Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
17 January 2008
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 10:10 a.m.
National Capital Planning Commission staff present:
(Due to the absence of the Chairman, the Vice-Chairman presided at the meeting.)
A. Approval of the minutes of the 15 November meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the November meeting were circulated to the members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes without objection, upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. Belle.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 21 February, 20 March, and 17 April. There were no objections.
C. Confirmation of the approval of the December 2007 Old Georgetown Act submissions. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to take a formal vote in public session to confirm the Old Georgetown Board's recommendations that were circulated and endorsed in December, when no Commission meeting was held. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the December recommendations.
Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission does not have any site visits in conjunction with the January meeting.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commissioners in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom reported that the only items on Appendix I are reports of two submissions approved by the staff under authority previously delegated by the Commission. He said that no further Commission action is needed for these submissions; the Commission concurred.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Mr. Lindstrom reported that the staff has revised the draft appendix to reflect supplemental information for case number S.L. 08-033 at 4705 Colorado Avenue, N.W.; the recommendation now calls for further adjustments in the proportion of the proposed lunette window. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martinez reported several revisions to the draft appendix: some of the cases with unfavorable recommendations have been postponed at the request of the applicants; other recommendations have been revised due to supplemental drawings; and the staff has made minor changes to wording. Mr. Luebke noted that several projects involve proposals for large-scale signs and banners, which have increasingly become a concern of the Old Georgetown Board; the appendix includes recommendations against several such proposals. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
B. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
Mr. Simon introduced Kaarina Budow of the U.S. Mint to present the next three proposals.
1. CFA 17/JAN/08-1, Congressional Gold Medal for Michael Ellis DeBakey. Design for a gold medal and bronze duplicates. Final. Ms. Budow explained the legislation for a Congressional Gold Medal honoring Dr. DeBakey and summarized his career, including contributions to heart-lung machines, coronary bypass surgery, artificial hearts, and multi-organ transplants. She showed the single proposed design: on the obverse, an image of Dr. DeBakey in surgical scrubs with a surgical team operating in the background; and on the reverse, an image of the human heart with a ribbon containing a quotation from Dr. DeBakey, set against a background grid of longitude and latitude lines to represent Dr. DeBakey's world-wide teaching and influence. She explained that the design results from specific preferences expressed by Dr. DeBakey, including the anatomically accurate depiction of the human heart.
Ms. Balmori asked about the lack of design alternatives for the Commission's consideration. Ms. Budow explained that the Mint typically prepares only a single design for the Congressional Gold Medal based on the preferences of the recipient.
Ms. Nelson commented that the masked figure on the far right of the obverse, part of the background surgical team, is awkwardly depicted; she suggested further refinement of that person's head. She expressed support for the image of Dr. DeBakey. On the proposed reverse, she questioned whether the grid would be recognizable as a reference to the world. She asked if a different image could be considered, such as a representation of the mobile army surgical hospital system that he helped to create, while acknowledging that the design represents Dr. DeBakey's preferences.
Mr. Rybczynski said that he does not support the proposed design due to aesthetic concerns, regardless of Dr. DeBakey's preferences. Ms. Nelson agreed that the design could be improved. Ms. Budow said that approximately a half dozen design alternatives were presented to Dr. DeBakey, and the submitted proposal was developed through a process involving artists and the responses from Dr. DeBakey. She said that the artists included the grid on the reverse to balance the depiction of the heart that Dr. DeBakey wanted.
Ms. Nelson commented that the ribbon and text appear odd in combination with the heart; she suggested that the text be placed around the perimeter of the reverse and that the ribbon be eliminated. Mr. Rybczynski agreed that the design of the reverse includes too many layers. Ms. Balmori said that the Commission has had an ongoing concern about excessive information being included on submissions from the Mint. Ms. Budow clarified that this proposal is for a large medal rather than a small coin; Ms. Balmori said that the proposed design is nevertheless overly complex and not well designed, with too much emphasis on content instead of aesthetic quality. She said the resulting proposal is not elegant.
Mr. Belle asked if the Mint would be willing to make a change such as the proposed relocation of text on the reverse; Ms. Budow said she would convey the Commission's recommendations to Dr. DeBakey for his consideration. Mr. Belle said that this would be a clear recommendation and suggested that the Commission adopt it. Ms. Nelson clarified that the recommendation would also include removal of the grid lines and the Commission's consensus that the design could be better. The Commission adopted this recommendation upon a motion by Mr. Belle, with Ms. Balmori abstaining.
2. CFA 17/JAN/08-2, 2009 Presidential One Dollar Coin Program. Obverse designs for third set of four coins: W.H. Harrison, Tyler, Polk, and Taylor. Final. (Previous: CFA 19/OCT/06-2: 2008 issues.) Ms. Budow reviewed the legislation requiring the Mint to issue four Presidential dollar coins per year, with the 2009 series to include Presidents W.H. Harrison, Tyler, Polk, and Taylor. She showed the Commission members a book from the White House Historical Association showing the official portraits of the Presidents for comparison with the proposed designs; she said that other design sources include historic print portraits and Presidential medals.
Ms. Budow said that the original authorizing legislation specified the text to be included on the coins while providing some flexibility for the location; the design for the previously issued coins has incused the minting year and the text "In God We Trust" and "E Pluribus Unum" on the edge to allow more room on the obverse and reverse for artwork. She explained that recent legislation now requires that the text "In God We Trust" be placed on a face of the coins and the Mint has chosen to place it on the obverse. She presented the revised template for the obverse that will be used for all subsequent coins in the series, noting that this revised template has not yet been incorporated into the design alternatives in the current submission. She also indicated the revised design for the edge with the addition of thirteen stars to replace the removed text and separate the remaining text "E Pluribus Unum" from the minting year.
Ms. Budow showed eight alternative designs for the coin honoring William Henry Harrison. Mr. McKinnell commented that the image in Design #2 is closest to the official portrait. Ms. Budow clarified that the alternative designs are based on a variety of portrait sources. Ms. Nelson commented that Designs #7 and #8 are strong; Ms. Balmori agreed.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that portraits on coins have historically used the subject's profile, which is much more effective than reproducing a photographic or painted portrait. He said that none of the proposed designs is compelling; Ms. Balmori agreed. Ms. Nelson said that Design #8 has a stronger graphic quality. Ms. Balmori suggested that the Commission recommend a profile. Ms. Budow said that the Mint would consider the recommendation, and she explained that another design review committee had also asked to see additional alternatives.
Mr. Belle joined Ms. Nelson in supporting Design #8. Mr. Luebke noted that William Henry Harrison was the oldest person to be elected President until modern times; Ms. Nelson said that his older appearance in Design #8 would therefore be appropriate.
Ms. Nelson asked the Commission members to vote on Design #2 or #8 or none. Mr. McKinnell and Ms. Nelson voted to recommend Design #2; Ms. Balmori, Mr. Belle, and Mr. Rybczynski declined to support any of the alternatives. Mr. Luebke said that he would report the Commission's majority decision not to recommend any design along with the minority support for Design #2.
Ms. Budow presented eight alternative designs for John Tyler. Mr. McKinnell commented that the most compelling designs are those closest to a profile—Designs #1, 2, 6, and 8—demonstrating the appropriateness of Mr. Rybczynski's suggestion to use profiles. Ms. Nelson expressed support for Design #8; Mr. McKinnell and Mr. Belle agreed. Ms. Nelson also commented favorably on the simplicity of Design #1 which has less emphasis on the bow around the neck. Mr. Rybczynski agreed that the complex form of the bow is a distraction in many of the alternatives. Ms. Nelson verified the actual size of the coin and said that Design #1 would be best at that scale. Mr. Belle commented that Design #1 is also preferable because it shows a center part to the hair, rather than the varying right or left part shown in the other designs. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle, the Commission recommended Design #1.
Ms. Budow presented nine alternative designs for the James Polk coin. Ms. Balmori commented that the designs are again disappointing due to the lack of a profile portrait. Ms. Nelson said that the clothing is again a distracting element. Mr. Luebke noted that there is apparently not a wide range of source material available for the portrait; Ms. Budow said that the amount of source material will grow for future coins as the historical period moves into the age of photography. Ms. Balmori declined to support any of the alternatives; the other Commission members agreed, with several members commenting that Design #4 is particularly objectionable. Mr. Rybczynski said that the artists should have given more attention to the face and less to the clothing, adding that there is an apparent reliance on a source image that shows Polk wearing a dramatic high collar. Ms. Nelson said that Design #2 shows slightly more care in the depiction of Polk's face. Ms. Balmori reiterated her concern that the portraiture and coin design are not good in any of the alternatives. Ms. Budow said that the Mint advised the artists that their renderings are intended as blueprints for the sculptor who will create the coin. Ms. Nelson summarized the Commission's consensus not to offer a recommendation in favor of any of the submitted alternatives.
Ms. Budow presented nine alternative designs for Zachary Taylor. Mr. Belle commented that Designs #5 and #9 have an interesting frontal view with a penetrating stare, giving a unique quality to the portrait. Mr. McKinnell noted that Design #2 is closest to Taylor's official White House portrait. Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori said that the best alternative at the scale of this coin is Design #1, but Ms. Balmori added that all of the alternatives are again of poor quality. Mr. Rybczynski and Mr. McKinnell agreed to support Design #1; Mr. Rybczynski commented that this portrait suggests an appropriately military bearing, and Ms. Nelson said that the portrait would work well as a metallic relief. Mr. Belle agreed to support design #1 while reiterating his interest in Designs #4 and #9. Ms. Nelson concluded the discussion by summarizing the Commission's consensus in favor of Design #1.
3. CFA 17/JAN/08-3, Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial One-Cent Coin Redesign Program for 2009. Seventeen new and seven previously shown reverse designs representing Aspect 4 (Lincoln's Presidency in Washington, D.C.). Final. (Previous: CFA 20/SEP/07-2.) Ms. Budow reminded the Commission that the four new reverse designs for the Lincoln one-cent coin are part of the 2009 bicentennial celebration of Lincoln's birth. She explained that the seventeen new designs are for the fourth reverse in the series, with each reverse depicting an aspect of Lincoln's life; the fourth aspect covers Lincoln's years as President. The previous seven designs for this reverse, reviewed by the Commission in September 2007, were not accepted by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) but are included again in the current submission as additional alternatives. Ms. Budow said that the CCAC had asked the Mint to create additional designs that would clearly represent Lincoln's presidency and depict him as a wartime president; the CCAC was not satisfied with the previous alternatives showing the U.S. Capitol dome or the cottage at the Soldiers' Home. She said that the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission was also unable to come to a consensus on the design for this reverse.
Ms. Budow presented the seventeen new designs and the seven designs reviewed previously. She explained that the artists were not specifically told to illustrate the war theme, although they received the CCAC's comments. Ms. Nelson said that she continues to support the Commission's previous recommendation for the alternative now numbered as Design #20 with the U.S. Capitol dome under construction. She reiterated the Commission's conclusion that a reverse depicting Lincoln would be inappropriate because the coin will include his portrait on the obverse. She said that the Commission had chosen the dome construction to provide a strong contrast with his image and a metaphor for the rebuilding of the nation; the specific choice of Design #20 was based on its dynamic composition. Ms. Budow explained the concern of the CCAC and the Bicentennial Commission that the image of the construction crane and unfinished dome would not be readily legible to the public. Ms. Nelson acknowledged the concern and suggested further consideration of the cottage at the Soldiers' Home.
The Commission members discussed the small size of the coin, with Ms. Balmori emphasizing the need for a very strong design that could be understood at this scale. She suggested that the coin design, more than the content of the subject matter, is problematic; she objected to the excessive information that the designers have tried to include in the alternatives. Ms. Budow said that the Mint can produce any of the alternatives, while acknowledging that some of the very small details might be difficult to see. She noted the large quantity of production—billions of coins—and the small details of the existing coin's reverse such as the image of Lincoln's statue within the Lincoln Memorial. She also emphasized the educational purpose of the coin series. Ms. Balmori reiterated the need for improved design.
Mr. Rybczynski suggested showing the dome in its completed form which would be more recognizable to the public. He acknowledged the historical accuracy of showing the construction that occurred during Lincoln's presidency, but he noted that the current coin features the Lincoln Memorial which was built many decades later. Mr. Luebke clarified that the dome was completed during Lincoln's presidency, and an image of the completed dome would therefore be historically appropriate. Ms. Nelson summarized that the Commission reiterates its recommendation for the composition of Design #20 and supports a revision to the image of the Capitol dome to show it in its completed form. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission adopted this recommendation.
C. Department of Defense / General Services Administration
CFA 17/JAN/08-4, Armed Forces Retirement Home, 3700 North Capitol Street, N.W. Master plan and redevelopment plan. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/JUL/05-6.) Prior to the presentation, the Commission members inspected the site model showing the proposed development. Mr. Lindstrom then introduced the proposed master plan, explaining that the Commission reviewed a concept submission in July 2005 and had visited the site in July 2006 in conjunction with a submission for alterations to one of the installation's large residential buildings. He distributed printed copies of the presentation slides and introduced Mike McGill of the General Services Administration (GSA) and Timothy Cox, the chief operating officer of the Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH), to begin the presentation.
Mr. McGill explained that GSA is assisting the Armed Forces Retirement Home staff in planning for the site. He described the long history of the facility, dating back to the mid-nineteenth century, which remains a large land parcel in the city despite the sale of some portions that have become sites for other facilities such as the Washington Hospital Center. He summarized the financial support for the facility, including its historic endowment and dues that are paid by active military personnel. He explained that the facility does not normally receive federal appropriations and cannot support the costly care of elderly residents solely from the dues income, putting pressure on the endowment to balance the facility's budget. He explained that the AFRH therefore proposes to generate a future revenue stream from the long-term leasing and development of excess land that is not needed for the facility's operation. The new funds would cover the large cost of restoring and rehabilitating the facility's existing buildings. He added that AFRH also has a residential facility in Mississippi which is currently being rebuilt with federal funds after being destroyed by a hurricane in 2005.
Ms. Balmori asked what parties are involved in the development proposal in addition to GSA and AFRH. Mr. McGill said that the selected developer is Crescent Resources. He explained that GSA assisted AFRH in selecting the developer through a competition; AFRH is now negotiating with Crescent on the final development program.
Mr. Cox explained the legislative and financial history of AFRH, which involved bringing the Washington and Mississippi facilities under combined management in 1991, with a change to outside management in 2002. He said the master plan is intended to provide for development that will allow AFRH to continue its operations without needing further taxpayer money. He explained that the AFRH expenses are also being scrutinized to reduce the need for additional revenue. He said that the residents pay a modest fee that covers only a small portion of the operating expenses; the remaining cost averages $41,000 annually per resident which must be funded by other means.
Mr. Cox explained that the facility currently encompasses 272 acres. Three parcels are proposed for development; the largest, Parcel A, is 77 acres and would be developed over the next fifteen years. Parcels B and C—8 and 25 acres respectively—would be developed in later phases. The area to be retained for AFRH is 125 acres, including approximately 40 acres for a golf course that is on top of a city reservoir. He clarified that the master plan addresses the entire 272-acre site at the request of the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), with emphasis on planning for Parcel A since its development is proposed for the near term. He explained that AFRH operations have been consolidated onto the northern part of the property, and some unneeded facilities are already generating revenues through leasing to such institutions as the Smithsonian Institution and a charter school. He said that AFRH currently houses approximately 1,200 residents, including 250 who were displaced from the Mississippi facility, and a staff of 300. A federal appropriation is being used to rebuild in Mississippi with assistance from GSA; occupancy is anticipated in 2010. Ms. Nelson asked if further growth and additional facilities are anticipated; Mr. Cox said that AFRH is still discussing this question with the Department of Defense.
Ms. Balmori noted the high cost of maintaining the existing facilities and asked if AFRH has considered selling the property and constructing a modern retirement home on a different site. Mr. Cox said that this was considered but ruled out by the Department of Defense due to the property's history and its proximity to related facilities such as the adjacent veterans hospital and other military hospitals in the Washington area.
Mr. Rbyczynski asked about public access to the site. Mr. Cox said that the perimeter of the property is fenced with a single access gate on the northwest. Public access is limited to several categories: visitors of AFRH residents; people going to the charter school; visitors to the cottage used by President Lincoln and the related visitor center, which will soon be open to the public on guided tours for small groups; and non-resident members of the golf course. Mr. Belle asked why access to the property is restricted. Mr. Cox responded that the site is a private residence for 1,200 people, not a public park. He explained that a fence line would be relocated to accommodate access to the new development; for Parcel A, the public would have access to the entire 77 acres, including 20 acres of park.
Mr. Belle said that the master plan would effectively create a private gated community within the site; Mr. Cox explained that the property has already been gated for 65 years. Mr. Belle asked if the proposed new housing would be included in the gated residential area. Mr. Cox clarified that new housing on the development parcels would be in the public area of the property, not within the fenced AFRH community. Mr. Belle asked whether the realigned fence would prevent AFRH residents from having access to the open space included in Parcel A; Mr. Cox responded that the fence would include gates that the residents could use with special access cards, so that residents would continue to have access to open space and walking trails throughout the site.
Mr. Cox described several highlights of the master plan. He explained that Parcel A includes nine historic buildings, partially visible from North Capitol Street, that will be restored for use as a hotel, conference, and education center. He emphasized the numerous meetings with review agencies and community groups. He showed the timeline for development and the process for selecting the developer. He then introduced architect Susie Kim of Koetter Kim & Associates to present further details of the master plan.
Ms. Kim emphasized the special historical and physical qualities of the site. She noted the site's position on the north axis of the U.S. Capitol and the location along the transition from the planned axial pattern of the L'Enfant city and its extensions to an outlying picturesque utopian character. The design challenge for the master plan has therefore been to define areas that should not be built up as well as to identify development locations. She emphasized the varying character of areas adjacent to the site, including cemeteries, a residential neighborhood, a group of hospitals, and the campus of Catholic University. She characterized the site as having a patchwork of different characteristics; the master plan is intended to link these varying areas together rather than to impose a uniform development pattern.
Ms. Kim then described how the site would be divided into two distinct major areas: the AFRH facility, which has a series of characteristic areas including buildings clustered on the north and the golf course toward the southwest; and Parcel A on the southeast, the largest of the development parcels. The concept for Parcel A includes a large pasture-like open space to relate to the adjacent AFRH area, with development pushed toward the periphery of the site. She emphasized the balance between respecting the delicate character of the property and moving forward with a new concept rather than "mummifying history."
Ms. Kim explained that Parcels A, B, and C would each have its own identity and design restrictions. She clarified that these private development areas would be open to the public, while the areas used by AFRH would not have public access. She acknowledged that the appearance of the fence between these areas will be important. She discussed the issue of whether the development parcels should appear to be an extension of nearby neighborhoods or whether the entire installation should retain a distinct identity. She said that the community consensus was that the neighborhood grid of streets to the west and northwest should not be extended into the development parcels. Toward the south and east, where the context is much less urban in character, the proposed development pattern is intended to create an urban district.
Ms. Kim described the view corridors that have shaped the master plan, including views from within the property and views from other locations. The proposed building heights were determined using mockups with balloons; consideration was given to long-distance views relating to the Washington Monument and the Catholic University campus.
Ms. Kim said that the master plan has evolved to reduce density on Parcels B and C and increase density on Parcel A, which is planned for approximately four million square feet of development. She said that most of this development would be housing or hotels along with retail. Development in Parcel B, at the southwest corner of the installation, could be housing or offices; she noted the presence of a beautiful stream in this area. The development would total 880,000 square feet on the eight-acre site. Parcel C would be developed with approximately 500,000 square feet on 27 acres. Parking would generally be in structures or underground; surface parking lots would not be provided.
Mr. Cox explained that access to Parcel A would be from Irving Street using an existing traffic light at First Street, N.W., and from North Capitol Street using the existing overpass leading to a gate that has been closed since 2001. The street pattern within Parcel A could connect to both of these access points.
Ms. Nelson asked about the existing security fence for the property. Ms. Kim explained that some of the existing fencing would be improved in appearance by removing the barbed wire on top. Mr. Belle asked how the street pattern in the proposed development areas would relate to the adjacent neighborhoods. Ms. Kim and Mr. Cox emphasized that the neighbors and D.C. government do not want a strong relationship; the intention is to have the new development areas look distinctly different and new. Ms. Kim explained that part of the northwestern boundary is the historic route along Rock Creek Church Road that Lincoln used to reach his cottage on the site, resulting in a desire to retain the historic character of that road. Ms. Kim and Mr. Cox described some of the varying boundary and fence proposals around the site; due to the historic preservation issues involved, Mr. Cox introduced Tim Sheckler of the General Services Administration to provide further details.
Mr. Sheckler explained that the historic wrought-iron fence along a southwestern portion of the site perimeter will remain. Since the proposed development pattern will eliminate the need for security fencing in this area, the historic fence will be altered to provide several openings for pedestrian access. In other areas that will become open to public access, non-historic chain-link perimeter fencing will be removed. A new fence line will be established further within the site along the boundary between the development parcels and the remaining AFRH facilities. Ms. Kim explained that this fence is required in order to protect the AFRH residents from the public; she showed examples of the types of fencing that are encouraged in the master plan. She also noted the varied topography along the western perimeter that would create difficulty in extending local streets directly into the site.
Ms. Kim showed diagrams of the proposed street types in the development parcels. She described the proposal for Pershing Drive in Parcel A, with its mature existing street trees to be retained by redesigning the narrow road as a boulevard with a median park containing a bike path and the mature trees. She showed the proposed parking areas, including separate parking structures, underground parking, and parking on the lower floors of buildings.
Ms. Kim and Mr. Cox gave an overview of the portion of the property to be retained by AFRH. Existing surface parking lots in this area would eventually be consolidated into two parking garages. A new residential building would be constructed for independent living on the site of a recently demolished building. Scott Hall, a large existing residential building, would be renovated to provide assisted living and long-term care. Additional building sites have been identified for independent living facilities if needed, including sites for low-scale residential buildings in the Chapel Woods area. Minor adjustments would be made to the golf course layout to accommodate the development parcels.
Ms. Kim briefly summarized the design guidelines for the parcels. Building heights in Parcel A would reach 85 feet with setbacks at 65 and 45 feet. The buildings would be below the existing sightline from the elevated historic AFRH areas. Ms. Nelson asked if the revenues might be sufficient that development could be limited to Parcel A with no development on Parcels B and C. Mr. Cox said that the master plan is intended to guide long-range potential development of the entire site; the amount and type of development to be implemented will depend on market conditions in the coming decades. The proposed mix of residential, commercial, and institutional uses can be adjusted to respond to future market conditions. He said that if the income stream is sufficient from development on Parcel A then the development of B and C will not be necessary; the master plan is therefore much more schematic for Parcels B and C. Ms. Kim added that the development of public uses on all three parcels would help to integrate the overall site and surrounding neighborhoods. Mr. Cox explained that the master plan includes a bicyclist and pedestrian trail on the south edge of the site where there are currently no sidewalks, so implementation of the master plan beyond Parcel A will help to improve connections between surrounding areas and the public open space within Parcel A.
Ms. Nelson commented that the proposed development pattern for Parcel C appears inappropriately suburban in character; she expressed a preference for not constructing this development. Mr. McKinnell emphasized the great contrast in density between the development proposed for Parcels A and C; he questioned whether the proposal for Parcel C would generate significant revenue and suggested that this building area instead be included in Parcel A. He asked whether the low-density proposal for Parcel C was simply the developer's placeholder for a future proposal involving much denser development. Mr. McGill explained that the selected developer is working only on Parcel A; the future developers for Parcels B and C will be chosen through separate processes. He acknowledged that earlier discussions for the master plan showed higher density in Parcels B and C but this was substantially reduced in response to comments from NCPC and the D.C. government. He said that development for only Parcel A is currently being pursued; at NCPC's request, the master plan also shows a development concept for Parcels B and C. Mr. McKinnell asked if the density for Parcels B and C is open-ended or would be capped at the level shown in the master plan; Mr. McGill responded that the master plan shows the maximum development that would occur on these parcels.
Mr. Belle commented that the master plan does not fulfill the intention of addressing the entire site; he characterized the proposal as a series of sub-area plans rather than an overall master plan. He noted that there is no new proposal for the center portion of the site; Mr. Cox said that this is intentional due to the historic importance of that area. Ms. Kim emphasized the master planning decision to concentrate development in certain areas in order to leave the central portion of the property undeveloped. Mr. Belle said that this decision results in high-quality open space that has little relation to the high-density built area. He criticized the resulting lack of usefulness of the open space, noting such additional problems as the fence that would surround the golf course. Ms. Kim explained that the golf course would be on the AFRH side of the fence, while the large "pasture" space would be part of the development on Parcel A; the visual connection between these open spaces would remain.
Mr. Belle asked if other concepts for the master plan were presented in the previous review in 2005. Mr. Cox said that five alternatives had been shown; all had the same general approach of retaining the historic northern portion of the site for AFRH facilities and developing portions of the remaining campus while not developing the golf course area including the underground reservoir. He said that the AFRH residents wanted to retain their facility's campus setting rather than convert it to an urban landscape. He explained that earlier concepts for extensive development areas have been consolidated into smaller higher-density areas that allow retention of the open space that has historically characterized the site. He emphasized several features of the master plan: providing public access to extensive open-space areas that are not currently accessible; concentrating development in the less sensitive areas adjacent to high-speed roads and the existing hospitals; and protecting the historic northern area of the property.
Mr. McKinnell asked for clarification of the amount of residential space proposed for Parcel A. Mr. Cox said that approximately 3 million square feet of residential space would be included in the total of 4.3 million square feet of development in Parcel A. Mr. McKinnell commented that the form of the buildings shown in the model suggests predominantly office, rather than residential, use; he added that the form of residential buildings shown for Parcel C is entirely different. He asked whether the master plan provides further information about which of the development sites in Parcel A would be used for residential buildings, emphasizing that such decisions would greatly affect the character of the area. Mr. Sheckler responded that the intention is to create concentrated areas such as office space and retail space; the residential space would be concentrated in the central portion of the Parcel A development. Mr. McKinnell asked about the building heights in this area. Mr. Sheckler said they would range from 65 to 100 feet, depending on whether they include ground-floor retail space, but the number of floors is limited to eight. He confirmed that the residential buildings would frame the courtyard spaces shown in the master plan.
Ms. Balmori asked for further information about the proposed office space in Parcel A. Mr. Sheckler said that the office buildings would be located primarily along the south edge of the site, near the adjacent hospital campus, and would most likely be used for medical offices. Buildings would again be limited to eight stories, with heights up to 120 feet due to the high interior clearance needed for medical uses. He noted that some existing buildings on the adjacent hospital campus exceed this height. Mr. Luebke asked for clarification of the configuration of parking for these buildings. The members of the project team explained that there would be varying combinations of underground parking beneath buildings and three to four levels of above-ground parking.
Ms. Kim explained that her firm created the master plan before the developer was selected. The master plan therefore depicts flexible development sites and design guidelines that could be adapted to a variety of uses, with an emphasis on such topics as the street hierarchy, access, and visibility rather than the use of the sites. Subsequently, she said the selected developer has decided to emphasize residential development, adding that the development sites closest to the hospital campus are intentionally sized to accommodate medical research uses such as laboratories. She acknowledged that the master plan's courtyard configuration of some sites was not designed with the expectation of residential uses, so further study may be needed to adapt these configurations to the developer's residential proposal; she said the proposed overall block size is already appropriate for residential or commercial use. She suggested that the actual uses could relate to the context, such as constructing student housing relating to the Catholic University campus on the east; she said that such interconnected uses would help to overcome the isolated character of the AFRH property.
Ms. Nelson said she thought the master plan is not yet precise enough to merit the final approval that is requested; she emphasized the importance of the site and its history. Ms. Kim responded that the master plan includes detailed guidance on issues such as the length of buildings in Parcel A and maintaining sufficient porosity for pedestrian movement. Ms. Balmori said that this porosity, particularly at the overall scale of the AFRH property, results in a series of isolated islands across the site; she acknowledged that some of these concerns result from the basic decisions about how to treat the AFRH site rather than the specific development pattern shown in the master plan. She reiterated her suggestion to consider moving the retirement housing to a different location and using the AFRH site for some other purpose with an innovative overall design concept. Ms. Nelson agreed that the master plan concept is not sympathetic to the overall integrity of the site.
Mr. McGill responded by describing GSA's master plan for the Suitland Federal Center, which includes innovative buildings of greatly varying architectural styles. GSA treats the area as a master-planned community with coordinated access, management, and uses, while the development of individual parcels can be adapted to meet future needs. He said that the AFRH property has already been broken up by past changes such as the creation of the hospital complex on the south; the current master plan identifies other portions of the property that can be developed without altering the primary configuration of historic buildings, open spaces, and views that characterize the institution. The proposal to reconfigure the fence line is a response to the adjacent community's desire to have access to some of the property's open space resources as well as potential retail space that is not plentiful elsewhere in the neighborhood. He emphasized that the south and east edges of the campus are already unsympathetic to the pastoral quality of AFRH due to the hospitals and the highway configuration of North Capitol Street. On the west side of the AFRH property, adjacent to existing residential areas, potential lower-density residential development is shown in response to the community's preference.
Mr. Rybczynski said that he agrees with these master plan concepts and does not share some of the concerns of the other members. However, he said that the urban character suggested for Parcel A is unconvincing and has the uninspiring appearance of downtown Washington at a slightly lower scale. He suggested that a better vision be conceived for the site and that more conviction is needed; the result should be "magical," but instead appears ordinary. As one example, he agreed that the highway scale of North Capitol Street characterizes the eastern edge of the property, while the development sites appear to face this edge in the same way they face the attractive open space toward the center of the property. He also said the treatment of Pershing Drive is creative but the road doesn't lead anywhere and is built on only one side, undermining its qualities as an urban boulevard. Mr. Cox offered to let the developer provide further design details; Mr. Rybczynski said that the need is for a more inspired concept rather than more detailed information.
Mr. Belle summarized the consensus that the master plan needs further work and could not be approved as a final submission. Mr. McKinnell and Ms. Balmori agreed. Mr. Cox responded that the proposal has evolved over four years with extensive public comments and agency reviews, so he would be reluctant to introduce a completely new site concept that would need to go through this process again.
Mr. McKinnell clarified that the Commission could reluctantly accept the proposed overall organization of the property but was not satisfied with the more detailed design concepts shown in the master plan. He summarized the issues for Parcel A, including the amount and distribution of uses, the treatment of streets, and the relation of the development to varying adjacent conditions. He said that approval of the master plan would mean that development could occur exactly as shown in the drawings, which would not be a desirable outcome; he reiterated the Commission's view that this important site deserves a more inspired treatment. He compared the project's potential to Regent's Park in London, where a 19th-century real-estate development venture produced a wonderful grouping of buildings and open space. Ms. Kim responded that the developer of Regent's Park, John Nash, also designed the buildings; in contrast, the master plan for this project is separate from the eventual programming and design of the buildings. Mr. McKinnell acknowledged the difficulty of planning for an uncertain future while reiterating that the proposed urban forms could nonetheless be improved.
Ms. Nelson suggested that the Commission incorporate its comments into a motion. Mr. Rybczynski suggested that the Commission request a revised submission for Parcel A rather than a revised master plan for the entire AFRH property. Ms. Balmori said that Parcels B and C should also be studied further and resubmitted. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider the Walker-Jones School (item II.E).
E. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
CFA 17/JAN/08-6, Walker-Jones School, public library and community recreation center, New Jersey Avenue and Pierce Street, N.W. New building for school, library, and community recreation center. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 15/NOV/07-7.) Mr. Simon said that the revised submission is a response to the Commission's comments from the November 2007 meeting. He introduced Erika Lehman of Regan Associates, a consultant to the D.C. Deputy Mayor's office, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Lehman said that the project team has responded quickly to the Commission's comments because the goal is to begin construction in May so that the building may open in August 2009. She introduced architect Peter Winebrenner of Hord Coplan Macht to present the design.
Mr. Winebrenner gave an overview of the project with emphasis on changes since the previous review. The project includes a public school for pre-kindergarten through 8th grade, a public library, and a community recreation center with a gymnasium that will be shared with the school. The site is bounded by New Jersey Avenue and Pierce, L, and First Streets, N.W. The project is part of the D.C. government's larger plan for redevelopment of the Northwest One area. The proposed site configuration is unchanged; he said that some refinements have been made to the landscape design and this will be developed further for the final submission. The school will be in three- to four-story wings on the north and west, with the cafeteria on the northeast; the library will be at the southwest corner of the site at New Jersey Avenue and L Street; and the recreation center will face L Street on the south. Playing fields and a walking path will occupy the eastern half of the site, with smaller playground areas within the courtyard formed by the building wings. Eighteen angled parking spaces are proposed along L Street; the intention is to place the remainder of the needed parking for the school on a District-owned parcel on the south side of L Street, subject to further D.C. approvals. He presented the floor plans and described the twelve-foot change in grade across the site. He indicated the two entrances to the school for use by the different age groups of the students; the main entrance would face New Jersey Avenue as a gesture toward this major frontage. He showed the organization of the school wings into masonry-clad masses separated by glass-enclosed "gaskets" containing entrances and staircases. Several roof areas may be planted to help with stormwater management; one of these green roofs would be accessible from a science classroom and will be available for educational use.
Ms. Nelson asked about the east-west orientation of the entrance hall set at an angle to New Jersey Avenue. Mr. Winebrenner said that the hall's orientation was revised to add extra interest to this main entrance area. Mr. Belle asked about the unusual location of the fire stair within the third-floor media center. Mr. Winebrenner explained that this stair provides an exit for fourth-floor classrooms as well as for the media center; another staircase nearby provides an exit for all floors, including the remaining classrooms on the third floor. He explained that the distribution of classrooms and shared activity areas, as well as the location of stairwells, has been designed to allow the different age groups to reach the various parts of the building without disturbing students in other classrooms.
Mr. Winebrenner explained revisions to the facades in response to the Commission's previous comment that the complex elevations and costly exterior materials could be difficult to execute within the limited budget. The design has been simplified to two masonry types: a darker reddish-brown brick on the upper floors and a lighter buff-colored masonry below. The glazing of the double-height library has been simplified and now includes a fiberglass mesh inside the glass to provide shading and diffusion of the sunlight. Ms. Lehman clarified that this mesh replaces the metal screen that was shown in the previous submission. She also said that the final material selection for the lighter masonry has not yet been determined; a higher-quality material may be feasible. Mr. Winebrenner indicated the bright orange color that has been introduced at the metal entrance canopies to provide emphasis; Ms. Nelson said that this appears to be the appropriate amount of bright color for the design. Mr. Belle asked about the facades of the gymnasium and cafeteria; Mr. Winebrenner explained that these areas would use a reversed pattern of the two masonry colors used elsewhere on the building.
Mr. Winebrenner showed the revised window pattern that is more regular than the previously submitted elevation. He explained that the renderings show a slight protrusion for the windows but this is being changed to a slight recess—approximately two inches—due to cost considerations. Mr. Belle emphasized the desirability of at least a slight change in plane for the windows, rather than setting them flush with the facade, so that a shadow is created. Mr. Winebrenner offered to study an increased recess depth for the windows. Ms. Nelson asked if the depiction of windows in the renderings suggests the presence of scrims with graphic images against the glass; Mr. Winebrenner explained that this appearance is due to a rendering technique intended to suggest the activity that will be visible behind the glass. Mr. Rybczynski asked if the windows will extend from floor to ceiling. Mr. Winebrenner and Ms. Lehman said that the windows start eighteen inches above the floor and extend to slightly beneath the ceiling, with an overall dimension of eight feet square. Mr. Rybczynski asked if this window size is sufficient, commenting that classrooms traditionally have extensive areas of window. Ms. Lehman said that the D.C. school authorities are satisfied with the design; Mr. Winebrenner said that the window sizing is a balance between lighting needs, facade design, and the desire of teachers for useful wall space within the classrooms.
Mr. Belle asked about air-conditioning equipment for the building. Mr. Winebrenner and Ms. Lehman said that air conditioning will be included; the choice of mechanical equipment is currently being evaluated so the details of its design and location—possibly on the rooftop—have not been finalized.
Mr. Winebrenner showed additional rendered perspectives of the project. Mr. McKinnell asked about the apparent use of three masonry colors. Ms. Lehman explained that only two colors are proposed, but the shadowing technique for the rendering results in the appearance of additional color variety. Mr. Winebrenner confirmed that the lighter masonry will be used for the lower portion of the school wings and for the gymnasium and cafeteria.
Mr. McKinnell asked about the materials for the retaining walls and exterior steps included in the site design. Ms. Lehman said these are currently being priced as cast-in-place concrete. Ms. Balmori asked about the materials for the courtyard playground. Ms. Lehman said the material would be a soft playing surface that hasn't yet been selected; she said it could be colorful and would not be a hard asphalt. Ms. Balmori suggested placing a tree in this area to provide shade; Mr. Belle and Ms. Nelson agreed. Mr. Winebrenner said that he would work with the project's landscape architect to make this revision.
Mr. Winebrenner showed samples of the masonry being considered; he said that the selection is still being evaluated for cost. He showed one type of brick being considered for the darker walls that is produced in units with a portion set back, creating a basket-weave texture and shadow pattern across the wall. Mr. Rybczynski said that it would be important to use this patterned masonry unit to avoid a bland surface across the large masses of the building; he recommended that this material be a priority in evaluating the budget constraints, adding that the basket-weave effect is more important than the massing articulations in contributing to the building's success. Ms. Balmori, Mr. Belle, and Ms. Nelson agreed that the basket-weave brick pattern would be important to maintain in the final design for the darker walls. Mr. Luebke asked for further information about the light-colored masonry. Ms. Lehman said that a brick or larger-scale masonry unit would be used; a stone finish is also being considered but may be too expensive. Ms. Balmori cautioned that larger units may have the undesirable appearance of concrete blocks. Mr. Winebrenner acknowledged the concern and said that one size being considered is one foot by two feet, rather than the typical concrete block dimension of eight by sixteen inches. He said that the size, treatment of joints, bond pattern, and surface would all be carefully chosen to avoid the appearance of a concrete block wall. Ms. Balmori said that these details should be shown to the Commission in the next submission. Ms. Lehman acknowledged that the Commission's previous concern about cost constraints was helpful during the subsequent revisions to the design. Mr. Winebrenner said that the elimination of a stone finish for the lighter masonry may provide the cost savings needed to allow selection of the basket-weave pattern for the darker walls; Ms. Balmori and Mr. Belle agreed that this would be a worthwhile trade-off. Mr. McKinnell expressed support for the proportions and pattern of the masonry as well as for the overall composition of the building; he agreed that the basket-weave pattern would be important to retain in the design. Ms. Lehman agreed to focus on the mechanical system design as a better source of cost savings, subject to the necessary comfort of the building.
Mr. Belle summarized the Commission's comments supporting the overall site planning and building organization as well as the details such as material selection. The Commission approved the revised concept subject to the concerns that were discussed.
Following the lunch break, the Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.D.
D. General Services Administration
CFA 17/JAN/08-5, Southeast Federal Center (The Yards), between 2nd and 5th Streets, S.E. Phase I designs for 5.6-acre waterfront park. Concept. (Previous: CFA 19/JUL/07-1.) Mr. Simon explained that the park is part of the commercial and residential development at the Southeast Federal Center that the Commission reviewed in July 2007; the park will also be part of the Anacostia Riverwalk system. To begin the presentation, he introduced Mike McGill of the General Services Administration (GSA) which has arranged the public-private partnership for development of the federally owned site.
Mr. McGill reminded the Commission members of their concern in the July review that the planned waterfront park would not receive as much design attention and scheduling priority as the proposed buildings; the current submission demonstrates the development team's commitment to creating a well-designed waterfront park. He introduced landscape architects Paul Friedberg and Rick Parisi of M. Paul Friedberg and Partners along with Alex Nyhan of Forest City Washington, the developer of the project. Mr. Nyhan introduced other members of the project team who would be available for further questions.
Mr. Parisi described the development planned for Southeast Federal Center and the nearby blocks, totaling 10,000 new residential units and ten million square feet of office space. He noted the multiple transportation modes serving the area, including a Metrorail station, bus lines, and the pedestrian and bicycle routes of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. He described the development project, called "The Yards," with a 42-acre site that will contain 5,000 new residential units, office and retail space, and the waterfront park currently submitted for review. He said the overall development is intended to be inviting and pedestrian-friendly with many sustainable design features; for example, the waterfront park will have its own stormwater retention system.
Mr. Friedberg emphasized the large population that will soon be living in the vicinity of the proposed park, possibly totaling 30,000 residents. Mr. Rybczynski asked about the status of the nearby area being redeveloped under the federal HOPE VI program. Mr. Nyhan responded that this project is still under construction; it will contain approximately 1,700 housing units and will include some lower-income residents.
Mr. Parisi showed the access routes to the park: New Jersey Avenue to the northwest which stops at the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) facility immediately to the west of the park; 3rd Street which leads directly into the park; 4th and 5th Streets which lead to edges of the park; and the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. Mr. Friedberg added that the docks will provide for access from water taxis. Mr. Parisi said that the park includes 1,100 linear feet of frontage on the Anacostia River and encompasses 5.87 acres of open space. Mr. Luebke noted that the context map includes the location of Diamond Teague Park, recently reviewed by the Commission, several blocks to the west in the vicinity of the baseball stadium currently under construction.
Mr. Friedberg showed how the curve of the Anacostia River focuses attention on a particular point toward the western portion of the park's waterfront. This location will be emphasized with a vertical feature that has not yet been designed; he explained that this location is also prominently visible from the approach to the park along 3rd Street, S.E. He described the difficult topography of the site, which varies from 5 to 13.5 feet above the sea-level datum. Many existing riverfront features would be retained at their various existing heights, while the buildings to the north must all have a ground plane of at least 13 feet to be above the anticipated flood level. He described the dramatic character of the riverfront and the scarcity of riverfront developments in the Washington area; he said that the park design therefore emphasizes connections to the water. He also described the park's irregular boundary that results in two major open-space opportunities within the generally linear orientation of the site. Mr. Parisi indicated the existing and proposed buildings that will relate to the park and define its boundaries, including the lumber shed building that will be adapted for retail use and the two new retail pavilions proposed along Water and 4th Streets. He said the design intent of the pavilions is to suggest retail space within the park rather than on the park's edge, with the pavilions being designed to allow easy pedestrian movement between the park and the nearby streets and neighborhood. He noted that the pavilions will not fill the entire development zone that is permitted by the master plan.
Mr. Parisi showed the pier areas that will be built in a later phase of construction; the piers will add almost a quarter-acre of open space to the park. Mr. Friedberg explained that the continuity of the riverwalk trail across the riverfront WASA facility will require the creation of a walkway over the water to connect this waterfront park on the east with Diamond Teague Park on the west; this walkway is not within the scope of the currently submitted project but the park design will accommodate this future connection.
Mr. Belle asked about the building uses along the edges of the park. Mr. Parisi and Mr. Friedberg responded that these are primarily residential buildings with retail at the base; the proposed Water Street, which partially extends along the north side of the park, is envisioned as being commercial in character, and the few buildings on the south side of Water Street in this area—the historic lumber shed and the two proposed pavilions—will be entirely retail. Ms. Balmori asked if the amount of retail space in these buildings has increased since the previous review. Pat Daniels, the project executive for GSA, responded that the original master plan included a site for another new building in this area, but this proposal was subsequently removed due to an objection from the D.C. Office of Planning. She said that the size of the proposed retail pavilions is considerably less than the amount of development permitted by the master plan for that location.
Ms. Nelson asked which streets would be used for festivals. Mr. Parisi responded that the easiest street for frequent closures would be River Street, a new street proposed at the eastern edge of the river frontage; he said that this street will be privately owned by the development and can be closed to traffic more easily than the publicly owned streets in other parts of the project. Water Street, further west and inland from the river, can also be used occasionally for special events. He explained the earlier design intention to have both of these streets be pedestrian-only, helping to extend the park to the buildings on the north; however, the D.C. Department of Transportation required that Water Street be generally available for traffic. The street is therefore now designed with curbs, crosswalks, and special pavers. With District-issued permits for temporary closure, Water Street would add two acres of open space that can be used for special events. Mr. Friedberg emphasized that both of these streets can be partially or fully closed to vehicles while still maintaining access to the nearby buildings; traffic movement would not be significantly affected. Mr. Belle asked whether a decision not to close the street would be problematic; Mr. Parisi said this would not be a problem since the closing of the street would only provide an optional added benefit.
Mr. Friedberg explained the proposal to create a large water pool in the park; the water would be controlled and treated so that human contact could be encouraged, unlike the river water which he said is contaminated. The pool would serve functional as well as visual purposes; it could be a place for people to use toy boats and could be used for skating during the winter.
Mr. Parisi explained the varying heights of the existing bulkheads, which will be retained. Their range of 4.3 to 9 feet above the sea level datum results in a complicated system of walkway levels for the bulkhead area. Mr. Friedberg explained that one segment of the waterfront toward the west end of the park, between a small existing inlet and the proposed pool, would have a pedestrian bridge at the 13-foot level above a pedestrian walkway at the 5-foot level. Nearby park areas would handle the grade change through terracing or slopes with ramped walkways; he added that none of the park's walkways will be steep enough to require railings.
Mr. Parisi and Mr. Friedberg provided more details on the various zones of the park; Mr. Parisi explained that the concept of organizing the park into multiple zones results from the topographic constraints of the site. Mr. Friedberg showed the proposed perennial garden on the east end of the park and the stepped lawn toward the center that would serve as an amphitheater facing the river; the stepped lawn could be programmed for special events with seating for 2,000 people on the lawn and steps. A plaza and grove of trees would be placed near the retail pavilions, which would have park-related retail such as restaurants with outdoor dining. An elevated overlook south of the lumber shed building would connect to the pedestrian bridge leading to the park's western area, which would be dominated by a great lawn. Additional smaller-scale gardens would be located adjacent to some of the larger features, and the north end of the pool would include a waterfall adjacent to a plaza at the terminus of 3rd Street which Mr. Parisi said will serve as the park's main entrance plaza.
Mr. Parisi indicated the east-west bicycle route that will be signed to follow the adjacent streets; bicyclists may also choose to go through the park following signs posted instructing bicyclists to dismount through the park to avoid conflicts with pedestrians. Mr. Friedberg added that the pedestrian bridge was originally conceived as a bicycling bridge when D.C. officials were requesting a bicycle route across the park; when the proposed bicycle route was changed, the bridge remained in the design as a pedestrian circulation amenity and visual icon for the park.
Mr. Belle asked for further information on the approaches to the park from the nearby residential and commercial areas, commenting that the approach routes should influence the design of spaces within the park. Mr. Friedberg said that local residents and employees would approach the park from nearby buildings along a variety of routes; the Metrorail station to the northwest would be relatively minor as a source of visitors because the park would primarily attract people who are already in the area. The retail areas at the edges of the park would also draw people. He explained that these approach routes are primarily from the north; access is constricted by the secured Navy Yard on the east and the WASA facility on the west, so the only significant east-west connections would be along the waterfront promenade.
Mr. Parisi showed renderings of the park, including a night view of the illuminated pedestrian bridge which is intended to be a major visual feature. He said that lighting in the park will generally be indirect to avoid light pollution. The proposal for the vertical feature will likely include special lighting; most other lighting will be set between trees. Mr. Friedberg added that the vertical feature will be designed as a counterpoint to the horizontal emphasis of the pedestrian bridge. He said that the design team is working to revise the bridge's structural elements to be thinner than those shown in the renderings.
Mr. Parisi showed a view of the park as one enters through the space between the two proposed retail pavilions. Mr. Nyhan noted that the design of the retail pavilions is not part of the current submission and will be presented to the Commission at a later date; Mr. Luebke added that the Commission members could comment on the footprint and location of these pavilions in relation to the park design, even though the architecture of the pavilions has not been fully developed. Ms. Nelson asked if different positioning of the pavilions would provide a better view for those approaching the park. Mr. Friedberg said that the pavilions are positioned to mark one end of a diagonal path that leads to the vertical feature on the waterfront.
Mr. Friedberg described some of the proposed plantings, including tall grass that would be high enough to conceal a railing along areas of significant grade shifts. Plantings will be chosen to bloom at varying times of the year. He described the intention of having a kayak rental concession near the overlook area, encouraging people to go out onto the river; the space underneath the raised overlook could be used for boat storage. Mr. Parisi added that boat rentals and temporary cafe kiosks would be appropriate activities in the low-lying flood-prone areas where permanent buildings are not allowed.
Ms. Nelson asked whether the park will include sufficient shade for the hot months, particularly at the overlook area. Mr. Friedberg confirmed that the overlook will be partially protected by a shade structure; he characterized the overlook as a congregating space but not necessarily a place where people will stay for a long time, so partial shading should be sufficient. He added that the overlook could be used for special events such as weddings. Mr. Parisi pointed out the extensive areas of trees, which he said reflect the lessons learned from the firm's work on the open space of New York's Battery Park City. Mrs. Nelson agreed that shade should be plentiful; Ms. Balmori added that Washington is much hotter than New York.
Ms. Balmori asked for the ratio of paved and green space in the proposal; Mr. Parisi said he didn't have a specific calculation but estimated approximately sixty percent of the park would be green space. Mr. Friedberg added that the circulation requirements of the site require extensive paved areas.
Mr. Belle asked about the park's visitor capacity in comparison to the number of people living and working in the vicinity. He commented that the design has "a rich mixture of individual spaces" but this organizational approach could constrain the overall capacity. Mr. Friedberg described the capacity of various areas of the park, explaining that this capacity would increase during major gatherings by expanding to include adjacent areas that are visually connected to the park. He added that some areas are intentionally designed to accommodate fewer people to provide a relief from the crowds that might form elsewhere in the park. Mr. Parisi said that programming studies for the great lawn show a capacity of 3,800 people, and the stepped lawn could comfortably accommodate 1,800 to 2,000 people. Mr. Friedberg added that people would accept more crowded conditions, giving a higher capacity, under some circumstances.
Ms. Balmori commented that the garden at the east end of the park is broken into small fragments of planted areas by the extensive path system; and more generally, the overall park is broken into many small areas. She observed that many of the spaces, aside from the great lawn, are similar in size while being very different in character. She acknowledged that most of these spaces appear well designed, aside from the fragmented character of the easternmost garden, but she suggested that a larger scale and more unified design should be considered, particularly along the waterfront which should be characterized by a sweeping expanse of space. Mr. Friedberg responded that the design concept involves bringing visitors through a series of contained spaces leading suddenly to the large scale of the major spaces. He added that the river itself serves as the design's large-scale open space, and the park's landscaping is intended to provide places of retreat from the vast expanse of the river. He acknowledged that other designers might use different concepts for organizing the park. Mr. Parisi added that some of the park's fragmentation is a result of the pattern of adjacent streets and access points as well as the varying topography. Mr. Nyhan said that Forest City Washington would consider the Commission's comments and continue to refine the design.
Mr. McGill responded that one goal for the project is to create a special activity node that would contrast with the general pattern along Washington's waterfronts of sweeping linear parks. He described the great length and relative lack of features in areas such as Anacostia Park and East Potomac Park. He said that the concept for this proposed park, involving a sequence of compression and release, would be a welcome alternative in Washington. Mr. Belle agreed with this principle but said that the issue is whether the concept is applied excessively within this park. Mr. Rybczynski said that he doesn't think the park's complexity is excessive; he acknowledged the consistency of the design and said that efforts at simplification, such as using the same type of tree in the various sections of the park, would not improve the design. He described the park as "incredibly complicated" but acknowledged that this might be the virtue of the design; he recommended that the design go forward as proposed. Mr. Friedberg responded that each of the park's areas will have a simple legibility of its own, and the design of each part responds to the constraints of context and topography. He acknowledged the difficulty, noted by Ms. Balmori, of establishing a character for the easternmost garden. He said that the overall design is intended to achieve an appropriate balance between simplicity and diversity; he presented a series of renderings that illustrate how the experience of the park unfolds as a "linear scenario" to a visitor moving through it. Ms. Balmori reiterated her concern about the complexity of the design and the similar size of many spaces, even with most of the spaces being designed well individually.
Mr. McKinnell and Ms. Nelson asked about the dining and seating areas in the park. Mr. Friedberg showed the areas of outdoor tables and the various locations for benches, which could be used by people bringing food from the retail areas.
Ms. Nelson requested a motion on the project and confirmed that it is submitted as a concept design; she asked whether the Commission members would prefer the next submission to be a revised concept or a final design. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved the concept; Mr. Belle characterized the approval as enthusiastic. Ms. Nelson clarified that the Commission's comments should be included as part of the approval. She added that the relation of the diagonal path to the retail pavilions appears awkward, and she suggested that this could be addressed in the future submission of the design for these pavilions.
Mr. Luebke clarified that this project is submitted pursuant to a Memorandum of Agreement from April 2005 between the Commission and GSA on the Commission's role in the review of projects generated through the unusual public-private partnership for redeveloping the Southeast Federal Center. He said that the agreement provides for the Commission's review through the concept stage; there is therefore no requirement for a subsequent submission after approval of the concept design. Ms. Nelson said she would prefer to see the design again. Mr. Belle said that the Commission could encourage the design team and developer to respond to the Commission's comments, and in particular he suggested that the developer support the construction of a physical model that would facilitate a three-dimensional understanding of the proposed design. Mr. McGill added that the special federal review process for this site reflects the non-federal uses that are proposed, the expectation of non-federal ownership in the future, and the local zoning process that guides this project. He said that the unusual arrangement for this site results from site-specific federal legislation enacted in 2000. He noted that the agreement requires GSA to provide the Commission with a written response concerning any of the Commission's recommendations that are not incorporated into the project; the dialogue with the Commission would therefore continue beyond the concept approval if necessary. He explained that a similar agreement is in effect for review by the National Capital Planning Commission.
Ms. Nelson responded that a continued dialogue would be useful. Mr. McGill said that the comments made by the Commission will be considered throughout the remainder of the design process. He clarified that the overall development of The Yards includes many components; the Commission has now reviewed four buildings and the current park submission, while other portions will be submitted in the future. He further clarified that the future submissions will include the vertical feature of the waterfront park, which was not designed in the current submission.
Mr. McKinnell expressed satisfaction with the decision to approve the concept, commenting that the project is "a remarkable venture" and acknowledging that it would provide a welcome contrast to the dullness of much of the waterfront in Washington. He acknowledged that the design aesthetic for the park may not be shared by others, including himself, but expressed support for the energetic effort to create a special waterfront park. Mr. Friedberg responded that he expects that the completed project will not feel as "chaotic" as it might appear to be from the drawings; he predicted that the park's spaces will have a calm and attractive character. He said that the diversity of the design would be beneficial in this context and provides the opportunity for a variety of activities and design gestures. Ms. Nelson predicted some initial confusion and backtracking as people explore the various levels and connections through the park, while acknowledging that the backtracking of visitors could add to the park's animation. She confirmed that the Commission members were satisfied with their vote to approve the concept notwithstanding the subsequent explanation of the special agreement that the design will not be submitted beyond the concept approval stage.
F. District of Columbia Public Schools
CFA 17/JAN/08-7, Phelps Career Senior High School. 704 26th Street, N.E. Renovation, alterations, and additions. Concept and final. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal to renovate the Phelps Career Senior High School building, which has been vacant since 2001. He described its location in a complex of four schools facing the Langston Golf Course and Anacostia River south of the National Arboretum. He explained that the project is submitted for both concept and final approval due to the tight construction schedule. He introduced Pamela Johnson of Turner Construction Company and architect Ed Schmidt of Fanning Howey to present the design.
Mr. Schmidt said that the school was built in 1923; he explained the history of the building in relation to the grouping of adjacent schools from the same period and in the context of the history of the area during the period of segregated schools and housing. He said that Phelps originally specialized in vocational training with subjects such as carpentry, masonry, and steelwork, resulting in a building configuration with an academic wing for classrooms and two high-bay structures for vocational training. The three-story academic wing faces east toward 26th Street and Langston Golf Course. Behind this wing are the two high-bay structures, which he characterized as masonry-clad "barns" that originally included classroom mezzanines within the open-span structures. He described the building additions and the changes in academic programs over the subsequent decades; a large 1970s addition to the north provided locker rooms and science laboratories. He said the school was closed in 2001 in anticipation of a renovation and a new curriculum, similar to the original one, emphasizing career training in architecture, construction, and engineering in cooperation with local trade unions and professional groups. During the period of closure the building suffered from vandalism and decay, including fire damage.
Mr. Schmidt described the design concept to remove the minor additions that detract from the original character of the building and to create a new glass-roofed circulation spine in the alley between the academic wing and the rear structures. This spine would also connect to the 1970s addition and would become the central organizing element of the school. The original arched windows on the west side of the academic wing would be restored along one wall facing the spine. He said that existing materials would be reused where possible as part of the energy-efficiency standards for the project. The academic building's slate roof and cupola, highly visible from the street, are being restored. The 1970s addition would be re-clad in a style more sympathetic to the original building, and an administrative addition would be built at the south end of the academic wing. Mr. Schmidt said that the administrative addition would encompass approximately 6,000 to 7,000 square feet and would be two stories tall; he clarified that some of the renderings show an earlier proposal for a single-story addition that has been superseded. Ms. Nelson asked about the height of the proposed new construction; Mr. Schmidt responded that the construction would not rise higher than the existing building.
Ms. Nelson asked about the entrance to the building. Mr. Schmidt explained that the south end of the spine would become the building's main entrance. He said that students have traditionally used an existing entrance in that vicinity rather than the architecturally prominent entrance on the front (east) facade of the academic wing. Ms. Balmori and Mr. Belle commented that the proposed entrance seems awkwardly located at the side of the building; Ms. Johnson and Mr. Schmidt explained that the steep topography dropping from the front facade makes that entrance difficult to use even while adding visual prominence to the doorway. Mr. Schmidt confirmed that this historic entrance would be preserved although not used for primary access. Ms. Nelson noted that the school will train students in architecture and construction, making the entrance solution especially unfortunate. Mr. Belle asked if the proposed new main entrance on the south could be described as having the character of a side door. Mr. Schmidt said this would not be the case, since the school's primary entrance has typically been on the south; he noted that the school's identifying signage, the traditional setting for school pictures, has been located at the existing south entrance that is very near the proposed new main entrance. Ms. Johnson reiterated that the site topography prevents easy access to the prominent east entrance. Mr. Belle clarified that he was suggesting an improved design for the new south entrance rather than use of the historic east entrance; he said that the new entrance should be given an appropriate prominence in the design. Mr. Belle suggested that some special feature could help to give suitable emphasis to the new entrance—he gave the example of a flagpole but suggested that a different solution be found. Mr. Schmidt offered to study this issue further. Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson agreed that the proposed entrance looks too insignificant. Ms. Nelson noted the prominent tower proposed as part of the new administrative addition adjacent to the new main entrance; Mr. Schmidt said that this incorporates an existing mechanical tower positioned above the basement boilers. Mr. Rybczynski suggested that the proposed changes to the mechanical tower be redesigned to provide the desired emphasis at the new entrance. Ms. Nelson commented that the school has many horizontal elements so a vertical element would provide the needed emphasis for this entrance.
Mr. Luebke said that the staff had previously expressed concern about the new entrance and mechanical tower, and some of the suggested improvements have already been incorporated into the submitted design. He said that the staff was also concerned about a proposed new wall along the west side of the new spine adjacent to the new main entrance; he explained that the detailing of the wall is an attempt to mimic the traditional design of the existing adjacent wall and questioned the intention of making the new wall appear to be old. Mr. Rybczynski expressed support for the new construction connecting sympathetically with the traditional building; he later clarified that he was supporting the design of the new administrative wing, which Ms. Balmori agreed is appropriately designed. Mr. Schmidt said that he would give further study to the wall on the west side of the new entrance and consider whether it should have the character of a solid wall or of a garden feature, such as an arbor.
Ms. Nelson suggested that the design be revised in response to the Commission's comments with the final review delegated to the staff in order to allow the project schedule to be maintained. Mr. Schmidt offered to work further on the entrance and the tower. Ms. Nelson asked if the brick on the new facades would be compatible with the existing building's brick. Mr. Schmidt said that the material will be similar but the banding pattern will be slightly different including more light-colored features than are used in the existing facades; the intended result is that the new and old construction will clearly appear to be from different time periods. Ms. Nelson agreed that this would be a better solution then trying to extend the historic walls around all of the additions to the building. She summarized the Commission's recommendation that the design team work with the staff to respond to the Commission's comments, with the final approval delegated to the staff.
G. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs – Old Georgetown Act
O.G. 08-074 (H.P.A. 08-115), 2727 Q Street, N.W. (Square 1285, Lots 803, 804). Residence. Site alterations: driveway and parking area. Permit and Public Space Permit. (Previous: O.G. 07-276.) Ms. Barsoum introduced the project, explaining that the Old Georgetown Board's recommendation—requesting the submission of alternative designs—remains as circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting. She and Mr. Luebke explained that the case involves a site design issue for a larger project, the architectural portion of which has already been approved and is currently under construction, with the remaining site design issue presented today. She introduced Ralph Cunningham of Cunningham Quill Architects, who asked Dan Heininger, the owner of the house, and Richard Arentz of Arentz Landscape Architects to make the presentation.
Mr. Heininger said that he has owned the house since 2005 and is in the process of restoring it. He said that one advantageous feature of the house is its existing parking area which has sufficient space to turn a car around rather than having to back out onto the street. He noted that the driveway leads to Q Street which is very busy, so backing out is potentially dangerous. He explained that the Old Georgetown Board is requesting that a portion of the parking area be converted to green space which would eliminate the opportunity for all but the smallest cars to be turned around on the site. He said he thought that the Board had concluded that the remaining paved area would be sufficient for turning around but this was a misinterpretation of the extent of paved area that is proposed.
Mr. Arentz said that he worked with an arborist to evaluate the trees on the property; the best trees were retained, and others were removed upon obtaining the needed D.C. permits. The landscape design is based on the remaining trees, the character of the architecture including the renovation work to the house, and the desire to create a simple landscape that is layered from the street. He explained that the existing parking area has an irregular shape related to the property line and existing walls; the proposed design regularizes this area into a square paved court. He explained that the proposed court would have slightly less total area than the existing pavement, although the Board treated the proposal as if it involves an increase in paved area.
Ms. Nelson asked about other paths shown in the site plan; Mr. Arentz confirmed that the two existing paths would be combined into a single path. Mr. Luebke said that the Board's concern is partially related to the general issue of encouraging more permeable surfaces throughout the site, and partially related to the specific location of paved parking adjacent to the sidewalk; the overall shape of the court was less of a concern. Mr. Arentz responded that the proposed new surface for the court is granite rather than the existing asphalt; he added that a permeable base could be used. Ms. Nelson asked if permeable pavers were considered; Mr. Arentz responded that this was a possibility that had been mentioned to the Board, with the result of decreasing the amount of impermeable surface on the site. He clarified that the proposed surface would be granite but the permeable base would allow the percolation of water into the ground. He said that the site design includes other water treatment features, such as recycling water from drains for use in a fountain. Mr. Heininger said that the house will also make use of geothermal energy, and he said he is supportive of environmentally sound practices for the property.
Ms. Nelson said that the Commission tries to work closely with the Board and would be reluctant to approve a proposal that the Board has turned down. Mr. Luebke clarified that the Board's recommendation is that alternative designs should be submitted. Mr. Cunningham said that the design team is at an impasse with the Board over the issue of having sufficient room for turning around a car. Ms. Nelson asked if alternatives have been provided to the Board. Mr. Cunningham said that alternative designs for the parking court were submitted but the turnaround issue could not be resolved. Mr. Rybczynski urged the design team to work on resolving this in order to construct the desired parking court; he said that the Board knows the case well and he does not wish to vote differently. He asked how many times this problem had been brought to the Board. Mr. Cunningham said that the overall project has been reviewed twice by the Board; Mr. Rybczynski said that this was not at the stage of an impasse and the design team should continue trying to resolve the issue. Mr. Heininger said that without the approval of a new design for the court, he would simply repair the existing asphalt paving and avoid further delay in the project. He said that this result would be disadvantageous for the home and for the neighborhood compared to the granite-paved court that he is proposing. Ms. Nelson urged Mr. Heininger to have patience and to take a long-term view of the project. Ms. Balmori said that the Board's request for alternatives seems reasonable in this situation. Mr. Belle acknowledged the difficulty of the situation and urged the applicant to work with the Board to resolve the problem. He said that the repairs suggested by Mr. Heininger might work out to be the best interim solution and would be low in cost while not causing any harm, a result that is sometimes considered reasonable in historic preservation projects. Mr. Heininger agreed that repairs would be a viable solution.
Mr. Heininger asked the Commission to encourage the Board to consider the possible retention of the existing turnaround space, explaining that the Board did not seem open to this possibility. He said that a more open-minded viewpoint from the Board would make further discussions more useful. Mr. Luebke clarified that the existing turnaround had never been approved, so the Board is evaluating it as a new proposal rather than as the continuation of an approved existing use. Accordingly, the Board had concluded that the turnaround area is not appropriate in this historic neighborhood. Mr. Heininger said that the Commission's support for the paved turnaround would be more productive than the Board's recommendation to turn the area into green space.
Mr. Martinez explained that the existing paved turnaround area also connects to a neighboring driveway, resulting in an extensive area of paving connecting from property to property in addition to the sidewalk. Mr. Luebke added that the extent of continuous paving is a repeated concern of the Board in this particular block. Mr. Belle and Ms. Balmori acknowledged this bigger problem.
Mr. Luebke said that the Commission can only act on the proposal and the Old Georgetown Board's recommendation. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission accepted the recommendation of the Old Georgetown Board and encouraged the applicant and the Board to continue their discussions and try to find an acceptable solution. Mr. Martinez noted Ms. Barsoum's involvement in the case, acknowledging the expertise and skill that she brings to the review of Georgetown projects.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:04 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: March 26, 2008