Yesterday we obtained BZA approval for our Colorado Condominium building, a ground up 5-unit development coming up near Georgia Ave NW. Obtaining approval for what amounted o 3 variances and 2 special exceptions was not easy, and required a very strategic balancing act between developer goals, community/ANC desires and the Zoning Regulations. The building consist of 3 stories, cellar and penthouse, and 3 2-bedroom and 2 1-bedroom dwelling units in a mere 3,690 sq ft.
The original building proposed was larger and required a variance for increasing FAR. Early in our coordination efforts with the ANC and the Office of Planning, it became clear that in order for us to obtain approval for a higher density development it was important that it include one affordable unit. As a result, we opted into Inclusionary Zoning, allowing us to increase the FAR of the building without the need for an additional variance. While other variances were still required, they resulted from the higher FAR allowable under IZ guidelines. We would have to propose a much smaller building, however.
In order for the project to remain viable it was important that it contain at least 5 quality dwelling units. Fitting that many units into the framework we were working with was like solving a 3-D puzzle. Here are some of the ways we were able to increase the use of the very limited square footage we had to work with:
ground level units are accessed directly from the side of the building, eliminating the need for redundant interior circulation;
shared stairs/hallways are minimized. The building has a mere 116 sq ft of shared space, and the efficiency rate is just under 97%.
we took advantage of planar and sectional relationships between various building elements, by interweaving them in a ying-yang manner;
we manipulated the building height by creating an attic level, allowing us to stack a stack up to the penthouse 1/2 outside the footprint of the penthouse itself, which needed to comply with setback requirements;
we created a series of pivoting bay window boxes that allowed us to gain living space on the interior of the each unit as needed due to interior layout constraints, without being constrained by consistent exterior walls;
we employed an exterior stair as the second means of egress, avoiding unnecessary increases to FAR.
Although they appear to be merely formal in nature at first glance, the pivoting bay window boxes are tools to help us solve our 3-D puzzle, as mentioned previously, and to help us to address the surrounding context. They break up the building vertically, serving as a way to break down the scale of the building with respect to smaller neighbors to the South, and provide a sculptural response to this building on a corner lot abutting an alley. The lowest of the boxes in similar in scale to front porches of the neighboring buildings, further helping to bridge between the older buildings and ours.