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DC board of zoning adjustment approves geothermal-heated 1-bedrooms in SE public housing complex

A section of Highland Dwellings, a 208-unit public housing complex in Southeast, is moving closer toward a substantial green renovation featuring geothermal heating and other energy-efficient features.
Each of the 24 apartments in the proposed chunk of the complex will adhere to the same one-bedroom plot. The project is set to occupy the parcel of land bounded by Atlantic, Condon, Yuma and 4th Streets SE.
Over the summer, officials of the District of Columbia Housing Authority requested a zoning variance to construct a residential development that is not comprised entirely of single-family detached or semi-detached buildings — the makeup of the bulk of the remainder of Highland Dwellings. To create a multifamily dwelling on this land where zoning requires single-family units required a special exception.
The Board of Zoning Adjustment granted the request, notes Joel Lawson, the DC Office of Planning’s Associate Director for Development Review, pending changes to the plan by DCHA and the architecture firm developing the plan for the refurbished apartments, Torti Gallas.
Lawson’s colleague, case manager Steve Cochran, “felt that the plans as submitted did not sufficiently address [all necessary grading and landscaping requirements],” Lawson said in an email to Elevation DC. Once the changes were wrapped into an amended set of plans for the apartments, BZA granted DCHA’s request for an exception.
The apartments, envisioned by architects in a V-shape, will feature geothermal technology, which pulls heat from the ground. Groundbreaking has not yet been pinpointed.
They will be part of a controversial renovation of Highland Dwellings, whose residents appealed to DHCA – and won, in 2012 – the right to keep their homes classified as public housing for 40 years to come.

Note: Due to reporting and editing errors, the original version of this article included several errors, including one that implied that the Board of Zoning Adjustment was part of the Office of Planning, not a separate agency. The article has since been corrected. Elevation DC regrets the error.

Read more articles by Amy Rogers Nazarov.

Amy Rogers Nazarov is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist with more than 25 years experience as a staff reporter and a freelance writer, covering technology, adoption, real estate, and lifestyle topics from food & drink to home organizing. Her byline has appeared in Cooking Light, The Washington Post, Slate, Washingtonian, The Writer, Smithsonian, The Washington Post Express, The Baltimore Examiner, The Sacramento Bee, Cure, The Washington Times, Museum, and many other outlets. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists & Authors and tweets at @WordKitchenDC.
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