Neighbors Unhappy at Morrison-Clark Renovation, Expansion

by Borderstan.com May 2, 2013 at 9:00 am 8 Comments

From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.

"The Morrison"

The Morrison-Clark Inn at 11th an L NW. (David McAuley)

“This is not a good neighbor,” said one attendee at the presentation about the expansion of the Morrison-Clark Historic Inn on Tuesday, April 30.

This summed up the feeling of many from the surrounding condos and apartment buildings who showed up to hear the presentation by representatives of Forester Construction, Architecture Inc., and Morrison-Clark management.

The meeting took place in a well-appointed dining room of the hotel, which is located at 11th and L Streets NW near the corner of Massachusetts Avenue. About 40 people attended.

The hosts served punch and fresh-baked cookies, but it did little to mollify the disgruntled neighbors. Specific complaints included failure to adequately communicate with neighbors about the nature of the expansion, lack of a specific point of contact to address complaints, and difficulties accessing information which was supposed to be publicly available.

Expansion Will Double Size

The expansion will double the size of the Morrison-Clark. It will add 54 additional guest rooms while keeping the facades of the buildings untouched. The new structure will have six floors of guest rooms with an additional floor “mechanical penthouse” to house heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and other equipment.

The result: apartments in neighboring buildings that now have a view from windows and balconies will soon face a brick wall only yards away. Neighbors claimed the plans which were presented to city planning authorities did not show the abutting buildings and were therefore misleading.

Local residents expressed concern about the safety of their own buildings during the Morrison-Clark renovation. Within the last two weeks, the roof of a historic carriage house next door that the renovation was supposed to preserve collapsed.

“This doesn’t inspire confidence,” a neighbor said.

Presenters called the roof collapse an “unfortunate accident” which was due to mistakes in construction made long before the renovation was even planned.

“The carriage house shouldn’t have been standing,” a presenter said.

The presenters agreed to establish a single point of contact for neighbors who have questions, problems or concerns about the construction after repeated requests. The presenters at first did not make a firm commitment, saying on-site personnel during business hours would be sufficient.

Neighbors disagreed. After repeated requests to establish an email address where neighbors can direct their concerns, the presenters finally consented, but did not agree to the establishment of a listserv or an online bulletin board, both of which were suggested by neighbors.

Repeated requests by one neighbor for access to the architectural plans for the construction were turned aside by noting that the documents were available at DC government offices. It did not seem to occur to the presenters that some neighbors might have daytime jobs which they would be reluctant to take time off from. Furthermore, a neighbor said she had been to the relevant office and no such architectural plans were on file. One of the presenters said he would look into putting the plans online.

The current timeline for the Morrison-Clark expansion is two more months of demolition and excavation on the site. The frame for the new structure should be in place by autumn 2013. The planned completion date is early summer 2014.

Also attending the Morrison-Clark presentation was Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (ANC) Greg Melcher, 2F-06, as well as Jim Laukes and Howard Marks from ANC 2F’s Community Development Committee.

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  • Joel

    See what happens when you don’t hand deliver a copy of your blueprints, permits, and entire stack of information to every disgruntled resident? The blueprints are already publicly filed, as they always are in projects such as this. Sorry some people assumed they owned the view out their window in perpetuity, but that’s just not how it goes. And no, incredibly enough, no business is going to create a listserv or any other additional public forum just for people to post more negative conjecture.

  • QP

    Typical NIMBY *&%$ They move into condos in an urban transitioning urban neighborhood that is about as close to downtown as you can get then they complain about every thing that comes with living in an urban neighborhood. The two most vocal are upset because they couldn’t afford units in Quincy Park with balconies on the 10th street side. They settled for units on the back looking out in the center of the block with all the alleys and abandonded properties. Yes, they thought that the view was a part of the purchase price. Those of us living in QP are sick of these two complaining about every little thing. The homeless woman in the park, the kids playing soccer, the hotel valet whistling for a taxi, the people of color (shock) walking in front of “your” building. Get over it….or move please!

  • Quimby

    Well, it’s great to hear from the developer and contractor on this project, thanks “Joel” and “QP”!

    Why is a crappy, third-rate inn even expanding? Cashing in on the convention center biz while casting aspersions on their neighbors? Nice. Are they planning to level the Asian-themed, seemingly historic building next door? More room for groaning Victoriana bric-a-brac in the hazy half-light, and inedible, mushy food served in the faintly unhygienic dining room.

    If I bought a condo in this neighborhood only to find this unheralded non-entity greedily expanding and blocking my view, I’d be mad, too.

  • Thanks to Quimby for illustrating the breathless false conjecture and unyielding obstructionism that Morrison-Clark appears to be up against here:

    1. I’m not the “developer and contractor on this project.” Zero connection here whatsoever to the hotel or the project, outside of being a resident who simply does like the hotel, and strongly dislikes NIMBYism.
    2. You assail as a “crappy, third-rate inn” a hotel that, within just a 5-min Google search, reveals: Expedia 4.3 out of 5 (based on 757 verified reviews); Hotels.com “Excellent” at 4.3 out of 5 (608 verified reviews); TripAdvisor 4.5 out of 5 (271 verified reviews, with 209 of them ranking M-C as “Very Good” to “Excellent”); Zagat “Very Good to Excellent”), and at the lowest, Orbitz 3.9 out of 5.

    Perhaps “Quimby”‘s approach is symptomatic of what has ailed the hotel’s obstructionists, including failure before the Board of Zoning Adjustment, and failure again when they granted a second round at BZA…which opponents then took to the DC Court of Appeals, again meeting with failure, in 2010. The Court decision even reveals exactly what I’d suggested in my previous comment: that opponents were upset documentation hadn’t been sent to each and every condo owner: http://bit.ly/1580I3o

    SEVEN years after the hotel announced its plans, 2-1/12 years after the DC Court of Appeals rejected opponents’ arguments on every count, perhaps it’s time for a reality check: even if the hotel had delivered every scrap of documentation to its opponents, on a breakfast tray, with a croissant, and hand-squeezed OJ, they’d still be hurling themselves against this project.

    • M

      This isn’t my battle and I could care less what happens to this property. I’m just want to offer an observation. People who say NIMBY become NIMBYs themselves so fast it will make your head spin the second someone wants to put in something undesireable next to them. I personally have witnessed this twice, resulting from the development on 14th.

      • QP

        M – wrong wrong wrong. You are so wrong. I happen to live in the condo bldg directly next door to this project. How could you not have gotten that from reading my post? I am all for this project. Unfortunately, a few seem to think that they own the air in DC and nothing can be built that will ever change THEIR view. The obstructionists have used every complaint possible to delay this project. How could I or any of the other majority of residents next door be NIMBYs when we are in favor of this finally being built? Don’t get involved in community development if you don’t understand the arguments.

  • Logan Circlite

    This is why we can’t have nice things in DC. . .

    SEVEN YEARS OF FIGHTING THIS PROJECT?!!! Take an Ambien, lay down for a nap, and STF up! The rest of us are tired of your whining.

    This is a perfect example of the out-of-control power that a handful of objectors can wield in this town — halting progress and small business growth, and holding the city back while we all await adjudication of their petty concerns.

    That, too, needs to end.

  • Greg

    I am the ANC 2F06 commissioner and set up this meeting so that neighbors can be informed at what is now a matter of right development. Many are unhappy with that reality so this meeting served to give them an opportunity to vent both concerns for which nothing can will be done and concerns that can be addressed. I have to thank the Management, Construction Company and hotel staff for maintaining their composure and allowing neighbors to express their feelings. I look forward to the establishment of a single point of contact for neighbors to interact should they have additional concerns.
    Construction projects next to one’s home are never pleasant and I am hoping after this interaction the developer’s will take to heart the neighbors concerns and try to mitigate impacts where possible. I should note that the several of the building are being restored as required by HPRB which did not include the Chinese Church (whose facade will be retained and become the new main entrance to the expanded hotel).
    Bottom line, at least for project in my neighborhood – I will try to arrange for this type of event before the construction of each project so that affected neighbors can have there chance to understand the construction sequence and impact and also know how to reach out to if there are problems.
    BTW for the NIMBY type it should be noted that there used to be 3 identical historic townhouses along L Street, two where torn down for the construction of the adjacent condo, this before we were in an historic zone.


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