Wardman Review Shows Strong Community Support for More Affordable Housing & Regulatory Questions
Updated: May 16
Wardman Hotel Strategy Team
Release: March 29, 2023
Contact: Nick DellaDonne, 703-929-6656
The DC Office of Planning (OP) on March 23, 2023, released its final report on developer Carmel Partners' plans to demolish the old Wardman Hotel to build 900 market rate units, just 72 of them affordable (the 900/72 plan). The Large Tract Review (LTR) report showed continued community opposition to the Carmel plan, particularly to the low number of affordable units and the anti-green demolition of the existing buildings. The LTR also exposed unresolved agency questions regarding pedestrian access and racial equity.
LTR regulations call for OP to gather comments from the public and other DC agencies on how this multi-acre, two-tower development will impact traffic, open space, local schools, affordable housing, recreation and the environment. Of the 41 comments from individuals and couples, 36 were opposed to the Carmel plan, while five were in support. The opposition generally wants the existing structure repurposed for affordable housing and other community uses, which the District could realize by buying the property by eminent domain.
This grassroots view supports the effort by the Wardman Hotel Strategy Team to convert the old hotel to a mixed-use residential building, with many more affordable units and community amenities. The fight to save the Wardman goes back two years when the Wardman Team urged the city to buy the site at the bankruptcy auction.
OP has supported Carmel’s 900/72 plan despite the city’s dire need for more affordable units and Mayor Bowser’s target of 1990 new affordable units in Ward 3 by 2025. OP initially refused to require LTR, contending the site was less than three acres and therefore the LTR was unnecessary. It was only when an attorney challenged OP that the agency agreed to make Carmel initiate LTR.
In the LTR several agencies report flaws in Carmel’s design. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) said that Carmel “has no connections between Calvert Street and Woodley Road [requiring] pedestrians [to] walk around a mega-block [which is] not acceptable for a transit-oriented development.” Until this is resolved, “DDOT cannot support the proposed curb-cuts.”
On racial impact, the Department of Parks and Recreation asked OP “to encourage” Carmel “to share details about the ‘landscape improvements that will beautify the site and provide gathering spaces for residents and neighbors.’” The Department of Buildings is to enforce this requirement as part of issuing a building permit.
“The Wardman Team will continue to encourage Mayor Bowser, our Ward 3 Councilmember Matthew Frumin, and other councilmembers to take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented by the Wardman,” said Carren Kasten, a founding member of the Wardman Team and Ward 3 resident. “With visionary planning, including full use of the DDOT and DPR contributions to the LTR, the District can create real affordable housing for those who work and provide services in our Woodley Park community, space to relieve overcrowded neighborhood schools, a supermarket and more.”