(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) A developer has cleared a major hurdle in its quest to bring a seven-story, mixed-use building to the heart of Adams Morgan.
The District’s Historic Preservation Review Board this afternoon approved PN Hoffman’s plan to build on the SunTrust plaza and the rest of 1800 Columbia Road NW, despite significant opposition from community leaders on Adams Morgan’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1C.
The developer, which needed the support of HPRB in order to begin construction, can’t start demolition on the bank property right away, however. HPRB gave its endorsement under the condition that PN Hoffman works with the panel to address its design critiques, including members’ calls to create a more exciting building for such a prominent location.
“It’s so compatible [with buildings in the neighborhood’s historic district] that it almost disappears,” HPRB member Rauzia Ally said at the meeting. “I just feel like this building deserves something that stands out a lot more than what is presented here. I feel like the design of it is lackluster.”
Locals can speak their mind at an upcoming public input meeting in the west wing room of the Embassy Row Hotel (2015 Massachusetts Ave. NW) this Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. During the meeting, attendees will be able to discuss concerns and items for future consideration with the ANC’s zoning, preservation and development committee members in small groups.
As it stands, the project calls for the construction of a new church and a seven-story housing building. Though neighbors and developers have clashed over the proposed height of the development — among other things — the Historic Preservation Review Board voted to approve the project voted 4 to 1 to approve the project in July. Last month, Washington Business Journal reported that the project “advanced to a critical review stage” when the developer applied to obtain a single zoning variance for the project.
Photo via stthomasdc.org/building-project
From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.
Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B, at its monthly meeting last night, April 10, unanimously supported a request by the Embassy of Indonesia to erect a statue of a Hindu goddess on public space on Massachusetts Avenue NW. It also unanimously called on DC’s Historic Preservation Office (HPO) to improve its operating procedures and communication both with ANCs and with the public.
Statue of Saraswati on Public Space
The Commission heard a presentation by Heru Subolo, Minister-Counselor for Press and Information Affairs of the Embassy of Indonesia, asking for ANC support for a proposed statue of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts and science, to be erected on a public space next to the grounds of the Embassy at 2020 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
Subolo told the committee that the statue had been approved by the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Foreign Missions. Subolo also said that the planned site for the statue had been moved, at the request of the DC government’s Historic Preservation Office (HPO), from its original planned location at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and 21st Street (also adjacent to the Embassy), to a location next to the sidewalk further west along Massachusetts.
The location is currently fenced in. Subolo said that the fence would be removed to make the statue accessible to the public.
“I’m really happy to open up a fenced space,” said Kevin O’Connor, ANC commissioner for district 2B-02.
The ANC voted 9-0 in favor.
Resolution on Historic Preservation Office
The DC Historic Preservation Office (HPO) has a new draft plan for the next four years and is soliciting comment. ANC 2B took the opportunity to approve a resolution outlining the ways it believes that the HPO and its parent organization, the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB), could work more effectively with ANCs and the public.
The resolution noted the following problems, among others:
- Effective Enforcement: “…Frequently, violators pay a limited fine, sometimes as little as $500, but are not forced thereafter to actually correct the offending construction or work….”
- Notice to ANCs: “…The HPO/HPRB is the only regulatory board that does not currently send a notice document directly to ANCs for each application within the respective ANC that will be on the board’s agenda. This is contrary to the practice of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, the District Department of Transportation Public Space Committee, the Board of Zoning Adjustment, and the Zoning Commission….”
- Ensuring Timely and Fair Staff Reports: “…The HPO needs to release draft staff reports in time for relevant ANCs to weigh in and respond, before the HPRB hearing on the matter….In addition, the HPRB needs to ensure that staff reports are fair and cite all relevant precedent….”
- Fair Appeals Process: “The plan should address the process for appealing an HPRB decision, which can be costly and slow….”
The ANC vote was 9-0.
1412 T Street New Construction
The Commission approved a resolution calling for a one-month delay in a new construction project at 1412 T Street. The proposed construction is a two-unit residential structure on a vacant lot. Both T Street neighbors adjacent to the location spoke last night.
“We totally welcome a new building,” one said. “But this is a total aberration on the block.”
“This is not in the context of the block,” the other agreed. “But I’d love to see a property there.”
The Commission agreed that the height and depth as proposed were not appropriate. It requested additional information from the developer’s representative and referred the matter back to the Zoning, Preservation, & Development Committee for reconsideration at its next meeting on May 7.
Liquor License Moratoriums
Commissioner O’Connor said that the ANC 2B Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) Policy Committee would hold an additional listening session about the proposed 14th and U Street liquor license moratorium next Wednesday, April 17, at a location to be determined. The hearing will focus on ANC district 2B-09, which falls within the boundaries of the proposed moratorium.
O’Connor also said that he will present a “game plan” at ANC 2B’s May 8 meeting concerning the Dupont East Liquor License Moratorium, which will come up for renewal in September of this year. This moratorium is in effect on 17th Street. O’Connor is the chair of ANC 2B’s ABRA Policy Committee.
New ANC 2B Email Addresses
The Commission announced improvements to its website. On ANC2B’s commissioners and staff page, there are now group addresses which will deliver email to the entire ANC or its subcommittees through a single address. The addresses are:
- for all ANC2B commissioners: [email protected]
- for the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration Policy Committee: [email protected]
- for the Zoning, Preservation, & Development Committee: [email protected]
- for the Community Involvement Committee: [email protected]
ANC2B serves the Dupont Circle area.
From Tom Hay. Questions for Tom? Send him an email at Tom[AT]borderstan.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Tomonswann.
For our latest profile on noteworthy local residents, Borderstan had an opportunity to catch up with architect Rauzia Ally. Most will agree, this local resident’s star is on the rise, both locally and nationally. Ally came to the DC area from her native Guyana for school, and then settled with her husband in the Dupont-Logan area, just off 14th Street NW.
Locally, after serving many years on the Dupont Circle Conservancy — the non-profit whose mission is to promote preservation of the historic and architectural character of the Dupont Circle historic districts — Ally was appointed by Mayor Vincent Gray to a term on the District’s Historic Preservation Review Board. She will be the only representative from Ward 2 on the board.
Ally will also serve as director for a team of local college students competing nationally in the 2013 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. The Solar Decathlon challenges each team to “design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive.” The competition will take place in October 2013 in Irvine, California.
On top of all these projects, Ally also runs an architecture and design firm with her husband Gregory Rubbo and serves on the faculty of the School of Architecture and Planning at the Catholic University of America.
Borderstan: Tell us a little bit about your background and why you came to DC.
Ally: My family came to DC because my grandfather’s brother went to Howard’s Dental school here before going back to Guyana to begin his own practice in 1947. Since then all of my mother’s family came and they also studied dentistry. So we all ended up here. I still remember though growing up in Guyana, when family would visit, they would bring back the souvenirs, the Washington Monument or a snow dome of the White House. Those memories of dreaming about what Washington was like upon touching those objects are still very much embedded in me.
Borderstan: What made you and Gregory choose to live in the Dupont Circle area of Borderstan?
Ally: We love the quality of the row houses and the small streets like Swann, where we live. The homes are beautiful, and the trees are lovely. It’s a joy to walk around, walk to Georgetown or down 14th Street, know all your neighbors, and be a part of the fabric.
Borderstan: You recently served on the board of the Dupont Circle Conservancy. What is your favorite building in the area?
Ally: Historic would be many but likely the Masonic Temple is very beautiful. The Finnish Embassy is also quite lovely. I love the houses on New Hampshire Avenue too.
Borderstan: What is the biggest challenge in reviewing changes or additions to historic buildings?
Ally: Really trying to forge a relationship between the old and new without copying just the look of the old, a stylized version. So keeping honesty in materials and methods of building while honoring the historic.
Borderstan: There is development along every block of 14th Street in our neighborhood. Do you see that as a threat to the historic fabric of the area?
Ally: No not at all, in fact it helps to upkeep historic properties when once blighted areas are redeveloped. I love seeing the new that is done well right next to the old. It’s exciting.
Borderstan: Who’s your favorite living architect and who’s your favorite deceased architect?
Ally: Peter Zumpthor for living. He’s a master builder and a master of meaning and beauty as well. Frank Lloyd Wright for deceased as an embodiment of the American Spirit of individualism and zest for life.
Borderstan: How did you become involved with the Solar Decathlon?
Ally: Living in Guyana, where sustainability is not a buzz word but part and parcel of everyday practice, it’s easy to understand the principles. So it was naturally a project I wanted to be a part of and direct. After the BP disaster, I felt we truly have to be serious about alternative energy, and it was around that time we were studying at CUA the viability of the project. I feel that true environmental sustainability cannot rely on technologies, but on culture, society and art and humanities as the backbone. So trying to personify what that means in a project was very important to me. Our Solar Decathlon home exemplifies humanistic, scientific and spiritual ideas and you must have all three for sustainability to mean anything.
Borderstan: How many students are currently involved and what schools do they come from?
Ally: We have had in the past year about 40 from our school and 30 from George Washington University. Currently we have 20 from CUA, another 20 from George Washington University and about 15 from American University. All told, it will be likely about 200 students involved over the course of the project and a large host of professionals as well. Already we have students working in the professional offices like Arup Engineering, so the project is already accomplishing its intentions, to foster those kinds of relationships. You can follow our progress on Facebook, TeamCapitoldc or Twitter @dcharvesthome. Even though DC has hosted the Solar Decathlon since 2002, we’ve never had a team before. Team Capitol dc is the first DC team.
Borderstan: What do you think is the biggest misconception about solar power? How about the biggest misconception about historic preservation?
Ally: Solar power – that it is essentially impractical and that there are dim prospects for it. I don’t think anyone realizes how much energy solar power currently provides. All three universities in Team Capitol dc are racing to put panels on as many campus buildings as possible. Historic Preservation – that you could care about it and champion it while desiring modern architecture for new buildings at the same time, both in harmony.
Borderstan: You have a very full schedule. When you do have free time, where do you like to relax or eat out in the neighborhood?
Ally: I like to sit with my husband and while awayat Meridian Hill Park or go to the garden of the Smithsonian Castle or the Botanic Gardens. Living in Bordestan it’s easy to get to those venues. But I also love just sitting in my front stoop area and talking to neighbors on a Sunday morning. To eat, I love Plume at the Jefferson Hotel but Posto’s outside area on a balmy day is also nice.
More Tickets for Blocking Bike Lanes
With new bike lanes (hopefully) on their way, it looks like Policy Chief Cathy Lanier is on board to support them. “We’ve quadrupled the number of tickets we’ve issued for people who block bike lanes,” she told WTOP in an interview last Thursday. Lanier says that they issued 2000 tickets in 2011, but “it’s going to take a while for the culture [shift] to kick in.”
Look Metro, No Pants!
I avoided Metro all weekend due to the single tracking, only to realize that I also missed the 5th annual “No Pants Metro Ride DC.” For those of you unfamiliar with this yearly occasion, run by Capitol Improv, the name is fairly self-explanatory. On Sunday afternoon, several hundred Metro riders boarded trains and rode around without pants on (though PG-13 underwear is encouraged).
During this season of protest, organizers on the event’s Facebook page were quick to remind people that the No Pants Metro Ride is not political. The page says, helpfully, “the point of the day is not to ‘protest pants.'” Good to know. The event came full circle to our neighborhood with an afterparty at Nellie’s.
DC Historic Preservation Review Board Lacks Members
As a history major, I get excited whenever I read about history professionals being in demand. Last year Mayor Vince Gray dragged his feet on nominations for the Historic Preservation Review Board, and it looks like those delays are about to cause some big headaches. According to City Paper, two of Gray’s nominees have said they don’t want the position.
With other members’ terms expired or expiring, the nine-member board might be left with only one current representative. In a recent letter to the Mayor, Councilmember Tommy Wells reminded him that by law, the board must have experts in history, architectural history, and archeology, or risk losing its federal funding. “With our significant number of landmarks and historic districts, the critical role of the HPRB cannot be overemphasized,” Wells wrote.