Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
15 June 2006
The meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, N.W, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 10:15 a.m.
National Capital Planning Commission staff present:
A. Approval of the minutes of the 18 May meeting. The May minutes were circulated to the members in advance of the meeting. Ms. Nelson noted a wording correction on page 25 of the draft. The Commission approved the minutes with this correction, upon a motion by Ms. Balmori and second by Ms. Nelson.
Ms. Balmori said that some of her comments at the May meeting were apparently not recorded and suggested that the Commission obtain a better sound recording system; Mr. Luebke said that the staff was working on this problem and anticipated that the Commission's meeting room would have a new sound system within approximately six months.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: July 20, September 21, and October 19, with no meeting scheduled for August. There were no objections. [Following the meeting, the July date was revised to July 27.]
C. Confirmation of appointment to the Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to confirm the appointment of Stephen Vanze, AIA, to a three-year term on the Old Georgetown Board. He would replace Heather Cass, who will be leaving the Board after its July meeting upon completing two terms. Mr. Powell and Ms. Nelson praised Mr. Vanze's credentials. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, the Commission confirmed Mr. Vanze's appointment.
D. Report on the 2006 National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs Grant Program. Mr. Luebke introduced Mr. Lindstrom to report on the grants that the Commission distributes annually to local non-governmental cultural organizations. Mr. Lindstrom said that slightly over $7.1 million was distributed to 21 organizations. This completed the Commission's work for the 2006 grant program.
Mr. Powell asked how this year's total amount compared to previous years. Mr. Lindstrom explained that the program is authorized for up to $7.5 million. The actual appropriated amount had been as low as $5 million in the past ten years, but for the past six years the amount has been at approximately $7 million, varying by no more than $200,000 annually.
E. Introduction of summer intern. Mr. Luebke introduced Joseph Spilsbury, an architecture student at the University of California, Berkeley, who will be on the Commission staff until mid-August.
II. Submissions and Reviews
A. Appendices. Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commissioners in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I — Direct Submission Consent Calendar: There were no changes to the draft of the appendix listing two projects: a greenhouse modification at the National Arboretum and indicator lights for the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority's combined sewer overflows at various riverfront locations. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, the Commission adopted the appendix.
Appendix II — Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Penhoet reported that there were several changes to the draft appendix: the negative recommendations had been eliminated by resolving the concerns or by deferral at the applicant's request. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle, with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission adopted the revised appendix.
An additional submission under the Shipstead-Luce Act was considered later on the agenda (item II.K.1).
Appendix III — Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martínez reported that the only changes to the draft appendix involved finalization of dates for supplemental drawings. He noted three projects of special interest.
• Case O.G. 06-168, at 3124 Q Street, N.W., involving the review of a trellis that had previously been installed without a permit as discussed by the Commission at the March meeting. The Old Georgetown Board recommended approval of the trellis for only a limited area, as described in the Appendix. The applicant decided to remove the unapproved portion rather than appeal the Board's recommendation to the Commission. Mr. Martínez explained that the recommendation included a three-month time limit for enforcement of the removal, at the request of the D.C. government. The removal would occur by the end of August and would be verified by the D.C. historic preservation inspector.
• Case O.G. 06-190, at 1521 32nd Street, N.W., involving a new house whose side yard abuts a portion of an extensive retaining wall that is on the property of 3124 Q Street (the project noted above). The Board and Commission had previously requested that the retaining wall be faced in brick. The day before the Board meeting, the owner of 1521 32nd Street had instead proposed to surface the wall with stained concrete, matching the color of the cast stone on the house. The Board asked to see a sample of the stained concrete prior to making a final decision on the finish material. Mr. Powell suggested allowing the Board to consider the sample of concrete and then provide an updated recommendation to the Commission.
• Case O.G. 06-123, at 3100 Dumbarton Street, N.W., involving alterations to an early 19th-century house, including an underground garage and a new enclosure for a recently built two-story porch. The Board had recommended against the project; the applicant then appealed the recommendation to the Commission in May and presented a revised design that reduced the porch enclosure to a single story. The Commission had declined to act on the revised design and asked the applicant to first present it to the Board. The Board had now reviewed the revised proposal and recommended against the single-story porch enclosure, preferring that the porch remain open.
Mr. Martínez introduced Andi Adams, an architectural historian with the law firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, to present the owner's appeal. Ms. Adams explained that the proposed enclosure would be a relatively modest change that would not affect the house's historic fabric and would be consistent with the enclosure of some porches in the neighborhood. She said that the enclosure would not affect the privacy of neighboring houses. She quoted the favorable comments of a staffperson from the D.C. Historic Preservation Office. She introduced the architect, Eric Borchard, to describe the proposed windows and walls for the enclosure. He said that the porch's interior space would remain open. Mr. Martínez noted that the Board had considered the Historic Preservation Office comments and heard testimony from neighbors; the Board concluded that the open porch should be maintained as part of the visual character of 31st Street.
Mr. Powell then recognized several neighbors and their representatives who asked to speak in opposition to the proposal. Lucy Moorehead expressed concern that the porch enclosure was only one of many changes that would be proposed. Marian Vishio, representing neighbor Richard Thompson, cited the neighbors' letters to the Board and the Commission, and he criticized the proposal as aesthetically inappropriate for the historic Federal-period house. Jim Siebert said that the enclosure was not really at the lowest level of the porch and was effectively a second-floor enclosure; it would be highly visible from 31st Street and out of character with the house's style. Barbara Zartman, the historic preservation chairman for the Citizens Association of Georgetown, said that the enclosure would result in historic exterior walls becoming part of the house's interior, and therefore no longer subject to protection by the Board and Commission.
Mr. Belle asked if the historical usage of a porch would have involved seasonal enclosure. Ms. Adams said that such seasonal enclosures would have occurred about 75 years later than the house's original construction. She also clarified that the enclosure would be at the house's historic first-floor level, but the house's basement was now exposed because the street grade had been changed. Mr. Powell expressed his support for the Old Georgetown Board and concurred with its recommendation against the proposed enclosure.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell, with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission adopted the revised appendix including the Board's recommendations on the projects that were discussed.
An additional submission under the Old Georgetown Act was considered later on the agenda (item II.K.2).
B. National Park Service
CFA 15/JUN/06-1, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. Independence Avenue, S.W. at the Tidal Basin. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 16/MAR/06-1.) Mr. Luebke introduced the project, a revised concept that would reintroduce a water element to the simplified memorial design that the Commission approved in March. The proposal would add two waterfalls at the memorial entryway next to the Mountain of Despair. He said the stated purpose of the water would be to reinforce the form of the Stone of Hope, to create acoustic privacy from nearby roadways, and to provide a transition between the Mountain of Despair and the formal plaza of the memorial. Mr. Luebke then introduced John Parsons of the National Park Service to present the project and its design team.
Mr. Parsons reported that the National Capital Planning Commission concurred in approving the simplified design concept and said that the Park Service was working on compliance with historic preservation and environmental requirements and supported the revision to reintroduce water to the memorial's design. He then introduced Dr. Ed Jackson, Jr., of the memorial foundation, who introduced architect Boris Dramov of the ROMA Design Group.
Mr. Dramov explained the importance of bringing water back into the project. He discussed the metaphorical references to water in Dr. King's speeches. He also noted that there is a great deal of unwanted noise in the area, so a fairly loud, "rambunctious" water feature would create a better acoustical environment. Finally, he said that water at the entry point would strengthen the relationship between the Stone of Hope and the Mountain of Despair. Mr. Dramov then presented the Commission some sketches showing different views of the proposed waterfalls. He said that the design revision also responded to other Commission comments from the past meeting, related to trees and the location of the support building.
Ms. Balmori commented that she liked the simplified design that was previously approved. She said she is generally favorable about the idea of water in the project; however, the proposed placement would create a complicated intersection of the stone, water, and surrounding wall. She emphasized the need for a clear, strong design relationship between the Stone of Hope and the Mountain of Despair; the proposed waterfall might give the impression that the Mountain of Despair was put there only as a setting for the fountain, weakening the design concept. She suggested relocating the water away from the critical center section of the wall, perhaps as a separate design feature at each side of the memorial.
Mr. Rybczynski said that this memorial's strength was largely derived from its setting, with a strong relationship to the Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin. Adding water to the memorial design was inappropriate because it would compete with the memorial's relationship to the Tidal Basin. He also commented that falling water always creates a festive mood since it is splashing and gurgling; this mood would be inappropriate for this memorial and would weaken its design concept. He concluded that the memorial should not include water, regardless of the specific design.
Mr. McKinnell, Ms. Nelson, and Mr. Belle agreed with Mr. Rybczynski. Mr. Belle added that the design challenge was to solve a number of problems while retaining a single strong idea, and the water concept being presented would add complication at exactly the location where it was most important for the memorial experience to be simple and powerful.
Ms. Balmori agreed that the proposed location was inappropriate but she supported the usage of water somewhere else in the design. She said she didn't agree that moving water is always festive, having seen fountains that were very somber. She also said she has seen fountains whose designs have not been diminished by adjacent large bodies of water. She concluded that a water feature could work; it would just have to be totally separated from the rocks. Mr. Powell agreed with Ms. Balmori that water could be a valuable addition but observed that excessive usage of water, as at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, could weaken the design concept.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the fabrication of the large stone pieces would be very difficult. Rather than adding more design elements and complicating the project, he would prefer that the design team focus its attention on the details of constructing the stone. Mr. Powell agreed with Mr. Rybczynski, while reiterating that he was not objecting to the idea of water.
Mr. Dramov then showed the Commission another version of the water that had not been presented yet. Mr. Powell commented that the design's geometric borders made it look more like a garden pool and people would tend to walk in it. Mr. Dramov and Ms. Balmori began to discuss alternative locations and designs for the water. Mr. Powell concluded that the proposal was not at a point where the Commission could vote on it; he suggested that the design team undertake further study of a water feature. Mr. Rybczynski emphasized that the approval of the previous concept remained in effect and he continued to discourage the introduction of water. Mr. McKinnell and Ms. Balmori also reiterated the suggestion to study the design details of the large stones, and Mr. Powell urged Mr. Dramov to coordinate this with the staff.
(Ms. Zimmerman joined the meeting at this point.)
C. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 15/JUN/06-2, National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum (Patent Office Building). 7th and F Streets, N.W. Courtyard landscape. Final. (Previous: CFA 18/MAY/06-1.) Mr. Luebke introduced the project, the final design for the courtyard landscape at the Patent Office Building. The revised concept design had been approved by the Commission in May. He explained that the design team was providing additional details of the planting plan, ventilator pylons, courtyard lighting and some new renderings for the interior of the space. He then introduced Sheila Burke, Deputy Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
Ms. Burke noted that the presentation would address the Commission's previous concerns as well as add further refinements to the design. She thanked the Commission for helping to improve the design through the review process. She introduced the members of the design team and asked landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd. to present the design.
Ms. Gustafson discussed the design modifications and the details of planting and lighting. She said the design was intended to have a strong and simple character in keeping with the building's Greek Revival style as previously recommended by the Commission. She emphasized the large area of the courtyard, about 20 percent smaller than a football field. The major courtyard element was a series of large planters with a simple white marble design. The large area of the planters was necessary to accommodate plant roots despite the shallow depth, resulting from the auditorium below and the design decision to keep the planters low to correspond to the historic windows facing the courtyard.
Ms. Gustafson explained the changes to the other major feature, a linear water scrim across the southern part of the courtyard. The previous design had emphasized the east-west axis; this was now balanced with reinforcement of the north-south direction. The resulting design would frame the south facade, accommodate the restaurant in the northeast corner, and provide a variety of seating and gathering areas throughout the courtyard. She explained the features of the water scrim. Its shallow quarter-inch depth allowed people to walk across it while their shoes would dry by the time they entered the museum building. The water could be turned off to provide additional dry floor space when needed for special events. The floor would have a shallow grade—half to two percent—that would be similar to the grade of ordinary flat floor areas while being sufficiently sloped to keep the water moving. The moving water would require minimal maintenance, less than a pool of still water. The water would pass through a grille to a collection channel beneath the floor; this collection area was designed as a sound box that would amplify the noise of the falling water, animating the sound environment of the courtyard. She showed several perspective drawings to illustrate the character of the space, with and without the presence of the water scrim; the flooring would appear darker when the water was flowing.
Ms. Gustafson then described the lighting system for the courtyard. To give the courtyard an exterior character, there would be diverse light sources rather than the limited sources typical of interior spaces. The roof skylight would give basic ambient lighting with small fixtures as well as daylight. Wall washers would emphasize the lower portions of the building walls, shining upward through an 18-inch-wide floor grille along the perimeter of the courtyard. Ceiling-level fixtures would light the upper areas of the walls; additional ceiling-level fixtures would emphasize the tops of the trees. Fixtures within the tree areas would light the interior of the tree canopies, and downlights would illuminate the shrub layers underneath the trees. Rim lights around the planters would give a sense that the planters are floating in space, emphasizing their white marble cladding against the dark granite floor. Ms. Gustafson also described the visible components of the proposed ventilation system: air would be supplied through the perimeter floor grille, supplemented by ventilation pylons within the courtyard.
Ms. Gustafson showed samples of the materials for the project: two shades of dark gray granite for the flooring, shot-finish stainless steel for the pylons, stainless steel for the perimeter grill, and white marble for the planters. The marble would be chosen to have minimal veining to maintain a sense of simplicity rather than an inappropriate Baroque character. All of the stone was being tested for color permanence and slip resistance; a sealer would also be applied to prevent staining. She also provided material samples for the roof, including the glass and the structural frame, and aluminum for the roof's support columns.
Ms. Gustafson then provided an update on the planting. Since the last presentation, she had visited nurseries in California and Florida that can supply unusually large trees. Some specific trees had already been reserved, and others would still need to be selected. The trees will be held for a year in Florida in a shade structure that replicates the humidity and limited light transmission of the courtyard to ensure that the trees will survive under these conditions. She explained that the shrub layer has two sub-layers in it, giving complexity and interest as people sit along the planters or move through the courtyard. One sub-layer would include pittosporum, whose small leaves would have a glowing effect with night lighting, and Viburnum japonicum near the south wall where its deep red bark would relate well to the sandstone facade. The other sub-layer would be a two-foot-high "green rumble" of varied shrubs that would be used in all of the planters, including a mix of evergreen and colorful seasonal plantings. Ferns would be used toward the southern part of the courtyard, where less daylight is available. She showed several perspective drawings to illustrate the proposed plantings as well as the lighting.
Ms. Gustafson introduced Graham Collingridge of Foster and Partners to further explain the material samples. Mr. Collingridge said that the pylons would have a glass surface, with portions being used as flat plasma screens for displaying information.
In response to Mr. Rybczynski, Ms. Gustafson clarified that the granite paving beneath the water scrim would be the same material as the darker paving for other floor areas but would have a different pattern of joints in order to emphasize the reflection of the building. The position and tilt of the scrim would give particular emphasis to the reflection of the south facade. Ms. Gustafson explained that the granite might appear darker when wet; the exact color would also depend on the sealant that is chosen. The sealant would likely have a greater effect on the color of the white marble, so there would be extensive testing before finalizing the selection of this sealant. Ms. Nelson asked whether the stone drain system had been tested; Ms. Gustafson said it would be tested the following week for operational feasibility as well as acoustic properties.
Ms. Zimmerman asked about the size and installation of the trees. Ms. Gustafson explained that the large trees weigh 3,000 to 14,000 pounds; they would be transported by truck and then lowered in through the roof. A portion of the roof would be removable to allow for future replacement of trees. The smaller trees that were selected are 24 feet tall, and they would grow 2-3 more feet before installation. Ms. Burke noted that the Smithsonian's horticulturists are experienced in maintaining large, complex gardens, and the Smithsonian staff was coordinating with the design team on the maintenance needs. Mr. Powell asked if special lights would be needed to sustain the plants; Ms. Gustafson said that the plants were being selected for their ability to tolerate this environment without additional lights.
Ms. Nelson praised the design, particularly the lighting. Upon a motion by Ms. Zimmerman, with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the final design of the courtyard.
D. Arlington National Cemetery
CFA 15/JUN/06-3, Arlington National Cemetery. Millennium Site (Old Warehouse Area and Fort Myer Picnic Grounds), Arlington, Virginia. Landscape design for Millennium Expansion Project and designs for associated structures. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the project for the expansion of the cemetery into an area formed from a parcel formerly within Fort Myer and several small parcels transferred from the National Park Service. He introduced Frank Cirincione, the project manager from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Mr. Cirincione introduced design team members Rich Opem of CDM, Patrick Pleasants of STV Incorporated, and Joe Sporko and Roger Rapp of the LA Group.
Mr. Opem explained that the design concept was based on studies prepared in 2000 and 2002. Major project components included a new retaining wall along the boundary with Fort Myer; stone drainage channels; a "committal shelter" for holding funeral services; and a series of columbarium walls. Mr. Sporko then presented further details of the design and provided the Commission members with additional drawings and photographs. He described the project goal of providing as much burial space as possible while respecting the existing vegetation and topography, including a steeply sloped ravine running through the site. Mr. Lindstrom clarified that the site was near the traditional chapel at Fort Myer and included the former site of the cemetery's warehouses which have now been demolished.
Mr. Sporko described the proposed circulation system: a two-way public road through the lower portion of the site, and an adjacent access road to provide service for the columbarium. In a flat area at the center of the site, the public road would split to form a circle that would be used for funeral services in conjunction with the adjacent committal shelter, similar to the shelters in other parts of the cemetery. Bus parking would be along the adjacent roadway.
Mr. Sporko explained the proposed grading, a major constraint for the site. For burial areas the slope would generally be limited to ten percent, with some areas sloping up to twelve percent. Those areas of the site that are within this grade limit would be used for standard grave sites. The steeper areas would be terraced with columbarium walls containing niches for cremated remains. The design team had studied the existing trees and had decided on a strategy of preserving stands of trees where possible, rather than retaining isolated trees. He presented a series of site sections to illustrate the proposal.
In response to questions from several Commission members, Mr. Sporko provided more details on the circular roadway and committal shelter. The funeral services require a shelter where visitors, the honor guard, and the band can take part in the service, as well as staging areas for the honor guard, band, cars, and the caisson. These staging areas need to be nearby but not immediately adjacent. The proposed roadway passing between these areas would therefore be appropriate to the design. For larger funerals, an extensive area of roadway and lawn would be used to support the ceremony. Mr. Lindstrom clarified that the cemetery was not open to general traffic so the road would not be in use during funeral services. Mr. Rapp explained that the buses that would park in this area would be for large honor guards involved in the funeral service, not for tourists or the general public. The parking and loading for the buses would be a short distance away along the road, sufficiently removed from the ceremony to avoid visual distraction. Cars for the immediate family members would be parked along a portion of the circle. The size of the circle was determined by the large size of the military buses that would need to traverse the area.
Mr. Sporko then described other components of the design. A water feature was proposed to provide a focal point at the center of the columbarium cluster. The concept, not yet fully developed, would involve a pool and cascading water to link the upper and lower levels of columbaria, flanked by staircases. The new retaining wall at the Fort Myer boundary would be designed to function as a columbarium on the side facing the cemetery. From the upper side, facing Fort Myer, the wall would be two to three feet high, similar to other sections of boundary wall along Fort Myer, plus a fence on top. Mr. Sporko clarified the location of the section drawings in relation to the trees, slopes, columbaria, and roads; no section through the water feature was available. Mr. Pleasants explained that the proposed road arrangement had been closely studied by the cemetery's superintendent and was selected as the best arrangement for conducting funeral services. Mr. Pleasants then described the gate to Fort Myer, proposed as a larger-scale version of an existing gate elsewhere at the boundary of the fort and cemetery. The materials would be red sandstone with wrought iron above, as at the existing gate. Security would be managed primarily by Fort Myer, in consultation with the cemetery. Any necessary guardhouse would be on the Fort Myer side of the gate.
Mr. Pleasants described the proposed committal shelter. It would be the same size as another shelter at the cemetery, but the roof would be peaked in response to the hilly topography in this area of the cemetery. As in the existing shelter, the columns would be concrete to provide a sense of heaviness and permanence.
Mr. Rybczynski praised the design decisions but suggested that more information was needed, such as additional sections through the site and further design information including elevations for the proposed columbarium retaining wall. Mr. Powell suggested a site visit prior to the next Commission meeting; Ms. Nelson agreed.
Ms. Zimmerman questioned the appropriateness of placing a fence on top of the columbarium retaining wall, creating an unwelcome distraction above the columbarium niches. Mr. Pleasants said the fence was primarily for safety since people could climb onto the wall from the upper side in Fort Myer and then fall from a significant height onto the cemetery side. Mr. Powell suggested raising the height of the wall, but Mr. Sporko said this had been studied and would create an overwhelmingly high barrier. Mr. Belle suggested placing the fence along a separate alignment within Fort Myer; Mr. Sporko said this might take up too much room within Fort Myer. Ms. Zimmerman suggested that the columbarium wall could follow a varying alignment. Mr. McKinnell emphasized the inappropriateness inherent in the concept of using a columbarium wall as the supporting structure for a security system.
Ms. Zimmerman asked if there was a location where visiting family members could obtain information about the location of a grave; Mr. Sporko said this information would be available at the cemetery's visitor center. Mr. Sporko also clarified that there would not be restroom facilities in this area of the cemetery.
Ms. Balmori questioned the decision to remove extensive areas of trees and then to replace them with limited new plantings. Mr. Sporko explained that some areas of the site were not heavily forested: the former Fort Myer picnic area was scattered with trees and the former warehouse area was fairly open. Ms. Balmori and Mr. Powell commented that it was difficult to understand these conditions from the presentation materials. Mr. Pleasants used a 2005 aerial photo to further clarify the various parcels that formed the project site. Mr. Rapp explained that the property being transferred from the National Park Service was approximately half of a 24-acre wooded area that formed the backdrop to the Custis-Lee house; the remaining twelve acres would remain wooded.
Mr. Powell reiterated the suggestion for a site visit the following month and the Commission members' request for further study of the fence and retaining wall. Mr. Belle emphasized the importance of a sensitive design and careful details in this hallowed area. The discussion concluded without a formal action on the project.
E. National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
CFA 15/JUN/06-4, National Law Enforcement Museum, Judiciary Square. Concept development for pavilions, ramps, plaza paving, skylights, and signs. (Previous: CFA 17/NOV/05- 2.) Prior to the meeting, but after the publication of the final agenda, this project was postponed to a future meeting date at the request of the applicant.
F. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
CFA 15/JUN/06-5, 2006 San Francisco Old Mint Commemorative Coin Program. Five-dollar gold coin and one-dollar silver coin. Obverse and reverse designs. Ms. Kohler reported that the Mint was presenting designs for two coins commemorating the Old San Francisco Mint: a five-dollar gold coin and a one-dollar silver coin. She said the mint had been established in 1852 to convert miners' gold into coins, and the building was designed by A. B. Mullett, who had also designed the Old Executive Office Building in Washington. Because of its solid construction, the building withstood the fire and earthquake of 1906 and was the only financial institution able to operate immediately after the earthquake. She said the old Mint had been recently renovated, and because of its importance to San Francisco and the state of California, it would be honored with two commemorative coins. She introduced Kaarina Budow from the Mint to make the presentation.
Ms. Budow said the U.S. Mint had been required to consult on the design of the coins with the Board of the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society, who had provided them with specific design concepts using historic coin and medal designs and architectural drawings that were all public domain materials to avoid special permission requests. She said that according to the Act, the coins would bear the following inscriptions: "In God We Trust," the value of the coin, "United States of America," and "E Pluribus Unum." The recipient organization also requested that they include the date "1906" and wording similar to "Survived the Great Earthquake and Fire."
Ms. Budow then reviewed the designs for the gold coin. There were two designs for the obverse: Design GO-01 was based on the 1906 half-eagle $5.00 coronet gold obverse coin minted in San Francisco and designed by Christian Gobrecht with the inscriptions "In God We Trust," "E Pluribus Unum," and the dates "1906-2006." Design #GO-02 was based on the 1906 double-eagle $20.00 gold obverse coin minted in San Francisco and designed by James Barth Longacre with the inscriptions "In God We Trust," "E Pluribus Unum," the year of minting and the year 1906.
Ms. Budow then showed the four reverse designs: Design GR-01-A was an architectural elevation of the east facade based on an 1869 drawing by A. B. Mullett with the inscription "Survived the Great Earthquake and Fire," "United States of America," and "Five Dollars," Design GR-01-B was similar, with the added inscriptions "San Francisco Old Mint" and "circa 1869." GR-02-A showed a detail view of the same drawing, with the inscriptions "United States of America," "Five Dollars," and "Survived the Great Earthquake and Fire." Design GR-02B was the same with the addition of the inscription "San Francisco Old Mint, circa 1859."
The Commission members discussed the designs and recommended that for the gold obverse the Mint should use the Liberty portrait on GO-01 and the general layout of GO-02. For the gold reverse, the members preferred the more close-up view of the Mint building shown in GR-02-B with the "circa 1869" removed.
For the silver one-dollar coin, Ms. Budow said there was only one design for the obverse, a Liberty portrait taken from the Morgan silver dollar design minted in San Francisco in 1878 and designed by George T. Morgan. There were no objections to this design.
The two reverse designs were based on a perspective view of the old Mint seen on a contemporary medal designed by Shirl J.Winter. Both had an inscription—"Survived the Great Earthquake and Fire"—but design SR-01-B had another which identified the building as "San Francisco Old Mint." The Commission could not approve either of the silver reverse designs as each was based on the same drawing which was considered very poor. The recommendation to Ms. Budow was to use the full facade elevation drawing shown as an option for the gold reverse, or have someone make a better perspective drawing than the one proposed.
G. District of Columbia Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
CFA 15/JUN/06-6, Old Convention Center Site Redevelopment Master Plan. Area bounded by New York Avenue and 9th, H, and 11th Streets, N.W. Informational presentation. (Previous: CFA 17/MAR/05-7, interim parking lot.) Ms. Penhoet introduced the informational presentation. The site is being used temporarily as a parking lot in accordance with the interim plan approved in 2005. She introduced the design team for the master plan: Armstrong Yakubu from Foster and Partners, and Shalom Baranes of Shalom Baranes Associates.
Mr. Yakubu explained the overall goal of the master plan: to create a vibrant new place that was integrated into the existing fabric of downtown Washington. The project would incorporate a civic building, possibly a new central library, as well as a public square. He said the site would be planned to encourage easy access rather than create a fortress; the architecture would support effective retail and create energized urban spaces. He also said that sustainability was a priority, with the large vacant site presenting an unusual opportunity for creating sustainable development. The master plan would relate to the site itself as well as the downtown area to the south and the Mount Vernon Square area to the northeast.
Mr. Yakubu showed analytic diagrams of central Washington. While the city's wide sidewalks created a very accessible downtown for pedestrians, the prevalence of large public buildings tended to reduce the liveliness of the street edges. A diagram of existing downtown retail frontage showed that there was relatively little retail in the immediate vicinity of the site; the redevelopment of this site would encourage further retail development in the area, helping to strengthen the overall fabric of downtown. He said the project would be designed to energize the ground level—the buildings above would be less significant than the ground-level character of the project. The lower twenty to thirty feet of the buildings would be important in establishing the character of the sidewalk areas. Street trees and landscaping were also critical factors.
Mr. Yakubu then described the proposed system of streets, pedestrian walkways, and public spaces. To understand the large scale of the project, he showed a drawing of London's Mayfair district overlaid on the site, showing that there was enough room for a dense network of streets within the site area. The master plan called for reopening 10th and I Streets through the site, although the western segment of I Street between 10th and 11th Streets would not be used for traffic in order to simplify the complex intersection of 11th and I Streets and New York Avenue. The master plan also proposed an additional system of pedestrian alleys through the blocks, creating an additional texture for the site. Mr. Yakubu noted that the site had historically contained named alleys within the blocks prior to the construction of the old convention center; the master plan envisioned recreating such a system of narrow internal pedestrian streets with their own identity. A plaza within the southeast block, approximately one-third acre in size, would be a setting for outdoor music or for quiet relaxation. Extensive retail areas would enliven the street level and the network of public spaces. The park reservation at the northwest corner of the site along New York Avenue would remain as open space and would serve as a gateway into the project. The reservation would be bordered by the reinstated 10th and I Streets; its area would be two-thirds to three-quarters of an acre if the I Street right-of-way was incorporated into the open space. Wide sidewalks would be included to encourage pedestrian and retail activity.
Ms. Balmori asked if the narrow internal streets would be exclusively for pedestrians; Mr. Yakubu explained that they were pedestrian streets and would not be open to general traffic but could be used for minor service and delivery needs. He noted that loading docks would be provided in the below-grade garage rather than consuming any of the street frontage.
Mr. Belle and Ms. Balmori questioned the location of the open space along New York Avenue, commenting that the location was very exposed to traffic. Mr. Luebke clarified that this area was a triangular park from the L'Enfant Plan and it resulted from the intersection of the diagonal avenue with the grid streets; he noted a consistent consensus to treat such open spaces as part of the design heritage of the city. Mr. Belle commented that this open space was apparently unrelated to the development on the rest of the site. Mr. Yakubu responded that this open space would provide additional visibility and a prominent setting for the new library or civic building across 10th Street. Mr. McKinnell said the general concern was that people at the site would not perceive the triangle as part of a larger system related to the L'Enfant Plan, regardless of the linkages shown in the urban design diagrams. He asked whether the triangular reservation was otherwise useful; Mr. Yakubu said it could become an active space in itself and might contain a pavilion providing access to the library building or to library-related spaces beneath the reservation. Mr. Yakubu reiterated the instruction given to the design team that permanent buildings on the triangle would not be permitted. Mr. Luebke clarified that this decision resulted from the National Park Service's jurisdiction over the reservation; there was pending federal legislation to transfer the reservation to D.C. control, but the requirement that the site remain as open space would remain.
Ms. Balmori suggested that this reservation could relate better to the proposed new library across 10th Street if the street were closed at this location; Mr. Yakubu agreed. Mr. Belle commented that the civic building in Mt. Vernon Square was meaningfully sited and gives form to that part of the city, while the trapezoidal site of the proposed new library and the adjacent triangular reservation had not so great a significance. Mr. Yakubu offered to have the design team work further on developing the relationship between these two parcels. Later in the presentation, he showed sketches for the treatment of this reservation, including landscaping, seating, water, and possibly an ice-skating rink.
Mr. Yakubu continued with his presentation and described the proposed streetscape treatment in more detail. Within the sidewalk areas, a clear zone would be maintained in the center for pedestrian flow, while activity areas such as restaurant seating would be along either the street or the building edge. He showed sketches of the proposed plaza in the southeast block, with cafes around the edges and residential above—a mix of rental apartments and condominiums. He showed images illustrating the importance of storefront design, banners, and awnings. Larger retail stores would be located at the corners, with smaller shops mid-block. The buildings would be highly articulated and textured, and they would be designed to respond to the environment and to reduce the consumption of natural resources.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the increased pedestrian activity generated by this project might come at the expense of pedestrian activity elsewhere in the neighborhood; the extensive retail frontage within this project might itself create too much internal competition for customers. He also questioned whether the proposed pedestrian streets would really attract pedestrians, based on the experience of other cities. He said that the U.S. already has too much retail space; Mr. Yakubu replied that this may be true nationwide but it was probably not a problem in downtown Washington. Ms. Nelson suggested that the buildings could step back around the plaza in the southeast block so that the space would feel more open and the green roofs would extend closer to the ground level.
Mr. Belle asked about the program of proposed building uses. Mr. Yakubu explained that the upper floors in the project—excluding the block north of I Street that is reserved for civic buildings—would have 2.5 million square feet, including approximately 400,000 square feet of office space west of 10th Street; the remaining space would be residential, encompassing 713 housing units in the four buildings located east of 10th Street. Mr. Belle criticized the master plan as superficial, relying on illustrations showing street furniture and people rather than achieving a greater understanding of the urban fabric and the factors that affect the success of retail and residential space. As an example, he said that people generally prefer not to live on a retail street due to the noise and service requirements. Mr. Yakubu responded that the design team had carefully studied ways to separate the retail space from the residential areas above, along with a plan for locating certain types of retail uses in certain areas and for introducing two-story retail shops in some locations.
Mr. McKinnell said that the character of the project was driven by economics, with the intention of pulling the greatest possible amount of retail activity into the site at the expense of activity in nearby parts of the city. The resulting design could be attractive, as seen in other cities, but the proposal would nonetheless contribute to a cycle of urban development and decay that was highly questionable. He and Ms. Balmori concurred that this problem was not the fault of the designers but of larger economic forces. Ms. Balmori praised the inclusion of the library and the public spaces, suggesting that the mix of residential and civic uses might be a welcome contribution to the city regardless of the questionable inclusion of extensive retail areas. Mr. McKinnell agreed but reiterated that the internal focus of the retail space was potentially harmful to the broader urban fabric. Mr. Yakubu agreed that his firm would study this issue further. Mr. McKinnell emphasized that the great extent of this site presented an opportunity and privilege to develop a large part of the city at one time, with significant ramifications for the surrounding area.
Ms. Balmori concluded by reiterating the issue of the project's connectivity to the area beyond the site. The informational presentation ended without a formal action.
H. General Services Administration
CFA 15/JUN/06-7, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Headquarters. New York and Florida Avenues, N.E. Flagpoles, antenna, and public art. Concept. (Previous: CFA 16/MAR/06-6.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for several additional features at the new headquarters building for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; the building is already under construction and nearing completion. He noted that the Commission members had seen the proposed antenna location that morning while traveling to a nearby site visit. Mr. Lindstrom then introduced the three presenters: Mike McGill from GSA, Warren Mathison from Moshe Safdie and Associates, and Michael McBride, the designer of the art panels.
Mr. McGill gave an overview of the project status and introduced Mr. Mathison to describe the flagpoles and the roof satellite dish in further detail. Mr. Mathison oriented the Commission to the site, pointing out the main entrance at the southeast near the Metrorail station. The proposed antenna, necessary for ATF communications, would be a 3.1-meter dish that would be visible from the ground; another antenna, not submitted, would be behind a parapet wall and would not be visible from the ground. The dish would be painted to match the adjacent screen wall around the mechanical equipment. The dish would rotate to track satellites orbiting above the equator; in some positions it would be highly visible, and in other positions it would blend in with the screen wall.
Mr. Mathison then discussed the flagpole which would be at the northeast corner of the site at New York Avenue and 1st Street. The building would have a ceremonial entrance at this location, corresponding to its official address of 99 New York Avenue, N.E., but this entrance would be used only for special occasions, not for routine access. Benches will be placed in the public sidewalk adjacent to the entrance. He explained that the purpose of the flagpole is simply to identify the site as a federal building.
Mr. Belle asked for some clarification on the placement of the flagpole and suggested putting the flagpole directly within the diagonal walkway leading into the courtyard. Mr. Mathison said this was considered, but the NCPC staff didn't want the flagpole to interrupt the view toward the building and courtyard. Mr. McKinnell and Ms. Nelson asked if signage was planned for this corner of the site. Mr. Mathison said that they had discussed installing some directional signage with the flagpole to direct visitors to the main entrance, but there was no signage planned that would identify the building as the ATF nor identify the street address. In response to Ms. Nelson, Mr. Mathison said the flag would be lit from lights around the base of the flagpole.
Mr. Luebke explained that NCPC was objecting to the flagpole since the project already included flags at the southeast corner of the site at the main building entrance; he explained that federal guidelines call for a single set of flags at each federal building, although the Commission could consider other proposals. Ms. Balmori commented that the flagpole didn't seem to make any sense at the proposed location. Mr. Mathison explained that the flagpole was specifically requested by ATF to signify the building's federal usage at the location corresponding to its street address. Ms. Balmori questioned the usage of the flag for this purpose. Mr. McGill clarified the design of the sunken courtyard and the public view into the complex from New York Avenue, with the flagpole to be located to the side to avoid interrupting the view. Mr. Rybczynski, followed by Ms. Balmori, Ms. Nelson, and Ms. Zimmerman, restated that they thought the proposal was inappropriate and unnecessary. Mr. Powell and Mr. Luebke confirmed that the Commission could take separate actions on the several proposals for the ATF building rather than combine them into a single action. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori, with second by Mr. Belle, the concept of the flagpole was disapproved.
The Commission members then considered the proposed antenna. Mr. Powell said that it seemed to be an ordinary antenna and couldn't be placed anywhere else. Mr. Rybczynski asked if it could function inside the mechanical equipment enclosure; Mr. Mathison responded that it wouldn't because of the angle required for its operation. Ms. Zimmerman supported the proposal. Ms. Nelson and Mr. Powell agreed, calling it an "honest antenna." The Commission then approved this proposal and moved on to review the last item, the art panels.
Mr. McGill explained that the art panels would be an exciting solution to a longstanding question of how to treat several bays of the building facade along the sidewalk near the Metrorail station at the end of a row of retail stores. Due to the building program, these end bays would not have retail storefronts. Mr. McBride, the designer, explained the four panels in more detail. He began by noting that he has been working with several historians, educators, and representatives from the community to develop the concept. As a group, they decided that the panels should celebrate the surrounding communities within a hundred-year period, 1906 to 2006. They also decided to focus on a very tight geographic region—as far south as Union Station, west to the MLK Library, north to the Shaw neighborhood, and east to Gallaudet University.
Mr. McBride indicated the location where the panels would be placed, how they would be attached, and the general design and scale of the panels. He explained the importance of honoring the geometry and color palette of the building and reviewed the content of the panels. Each panel would cover a historical period and would contain a city scene, a map, and additional photographs to give a feeling of what it was like to live in that time period. The first panel, titled "Born of Necessity," would cover the period from 1906 to 1930; "Forging the Way" would cover from 1931 to 1955; "Capital Changes" would cover from 1956 to 1980; and "Moving Forward" would cover from 1981 to the present.
Mr. Powell and Ms. Zimmerman complimented Mr. McBride on his work and artistic talent. In response to Mr. McKinnell, Mr. McBride said that the panels will be made of porcelain enamel which would have a long life-cycle.
Mr. Powell noted that while this project was submitted for concept approval, it seemed ready for final approval. Mr. Belle agreed and Mr. Luebke concurred with this procedure. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell, with second by Ms. Zimmerman and all in favor, the art panels were approved as a final design.
I. Department of Defense / Department of the Army
CFA 15/JUN/06- 8, Fort McNair. National Defense University. New physical fitness facility. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/MAR/06-9.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced Justin Taylor from the Department of the Army. Mr. Taylor explained that the fitness center would be for the use of people at the National War College, Fort McNair soldiers and their families, and military retirees from the area. He introduced architect Rachel Chung of Sorg and Associates to present the final design.
Ms. Chung reviewed the past development of the project, which had been reduced for budgetary reasons to a one-story building of 33,600 square feet. The final design was generally consistent with the approved concept, including the height and the exterior materials of brick veneer, cast-stone coping and sills, and aluminum window frames. In response to previous Commission comments, the detailing of the brick patterns was studied more closely, particularly above the window openings. The final design would retain the brick reveal and would add vertical soldier courses to accentuate the height of the windows, replacing the brick detail shown in the concept submission. Some of the varied depth in the facade was simplified due to a cost-saving reduction in the depth of the cavity wall. The Commission members agreed that the design had become simpler and clearer and responded to the Commission's previous comments. Mr. McKinnell asked if the cost-saving changes had resulted in the loss of any features that the architect considered important; Ms. Chung expressed satisfaction with the design and said that further cost-saving options would involve only the interior of the building. Ms. Zimmerman praised the revised window treatment; Mr. Belle and Mr. Powell joined in complimenting the project. Upon a notion by Ms. Nelson, with second by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission approved the final design.
J. Department of Defense / Armed Forces Retirement Home
CFA 15/JUN/06- 9, Scott Building, Scott Road, N.W. Memory Support/Transitional Care/Assisted Living Units Project. Building alterations and additions. Concept. Mr. Martínez introduced the project, noting that the Commission had visited the site earlier in the day. He introduced architect Tim Jamieson of SFCS to present the project.
Mr. Jamieson summarized the area's context and history. He described the Scott Building as a 1930s building arranged as two U-shaped pavilions set at slight angles to a central section, with a total of a half million square feet. The exterior is primarily limestone with a granite base; the front portion is seven stories, dropping to six stories in the rear wings. The upper floors are a series of small bedrooms for retired soldiers. The proposed alterations would include extensions of the rear wings that would primarily provide new code-compliant egress stairs; extensions along the front facade to provide new common rooms on each floor; and reorganization of the resident rooms to form single-loaded corridors with private bathrooms. To one side of the main entrance, a new garden would be accessible by residents of the Memory Support unit. The proposed exterior materials of the additions would be similar to those of the existing building, using slightly darker colors. The additions to each side of the front facade would be approximately symmetrical but would vary slightly due to the program requirements related to the differing medical conditions of the residents in each wing. He noted that the project would provide improved accommodation for residents displaced from a military retirement facility in Gulfport, Mississippi, by the recent hurricane; the retirees were being housed temporarily in inadequate facilities on the Washington campus. At the end of the Commission members' discussion, Mr. Jamieson also noted that the project could take twenty years to implement, with a substantial period of time during which there would be an addition to only one side of the main facade.
Ms. Nelson praised the Retirement Home's work and the magnificence of its grounds. She questioned the decision to make asymmetrical additions to the existing symmetrical front facade; she acknowledged the programmatic purpose but suggested that the program of each floor might change anyway based on the medical conditions of future residents. Mr. Jamieson offered to make the additions more symmetrical if that was the Commission's recommendation. Mr. Rybczynski noted that the proposed additions on the main facade were very intrusive for a relatively small additional floor area. He said that the additions were shallow but wide, and their exterior stone would be a different color than the existing facades, which would magnify the visual impact of the additions. He questioned whether the alteration of the facades was itself the design goal and suggested instead that a solution be found that would not alter the building's appearance so drastically. Mr. Jamieson said that the design team had extensively considered the materials and character of the additions, including consideration of the appropriate amount of glass and the appropriate style. The additions were north-facing so extensive glass areas were desired to bring in more daylight and to increase residents' enjoyment of the views outward to sun-lit areas. This resulted in the decision not to repeat the existing building's pattern of punched openings within a limestone facade.
Mr. McKinnell suggested that the design of the additions to the north facade should be either more fully modern—such as a taut glass curtain wall in front of the existing limestone facade—or be more closely related to the existing building style; Mr. Belle concurred. Mr. McKinnell agreed with Mr. Rybczynski that the proposed additions would greatly harm the existing facade without contributing significant new design benefits. Mr. McKinnell noted that the northward orientation would make a glass curtain wall feasible without creating a problem of excessive sunlight on the interior, so he urged a more bold modern solution such as a planar glass facade that could be positioned to allow the strength of the existing facade to remain apparent. He noted that such a solution might be costly, but Mr. Jamieson said the budget would be sufficient.
Mr. Jamieson acknowledged that the design team had been uncertain about how to treat the style and materials of the additions, and he offered to bring back a revised design based on the Commission's comments. Mr. Powell suggested that no formal action would be taken, and the Commission could review a revised concept submission. Mr. Jamieson asked for the Commission's endorsement of the proposed interior configuration, but Mr. Powell said this was not in the Commission's purview.
The Commission briefly considered the additions proposed on the rear wings of the building to contain new egress stairs. Mr. Rybczynski commented that these rear additions were much more compatible with the existing architecture than the additions proposed for the front facade. The Commission members agreed that the rear additions successfully blended with the existing building. Mr. Jamieson asked if the Commission was urging such a treatment of the additions on the front facade; Ms. Nelson clarified that the Commission members understood the need for a different architectural style to allow extensive daylight into the common room additions. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
K. District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
1. Shipstead-Luce Act
S.L. 06- 101, 1227 and 1229-1231 25th Street, N.W. Charles E. Smith Commercial Realty. Building alterations and additions. Concept. Ms. Penhoet introduced the proposal for alterations and additions to three office buildings located on 25th Street, N.W., facing Rock Creek Park. She introduced architect Shalom Baranes to present the project.
Mr. Baranes oriented the Commission to the site, pointing out that it marks the western edge of downtown and the eastern edge of Georgetown. The site is just one building north of M Street, a major east-west route through downtown. The context is relatively modern, with much of the neighborhood's construction completed in the 1980s, and he characterized the buildings in the area as boxy structures that fill out their zoning envelope, typically using strip windows; land uses include primarily office, with some residential and hotel uses nearby. He explained that two of the office buildings in this project were designed as six-story twin boxes with a small hyphen connection at the back; the third office building, seven stories tall, relates to the other buildings on the block more than to the neighboring pair. He said that all three of the buildings were built below the density of the surrounding buildings, providing an opportunity to expand their size. He explained the proposal to re-clad and enlarge the twin buildings and convert them to ten-story apartment buildings; the third building would remain as offices with an existing tenant, and a two-story addition was proposed for the top of the building.
Mr. Baranes explained that the apartment conversion would result in approximately 200 units in the twin buildings. In order to avoid the repetitive boxy pattern of the neighborhood, the design would carve away some of the concrete frame of the buildings, making them more slender and thus introducing a different scale and syncopation to the block. The alteration would increase the forty-foot gap between the twin buildings to achieve a separation that would be more desirable for residential use. He proposed removing a full twenty-foot bay from the southern building, allowing more daylight to reach the courtyard between the buildings and also to introduce some variety between the two buildings, making one a little more dominant than the other. Smaller areas would be carved out elsewhere in the buildings. Four stories would be added, and the connecting hyphen would be extended to the full height of the building; the new upper floors would introduce an additional angled geometry to complement the angled subtraction from the lower floors. An L-shaped penthouse trellis would extend above the northern building and hyphen, emphasizing the slenderness of the southern building. The proposed new exterior would be primarily glass, emphasizing transparency toward the park across the street and contrasting with the heavy character of nearby office buildings. The alley facade would be a simpler taut design without the massing variation used on the other facades. Landscaping would replace some of the existing hardscape, bringing the park's character into the project site.
Mr. Baranes explained that for the third building, where an existing office tenant would remain, he proposed a two-story office addition that would use the metal and glass vocabulary being introduced into the adjacent twin buildings. He pointed out that this building was designed to be symmetrical in its elevation but the entrance is in fact on the right-hand side, with an open arcade leading back to the front door halfway down the side alley. The proposed additional floors would therefore be asymmetrical to emphasize the corner leading to the arcade and main entrance.
The Commission members asked further about the proposed materials for the residential facades. In response to Mr. McKinnell, Mr. Baranes explained that the opaque panels would be aluminum. Ms. Zimmerman asked about the extent of glass; Mr. Baranes said the apartments would have floor-to-ceiling windows which was unusual for Washington but had been done very successfully in recent residential buildings.
Mr. Rybczynski and Mr. Powell praised the project. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski, with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the concept for the project.
2. Old Georgetown Act
O.G. 06- 010, 3255 Prospect Street, N.W. 3255 Prospect St LTD Partnership. New five-story building to replace existing Domino's Pizza Building. Concept. Mr. Martínez introduced the project, a proposed five-story building with ground-floor retail, condominiums above, and a basement garage. He summarized the Old Georgetown Board's previous comments from reviews in March, April, and June, 2006. The current proposal, as reviewed by the Board in early June, responds to the Board's advice in April to step back the upper mass of the building to relate better to the adjacent smaller building. The Board approved the revised massing in concept but continued to have concerns about the relationship between the proposed facades and the smaller-scale residential character of the context and recommended further study of the elevations and the roof elements, including chimneys and an elevator penthouse, expressing concern that they appeared too much like an additional building floor. Mr. Martínez noted the extensive community concern with the project and the Board's request that the Commission see the project before the architect proceeds further. He also noted the comments received from Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E and numerous neighbors, some of whom were present and wished to speak. He then introduced architect Eric Morrison of Morrison Architects to present the proposal.
Mr. Morrison described the context along Prospect Street near Potomac Avenue. He said the project was a matter-of-right development in a commercial zoning area that encompasses both sides of Prospect Street. The existing building on the site, leased to Domino's Pizza, would be torn down. The proposed building would be fifty feet tall and was designed to form a transition between the smaller houses to the west and the sixty-foot-tall commercial and apartment building complex on the east, called Prospect Place, completed in the 1980s. The proposed building would step back to form a bay that related to a nearby building, and the fourth floor would step back to support the transition of scale. There would be seven apartments on the upper floors. The proposed nine-car garage would be reached using an existing curb cut, so existing street trees would not be disturbed. A rear garden would be on the roof of the garage, adjacent to the other gardens on the interior of the block; part of the garden would be for the use of residents in accordance with zoning requirements, and part of the garden could be associated with the retail tenant. Ms. Nelson asked if this combination was intended to be a restaurant with garden seating. Mr. Morrison acknowledged that the neighbors did not want a restaurant at this location; he noted that this was an allowable use but said that the retail area was too small to accommodate a viable restaurant.
Mr. Morrison then described the rooftop areas, including penthouse plant storage and a small lap pool. The rooftop garden would be used by the fifth-floor resident. Ms. Nelson and Ms. Zimmerman noted the Board's suggestion to consolidate the chimneys but questioned whether this would be feasible. Mr. Morrison said that the proposed massing was intended to suggest the presence of multiple townhouses, with the chimneys deliberately placed in an uneven pattern.
Mr. McKinnell asked about views of the building from Potomac Street, which was a concern raised in the neighbors' letters. Mr. Morrison acknowledged that the building could be visible from some areas of Potomac Street. Several Commission members suggested that the views would be very limited since Potomac Street is narrow.
Mr. Powell then recognized several members of the public who asked to speak. Bonnie Hardy, the Executive Director of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission in Georgetown, reported that the ANC had reviewed the project on many occasions and remained strongly opposed to it. She pointed out the ANC's letter that had been distributed. Victoria Rixey, an architect and president of the 1,100-member Citizens Association of Georgetown, conveyed the Association's opposition. She noted that the south side of Prospect Street is primarily two-story buildings. She characterized the Prospect Place complex as an anomaly in the neighborhood and said they should not serve as a model for the scale or style of the proposed building. She noted the predominantly residential uses to the north. Mr. Rybczynski asked about other nearby buildings that might also be anomalies; Ms. Rixey said that the Citizens Association of Georgetown and the ANC were trying to have one of these, a vacant building, converted back into a single-family home.
Gianluca Pivato, a neighbor, pointed out the location of his home and back yard which would be greatly affected by the project. He said that nearby existing restaurants were extending their seating into the rear yards, causing occasional conflict with the neighbors. He characterized the new building as incompatible with the Georgetown neighborhood and the immediate context. He noted that the Old Georgetown Board had described the Prospect Place complex as a mistake and he urged that this mistake not be repeated by using it as a precedent for the proposed building.
Bret Bocook, a neighbor, developer, and zoning attorney, concurred that the proposed building would be out of character with the neighborhood. He praised the historic character of Georgetown that draws people to the neighborhood. He urged more consultation with the neighbors and responsiveness to their concerns; he said the developer had not made any personal appearances but was instead sending the architect to make presentations. He described the developer as inexperienced and expressed concern that an inappropriate building would remain for many decades, particularly because the residential units would be owned separately as condominiums. He commented that despite the construction of inappropriate buildings in past decades, present-day awareness and review mechanisms should be able to prevent such a project from being built now. In response to Mr. McKinnell, Mr. Bocook acknowledged that Prospect Place was already constructed when he bought his home.
Seth Kirshenberg, a Potomac Street resident, said the proposed building would be visible from his home and front steps, intruding on his view across rooftops extending to M Street. He expressed concern that additional development will impact the historic nature of the block. He said the existing one-story building occupied only half the lot and already provided an appropriate transition between Prospect Place to the east and the two-story buildings to the west. Mr. Belle inquired about the zoning in the area; Mr. Powell clarified that the Commission's role at this stage was to provide comments to the Old Georgetown Board with a focus on the issues that the Board had raised.
Kevin Lucia, a neighbor on Potomac Street, commented that a pedestrians on Potomac Street now enjoy a view that is entirely composed of small-scale historic buildings, but the proposed building would intrude on this character; its upper two stories would be visible above the houses on the east side of Potomac Street. Ms. Nelson asked if the Prospect Place complex already intrudes on this view; Mr. Lucia said that it is not noticeable. He noted the existence of a surface parking lot across Prospect Street from Milano's restaurant and expressed concern that it too would be developed at a large scale if this proposed design were approved. Ms. Nelson asked about the zoning of his house; Mr. Lucia said that his house is zoned commercial but it has always been used as a residence.
Curt Plott explained that the lot of his home on N Street abuts the project site, and he noted that he formerly lived on Potomac Street. He said the main concern is the project's height. Other issues that he had experienced with the neighboring Prospect Place included the trash and rats that sometimes result from restaurants and the loss of privacy resulting from the upper floors of apartments and balconies. He said that the architect had met often with neighborhood groups but responded mainly to official review bodies.
Mr. Powell suggested that the Commission members visit the site, an area that he was already familiar with. He agreed that the visit could occur at a later date since an approval action was not needed at this stage, only a decision on whether to sustain the Old Georgetown Board's recommendation for further refinement of the elevations and roof elements to make the project more sympathetic to the area. Mr. Belle commented that all of the comments offered by the Board refer to changes in character, while most of the comments from the speakers concerned the building's bulk and size. He asked whether the Commission had any authority to require a reduction in the building's bulk as permitted by zoning. Mr. Martínez explained that the Old Georgetown Act gives the Commission purview over the building's character, including height.
Mr. McKinnell said that it was unclear whether the building would be visible from various vantage points, and drawings would probably not convince people of the answer. He suggested that only real way to decide such questions was to create an on-site mock-up, such as raising balloons to mark the corners of the proposed building. He suggested having better information available before requiring a reduction in the proposed height.
Ms. Balmori said that the design was quite a good commercial building and she didn't think that the project would have a particularly bad impact on views. She suggested that the height of the mechanical area could possibly be reduced, but otherwise she did not object to the design. She questioned the need for a mock-up, commenting that people seemed to have drawn conclusions about the proposal and their opinions would not be altered. Mr. McKinnell and Ms. Balmori agreed that Prospect Place was a mistake that would remain, so the design challenge now was to design a building that would mediate between its bulk and the smaller scale to the west. They agreed that the proposed design did this successfully, and Mr. McKinnell commented that the proposed building was preferable to creating a two-story building that would continue right up to Prospect Place, which would only emphasize the disruption along the street.
Ms. Zimmerman commented that the design had been improving since the initial schemes, and she suggested a slight further modification to step down the massing of the upper floors. Mr. Morrison acknowledged the feasibility of such a change but suggested that excessive modulations in the building profile would be an aesthetic problem. Ms. Zimmerman concluded that the Board's recommendation for further study was appropriate; Mr. Belle agreed.
Mr. Powell summarized the Commission's discussion as supporting the Board's recommendation for further study of the architectural character but asking for further study of reducing the massing. Mr. McKinnell commented that architectural character and the massing details were related topics and noted that the blank west facade appeared more massive due to the absence of any windows or features. Mr. Morrison explained that this was a party wall; on the upper floors, windows would be permissible but the neighbors had asked not to include windows in order to maintain the privacy of their gardens. Later in the discussion, Ms. Balmori suggested that the massing and height of the roof elements served a useful purpose where these served to screen the west end of the adjacent Prospect Place building; the roof elements elsewhere on the proposed building were more of a problem.
Mr. Rybczynski and Mr. Powell suggested a consensus to support the Old Georgetown Board's recommendation. Ms. Zimmerman requested that the recommendation include further study of reducing the massing; Mr. Rybczynski disagreed. Mr. Belle pointed out that the Board's recommendation already called for further study of the facades and roof elements, which he thought would necessarily encompass some further study of the massing. Mr. Belle moved to sustain the Board's recommendation. Several audience and Commission members questioned how this motion responded to the massing concerns. Ms. Nelson noted that change in the city could be hard to accept. She acknowledged the architect's ongoing work in refining the design and encouraged a spirit of cooperation with the neighbors. Ms. Zimmerman noted that the Board's recommendation explicitly endorsed the general concept of the massing, contradicting the opinion of some Commission members that the massing would be reconsidered as part of the further study recommended by the Board. She proposed an amendment to the motion to seek further study of reducing the massing on the west side of the building. Ms. Nelson seconded the amendment, and the Commission adopted the amended motion without objection.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:12 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke
Last Modified: August 11, 2006