Monday, October 6, 2008

Community Update Meeting Concerning St. Martin's Apartments

This evening I attended the community informational meeting hosted by the St. Martin's Steering Committee and ANC Commissioner Mary Lois Farmer-Allen (5C06) at McKinley Technology High School. Construction will begin this month on the St. Martin's Apartments, which will provide 178 units of workforce and low-income housing at 116 T Street NE.

Approximately 25 people were in attendance at the beginning of the meeting. Father Michael Kelley of St. Martin's Catholic Church made some brief comments, thanked the community for its input, and asked for prayers for the safety of the construction workers. Commissioner Farmer-Allen made a few comments, then developer Neal Drobenare introduced some new people who will be involved with the construction.

Drobenare announced that there will be a 2-year construction period from ground-breaking to final completion of 178 units and 176 underground parking spaces.

The heaviest period of truck traffic will occur during the first 6-week period of the project; after that time, traffic will be greatly reduced. Construction will begin every day (5 days per week) at 7 a.m. The truck traffic will be split between those trucks driving north from the construction site towards Rhode Island Avenue and those trucks that will travel south along 2nd Street N.E., then down Eckington Place N.E. R Street residents have expressed numerous concerns about heavy traffic in the past, and with a question I confirmed that no trucks will be traveling down the 100 or unit blocks of R Street N.E.

For two months, one block of Todd Place will be designated a no-parking zone. With this notification, one resident posed some pointed questions about parking. This was surprising because I recognized this resident as being one of the strongest supporters of the project among those who lived close to the site prior to regulatory approval.

Another individual charged that it appeared as though the construction workers were being favored over the residents. A complicating factor over which St. Martin's had no control was the absence of a representative from the D.C. Department of Transportation who was supposed to be present. Drobenare pointed out that although some parking would be temporarily lost, other zones that are currently designated as "no parking" would be freed for use.

At one point, Drobenare said that the plan had been put together with the advice of all the area civic associations. At that moment, a woman stood up and walked briskly from the room, apparently angry. Other residents indicated either during the meeting or afterwards that Drobenare's manner was offensive. Personally, I don't think that Drobenare said anything out of line, but given that I am lawyer (as he is), perhaps I didn't sense what some residents did.

Because the DDOT representive was not available, many uncertainties remain. One thing for sure, however, is that Hyde School will need to find a replacement for the 40 off-street parking spots it will lose during construction.

Drobenare stressed that residents with concerns during construction should come to St. Martin's first before posting a comment on a listserv or the Advisory Neighborhood Commission. The main contact will be Michael Blaylock ( and the construction manager will be Jim Brown (301-423-6000). The relevant contact information will also be posted on-site.

One resident asked whether the project was sufficiently capitalized to endure the current economic chaos in the credit markets. Drobenare assured the audience that there would be no problems with funding the project.