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EastBanc Laying Ground Work for Cady's Alley Sequel

EastBanc, Inc. owns five properties along an alley that runs behind the 3200 block of M and Prospect Streets and is accessed from Potomac Street.

EastBanc, Inc.'s plans to add a mezzanine level and rear alley access to the current home of Coach at 3259 M St. is yet another calculated move in a plan to develop a -type project behind commercial structures on M Street. EastBanc, Inc. owns five properties along the alley, which runs behind the 3200 block of M and Prospect Streets and is accessed from Potomac Street.

The plan for 3259 M St., designed by _Cox Graae + Spack architects_, is to add an additional 1,800 feet to the rear of the existing building on a mezzanine level without changing the footprint of the structure. The addition would also be within the allowable floor area ratio, so no zoning exception would be needed.

EastBanc representatives have said the project came about because the lease with Coach is almost up and they are trying to seize the opportunity to improve the space before another tenant moves in.

At the Old Georgetown Board meeting Thursday, Anthony Lanier told the board, "we are trying to take a building that we acquired and never were able to rehabilitate—to bring it back to the 21st century before the next tenant takes occupancy."

Hinting at the potential future use of the space the senior Lanier said, "We believe that today’s alleys can be tomorrow’s courtyards, shopping streets, or accesses."

Philippe Lanier, Anthony's son and a principal at EastBanc, was slightly more direct. "It is our intent to make this a version of another’s Cady’s Alley," he said in a phone interview with Patch.

However, at the Advisory Neighborhood Commission Monday, a group of neighbors from Potomac Street other nearby residences objected to the project, worrying that EastBanc's continuing gradual acquisition of the area would result in residents being alienated by increasingly active commercial spaces.

Alex Meeraus, a Potomac Street resident, called EastBanc's purchases "salami tactics" in which the developer "takes a little slice at a time" hoping no one notices until it is too late.

Meeraus sent a formal email to both EastBanc and the ANC objecting to the project ().

In it he wrote, "This project, if approved, will eventually lead to the conversion of the entire block into commercial use. The remaining residents will move as the character of the neighborhood changes."

However, at the OGB, the senior Lanier assured those in attendance that his intent was not to force the neighbors out.

"We are not necessarily corrupting all of our neighbors into a Cady’s Alley concept," he said, "but I certainly think that over the next many, many years, I can imagine, there will be uses that will be accessed from the alley, particularly from Prospect Street, as all the buildings on Prospect Street are currently used commercially."

The younger Lanier shared that sentiment. "It's not our intent to force any residents out...All we’re doing is activating a dead brick wall."

Practical issues also concern the neighbors and the ANC. The entrance to the alley warns of a seven feet-wide entrance because of a railing on a neighboring building.  The actual public alley is ten feet wide and provides enough room for service deliveries. An open area in the rear has parking spaces on private property, but there is no public parking area space.*

Michael Steiner, whose office at __ is on Prospect Street, said the alley already poses significant logistical issues.

"Introducing pedestrian traffic is going to further complicate matters," he said.

The younger Lanier said that while EastBanc respects the concerns of the neighbors, they are at odds over the value of an area that is part residential and part commercial.

"Some [neighbors] will say 'we don’t want it changed into part residential and part commercial,' but that’s something we think is part of the urban landscape,” he explained.

Luckily for EastBanc, the OGB agreed.

Board member Steven Vanze said "we do what we can to encourage good design...it is not our job to discuss use."

Both Vanze and Lewis had high praise for the design concept.

Lewis acknowledged the neighbors concerns, but said she was not worried that the project would impact them in the way they feared so long as it was a "low-level activity space."

The project received OGB concept approval.

*Editor's Note: Patch initially reported that the alley was seven feet wide and that there was public parking.

Dave December 02, 2011 at 02:25 PM
I think it's a great idea. Cady's Alley is definitely one of the highlights of living/visiting Georgetown (I am a resident nearby) - gives this area the hidden street 'European feel' that other parts of DC do not have. While you are at it - any opportunity for Congress Ct or Cocoran Alley (realizing the level of NIMBYism may be greater here)? Or what about closing some streets on weekends? It's Lanier's type of vision that will continue to make Georgetown one of the best places to be.
Shaun Courtney (Editor) December 02, 2011 at 03:13 PM
Thanks for your comment, Dave!
Virginia Burton December 02, 2011 at 06:02 PM
The OGB has rolled over for Anthony Lanier once again! The proposed "improvement" to the back of the Coach store is a modern hideosity. I thought the OGB was supposed to preserve the character of Georgetown, but they have shirked their duty in this case. The OGB should be ashamed of itself. (And everyone who ever had a project turned down by them for being "too modern" or "out of character" should heed how loudly Lanier's money talks.) Didn't anyone notice that the Laniers want to bring the area into the 21st Century? Does that sound like "Old Georgetown" to you? Keep in mind that this alley is a dead end, unlike Cady's Alley. It's hard enough for those with private parking to get in and out of the alley without worrying about pedestrians milling about. In addition, opening the building(s) to the alley is going to result in even more shoplifting and vandalism. I have worked in Georgetown for thirty years, owning a retail business for twenty-two years. The area used to be full of small, independently owned shops. One by one, they have been forced out by Lanier, who also seems to have no regard for the residents of the area. In fact, it seems to be his plan to get rid of the residents in addition to the small businesses by making the area crassly commercial and bringing more noise, pollution, and crime to the area. OGB should change its name to The Anthony Lanier Fan Club and adopt as its theme song, "Whatever EastBanc wants, EastBanc gets."
Shaun Courtney (Editor) December 02, 2011 at 07:02 PM
Thanks, Virginia. This project should go before the ANC in the next few months, so you can certainly share your views at the meeting or via email with your commissioner!
Eddie R December 03, 2011 at 10:37 AM
What??? Is this the same Old G'town Board that turned down the Apple design over and over? That never approves stuff without multiple revisions?? Someone better check to make sure that we haven't had an invasion of the bodysnatchers. I can hear Anthony Lanier's voice Bwaaahaaahaaa as he seizes control of the city's governing boards.

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