From Tom Hay. Questions for Tom? Send him an email.
The owners of the historic Toutorsky Mansion at 1720 16th Street NW in Dupont Circle have filed an application with the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) seeking approval to locate a chancery in the property. The filing by owners Humberto and Francisco Gonzalez is on behalf of the contract purchaser of the property, The Embassy of the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). Under the Foreign Mission Act of 1982, the location of a chancery in certain mixed-use areas of the city is subject to review and possible disapproval by the BZA.
The 12,000 square foot brick mansion was completed in 1894 for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Henry Billings Brown in the Flemish Revival style. It was purchased in 1947 by Prince Basil Toutorsky, a Russian music teacher. The property, at the corner of 16th Street and Riggs Place NW, is in the Sixteenth Street Historic District. According to D.C. tax records, the current owners bought the property in 2001 for $2.2 million and it is currently assessed by the city at $4.5 million. The owners started a limited bed and breakfast operation soon after purchase and sought to expand in 2004, but were denied by the BZA.
“Relatively Low Intensity of Use”
The application describes a “relatively low intensity of use” by the Republic of the Congo, with just 10 staff members and one small scale social function each month. The chancery would be used by his Excellency Serge Mombouli, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Congo to the United States of America, a post he was appointed to in 2001.
The new owners agree to comply with historic preservation regulations and do not with to alter the structure. However, the application does outline a few significant changes to the property. The new owners are requesting an allowance to create a circular driveway in the public space on the 16th Street NW side of the property. This would require two curb cuts, one on 16th street where cars would enter the drive, and a second on Riggs Place where cars would exit.
They also are proposing to erect a flagpole in front of the building. After a walk around of the perimeter of the property it appears there may be a mature tree or two in the way of the plan along with some impact on the S1/S2/S4 Metrobus stop in front of the mansion.
Additionally, the application proposes parking for six cars to supplement the two existing garage spots. The new parking spots would be located in the courtyard in the rear of the property and access would be from the public alley that joins Riggs and S Streets.
Public Hearings on Proposal
The Republic of the Congo currently has operations on the corner of Colorado and 16th Streets NW, near the Rock Creek Tennis Center. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire and not to be confused with the purchaser of the Toutorsky Mansion) owns the once-neglected mansion at 1800 New Hampshire Avenue NW, which was recently stabilized after pressure from the State Department and ANC 2B.
The application is on the agenda for the monthly meeting of ANC 2B (Dupont Circle) on Wednesday, January 12 at 7 pm at the Brookings Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW. The BZA public hearing will be held on Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 10:00 am at 441 4th Street NW – Room 220 South (Judiciary Square – Red Line).