Logan Circle’s community leaders have given their blessing to a plan to redevelop Whitman-Walker Health’s former home, the Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center at 14th and R streets NW.
Members of ANC 2F voted on a proposal last night to send a letter to the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) commending Whitman-Walker’s design, which includes the preservation of the original Elizabeth Taylor Center as well as a new mixed-use development that would span 155,000 square feet and six stories.
But the proposal also came with some recommendations from the ANC’s community development committee:
- The proposal is too monolithic and should be changed to make the new construction less uniform and massive. The project should reflect a great variance of design among the three new masses.
- Further attention should be given to the color of the terra cotta tiles to make them more subdued.
- Design of the lower windows located at 1711 14th Street NW, the Belmont garage building, should be reconsidered. Modeling the windows on the building’s earliest design would be preferable.
Though the ANC agreed with the second and third points, some of its members took issue with the point that the planned development was “too monolithic” for the 14th Street corridor.
“I’m not sure I 100 percent agree with the first recommendation regarding the massing,” said Commissioner Pepin Tuma. “I don’t find it to be monolithic. I wouldn’t use that word at all.”
Commissioner Maurice Dorsey agreed with Tuma’s remarks.
“It’s extremely pleasing,” Dorsey said. “The restoration of the lower level is going to follow the traditional model. I think it’s going to be a great asset to the block.”
Not all in attendance favored the design, however. One resident in the audience spoke up in favor of calling the current design “monolithic.”
“It doesn’t fit in with the grain and the texture of 14th Street,” he said. “It’s going to be a monolithic building.”
And Commissioner Kevin Sylvester said he “had similar concerns” with the project’s facades.
“From what I saw from the renderings, the only distinction between different wings of the building was with colored walls, which kind of went out with the late ’50s or early ’60s,” Sylvester said. “I think something to break it up a little more visually… would help in being a little more consistent with the streetscape of 14th Street.”
Andy Altman, managing partner of Fivesquares Development, attended the meeting and defended the current design.
“We really started from how this would not be monolithic,” Altman said. He added that the building’s architect, Annabelle Selldorf, took great care in matching the neighborhood’s historic character.
“We’re really celebrating those buildings,” Altman said.
The ANC ultimately voted 4-2 to send a letter to the HPRB commending the design and urging the it to consider the second and third recommendations, but to scrap the item calling the design “too monolithic.”
Photo courtesy of Whitman-Walker Health