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Power plant redevelopment plans shift after lot size proves smaller than originally thought

GenOn Power Plant (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

As it turns out, the GenOn Power Plant site’s size may have been a little exaggerated on city records, and it’s creating a problem for potential redevelopment.

The former GenOn Power Plant site seemed like a gold mine for potential redevelopment as a large parcel of currently unused land, but a look into some of the constraints on the site there might not be as much usable land as initially thought.

In a request for a Coordinated Development District (CDD) headed to the Planning Commission on June 23, an application from developer HRP Potomac, LLC requests new heights across the site due to unforeseen restrains on the site’s developable land.

“The [Old Town North Small Area Plan] envisioned 2.15 million square feet of development… on the site,” the application said. “The 2.15 million square feet of [gross floor area] was considered the appropriate amount of development necessary to transform [the Potomac River Generating Site] into a vibrant, mixed-use waterfront district delivering substantial public benefit…”

But the application says that ground level restrictions, specifically with utility lines, easements, and more, were not known when those plans were first drawn up.

“The actual size of the Potomac River Generating Site parcel is much smaller than anticipated,” the application said.

The application said that while the tax assessment records list the site as being 852,898 square feet in size, the actual size is 818,944 square feet — a difference of 33,954 square feet.

Furthermore, utility easements on the site prevent development on large portions of the property and there’s a 40-50 foot wide building restriction line along the eastern boundary as a result of previous litigation.

“The cumulative result of these site constraints is that only 11.9 acres of the 18.8 acre [parcel] can be physically developed, including buildings and interior roadways and sidewalks,” the application said. “Factoring in that internal infrastructure plus the open space means that only about 7-8 acres of the 18.8-acre site is actually available for building development.”

The application said additional height is requested alongside bonuses granted by site contributions to affordable housing and arts spaces.

A map of the new proposed heights showed heights up to 140 feet where previous maps had limited height to 50 feet.

The application said the 2.15 million square feet of development on the site originally called for in the Old Town North small area plan won’t fit on the site without some changes.

“Given the realities of the actual site constraints, the 2.15 million square feet of [gross floor area] will not fit on the 11.9 acres of developable site area within the height limits contemplated in the [Old Town North Small Area Plan],” the application said. “This is especially true once square footage is further reduced due to building articulation and setting appropriate building widths efficient for marketable multifamily, office and retail space.”

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