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Neighbors steamed over laundry plan

Critics say new hotel isolates NW community

(Published February 14, 2000)

By OSCAR ABEYTA

Staff Writer

A battle is brewing between neighborhood activists and a developer who has proposed building a new hotel on the site of the former Yale Steam Laundry on New York Avenue in Northwest Washington, three blocks from the new convention center.

At an Advisory Neighbor-hood Commission meeting Feb. 2, about 50 people showed up to voice their opposition to the new hotel, according to activist Beth Solomon.

The commission had already voted to give its approval to the project late last year, but it is scheduled to take the matter up again at its March meeting.

The developer, Michael Minkoff, has already received concept approval from the Historic Preservation Review Board for two 130-foot hotel towers on either side of the existing laundry building, plus an office/residential building directly to the west of the hotel.

Solomon said the plan would "wall off our neighborhood from the entire NoMa area," referring to the neighborhood north of Massachusetts Avenue.

Solomon, in a letter to city planning director Andrew Altman, called the development "radically out of character with the surrounding buildings."

She noted that the site lies within the Mount Vernon Square historic district, which is primarily residential, and that two proposals have been rejected by the review board on historic grounds.

Solomon is also asking the Board of Zoning Adjustment to look into whether the cityís zoning administrator overstepped his authority by granting the developer a waiver from its requirement to build housing on the site as the developer claims. Solomon argues the administratorís action constitutes a de facto change in zoning laws and said the BZA or the Zoning Commission are the only ones who can make such changes.

Minkoff was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

The developer is scheduled to present plans at the Feb. 15 meeting of the Mount Vernon Neighborhood Association. The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Metropolitan Community Church, Fifth and Ridge streets NW.

Copyright 2000, The Common Denominator