An Unexpected Multi-Family Proposal at 17th & Federal

It was almost a year ago that we called your attention to the northwest corner of 17th & Federal, where we noted some ongoing demolition activity. The property in question was 1701 Federal St., a two-story, quadruple-wide commercial building which was once home to a corner store but had been sitting vacant and blighted for several years. Not only did mention the building on Federal Street, but we also noted that the same developers had bought a similar commercial building next door, at the southwest corner of 17th & Annin, and also had demo permits for that particular property.

In the past at 17th & Federal
17th & Annin in the past

Checking in on both properties today, we see a big ole vacant lot.

Current view at 17th & Federal
17th & Annin now

A year ago, we speculated that the developers would seek a variance here, because the property is zoned for mixed-use commercial. We looked on the north side of the 1700 block of Annin as a potential example for what could happen here, suspecting that town homes would be the logical move for this sizable and well located Point Breeze parcel.

North side of the 1700 block of Annin

It seems we were correct that the developers would seek a variance, but we were off base in terms of the ultimate plan for the property. Instead of town homes, the developers instead proposed an apartment building here, with ground floor commercial and 42 units upstairs. The zoning application indicates 42 units in the building and describes them as dwelling units/visitor accommodation. We believe this would translate into either short term rentals or co-living, but we couldn’t tell you for sure.

By right, even with bonuses, a project here would only go up four stories and include about half a dozen units- so we imagine the proposal would have a bit of a hill to climb in the zoning process. Perhaps that’s why the zoning application was seemingly withdrawn. Perhaps the developers are planning to come back to the community with something that’s materially similar to the proposal described above, or maybe they’re pivoting to our original suggestion of building homes.

Whatever ends up happening at 17th & Federal, this reminds us that five-story mixed-use is exactly the type of project we’d love to see happen up and down Point Breeze Avenue, and it would be allowed by right if that corridor was remapped to CMX-2.5. Alas, we’ve been advocating for this change for years to no avail, so it doesn’t seem likely to happen any time soon. Until it does, expect Point Breeze Avenue to remain rather sleepy and underdeveloped, even as other commercial corridors around town grow and thrive.

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