Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
19 July 2007
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 10:16 a.m.
(Due to the absence of the Chairman, the Vice-Chairman presided at the meeting.)
A. Approval of the minutes of the 21 June meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the June meeting were circulated to the members in advance. Ms. Nelson requested that the staff list be corrected to show the presence of Ms. Gillespie and the absence of Ms. Barsoum. Upon a motion by Ms. Zimmerman with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the minutes subject to this correction.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: September 20, October 18, and November 15; no meeting is scheduled in August. There were no objections.
C. Proposed year 2008 schedule. Mr. Luebke presented the proposed schedule of Commission meetings for calendar year 2008, with meetings scheduled on the third Thursday of each month with no meetings in August and December. He explained that the schedule will be published in the Federal Register; future changes would be possible with sufficient public notice. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission approved the 2008 schedule.
D. Confirmation of the last recommendation from the June meeting after loss of a quorum. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to take a formal vote to confirm the recommendation for Arena Stage, case number S.L. 07-101, as described in the action letter and minutes that were previously circulated. Upon a motion by Ms. Zimmerman with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission confirmed the recommendation.
The Commission discussed the morning site visit to the Southeast Federal Center in conjunction with the corresponding agenda item (II.B.1.).
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke and Mr. Lindstrom 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: Mr. Lindstrom reported the addition of several projects from the D.C. Public Schools that were submitted too late for inclusion on the draft of the consent calendar. He explained that most of the projects involve the construction of temporary classroom facilities that are needed for the approaching school year; another project involves minor window replacements; and one project is for selective demolition work as an initial stage of the renovation of the H. D. Cooke School that will be reviewed later on the agenda. Ms. Nelson asked about the visibility of the temporary classroom facilities; Mr. Lindstrom explained that they would be located toward the rear of the school buildings. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix II — Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Mr. Lindstrom reported on two projects of special interest in the appendix.
For case number S.L. 07-110, involving renovations to a historic house at 1925 F Street, N.W., for use as a residence for the president of the George Washington University, the recommendation was revised to eliminate opposition to the proposed roof terrace. The revision was based on consultation with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office, which did not oppose the terrace since it will not be visible from the adjacent streets. The revised draft continues to recommend against the proposed outdoor spa on the terrace due to the context of adjacent taller office buildings overlooking the area.
For case number S.L. 07-116, involving a rooftop addition at 2218 Cathedral Avenue, N.W., the applicant resubmitted the project with additional information in response to the Commission's request at the June meeting, when several neighborhood residents had addressed the Commission to express concern about the project's visual impact. Mr. Lindstrom explained that the applicant had constructed a mock-up of the project and submitted photos confirming that the rooftop addition would not be visible from the street nor from Rock Creek Park across the street; staff therefore proposes a favorable recommendation in the appendix. He said that the applicant had also submitted the proposal to the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which recommended against approval of the project, and he noted the presence of five neighbors who wanted to discuss their continued opposition to the project.
Ms. Nelson recognized Judith Shapiro, a nearby resident. Ms. Shapiro noted a letter to the Commission from Jim Graham, the ward's representative to the D.C. Council, opposing the proposal. She said that the neighbors' concern involves the roofline along the back of the row of houses on the block, facing the alley which is frequently used by residents due to the site's topography and the location of the nearby Metrorail station. She said that the proposed addition would alter the intact rear roofline of the block and would set a precedent for other houses to create rear rooftop additions, harming the character of the historic neighborhood. She also said that the addition would reduce the light and views of nearby houses. She emphasized that the residents of the block have made a strong effort to comply with the guidance of the Commission and the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board in maintaining and repairing their homes.
Ms. Nelson recognized Barbara Ioanes, another nearby resident. Ms. Ioanes asked whether the Commission's approval would set a precedent for endorsing upper-floor expansions of the other townhouses on the block, including those that already have a third story. She emphasized the residents' longstanding commitment to retaining the integrity of the block of houses.
Ms. Nelson commented that the Commission does not oppose change but tries to consider the character of a neighborhood; she said that the proposed addition would not significantly alter the neighborhood character because it would not change the appearance from the street. Mr. Luebke explained to the members of the public that the Commission's role is to provide a recommendation to the D.C. government, with each case considered individually; the Commission's action would not set a binding precedent. He said that the Commission's primary concern is the relation of the project to the nearby federal parkland; other preservation issues could better be addressed by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board.
Ms. Nelson recognized Leila Smith, another nearby resident. Ms. Smith asked if the Commission's recommendation would be different if the rear facade, rather than the front facade, were facing the federal park. She explained that she had been required to replace a 20-year-old canopy over her back door with a different material, even though it was visible only from the alley and not the park; she questioned whether the federal interest was being consistently interpreted.
Ms. Nelson acknowledged the difficulty of making decisions that affect privately owned property; she said that the Commission considers the specific circumstances of the project, such as the current proposal's lack of impact on the street facade. Ms. Smith objected to the apparent unpredictability of the Commission's decisions and asked the Commission to clarify that the favorable recommendation pertains only to the proposal's relation to the front of the house.
Mr. Lindstrom explained that the Commission's review under the Shipstead-Luce Act encompasses the entire exterior of the building. He said that the staff had considered the rear elevation and concluded that the addition would be acceptable due to its modest size and substantial setback from the existing rear facade.
Ms. Zimmerman asked for further information about the size of the addition. One of the architects for the project, Ann Crowley of the firm Studio:CrowleyHall, said that the project would expand the small existing third-floor space to provide a 700-square-foot third floor; the new rear wall of this floor would be set back approximately ten feet from the existing rear wall of the lower floors, providing space for a new roof deck.
Mr. Rybczynski said that the owners had responded to the Commission's request to construct a mockup, and he was convinced from the photographs that the proposed addition would be acceptable. Ms. Smith objected that the mockup used stick elements that did not convey the mass of the project. Ms. Zimmerman asked for clarification of the mockup elements shown in the photographs, including a yellow ribbon extending higher than the wood framing mockup. Ms. Crowley explained that the yellow ribbon was inaccurately placed by a neighbor and does not represent the extent of the proposed construction.
Ms. Nelson suggested that the Commission vote on the project. Mr. Luebke and Mr. Lindstrom said that this project could be the subject of a separate vote or, if the Commission is satisfied with the favorable draft recommendation listed in the appendix, the Commission could simply vote on the entire appendix. Ms. Nelson expressed support for the full appendix. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission approved the Shipstead-Luce appendix, including the revision previously discussed for case number S.L. 07-110.
Appendix III — Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martínez reported several changes to the draft appendix. The negative recommendation for case number O.G. 07-189 was changed to favorable based on the submission of supplemental drawings that address the concerns of the Old Georgetown Board. One project was added that will not be visible from public space. Other recommendations were clarified with minor wording adjustments. Upon a motion by Ms. Zimmerman with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
B. General Services Administration
1. CFA 19/JUL/07-1, Southeast Federal Center ("The Yards"). Urban design and plan for development. Modifications to approved urban plan and designs for four buildings. (Previous: CFA 17/JUN/04- 2.)
Mr. Lindstrom explained that the project is submitted in accordance with a memorandum of agreement between the Commission and the General Services Administration (GSA) for review of projects in this public-private partnership. He said that the submission includes four separate buildings as well as minor modifications to GSA's overall urban design plan for the area; they will be presented together for the Commission's discussion. He introduced Michael McGill from GSA to begin the presentation.
Mr. McGill explained that the site had been part of the Navy Yard until the 1960s, when this portion of the Navy Yard was transferred to GSA. Subsequent GSA plans for creating a large precinct of federal office space were not implemented due to lack of funding and lack of federal agencies interested in becoming tenants. In 2000, the Southeast Federal Center Public-Private Development Act gave GSA special authority to sell or lease the site or undertake joint development with the private sector. GSA chose to pursue a mixed-use development on the site as part of the overall development vision being developed by the D.C. government's Anacostia Waterfront Initiative. In anticipation of potential private ownership and development, GSA coordinated with the D.C. Office of Planning to create zoning for the site and executed memoranda of agreement with the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) for the review process. He said that the staffs of the review agencies were involved in evaluating the private-sector proposals for development.
Mr. McGill explained that GSA now has a seventeen-year development agreement with Forest City Washington, a private developer, to build out the site; GSA will be advising Forest City and will be consulting with the Commission and NCPC. He explained that GSA had chosen to include multiple buildings in the current submission so that the Commission could review each project in the overall context of the site development. He introduced Ramsey Meiser, Forest City's vice-president for project development, to discuss the project.
Mr. Meiser explained that the architects for each of the buildings was present, along with Forest City staff responsible for each building, but for ease of presentation the entire proposal would be described by architect Mark Gilliand of Shalom Baranes Associates, the firm responsible for the overall master plan as well as one of the building projects.
Mr. Gilliand showed the relation of each project to the overall site, as seen by the Commission members during the site visit earlier in the day. He summarized the overall program for the 42-acre area: nearly two million square feet of office space, over three million square feet of residential, and up to 400,000 square feet of retail. He described an overall design goal of connecting the site to the adjacent city by overcoming its past configuration as a walled enclave; people near the north edge of the site along M Street, the major artery through the neighborhood, have not had the opportunity to appreciate the presence of the Anacostia River along the south edge of the site. Several north-south connections would be established through the continuation of adjacent L'Enfant streets, and the L'Enfant diagonal of New Jersey Avenue would receive particular emphasis. The buildings of the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) headquarters, recently completed in a separate portion of Southeast Federal Center, have been designed to keep open the alignment of 3rd Street, S.E.; the new proposals will similarly bring 4th Street into the site. East-west streets would be established to form a grid pattern through the site.
Mr. Gilliand described the goal of relating the site to the Anacostia River. He acknowledged the planning goal of establishing a continuous riverfront trail from the Southwest Waterfront to the National Arboretum, passing through this site. He explained a zoning requirement for a five-acre waterfront park which would include a portion of the riverfront trail.
Mr. Gilliand described the third goal of creating a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood with a character that relates to the history of the site, particularly toward the eastern portion of Southeast Federal Center where several historic buildings remain. He also showed the historic wall along a portion of M Street; the wall, along with the tower at the corner of 4th Street, will be retained. He showed other nearby buildings that contribute to the historic character of the site, including the Navy Yard buildings and power plant to the east and the large WASA pumping station to the southwest.
Mr. Gilliand showed the early renderings for the project, illustrating the intention to create new buildings that relate to the existing industrial architecture, along with active public spaces between the buildings. Ms. Zimmerman asked about the depiction of trees on roofs; Mr. Gilliand said that green roofs were part of the original concept for the residential buildings.
Mr. Gilliand discussed the recent and anticipated changes in the area since the initial development plan. The adjacent U.S. DOT headquarters has brought 5,000 employees to the area. The redevelopment of the Capper-Carrollsburg housing areas is underway. The baseball stadium is under construction several blocks to the west, resulting in the modifications that are proposed to the land-use plan that the Commission reviewed in 2004. Previously, retail was shown primarily at the northwest portion of the site near New Jersey Avenue and M Street; the western portion of the site was shown with office development. The subsequent decision to locate the baseball stadium nearby means that retail and residential uses will be more viable in the western part of the site, as shown on the proposed revision to the land-use plan.
Mr. Gilliand described several other changes to the master plan. As a result of the historic preservation review process, the treatment of New Jersey Avenue was modified to de-emphasize the connection to the river, which was partially obstructed by the pumping station. Instead, additional emphasis would be placed on the historic alignment of 2nd Street. A revised configuration is also shown for Water Street, a new street that would be created along the waterfront park, in order to give additional emphasis to the large historic buildings to the east and west.
Mr. Gilliand explained the project components that are not currently submitted for review, including the waterfront park to the south and the urban square in the vicinity of New Jersey Avenue to the northwest. Several additional buildings will also be submitted at a later date, along with details concerning the treatment of the historic wall along M Street. Ms. Nelson asked if the buildings currently submitted will be the first to be built. Mr. Gilliand said that the submitted buildings are the first phase of the project and would be completed in approximately 2009 or 2010.
Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori asked when the waterfront park and urban square would be constructed. Mr. Meiser responded that the goal is to complete the park at the same time as the initial buildings, but the schedule is uncertain because the park will be funded by D.C. government bonds that have not yet been issued. Ms. Nelson asked if the zoning regulations would require that the park be completed. Mr. Meisner said that since the park is a requirement for the project as well as a desirable amenity for residents moving into the new neighborhood, construction of the park will occur as quickly as possible.
Ms. Nelson asked about the intended character and uses for the park. Mr. Meisner said that the park would be modest in size and would provide a "nice resting spot" and potentially a setting for a memorial.
Mr. Gilliand described the proposed treatment of streets through the site: Tingey Street would provide an east-west spine relating to many of the historic buildings on the site; New Jersey Avenue would have a special character as a major L'Enfant diagonal; Water Street would have a festive character along the waterfront park. The other grid streets would be part of the background character of the site. Construction details along the streets would follow standard D.C. designs; the special character would be achieved within the sidewalk areas. He showed the paving and planting plans for the various streets as well as the concept for street furniture such as benches, bike racks, banner poles, and streetlights; many details would conform to D.C. standards, while others would be specially designed to relate to the site's nautical history, such as using a barrel motif for the benches. Public art would be included along with interpretive historic signage, which would include panel signs and special narrative pavers. Mr. Gilliand showed how the street and sidewalk design would accommodate some stormwater runoff to reduce the impact of the development on the stormwater drainage system and the Anacostia River.
Mr. Gilliand noted that the southern portion of the site is currently within the hundred-year floodplain and he described how the building sites would be elevated to protect them from floods. Tapering of the ground plane would be sufficient in some areas; retaining walls would be used in other areas, particularly alongside the Navy Yard power plant where the maximum height of the proposed fill would be five feet. The retaining walls would also provide security barriers to protect the nearby institutional buildings.
Mr. Gilliand described the proposed creation of 5-1/2 Street along Parcel E1, which will require demolition of a segment of the historic wall along M Street. The break in the wall would be minimized by making 5-1/2 Street a one-way street leading into Southeast Federal Center from M Street; the treatment of the wall is being developed in consultation with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office and will be included in a later submission. Ms. Zimmerman asked how utilities would be provided in the project; Mr. Gilliand said that they would generally be underground.
Mr. Gilliand continued with a brief description of the four building projects. The proposal for Parcel E1 involves the adaptive re-use of Building 202 which dates from 1941 and consists of two five-story brick-clad wings that frame a large central interior space that extends north-south through the length of the building. The industrial windows define much of the building's exterior character; the interior is characterized by the large steel rafters that supported the manufacturing equipment. The proposed construction would provide approximately 235 condominium units encompassing 300,000 square feet. The base of the building would include some retail as well as parking; a courtyard for the residents would be on top of this base. An entry court on the south side, facing Tingey Street, would allow visitors to perceive the full volume of the interior space; the north side would be infilled with additional residential space. A two-story addition would be placed on top of the building, with metal and glass facades that relate to the historic windows. Major side bays would also be added to the east and west facades to replace the existing long horizontal windows with four-foot sill heights which are not desirable for residential use. Ms. Balmori asked the depth of the proposed side bays. Mr. Gilliand said that their curved plan would extend a maximum of approximately ten feet from the existing facades.
Mr. Gilliand then described the proposal for Parcel K, involving the adaptive re-use of Building 167 which dates from 1919, located immediately south of the eastern building of the U.S. DOT headquarters with frontage on Tingey, 3rd, and 4th Streets. Its unusual roof profile includes a double-tiered monitor with industrial windows; the building walls are steel frame with brick veneer. The existing interior is a single open space punctuated by steel columns. The proposal is to re-use the building for retail space encompassing approximately 46,500 square feet. A new second floor would be inserted through most of the space, but the areas at the east and west ends would remain as full-height spaces. The retail area could be subdivided in various ways. Additions along the south facade, facing Tingey Street, would provide a series of entrance vestibules that would provide entrances to the shops; the retail uses could extend into the wide sidewalk area along Tingey Street. A loading and service pavilion would be added on the west end of the building. Mr. Gilliand showed a night-time rendering illustrating the special character of the building with light coming from its complex configuration of windows. He described the restoration components of the project, including removal of non-original fans and replacement of damaged or lost window components.
Mr. Gilliand described the proposal for Parcel M, involving the adaptive re-use of Building 160 which was built in 1918. The site is across Tingey Street from Building 167 and Parcel K. Building 160 is a four-story concrete-frame building with brick infill panels and industrial windows. The upper floors are organized around a central courtyard. The proposed use is approximately 170 apartments encompassing 185,000 square feet, with some retail on the ground floor and parking embedded in the center of the building beneath the courtyard. Ms. Zimmerman asked about the ceiling heights. Mr. Gilliand said the building's heights are typically quite generous, except on the top floor; the tall spaces would provide interesting opportunities for architectural treatment of the apartments. He showed the proposed two-story rooftop addition which would have a sawtooth configuration relating to historic industrial rooflines. The ground-floor facades would be substantially altered to accommodate the retail uses and some ground-level apartments. On the upper floors, later alterations to the windows would be removed and the expansive areas of glass would be restored.
Mr. Gilliand described the development envelopes for the adjacent new buildings, which have not yet been designed; they could extend to a height of 110 feet, substantially taller than Building 160, so the proposed two-story rooftop addition would not be unusually tall in the future context.
Mr. Gilliand concluded by describing the proposal for Parcel D, which would be entirely new construction adjacent to the historic wall along M Street. The design character was derived from the existing buildings and other industrial precedents, resulting in a proposal for repetitive facade modules with an assemblage of simple massing elements. The main structure would be elevated to suggest the industrial pattern of moving materials into the lower portion of a building for processing. Some of the mechanical equipment and structure would be exposed.
Mr. Gilliand described the overall configuration of the mixed-use project. The north tower would be a ten-story office building with approximately 315,000 square feet of office space and a 56,000-square-foot grocery store. The south structure would be an eleven-story residential building with 190,000 square feet and ground-floor retail. The two buildings would share a loading and service area on the lower level. The roof above this service area would be a landscaped terrace to be shared by the office and residential buildings. The grocery store space would extend beyond the north tower to abut the rear of the historic wall; the store's space would be lower than the wall's parapet height. This configuration was determined through consultation with the D.C. Office of Planning and Historic Preservation Office; further refinement of programming the retail space along the historic wall would be worked out through discussion with the grocery store tenant. Mr. Gilliand described the facade materials including a variety of glass panels with different textures and degrees of transparency. He showed the facades of the towers including "heroic" structural expression of trusses on the upper floors of the office building. The towers would have compatible but distinct colors.
The Commission began its discussion with comments on the master planning proposals and overall character of the projects. Mr. Rybczynski expressed support for the "relaxed" relationship between the new architecture and the historic buildings. He asked if there were constraints or guidance from the historic preservation review boards. Mr. Gilliand said that there have been extensive discussions with the preservation community as part of the Section 106 process, and the designs were reviewed at an early stage by the D.C. Historic Preservation Office. He said the guidance included more sensitivity about some structures and less about others; the varied guidance is reflected in the resulting design proposals.
Ms. Balmori commented on the proposed treatment of the streetscape and landscape, expressing support for the water management system and the extensive planting beds. She asked if the thirty-foot-long planting beds could be reconfigured to be continuous, reflecting recent research about the best conditions for urban trees. Mr. Gilliand said that most of the proposed planting beds would be continuous; some areas would be interrupted by permeable pavers but the planting area would be continuous beneath. Ms. Balmori also expressed concern about the lack of a clear schedule for construction of the open spaces since they are important parts of the overall project.
Mr. McKinnell expressed general support for the project, calling it "an extraordinary proposition" that demonstrates the benefit of public-private partnership. He asked what entity would be responsible for the future maintenance of the public spaces. Mr. Gilliand said that maintenance would be a shared responsibility. A newly created business improvement district (BID) encompassing this area would have some responsibility for cleaning the streets. He said that Forest City is also considering the creation of a special association that would specifically control and manage the public spaces within this site. He explained that the D.C. government would be involved since it would own the streets and the park. Mr. McKinnell said that this issue is important because of the extraordinary sophistication and complexity of the streetscape design; he questioned whether its carefully designed appearance could be sustained over a long period of time. Mr. Meiser said that the design is being coordinated with the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) which is very interested in which design components are standard and which are non-standard. The DDOT standard design is being used for much of the street and curb areas, which are the portions that will be the responsibility of DDOT. The non-standard elements are deliberately chosen to create a special character for this development. Mr. Meiser said that the developer, Forest City, will be permanently responsible for managing and maintaining the non-standard elements in accordance with a maintenance agreement that is being negotiated with DDOT; he emphasized Forest City's long history and long-term ownership of its real-estate developments.
Ms. Zimmerman asked about public transportation to the site. Mr. Gilliand showed the nearby Metrorail station at New Jersey Avenue and M Street and noted the bus lines along M Street. Regarding the proposed streetscape design, Ms. Zimmerman commented that a historic design is used for the streetlights while the other street furniture is modern and even avant-garde; she suggested further study of the relationship among these elements. Ms. Nelson agreed that further study could be helpful but said that the contrast did not seem problematic since the building architecture already mixes historic and new structures.
Ms. Zimmerman asked if the proposal for public art would be funded through the project budget. Alex Nyhan of Forest City said that there is a budget that is part of the infrastructure costs that are being coordinated with the D.C. government; but there is not yet a process for siting and selecting artworks. Ms. Zimmerman suggested that a professional art consultant be hired to oversee the public art program for this large project; she urged the developer to find the people who provide this service.
Ms. Nelson emphasized the importance of the green spaces in the project. She commented that proposals for green roofs are often not realized, and she urged that the landscaping proposals in this project be fully implemented.
Ms. Balmori asked for clarification of whether the perimeter of the project would be fenced and how this would relate to the existing wall. Mr. Gilliand said that the walls and fences shown in the drawings would occur only along the eastern boundary with the Navy Yard and along the pumping station, which have their own security requirements. Otherwise the project would not be fenced but would be open to the public streets and the riverfront. Ms. Balmori commented that the historic wall is attractive and she suggested that the proposed walls and fences be further studied to improve their design; she expressed particular concern about the security perimeter around the pumping station which protrudes into the middle of the development site.
Ms. Nelson suggested that the Commission conclude its discussion. Mr. Luebke said that actions would be needed on the master plan modifications and the four building projects, which could be combined into a single action if desired. Upon a motion by Ms. Zimmerman with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the modifications to the master plan that was reviewed in 2004, subject to the comments made by the Commission members. Ms. Nelson then asked for further discussion of the specific building designs.
Mr. McKinnell commented that the character of the buildings, particularly Building 202, is largely dependent on the window detailing, including the thin profiles of the mullions; he asked if these would be replaced. Mr. Gilliand said that new double-glazed insulated windows would be installed. Mr. McKinnell expressed doubt whether this new window system could replicate the appearance of the original system; Mr. Gilliand said that this has been successfully accomplished in other projects, and the success here would depend on the detailing to be developed by the architect for this parcel.
Mr. McKinnell commented that the extensive glass bays being added to the sides of Building 202, while well designed, appeared to be out of character with the building and undermined the sense of authenticity of the remaining historic walls. He expressed surprise that these bays were accepted as part of the historic preservation review. He contrasted this proposal with the more sympathetic treatment of the other historic buildings. Ms. Zimmerman said that the glass bays initially seemed appealing since they would provide sweeping views, but it became apparent during the presentation that the west bay would only provide views of the proposed adjacent development on Parcel D. Mr. Gilliand acknowledged that the views would be less expansive on the west than on the east. He reiterated that the sill heights of the existing windows would not be appropriate for apartments. Mr. McKinnell said that the existing window openings could be altered if necessary without changing the basic character of the building, which includes a sturdy industrial brick facade coming down to the ground. He commented that the delicate glass and steel of the bays would undermine this existing character, despite the intention of using some nominally "industrial" details such as exposed steel beams. He acknowledged that this concern is an advanced level of criticism and he reiterated his general support for the sophistication of the architecture.
Ms. Nelson summarized the Commission's excitement about the project and the commitment to re-using the existing buildings. She said that Building 167 would be the star building in the development, and the proposed adaptation for retail use would be consistent with its "amazing" architecture.
Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved the concept for the four buildings subject to the comments by the Commission members, particularly Mr. McKinnell's comments concerning the treatment of Building 202.
2. CFA 19/JUL/07-2, Department of Homeland Security, Nebraska Avenue Complex, Nebraska and Massachusetts Avenues, N.W. Perimeter security upgrades and new structures. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the project, submitted by the General Services Administration (GSA) on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for security improvements to the current DHS headquarters at the Nebraska Avenue Complex. He introduced Mike McGill of GSA.
Mr. McGill explained that the site was formerly a school that the government acquired during the World War II era; it served as a Navy facility until DHS began using it several years ago. He described the context, including the American University campus nearby and an adjacent commercial television broadcasting facility. He described the existing perimeter security as "ad hoc" and said that this project will provide a more permanent perimeter.
Mr. Rybczynski asked how this site would be affected by the intended relocation of the DHS headquarters to the St. Elizabeths Hospital west campus. Mr. McGill said that that the DHS facilities in the Washington region encompass 6.5 million square feet. The St. Elizabeths campus is being programmed for 4.5 million square feet, so DHS intends to retain several campuses in the region, probably including the Nebraska Avenue Complex, even after the headquarters is relocated to St. Elizabeths.
Mr. McGill introduced architect Greg Lukmire of the Lukmire Partnership to present the design. Mr. Lukmire explained that DHS had simply taken over the Navy facilities, including the buildings and surface parking lots, with little change. He said that the Navy has retained a large house at the western edge of the site, adjacent to Ward Circle, that is not included in the current proposal. He described the submission as consisting of several small projects. The existing perimeter fencing would be replaced with a more secure fence. The northern entrance on Nebraska Avenue, currently used for bus drop-off, would be closed to all traffic except the Secretary of Homeland Security and emergency vehicles; the entrance would be rebuilt with an improved appearance and Building 11, containing a small visitor entrance facility, would be demolished. The new entrance gate would normally be closed, so the gates are designed to have the appearance of a continuation of the perimeter fence. The southern entrance on Nebraska Avenue would be improved to serve as a primary entrance for visitors and employees. The adjacent Building 7 would be renovated to provide a new visitor entrance facility as well as a central command center for campus-wide security. The Massachusetts Avenue driveway would serve as an additional primary entrance for employees and visitors. Four new guardbooths would be constructed; they would be pre-engineered structures with brick facades that relate to the existing buildings on the campus.
Mr. Lukmire showed the existing fencing along Nebraska Avenue: a decorative fence near the street, with brick piers and cast-iron pickets, paralleled by a chain-link fence on the interior side. He explained that the decorative fence will not be altered; the chain-link fence will be replaced with a more secure fence that will include cables to prevent fast-moving vehicles from entering the campus. The overall appearance of the fence from Nebraska Avenue would be unchanged; the entry gates would be improved with a simplified fence line. Along the other boundaries of the campus, the existing chain-link fence would be replaced by similar fencing with the more secure design. In areas not directly visible by guards, the secure fencing would be a "no-climb fence" with very small openings in the chain-link mesh. The existing perimeter line would be maintained except at Building 7, which would be excluded from the secured area through minor modifications to the fence line.
Mr. Lukmire explained that cameras would be added throughout the facility, involving the addition of new poles around the perimeter and in the existing parking lot. He said the overall design goal is that the cameras should not be prominently visible. He described the improved visitor entrance facility in Building 7 and characterized Building 11 as unattractive, insufficiently sized, and inappropriately sited along Nebraska Avenue. He described the landscaping concept along Nebraska Avenue. The prominent existing line of crape myrtle trees would be maintained and extended along the face of Building 7, which currently has a low hedge. The parking lot would be better screened, and the result would be a more unified landscape along Nebraska Avenue.
Ms. Nelson asked whether there is a need for a separate entrance for the Secretary of Homeland Security. Mr. Lukmire said that this was a requirement of the Department and he did not know the reason for it.
Mr. Lukmire described the traffic pattern through the entrance gates and parking lots. From the guardbooths, employees would proceed directly to the employee parking areas; visitors would go to the visitor parking area; and those who are turned away would be able to circulate back to the street. He explained that delivery trucks are currently screened at the Washington Navy Yard and are escorted to the Nebraska Avenue Campus, so extensive screening of trucks is not necessary at this site. Shuttle buses would drop people at the southern entrance along Nebraska Avenue and then proceed through the parking lot.
Mr. Lukmire described the improvements to Building 7. Visitors, along with employees who are receiving their initial credentials, will move through the building as they are processed; due to the topography, people will ascend to a second-story bridge and exit into the campus at the upper level. The visitor areas would be in new additions that would be separated from the existing portions of Building 7, which will be used for security-related facilities. He said that the improvements respond to DHS's request to "create something that reflected . . . their own self-image of a new contemporary security outfit" and the resulting design "will change the appearance and the character of what they expect people to think of Homeland Security."
Ms. Nelson asked if it would be possible to demolish Building 7 and design an entirely new building to handle these security and screening functions. Mr. Lukmire said that this was considered, but DHS decided against this option. He explained that the initial proposal was simply to construct a series of ramps in the landscape to bring people to the higher part of the campus, but DHS insisted on creating the new bridge as part of the renovation of Building 7.
Mr. Lukmire showed the replacement of a small building with a new screening facility for employees, for use during periods of heightened security; it would have a small porch to accommodate a line of employees. A vehicle screening facility would also be constructed, replacing an existing tent used for the screening area; the new facility would include a canopy, some enclosed offices, and a kennel for two dogs. Landscaping would be limited to low hedges, not exceeding three feet tall due to security concerns.
Ms. Balmori asked for further information or images showing the proposed fence. She acknowledged the description of a chain-link material but said that the design of fences needs more careful study during this time of extensive construction of fences. She also expressed concern about the lack of discussion of the surrounding urban conditions that are suggested in the aerial photographs; she emphasized that the fences will affect the adjacent parts of the city. She noted various design techniques for improving the appearance of fences, such as smaller meshes, doubled fences, planting with vines to provide a green face, or providing planting zones in front of the fence to reduce its visibility. She also asked if additional crape myrtle trees could be considered around the entire site perimeter.
Mr. Lukmire responded that plantings could not be located on or near the fence, nor could a smaller mesh be used, due to the security requirement that the fence be as open as possible to maximize visibility. He said that the ideal security perimeter would be a double line of fences set twenty feet apart, with no landscaping beyond grass. He said that if additional landscaping is installed, it would likely be removed by DHS security officials soon after construction. To illustrate the problem, he explained that DHS is concerned about the existing forest abutting the eastern edge of the site, where tree branches overhanging the fence create a risk of someone using the branches to climb into the DHS site. He explained further details of the proposed fence design, with a vinyl-covered mesh that would have a tightly woven pattern of no-climb fencing where a single fence line is used, and a slightly larger mesh in the double-fence areas along Nebraska Avenue due to the high public visibility along this street.
Mr. Lukmire explained that the adjacent television broadcasting facility includes a surface parking lot that abuts the fence line, and DHS guards need to be able to see into the parking area. He also noted the presence of the television broadcasting tower, creating a problem of shielding the new DHS security command center from the broadcaster's electromagnetic waves. He showed that the adjacent apartment building sites include extensive landscaped areas toward the fence line so that the DHS campus is only minimally visible from these buildings.
Ms. Balmori reiterated the suggestion to consider a more creative and pleasing fence design for such an extensive project. She offered the example of a fence designed by Frank Gehry for the Santa Monica (California) Mall, using two layers of different colors to produce a "lacy" effect. Mr. Lukmire agreed to discuss the design options with DHS.
Mr. McKinnell expressed support for Ms. Balmori's concerns. He observed that GSA had just presented an admirable proposal for the Southeast Federal Center where an important design feature was the preservation of a boundary wall and corner watch tower. He questioned whether the new security infrastructure proposed by DHS would have comparable long-term architectural value. He urged GSA to respond to Ms. Balmori's concerns by commissioning talented industrial designers and possibly artists to respond to the rigid security specifications. He noted that GSA has demonstrated its commitment to high-quality architecture through the success of the Design Excellence Program; he recommended that this effort be extended to the challenges of perimeter security design.
Ms. Nelson expressed regret at the installation of so much fencing in the city and supported the suggestions for further study of more creative fence designs. Mr. McKinnell added that a design invention is needed and that GSA could catalyze the process. Mr. McGill offered to convey the Commission's comments to GSA's Office of the Chief Architect.
Ms. Nelson expressed general support for the intentions of the proposed concept, including the need for improvements to the existing entrances and fencing. She acknowledged that the design team is limited by the client's constraints and the decision to re-use some of the existing buildings. She emphasized the Commission's recommendation that a better design solution be developed, and she suggested that the Commission could decline to approve the proposed design. Ms. Balmori asked if the Commission could separate the general scope and concepts for the project, which she agreed were acceptable, from the proposed design which would not be approved, particularly for the fence. Ms. Nelson responded that some of the architectural proposals for new structures were straightforward and utilitarian, so perhaps the concept for these components could be approved while the fence design is rejected. She emphasized the extensive amount of fencing and the need for further design study.
Mr. Lukmire responded that the project only involves the replacement of the existing fence in its existing location. Ms. Nelson asked for clarification of whether an additional fence line would be created. Mr. Lukmire explained that a double line of fencing is only proposed along Nebraska Avenue, where such a configuration already exists; the inner fence would simply be replaced with a more secure fence that would include a security cable. He said that the public would not see much change from the existing conditions; the only noticeable result would be that the chain-link fence would be newer, cleaner, and less rusty. Ms. Zimmerman suggested that the Commission's concerns be directed to GSA as a request for further study of the design of security elements for future projects.
Mr. Rybczynski expressed disappointment that DHS, as the agency responsible for public security, would have a headquarters facility whose security elements have an improvised character lacking a strong commitment to thoughtful design. He suggested that DHS should set an example in its own facility of careful thought about security design. He commented that the proposed concept is the result of an architect who is overly constrained by "a very conflicted client."
Mr. McGill responded that this facility is only a temporary headquarters for DHS, making use of an existing facility. He reiterated that when the DHS headquarters eventually moves to the St. Elizabeths site, as previously presented to the Commission, the Nebraska Avenue Complex will become a support facility for DHS. He said that the proposal for incremental changes and modest improvements is a reflection of the interim status of this campus as a temporary headquarters. He explained that GSA is working with DHS on plans to consolidate more than sixty existing DHS sites into a small number of secure campuses; the staging of the consolidation would relate to the expiration of existing leases.
Ms. Balmori commented that temporary government facilities tend to last for many decades; she reiterated the recommendation that this project be designed with greater care, whether for long-term interim use or as a legacy to the future occupants. She emphasized Mr. McKinnell's observation that the historic wall and watch tower at Southeast Federal Center will be a valuable design feature of the new development, and she urged that the changes to the Nebraska Avenue Complex be designed to leave a similarly worthwhile legacy to future occupants. Ms. Nelson reiterated her disappointment with the proposed design and emphasized the Commission's role in encouraging high-quality design for the city and nation. Mr. McKinnell commented that expectations are high for this project because both of the agencies involved, DHS and GSA, need to set a good example of thoughtful security design.
Mr. Lukmire asked for clarification of which proposals are unsatisfactory to the Commission. He summarized the categories of intervention as the general site planning, including the location of entrances, roads, structures, and the perimeter fencing; the design of these new features; and the design of alterations to existing structures, particularly Building 7 for the new visitor entrance. He explained that the architecture could be studied further, while some of the site-planning decisions might be difficult to change. Mr. McGill also asked the Commission to comment on the proposed treatment along Nebraska Avenue, including the proposal to keep the existing decorative fence and to extend the line of crape myrtles. Mr. McKinnell said that these outer areas along Nebraska Avenue are well designed. Ms. Balmori said that the entire fencing system should be studied further.
Mr. McKinnell emphasized that GSA needs to show leadership in addressing these security-related design issues, rather than rely on the architect to find a solution. Mr. Luebke explained that GSA has been consulting with the Commission staff and has been responsive to suggestions, particularly concerning the design along Nebraska Avenue. He said that the proposed removal of the unattractive Building 11 was an improvement over the original intention to retain it adjacent to the ceremonial entrance. He emphasized that the Nebraska Avenue frontage is the primary design concern, since the adjacent apartment buildings are well screened from the site and the adjacent parking lot is only used for the television broadcasting facility. He offered to draft a recommendation directed toward GSA if the Commission chooses to emphasize the need to develop an improved design approach for future projects.
Mr. McKinnell asked if the Commission could acknowledge the necessity for the project to move forward while not offering approval of the design. Mr. Luebke agreed that the Commission could take such an action. He suggested that the motion could state that the Commission regrets the necessity of the project and doesn't consider its purview to include determining the necessity for the perimeter security; that the Commission understands the requirements which are imposed on the project; and that the Commission doesn't embrace the design but makes no formal objection to it, provided that GSA continue to work on developing a more adequate design for security elements as a national initiative. Ms. Nelson emphasized that a "national initiative" would be appropriate because this is a national problem. Upon a motion by Ms. Zimmerman with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission adopted the language stated by Mr. Luebke.
Ms. Nelson acknowledged the good intentions of the project but emphasized the need for a breakthrough in this design problem. Mr. McGill expressed appreciation for the Commission's advice and said that GSA shares the concern.
C. District of Columbia Public Schools
CFA 19/JUL/07-3, Henry D. Cooke Elementary School, 2525 17th Street, N.W. Renovation and additions. New concept. (Previous: CFA 19/SEP/02- 6.) Mr. Simon introduced the project, explaining that in 2002 the Commission had reviewed a more ambitious expansion proposal that was not implemented. Today's presentation, from a different architecture firm, would be presented as a new concept. He noted that some demolition work at the school was included on the Consent Calendar that the Commission approved earlier in the meeting. He introduced Michelle Chin of the D.C. Public Schools. Ms. Chin emphasized the desire to renovate and re-open the school, and she introduced architect Carl Elefante of Quinn Evans Architects.
Mr. Elefante described the context of the Adams-Morgan neighborhood, with the school located a block south of Columbia Road on an irregular parcel set within a block containing apartment buildings and row houses. The original 1909 school building was designed by Marsh and Peter, a firm noted for designing D.C. public schools, and fronts on 17th Street along the west edge of the site. A small 1921 addition by the same firm is consistent with the original style and extends to the south; a boxy 1960 wing was added on the southeast. A playground area extends south toward Euclid Street, and the eastern portion of the site contains a parking lot fronting on Mozart Place. He explained that the site is on the crest of a hill, with the grade of the central area approximately seven to nine feet higher than the street frontages.
Mr. Elefante described the proposed addition to the east that would fill in the center of the L-shaped building, providing a gymnasium, a cafeteria with a stage, and a serving kitchen. The existing building would be renovated, including reconfiguration of the smaller classrooms in the 1960 wing to provide classrooms large enough for modern needs. A new connecting spine would link the new and old portions of the school and provide an additional major entrance on the east side.
Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson asked for further details on the program and scale of the proposed addition. Mr. Elefante explained that the addition would be a single-level building with high-ceiling special-purpose spaces; it would not contain classrooms. He explained that the older portion of the building has three stories and the 1960 wing has two stories; the floor levels are offset in the various wings due to the topography of the site, and the floor level of the original main entrance on 17th Street is offset from the interior classroom floors as well as from the sidewalk. The proposed connecting spine would provide an area for an elevator and staircase that would provide access to the various floor levels, replacing a connecting stair from the 1960 addition. A new ground-level entrance along 17th Street would also improve the school's accessibility. A new south entrance would provide access to the playground, which would also be available for use by neighborhood residents; the topography would be accommodated with ramps, stairs, and terraces to provide level playing areas and visibility from the street. The grade of the playground would also be lowered overall to align with the lower floor level of the 1960 wing. An additional small playground on the east side of the site would be provided for the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students, with an adjacent science garden. Mr. Elefante explained that the multiple entrances would tend to be used by different age groups due to the distribution of classrooms within the building, and would also provide the desired separate access for the school's various after-school and community programs.
Mr. Elefante showed photos of the existing facades, including decorative terra cotta around the main entrance. Ms. Balmori asked if the older portion of the building had been altered. Mr. Elefante said that there were multiple alterations to the cornice, new windows in 2001, and a new roof in 2002; Ms. Balmori commented that the new windows had notably changed the appearance of the building. Mr. Elefante said that exterior repairs on the existing building would be relatively minor because of the recent improvements.
Mr. Elefante explained the proposed interior circulation patterns and major spaces. He said that the overall interior layout of the older wings would be retained. Additional bathrooms would be provided by removing an existing classroom that would become windowless due to the proposed addition. The double-height room at the center of the original school, most recently used as a multi-purpose room, would become the library and media center; its skylights will be restored. Mechanical equipment would be placed on the lower roof areas where it would not be visible.
Mr. Elefante presented the building elevations showing the alterations to convert windows into doors for the new entrance on the west facade, the massing of the new special-purpose spaces on the east facade, and the addition of solar screening on the south facade. The north side of the site would contain service-related uses, retaining the existing north facade of the 1909 building. He showed the proposed reconfiguration of the parking lot on the east toward Mozart Place, with a terraced level to accommodate the topography. Diagonal parking along the street would be available for public use during non-school hours.
Ms. Nelson asked for further information about lighting and signage. Mr. Elefante said that lighting would be studied as part of a later phase of the project. He showed the identification signage proposed for the new east entrance, combining brickwork for the initials "H.D." and metal letters to spell "Cooke." Ms. Nelson commented that the design of this sign gives the appearance of a retail store and should be studied further. She also said that the lighting design will be an important safety feature, especially for night-time use of the playground. Mr. Elefante responded that the lighting and the hours of usage would be coordinated with the community group that is involved in the project.
Mr. Rybczynski expressed support for the proposed design, commenting that the new construction relates well to the older wings without simply repeating their architecture; he also supported the serious character of the architecture but said that the proposed signage is not consistent with this seriousness. He suggested that the signage be more straightforward and less whimsical. Ms. Nelson agreed that the design has dignity and emphasizes the experience of the students.
Ms. Balmori commented on the fragmented appearance of the science garden and small playground for younger children. Mr. Elefante explained that the science garden would be a small area where class groups could grow plants; he said it was difficult to site it in a location that would receive sunlight. He acknowledged that some details of the design were still being developed. Ms. Balmori suggested a more unified design for the outdoor spaces in this area. She commented that the small area of grass would not survive in a school environment with limited maintenance, and it would become a mud zone. Ms. Nelson agreed and suggested that the play equipment be placed in the center of the open space or extended throughout this area. Ms. Balmori suggested additional planting within the playground to reduce the amount of hard surface.
Ms. Nelson summarized the Commission's support for the concept with the comments that had been provided for further development of the design. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the concept.
D. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs – Old Georgetown Act
O.G. 07- 127, Single-family residential, 1645 31st Street, N.W. New house and alterations to garage and site. Concept. Ms. Barsoum explained that the proposal involves the potential subdivision of a three-quarter-acre lot that has existed since 1858 and contains a landmark house that dates to approximately 1817 with later additions. She described the property as one of the last remaining mid-sized estates in Georgetown. She said that the applicant has made a series of proposals for the site, initially including the addition of multiple new houses. The current proposal would add a single house on the eastern side of the property. She explained that in April 2007, the Commission had approved alterations to the historic residence based on the advice of the Old Georgetown Board. The Board subsequently reviewed a design for the proposed new house, providing guidance to make it simpler with less impact on the historic property. She described the Board's generally favorable recommendation on the current design of the new house and alterations to the existing carriage house and garages, with some suggestions for further study. She introduced the consulting architect, Dale Overmyer, and noted the presence of audience members who wanted to comment on the project.
Mr. Overmyer described the property with its frontage on 31st Street. He explained that the project was split into separate applications: one for the new house and one for the existing house. He explained that the site for the new house was chosen due to its limited visibility and minimal impact on the existing vegetation. He presented photos of the Avon Lane frontage, showing how the proposed new house would be partially screened by the carriage house and garages which would remain the dominant feature along Avon Lane.
Mr. Overmyer showed the proposed massing of the new house; he said that the Board had recommended a simple massing that could be easily understood as a single structure. The roofline would be kept low to relate to the site and minimize impact on the historic residence nearby; the second-floor bedrooms would have dormers, and a small third-floor attic would be under the peak of the roof. The house would have a stone base, wood siding, and a slate roof. The project also includes alterations to the carriage house and garages; the carriage house would have new windows with larger areas of glass set within the existing masonry openings, as well as one new window opening. Mr. Overmyer summarized the Board's concerns from presentations in recent months, including materials and the details of the dormers, columns, and fenestration.
Ms. Nelson acknowledged that the design is being developed through extensive consultation with the Board. She noted that the design is still speculative because the necessary D.C. approval for the separate lot was not yet in place. She questioned whether it would be appropriate for the Commission to make a recommendation on the design while the D.C. regulatory issue was still unresolved; Mr. Rybczynski and Ms. Zimmerman agreed with this concern.
Mark Teren, one of the owners of the property, addressed the Commission. He acknowledged that the process is unusual, and explained that the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board has required a concept design before making a recommendation on the proposed subdivision. He said that the D.C. historic preservation staff had stated that this could be a general concept showing the direction of the project, without necessarily requiring a formal approval; nevertheless, the Old Georgetown Board's "concept approval" for the design would be useful. He asked the Commission to accept the Board's recommendation on the concept design with the understanding that the project is theoretical and may never be built. He explained that the Mayor's Agent will make the decision about the requested subdivision.
Mr. Luebke said that there are two review processes underway: one for the subdivision which will be decided by the Mayor's Agent, and one for the design which is decided by the Commission based on the advice of the Old Georgetown Board. He corrected Mr. Teren's statement that the Board has approved the concept, since the Board's role is limited to advising the Commission; only the Commission has the authority to make recommendations to the D.C. government and no recommendation has yet been made. He also clarified that there is no requirement for the Commission to act on the project as part of the current D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board process.
Ms. Nelson said that if the Commission were to adopt the Board's recommendation, this decision could potentially influence the D.C. government's decision-making process. She questioned whether the Commission had acted on such theoretical cases in the past. Mr. Martínez said that past submissions have included proposals from prospective buyers to determine whether proposed improvements would be permissible before they went forward with purchasing a property. Mr. Luebke also noted that this case is particularly important because a landmark property is involved.
Mr. McKinnell commented that a submission from a potential buyer is quite different from the current case, where additional approval of the D.C. government is necessary before the project can go forward. He agreed with Ms. Nelson's concern that the Commission's approval could be used in an unintended way to influence the D.C. government's decision-making process.
Mr. Teren explained that the Mayor's Agent will decide only whether the proposed subdivision is consistent with the Old Georgetown Act, without considering the design of the potential structure; the Commission, along with the Old Georgetown Board, would have sole responsibility for the design review. However, he said that the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board, which advises the Mayor's Agent, requires a concept design as part of its review process. He added that the Mayor's Agent has wide latitude to decide what advice to consider while making a decision on a limited set of issues. Mr. Teren acknowledged the Commission's position but expressed the desire to be able to move the project forward.
Ms. Nelson suggested that the Commission remain neutral, noting that the concept would be submitted again if the necessary D.C. approval of the subdivision is obtained. Mr. Luebke added that there is no obligation for the Commission to take any action now; it could choose to act or to wait.
Mr. Overmyer recalled a similar case at Mackall Square approximately ten years ago, when a structure was approved while the subdivision application was pending. Ms. Barsoum said that the applicability of that case is questionable since it involved overlapping ownership of the structures.
Ms. Nelson recognized Kinley Dumas from the law firm of Arent Fox; she said she represents several neighbors who oppose the subdivision of the property as well as the proposed concept design. Ms. Dumas emphasized that this property was part of the original landmarks list for D.C. created in 1964, but at that time there was no narrative explaining the significance of the property. She said that the neighbors recently worked with the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission to prepare an amendment to the 1964 landmark listing in order to document the property's significance. This amendment was filed with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office after the project was split into separate submissions for the existing and proposed houses, resulting in the Old Georgetown Board's response that the information could not affect the decision that had already been made to allow a second house on the property. Ms. Dumas urged the Commission to take a different position and consider the new research in formulating a position on the proposal. She said that an architectural historian was present to discuss the details of the landmark amendment. Ms. Nelson responded that this complexity is the reason that the Commission does not want to take a position at this stage of the process; she reiterated her view that the Commission should remain neutral and take no action.
Mr. Teren also commented that the proposed new house would require both a subdivision approval from the Mayor's Agent and a further resolution of the question of street frontage for the new lot, since the frontage on Avon Lane does not meet the legal requirement for street frontage. Ms. Nelson emphasized that the Commission offers aesthetic rather than legal advice, and she suggested that the Commission wait until the legal questions have been resolved.
Ms. Zimmerman asked if a motion was necessary if the Commission is choosing to take no action. Ms. Balmori offered a motion that the Commission abstain from voting. Mr. Luebke said that taking no action could be construed as acceptance of the Board's recommendation. Mr. Lindstrom suggested that the Commission take an action to postpone issuing a recommendation until the subdivision issue has been decided. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission adopted this position.
There being no further business, the public meeting was adjourned at 2:45 p.m., and the Commission went into executive session to hear the following presentation at 3:05 p.m.
E. National Capital Planning Commission
CFA 19/JUL/07-4, National Capital Framework Plan. A planning initiative to enhance the areas surrounding the National Mall. Information presentation. The presentation was given in executive session at the request of the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) since the draft proposals have not yet been released for public comment. Mr. Luebke said that the National Capital Framework Plan (NCFP) is co-sponsored by the Commission and NCPC; representatives from NCPC would be making the information presentation. He explained that the NCFP grew from discussions with Congress in recent years about the condition of the Mall and the need for future memorial sites; these concerns had developed into a larger planning process. The primary focus is to enhance areas surrounding the Mall to provide new locations for memorials and museums as well as to provide lively urban spaces for the enjoyment of residents and visitors. He explained that the planning process is a collaborative effort involving numerous stakeholder agencies, including coordination with the planning efforts of other agencies such as the National Park Service and the Architect of the Capitol. He also noted the importance of partnership with the D.C. government, particularly through coordination with D.C.'s Anacostia Waterfront Initiative. He introduced Elizabeth Miller and Bill Dowd from NCPC to begin the presentation.
Ms. Miller introduced other members of the project team, including consultant Alan Harwood of EDAW and Shane Dettman from NCPC. Ms. Miller said she would provide an overview of the planning process, followed by Mr. Harwood to walk through the proposals of the plan.
Ms. Miller showed the extent of the planning area, with emphasis on key areas surrounding the monumental core. She said that the NCFP is based on NCPC's previous long-range planning study, Extending the Legacy, which had suggested that more detailed planning studies could be developed to implement the long-range concepts. She noted the pressure of competing uses on the National Mall, suggesting the need to shift some uses elsewhere. She also noted the extensive construction and planning underway in the city, and she emphasized the desire to keep the federal interest in the forefront by providing settings for future cultural destinations of national significance. Ms. Miller noted the importance of transportation in connecting these activity areas. She said that the NCFP is also based on the L'Enfant and McMillan plans and would reclaim aspects of these plans that have not been implemented or have been lost.
Ms. Miller cited the South Capitol Street Initiative, begun in 2002, as an example of how the NCFP could evolve. NCPC initiated that project and then collaborated with the D.C. government, leading to an urban design study and a framework plan for the area. The results of that effort are starting to be constructed, including the new baseball stadium, and private-sector developers became interested in the area. The D.C. government is also using the study to guide infrastructure investments such as long-term replacement of the Frederick Douglass Bridge and near-term modifications to the bridge, along with initial stages of reconstructing South Capitol Street as a grand boulevard.
Ms. Nelson asked for further background on the Legacy plan and related initiatives. Ms. Miller said that Legacy was released in 1997, followed by the Memorials and Museums Master Plan (2M) which provided an inventory of potential sites. She said that 2M did not look closely at the development activity and infrastructure changes that would be necessary to make some sites viable, so NCFP is taking a closer look at selected areas in the vicinity of the Mall.
Ms. Miller showed a list of partner agencies, stakeholders, and interested organizations; she said that the planning proposals to be presented have incorporated much of the input from these entities. She said the response has been favorable to the conceptual work that has previously been presented to these groups.
Ms. Miller showed the location of several related planning studies, including the National Park Service's planning for the Mall, the Architect of the Capitol's master plan, and the extensive Center City area being studied by the D.C. Office of Planning and the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District. She noted that this Center City project has the goal of widening the perceived extent of downtown Washington, resulting in the Mall being at the center rather than the edge of central Washington. She said that NCPC is working closely with all of these agencies to develop a core set of common objectives; the goal is to be able to show these shared objectives to government leaders and the public, as well as to increase awareness among agencies of the multiple jurisdictional responsibilities for these areas. She added that this coordination could have benefits for public relations and for obtaining funds for future initiatives.
Ms. Miller mentioned the symposium, titled Framing the Capital City, that was held in April. Mr. Luebke said that several themes had emerged from the symposium. One was that Washington has matured to a level where it no longer feels like a city dominated by a single employer, the federal government; this raises new issues of relating the federal establishment and national attractions to the overall urban form. Another theme was that commemorative elements should be used to enliven the entire urban experience. A third theme was the need to avoid having physical security considerations be the determinant of urban form, as discussed by the Commission earlier in the meeting. A final theme was that D.C. could become a leader in sustainability and smart growth, due to its extensive open space and waterfront systems, strong economy, and potential political support.
Ms. Miller said that the challenge was to build on the beauty and grace of the Mall and expand the image of the nation's capital to encompass the surrounding areas of the city. The goal would be to create a great capital city that is a memorable experience that includes the opportunities and diversity that a city can offer. The NCFP seeks to achieve this by pulling development into these surrounding areas.
Ms. Miller showed photographs of the varied activities on the Mall, illustrating the need to find alternative locations for some activities in order to protect the Mall's beauty. She showed a diagram of the physical and psychological barriers that need to be overcome, particularly involving infrastructure. Another design concern is how to knit together the fabric of the city. She showed a diagram of new destination opportunities along with the connectivity that would be desirable to support these destinations.
Ms. Miller showed the areas that had been studied closely during the NCFP planning process, and she identified the areas that will be emphasized for key strategic moves: connectivity along the waterfront and between the waterfront and downtown; and improved urban experiences in the Federal Triangle, Northwest Rectangle, and Southwest Federal Center areas. She noted the challenges in Southwest of superblocks and a disconnected street pattern. She said that the NCFP will explore bringing people to East Potomac Park by providing improved connectivity around the Tidal Basin and through the street grid, as well as potential reconfiguration of the bridges in that area to create a better setting for the Jefferson Memorial.
Ms. Miller described that the purpose of the presentation is to give the Commission an appreciation of the range of things that have been looked at, rather than to provide a detailed description. She offered the example of the Department of Energy's Forrestal Building, south of the Smithsonian Castle: in order to improve the connection between the Castle and the Banneker Overlook, several treatments of this site were considered, ranging from partial demolition of the existing building to complete redevelopment. The study of Federal Triangle focused on identifying buildings that would be appropriate for future cultural use as well as increasing access to the art and architecture that is already present in the Federal Triangle buildings; streetscape improvements were also studied to encourage pedestrian movement between the Mall and downtown. Topics in the Northwest Rectangle have included alterations to the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge and an improved connection between the Kennedy Center and the Lincoln Memorial, as well as improvements to the E Street corridor.
Ms. Miller explained that the results of all these studies are shown in the Preliminary Framework Plan that has been provided to the Commission members; it was also shown to the Working Group in late June, and it is scheduled for presentation to NCPC in early August. She said that the project team is currently requesting final comments from the involved agencies so that further refinements can be made. She asked Alan Harwood to continue the presentation.
Mr. Harwood said that the key concept for the plan is to re-knit the fabric of the city and to extend the activity and character of the Mall into the nearby urban fabric. He noted the big wave of development occurring in the city and said that the proposals will focus on areas where future development can still be influenced, particularly south of the Mall. He said that the plan encompasses major interventions to repair the urban fabric as well as finer-grained improvements; some of these smaller improvements would not be specifically presented but were an equally important part of the planning concept.
Mr. Harwood described the theme of destinations and connections, with the corresponding emphasis on creating places and corridors; he showed several examples. The Kennedy Center would be integrated into the street pattern and linked to the Old Naval Observatory. Pennsylvania Avenue would be improved with a node at 10th Street, N.W. The Mall's connection to the Southwest Waterfront would be improved through a new treatment of 10th Street, S.W., including open space with a vertical feature at the Banneker Overlook to mark the transition between the street axis and the waterfront. He described the Forrestal Building complex as outdated and inefficient in the use of its extensive site, and he reiterated the value of reestablishing the street grid in this area. He said that the redevelopment of this area could include residential and cultural uses that would add evening and weekend activity, while still accommodating the amount of office space contained in the existing Forrestal Building complex.
Mr. Harwood showed the proposed treatment of the Washington Channel, with activity extended to encompass both sides; the north side would be redeveloped in accordance with current D.C. government plans, and East Potomac Park on the south side would have expanded recreation and visitor facilities. Since the south side is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, which has limitations on the permitted uses within a park, some of the new development could occur on newly created sites extending into the channel; a mix of green spaces and urban plazas is envisioned. A new connecting channel would also be created to provide a more direct linkage between the existing Washington Channel and the Potomac River, allowing for improved water shuttles between the Southwest Waterfront and potential destinations such as Georgetown and Reagan National Airport.
Mr. Luebke added further comments on the treatment of East Potomac Park. Access is currently available only from the narrow northwestern end of the park, an area choked by multiple bridges and traffic infrastructure which results in a sense of isolation for the park; the long waterfront extending along the Washington Channel is kept clear of bridges to allow for boat navigation. The proposed new channel would provide a new route for boat traffic, so that new bridges could be built across the southern area of the Washington Channel to connect East Potomac Park with the Southwest neighborhood where transit access is available and where substantial growth is occurring. This increased connectivity with the urban fabric would encourage more active use of the park. The southern portion of the channel could also include wetland restoration to mitigate the impact of other changes. Ms. Nelson asked if locks would be required between the bodies of water; Mr. Luebke said that all of these water areas would be open to the normal flow of open water, including tidal movements.
Mr. Harwood explained that the proposed treatment of East Potomac Park and the Jefferson Memorial area would be accomplished through relocation of the existing complex of bridges and roads, creating new open spaces for programmed events as well as an improved landscape setting. Ms. Nelson asked if this location could be the setting for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival or other events that would otherwise occur on the Mall; Mr. Harwood confirmed that this would be the goal. Mr. Luebke added that this setting would provide excellent views to the major memorials, enhancing the desirability of using the location for scheduled events. He acknowledged that the proposed infrastructure changes are substantial but noted that some of the bridges would need to be rebuilt and these anticipated future investments could be shaped by the NCFP proposals. Mr. Dowd confirmed the need for future investment and emphasized the value of developing a plan that would guide the future design decisions.
Mr. Harwood added further details of the proposal for a natural shoreline treatment toward the southern part of the Washington Channel, commenting that the area could serve to provide ecological education. Ms. Zimmerman asked whether there would be a railing between the land and water. Mr. Harwood said that no railing would be necessary, and he showed illustrations of a park designed by his firm where no railing is provided between pedestrian paths and ponds.
Mr. Harwood showed the proposed bridges across the Washington Channel, including both pedestrian and vehicular bridges; the bridges to the south would improve connectivity with the neighborhood, while the connection to the north would be widened into a land bridge that would improve connectivity with the Mall. The Metrorail line would be reconstructed to remain underground rather than bridge the Potomac, allowing for the creation of a new station near the Jefferson Memorial and the new outdoor gathering space. The railroad bridge would also be reconstructed on a new alignment. The vehicular bridges would be reconfigured to provide new bridge and tunnel connections to the city grid while also improving access to the park. He showed examples of attractive modern bridges that could serve as models for the proposed pedestrian bridges, making them notable destinations as a result of their strong design. He added that the sequencing of these improvements had been studied, and most of the proposed improvements would not be dependent on relocation of the bridges. He acknowledged that the timing of the bridge replacements would be difficult to predict.
Mr. Harwood showed the proposed infrastructure changes in other parts of the city, emphasizing the relationship to the L'Enfant and McMillan plans. Constitution Avenue would be extended to the Potomac River, restoring its previous relationship to a belvedere along the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway. The continuity of Maryland Avenue, S.W., would be emphasized. Excess road capacity in the vicinity of the Kennedy Center could be made available for pedestrian use. The E Street corridor would be strengthened as a green connection between the Ellipse and the Kennedy Center. Many of these improvements could be accomplished in the near term, including the redevelopment of the Forrestal Building site. Other mid-term improvements would follow in future years, such as the realignment of bridges and the removal or decking of freeways. He added that Extending the Legacy provides the long-term vision, so there will not be a separate long-term plan as part of the NCFP.
Ms. Miller said that the NCFP includes consideration of land uses in addition to the proposals related to the urban form. Sites have been identified for reusing existing buildings and for infill development. The land-use diagram showed the proposed distribution of cultural, office, and residential uses along with mixed-use sites. The suggested uses are intended to illustrate the opportunities rather than provide a specific solution; among the findings was that sites could be available for approximately the next hundred years of museum needs. She also emphasized the consideration of view corridors in developing the plan, including views along the grid streets as well as along the major diagonals. The transportation system was also closely studied, including the new Metrorail station discussed for East Potomac Park as well as additional entrances to existing Metrorail stations to improve accessibility. The future routing of the Circulator buses and water shuttles was also considered. Ms. Miller described the consideration of the quality of the public realm, including streetscape improvements, programming of public spaces, ground-floor retail uses within buildings or in kiosks, the creation of market areas, and the circulation of pedestrians and bicyclists. She showed examples from other cities of temporary exhibits that enliven the public spaces. She noted the potential for relocating the many scheduled events, such as performances and festivals, that currently occur on the Mall. She concluded by mentioning the importance of wayfinding to improve the visitor experience.
Ms. Zimmerman asked when the implementation of the proposals could begin. Ms. Miller said that today's presentation was a preliminary plan that will be open for further agency comments for the next two months, after which the preliminary plan would be released for public review. Mr. Harwood said that some of the implementation could be achieved through the review process, with the review agencies evaluating project proposals for their conformance with the NCFP concepts. He emphasized that many of the proposals are modest and easily achieved, while others require much more substantial investment.
Ms. Zimmerman said that the proposal is impressive. Ms. Nelson emphasized that there are many details that affect the public use of an area, such as the opportunity for extended opening hours for museums. She encouraged the combination of details and big-picture proposals in the NCFP, but she questioned whether the larger concepts were sufficiently compelling to attract public interest and support. Expressing concern that the public response would focus too much on the details, she encouraged further emphasis on particular proposals that people could envision as improvements to their lives, such as leaving the baseball stadium to enjoy some sort of additional activity, and further emphasis on the bigger moves. Ms. Nelson and Mr. Luebke agreed that the connection of the Mall to the Southwest Waterfront should be emphasized as a primary move. Ms. Zimmerman emphasized the proposed water taxi as a strong idea.
Mr. McKinnell expressed support for Ms. Nelson's comments. He said that the concepts of "repair" and "knitting together" were not sufficiently compelling to engage the public. Nonetheless, he said that many of the specific proposals are extremely exciting—such as new development along the waterfronts—which should be further emphasized without relying on the general concepts of repair and knitting. Ms. Zimmerman suggested that the emphasis could be on looking forward, rather than backward, by showing the future quality of life in the city. Ms. Nelson suggested a video showing the experience of using water transportation in the future city.
Ms. Balmori suggested that the NCFP respond to modern ideas of how to put a city together, with an understanding of which traditional city-building methods are no longer viable. She emphasized the impact of the ecological revolution on concepts of city-building, with newer tools available for thinking about the city; she offered the examples of linear park systems, a grid of green areas for pedestrians, and water-absorbent ground surfaces. She commented that application of these tools to Washington would be relatively easy because the layout of the city is well organized. Infrastructure of an earlier era, such as railroads, can provide the framework for this newer urban fabric. She compared the challenge of the present era to the visionary transformation of Paris in the 19th century which used the most advanced planning concepts of that time. She expressed support for the detailed proposals and the analysis while agreeing with Ms. Nelson that the overall conceptual approach is not strongly defined.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the presentation emphasizes the city's problems, while he has been particularly impressed with the city's strengths and current wave of development; he offered the example of the morning's site visit to the Southeast Federal Center that is in the midst of a redeveloping area. He contrasted Washington's strength with the more significant problems of other cities such as Philadelphia. He suggested that the NCFP should emphasize the city's strengths, perhaps by describing the amount of development that has occurred since Legacy was released. Ms. Balmori agreed, commenting that another city is being formed by Washington's current development. Mr. Rybczynski emphasized that this new development is driven by developers, not planners, and has no direct relationship to planning traditions such as the L'Enfant Plan.
Mr. McKinnell agreed and suggested that an emphasis on the city's strengths and successes would be preferable to introducing each bold planning proposal with an apology about the expense or long time frame needed to achieve it. He suggested a tabulation of the money spent on real-estate development in Washington in the ten years since the release of the Legacy plan, for comparison to the cost of implementing the improvements proposed in the NCFP; he predicted that the figures would be comparable. He commented that the public sector should be able to match the private sector's amount of investment. Ms. Nelson added that the Southeast Federal Center project provided a good example of how public- and private-sector investment could be combined to produce a promising proposal.
Ms. Nelson commented further on the concept of treating the Mall, rather than the traditional downtown, as the center of the city. She said that this is a provocative proposal and suggested that it be shown graphically with an emphasis on its dramatic re-shaping of the city. Mr. Dowd clarified that this concept has already been embraced as part of the Downtown Action Agenda planning effort, which acknowledges that the downtown area extends to the south side of the Mall.
Ms. Nelson added a further comment on a planning detail—the need to improve the quality of the soil and turf on the National Mall. She suggested that improved drainage and letting sections of the lawn rest would improve the appearance of this prominent landscape, as seen at other parks and perhaps once seen at this location.
Ms. Miller expressed her appreciation for the Commission's comments, particularly the emphasis on the big picture that often gets lost while working closely with the project details. Ms. Nelson emphasized the need to produce a captivating effect in the public imagination. Ms. Miller said that a writer has been hired to help shape the plan's message and achieve this goal. The information presentation concluded without a formal action.
There being no further business, the executive session was adjourned at 4:02 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: October 3, 2007