way to enliven formerly under-utilized spaces and provide a source for more-affordable housing. Such was not always the case.  When Pierre L’Enfant was commissioned to design the City of Washington, he never planned on there being alley communities.  However, as an unexpected result of wide alleys and open plots of land, builders created lower income housing described as “mini-ghettoes” by James Borchert in his

Tagged with:
Posted in Uncategorized

Into the Belly of the Beast

On the night of March 20th, 2018, I unwittingly walked into hostile territory – the DC Council chamber during the epic 13-hour public hearing on the proposed amendments to the Framework Element of the District’s Comprehensive Plan. Perhaps the Washington Post headline said it best: “Dry DC Planning Document Fuels Hot Debate”. While I was joined by many leaders of the development community, as highlighted in the Bisnow article dated March 20th, I think that all of us were surprised at the angry tenor of the opposition to the amendments.  Guy Durant, of the Durant case fame, went so far as to call us “devil-opers” with the emphasis on the “devil”.  And there were no punches pulled on the members

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Uncategorized

Office of Zoning, Office of Planning on the Hot Seat

On February 28th, 2018, the DC Council conducted oversight hearings for the DC Office of Zoning (“OZ”) and the DC Office of Planning (“OP”).  Oversight hearings provide the DC Council and members of the public an opportunity to ask OZ and OP officials questions about their performance over the past year. Sara Bardin, Director of OZ, presented that there was an 8% increase in Board of Zoning Adjustment (“BZA”) and Zoning Commission (“ZC”) cases over the last year and discussed upcoming updates that will allow automatic “sun/shade studies” to be conducted on the OZ website (which is still in its testing phase).  DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson engaged Director Bardin, as well as ZC Chair Anthony Hood and BZA Chair

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Uncategorized

EventsDC Seeking Development Partner For RFK Market Hall

EventsDC, the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia, recently released a Request For Expressions of Interest (“RFEI”) for the development of a 65,000 square foot Market Hall on the RFK site.  EventsDC seeks a development partner for this initial phase of the comprehensive redevelopment of the RFK campus, located next to Kingman Park in the revitalizing Hill East neighborhood.  Market Hall is expected to offer market, concession, and restaurant space for neighborhood residents and visitors from around the region. Market Hall will be one component of the initial phase of redevelopment over the next 2 – 5 years, redevelopment which will also include: Three multi-purpose recreation and community playing fields, totaling about 5 acres, available to

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Uncategorized

Top Five Key Factors to Look at When Buying Property to Develop in Washington, DC

Thanks to the recent development boom, the District certainly has become hip.  It follows suit that many multi-family, condo and mixed-use developers are looking in the District for good buys to develop or to hold. These developers call us all the time to ask about properties.  We look forward to helping more, but to help short-circuit the process, here are five basic things you should know about the DC market before purchasing, investing or developing real estate.  We absolutely would advise that, before putting money down on a deal, you should: 1) take a quick look at the zone 2) confirm if the property is located in an historic district 3) confirm if the property may be covered by CFA

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Uncategorized

deCOding CO-LIVING in DC

Community housing, boarding houses, and communal living arrangements have been around since the 1840s, as indicated by a brochure by the Academy of American Poets when it identified the boarding houses where Walt Whitman and Edgar Allen Poe rested their heads.  Even though such concepts long have been a part of society, co-living facilities are receiving new scrutiny in an unregulated gray area of DC zoning regulations, as more developers become interested in meeting this segment of the market. You may be asking yourself, “What is co-living, exactly?”  Co-living is a modern form of housing where residents intentionally share living space and, ostensibly, choose to live around a shared set of interests.  Those interests in many cases revolve around guiding principles

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Uncategorized

The Caveman’s Club vs. The Modern Neighbor

Protecting one’s property is an innate impulse that dates back to the beginnings of man.  The cavemen defended their caves with clubs and rocks.  It remains unclear whether cavemen also went to community meetings and objected to an increase in density at the neighboring cave.  The question is: how similar is an Advisory Neighborhood Commission (“ANC”) meeting or Party Status in Opposition in the District to the Caveman’s Club? Here, in DC in the 21st Century, property owners do not need a club because they are emboldened by the ANCs and other legislative ways to oppose development.  The District’s ANCs were created by the DC Council in 1976 to give neighbors an important voice in the District’s zoning process.  Under

Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in Uncategorized
Subscribe For Updates

getthedirtblog

Real Estate, Zoning & Land Use

Cozen O’Connor has represented residential, commercial, retail, and industrial builders in the development and redevelopment of building lots and millions of square feet of real estate. Our team handles every aspect of the zoning, land use, and development approvals process, from obtaining building permits and variances to negotiating stormwater management and traffic plans.

Head of the DC Zoning Group & Blog Editor