A nomination to expand the Capitol Hill Historic District boundaries to include all of Squares 753 and 778 and portions of Squares 752 and 777 was filed by the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6C in December 2014.
Posts Tagged HPO
Landmark/District: Anacostia Historic District (x) Agenda
Address: 1234 W Street SE ( ) Consent
Meeting Date: February 26, 2015 (x) New construction
Case Number: 15-204
Staff Reviewer: Tim Dennée (x) Concept
The applicant, property owner W Street Acquisition LLC (with architects Shinberg & Levinas), requests the Board’s review of a concept for the construction of a branch DC Prep charter school. The Board looked at a concept in December and apparently agreed that that design was too large for the available parcel, but the applicant withdrew that application and filed another.
Although not expressly proposed at the moment, a subdivision would be necessary for this project. Such a subdivision would be compatible if the new construction is determined not to be incompatible. The subject parcel consists of seven lots, which would have to be consolidated into one. The largest lot has a pipe stem that runs through the block to V Street and would be used as an access to a basement garage for employee parking. The remainder of the lots, all with W Street frontage, are situated between that lot (Lot 1022) and 13th Street.
The exterior wall materials would include brick, EIFS, fiber-cement panels, and aluminum column covers.
Background At the time the historic district was designated, the subject parcel contained a single house, the former 1242 W Street, and open-air storage for cars. It has since occasionally been used for overflow parking for the church across the street. Since that time, this block of W has lost a total of six historic houses, four that stood where Union Temple now does, one that stood at 1222 W, and 1242 W itself, which was neglected for decades before collapsing in 2009.
In 2007, the Board reviewed a proposal for three-story townhouses on this site. The Board’s principal concern was with the height of those buildings relative to the surrounding two-story historic homes, but after some tweaking of the designs to address these concerns, approved in 2011 a resubmitted concept at that height, but with a single unit on the V Street pipe stem capped at two stories. Another condition was that 1242 W would be reconstructed to break up what would otherwise be an unrelieved W Street frontage of similar three-story buildings. The project did not come to fruition because of the difficulty of obtaining construction financing.
Evaluation The school design is still massed in two sections, but it has been reduced in height, and its plan has been shifted some so that the western end of the building stands nearer the street.
There is no reason that the applicant should not have had its ideal program for essentially two schools within the building. It is simply the case that the parcel was too small to accommodate the original plan. Ideally, such a school would be situated on a deeper site, i.e., deeper than a typical Anacostia house lot, with its program arranged in a deeper central section with wings as necessary to accommodate uses such as gymnasium, cafeteria, library, etc. In other words, more like a traditional school. The revision largely retains the old program by sinking the gyms and cafeterias underground, not ideal for egress, light or cost and perhaps for use, if the gym heights have to be reduced to limit excavation.
While there are some educational, religious and government buildings sprinkled through the neighborhood, few are large, and they are islands surrounded by houses. In this instance, the site’s proximity to Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue essentially stretches the avenue’s largerbuilding character into the residential neighborhood and, in so doing, isolates the two little historic houses west of the parcel. Such a large building will tend to dominate the remaining residences, likely reinforcing the erosion of residential uses on the block that commenced with the demolitions mentioned above, the construction of Union Temple and its parking lot, and the church’s acquisition of many of the adjacent homes.
Still, the zoning regulations permit schools in this zone, and this design is a significant improvement over the initial one. The formerly four-story school has been reduced to three, the height limit for residential buildings in this zone. The third story is set back at points, better relating to the diminutive homes of 13th Street. Also crucial is the elimination of the rooftop play area with its tall fencing. The shift of the west wing toward W Street is also an improvement, as it better reinforces the street wall while managing to break up a long elevation. With that shift, and setting off a bit from the west property line, the building relieves the house next door of overwhelming mass and foundation problems resulting from deep excavation.
The previous staff report made reference to the townhouse project the Board approved in 2011 as representing the likely limit of height and bulk for the parcel (as well as a preferable knitting together of the residential neighborhood). The present school design apparently models itself after that residential project, lacking the porches of course, but rendered as repeating three-story three-window-bay units, with even the formerly proposed mansard roof expressed through a color and module change in the siding material. This gives the building some rhythm, but would be relentless were it not relieved by the various façade setbacks and the introduction of some brick. Overall, the size of the building is comparable to the aggregate size of the 23 rowhouses previously approved in concept as sufficiently compatible with the character of the historic district.
A building of this purpose and size, especially with a tall story sunk below grade, reasonably must economize with its exterior materials, yet it is arbitrary to approve for a school project materials that are considered incompatible for other types of projects, unless there is a particular affinity between a building type and a certain material. The Board has typically considered large expanses of EIFS and fiber-cement panels, especially when prominently visible from a street, to be incompatible materials. The 2011 residential project was to use fiber-cement products on the lower two floors, but applied as narrow-exposure lapped boards, interrupted by corner boards, window and door casings and porches. While lapping the boards exposes the thinness of the material, their shadow lines mitigate it. At a larger scale—a bigger building with less relief of the wall plane—fiber-cement panel is flat and featureless except for very narrow joints, although there is some flexibility to play with joint width in a rain screen installation with a primary weather barrier behind the cladding. Even a traditional material like true stucco, which EIFS imitates, is less successful when applied over such a large expanse of a rectilinear mass, because such large, boxy construction does not contain the fine-scaled changes in plane that a stuccoed building would historically have.
The staff seeks the Board’s comments on the compatibility of the materials as much as on the character and massing of the project as a whole.
HPO recommends that, if the Board finds the project not incompatible with the character of the historic district, it approve the concept of a subdivision (consolidation) of the lots and delegate further review of the subdivision to staff. The new construction will presumably return for revision or design development in any case.
Anacostia needs to learn some lessons… Capitol Hill Historic District Amendment-Expansion Nomination on the books.
For those that have formed organizations in advocacy of “Historic Preservation” and spoken on expanding Anacostia’s boundaries … Capitol Hill is already doing it. HPO and the city has requirements. You can’t wish on it. It takes research, documentation and procedural awareness.
Homes from the 1880s just up from 16th & W already gone. Harambe House gone. Old Barry Farm — the Freedmen’s Bureau Barry Farm — not protected.
Now that Busboys & Poets has announced plans to open a restaurant in Anacostia in the spring of 2016 the hard work begins. At last month’s announcement few intimate details of the deal were shared, leaving many familiar with neighborhood development to question the project’s timeline.
The Far SE Family Strengthening Collaborative, which has owned the vacant building at 2004 – 2010 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE since late 2012, is primarily a case management social service provider without a record of development experience. The non-profit will most likely have to rely on a series of substantial city funds from the Department of Employment Services, Department of Housing and Community Development, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and others to make the project possible, according to a developer who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Perry Moon, executive director of the Collaborative, says the community should prepare itself for a “long process.”
What will that process entail? That process will include forming partnerships with a development team and culinary training team and securing financing, none of which appear to be in place.
In late December 2012 the Collaborative purchased the former bowling alley and furniture store for $2.195 million. According to tax records, as of May their outstanding mortgage stood at more than $1.7 million. With a reported revenue, mostly in the form of city grants and case management government transfer payments, after expenses of nearly $0.54 million the Collaborative faces significant capital shortfalls to finance the development.
Since their purchase the property has remained vacant, generating no revenue. Nearly five years ago Unity Healthcare and the DC Primary Care Association identified the building for a new health facility. The neighborhood organized opposition and Unity eventually built a complex adjacent to the Frederick Douglass House.
At the announcement Andy Shallal, founder of Busboys & Poets, indicated he would be signing a 20-year lease. Moon declined to name the conditions of the lease. The Collaborative currently rents offices in the Anacostia Professional Building across the street, and, according to neighborhood sources, plans to relocate at the end of 2015. These present tight deadlines to make a deal.
“They didn’t announce the lease in clear terms,” says Rev. Oliver “OJ” Johnson, a former board member of multiple community development corporations in Anacostia, who began his activism during the administrations of Mayor Washington and President Nixon. “I haven’t seen a prospectus of an agreement detailing what Busboys will or will not contribute to the build out. There’s no evidence there’s any money in this. In order for any bank to underwrite a loan they have to see funding feasibility, the sources of expected grants and other planned revenue streams. There’s nothing here.”
Johnson also questioned the decision making process narrative advanced by the Collaborative. “There’s been no public hearing process or community meetings. There was one or two invite-only meetings. Not one 8A Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner spoke at the press conference. They haven’t been given notice of what their script is. Last [month’s] event was improvised to the fullest.”
“There are no current plans for funding for this redevelopment because none has been applied for,” wrote Marcus A. Williams, Community Outreach Director for DHCD. “However, DHCD has had ongoing conversations with both the Collaborative and Busboys to discuss what subsidies the Department might be able to offer through an open and transparent competitive process. The developer is welcome to submit a proposal to request support for this project next spring when the Department releases information about the 2015 funding competition.”
Summing up sentiments of both the neighborhood and city officials Williams said, “We are excited to see interest in development in Ward 8 and specifically in revitalizing Historic Anacostia.”
The two-story building was constructed in 1940 as a bowling alley and has most recently served as a Masonic lodge and furniture store. Its current space of 20,848 square feet is not enough to house Busboys & Poets on the ground floor and the administrative offices of the Collaborative and a culinary training school on the 2nd floor. Plans to add a third floor and build upon the rear one-story wing passed Historic Preservation Review Board earlier this year and are incorporated into design drawings. Construction would add 7,000 – 10,000 additional square feet.
“The build out will start immediately to bring the building into code and then it will be turned over to Busboys and Poets for our fit out,” Shallal wrote in an email.
According to a Historic Preservation Office staff report by Time Dennee, the building “has hallmarks of the Art Moderne style: uniform light-colored brick, a curved northwest corner, and streamlining suggested by the contrasting, projecting brick flanking the windows and the simple continuous projections above the storefront and as a schematic cornice.”
An addition brings the building’s total height to 45 feet, making it the tallest building within the Anacostia Historic District. Most of the building’s structure – column, beam and slab construction with brick-faced block exterior walls – would be retained and used. The roof and one-story rear wing will be lost with the proposed addition. A storefront in the first-floor facade will also be added.
Signature project for Mayor Bowser?
The lone city employee to speak at last month’s event was the late Councilmember Barry’s chief of staff. The absence of mayor-elect Bowser (who was announced to speak) was telling, according to a number of developers and neighborhood activists in attendance.
“Most likely no current agency director will be around when this project gets started. Nobody can make a promise or a hold a commitment right now. This will have to be a signature project for Muriel’s administration. They’ll have to wait for her to settle in which will take time,” says Johnson.
A developer who spoke on the condition of anonymity offered, “Did you hear Shallal with the one-off applause line, ‘I should have been Mayor!’? Muriel doesn’t want to share the stage with him.”
With Moon giving duplicative answers to a series of questions, including, “How is this really going to happen?” he closed our phone interview by saying, “This will be a long process. We’ll work to see that the community remains excited and enthusiastic and stays with us.”