Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
20 March 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 10:22 a.m.
National Capital Planning Commission staff present:
A. Approval of the minutes of the 21 February meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the February meeting were circulated to the members in advance. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the minutes without objection. Mr. Luebke noted that the minutes will be posted to the Commission's website.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 17 April, 15 May, and 19 June.
C. Status report on the National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs Program for FY 2008. Mr. Luebke provided an update on the federal grants program that is administered by the Commission for the support of arts-related institutions in Washington. He said that applications for the 2008 grants have been received from the organizations that have participated in the program in recent years as well as from two new applicants. He reported that the funding for fiscal year 2008—$8.4 million—is higher than in past years. He explained that the Commission staff will convene a panel to review the eligibility of applicants, and the distribution of grants will then follow an established formula. He said that the staff will continue to report to the Commission as the process continues.
Mr. Luebke noted the Commission's site visit earlier in the morning to the Newseum, which will open to the public in several weeks.
Mr. Luebke reiterated the announcement from the previous month that Commission member Witold Rybczynski will deliver the second annual Charles Atherton Memorial Lecture on Tuesday, May 13, at the National Building Museum; his topic will be the historical context of height limits across the country and particularly in Washington.
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: The staff did not report any changes to the draft. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission adopted the Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Mr. Lindstrom reported the addition of several projects to the draft appendix. One of these cases, for alterations to a CVS drugstore, has a negative recommendation from the staff concerning a proposed new sign; he reported that the applicant has indicated an intention to comply with this recommendation by removing the sign from the proposal and retaining the existing approved sign. Another added project is at the Newseum, scheduled to open in April; the proposal is to add pin-mounted aluminum letters to the incised lettering of the First Amendment text on the main facade in order to enhance the legibility. He explained that the proposal is being processed quickly so that it can be implemented in time for the museum's opening. Ms. Nelson asked if the aluminum letters would be a temporary installation; Mr. Lindstrom responded that the proposal does not include a time limit but the installation would be reversible. Ms. Nelson asked for details of the lettering; Mr. Lindstrom said that the letters would be quarter-inch aluminum plate and would be painted medium-grey. Mr. Powell confirmed that the current incised lettering is difficult to read in bright sunlight.
The Commission approved the revised appendix upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martinez reported several changes to the draft appendix. One project was withdrawn by the applicant and will be reviewed in April. Two submissions were added that do not require substantive recommendations; one of these, for work that has already been completed at the Harbourside project, was addressed through a letter recently sent to the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Minor revisions have been made for other projects in response to supplemental drawings. Mr. Luebke noted that another submission related to the Harbourside project is on the agenda and will be presented later in the meeting.
Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved the revised appendix. Ms. Nelson complimented the proposed alterations at the Four Seasons Hotel.
Mr. Luebke noted that one item listed on the draft agenda, for the new Woodson High School, has been withdrawn by the D.C. Public Schools.
B. Department of Defense / General Services Administration
CFA 20/MAR/08-1, Armed Forces Retirement Home, 3700 North Capitol Street, N.W. Revised master plan and redevelopment plan. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/JAN/08-4.) Mr. Luebke introduced the proposal which is a response to the Commission's comments from the January meeting, including a recommendation to introduce a stronger design concept for the new development. He explained that the building and street configurations have been revised for two areas of proposed development, Zone A and Zone B. The changes to Zone A include shifts in street and building alignments to improve views of the historic buildings from throughout the proposed development area and to provide a simpler edge to the large open lawn area on the west. Similar adjustments have been made in Zone B. He said that no changes are shown for the proposed development of row houses in Zone C; the Commission had previously recommended that this area be retained as open space, consistent with the preference of other review agencies and the surrounding community. He introduced Mike McGill of the General Services Administration (GSA) to begin the presentation.
Mr. McGill summarized the project overview that was provided to the Commission in January; GSA is assisting the Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH), part of the Department of Defense, in selecting a master plan consultant for the campus—resulting in the identification of three zones for future development—and in selecting a developer for Zone A which is proposed as the initial development phase. The proposed development will provide a revenue stream that AFRH will use to restore and maintain the facilities for the care of veterans on the remainder of the campus. He introduced Tim Sheckler, the project director from GSA, to continue the presentation.
Mr. Sheckler said that the emphasis will be on responding to the Commission's comments from January, including discussion of the overall design concept—particularly the relation of the proposal to the adjacent urban fabric—and specific issues at the three development areas. He noted the issues identified for Zone A: the response to the North Capitol Street axis; the relation between buildings and open space; and the treatment of the edges along Irving Street and North Capitol Street. Issues in Zone B and Zone C include the internal configuration of the proposed development, its relation to the context, the retention of open space, and public access. He said that the presentation will include discussion of the campus's important historic character, the urban context, and views to and from the site. He introduced the members of the project team who will be making presentations: Emily Eig of Traceries concerning historic issues; Mark deShong of Koetter Kim & Associates for the master plan; and Matt Bell of Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects for details of the Zone A proposal.
Ms. Eig explained that the entire campus is a historic district, listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well as being designated by the D.C. government; the listed resources include the site's landscape and views as well as the buildings, and she emphasized the open space and spatial organization of the campus as critical features. She described the historical evolution of the buildings and landscape, including the farming on the site prior to its acquisition as a military retirement home in 1852 and continuing until 1950, when the southern portion was transferred for construction of hospitals including the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital. She explained the analysis of the site including eleven "character areas" of different uses or topographies. The "central grounds" includes the historic core of military buildings. The golf course, while not a historic use, retains the historic open space of the former pasture area. President Lincoln spent much time at the Anderson Cottage on the campus; afterward, additional land was purchased to extend the campus, resulting in creation of artificial lakes to the southwest to address drainage issues and create a picturesque pastoral landscape. She showed a 1950s plan to replace many of the buildings on the campus and alter the landscape significantly. Only a few of the proposed buildings were constructed; the extension of Irving Street at that time—separating the remaining campus area from the hospitals to the south—resulted in regrading and alteration of the historic landscape along the southern edge of the site. She explained that the current proposal is intended to place new development in areas that have been most altered since the mid-twentieth century.
Ms. Eig discussed the site's views, including historic views as well as some non-historic views that are nonetheless important to the community. The views south to the U.S. Capitol were considered as part of the original design of the campus in the 1850s. The views toward the Washington Monument became an important design consideration when the monument was completed in the 1880s. The view west to the National Cathedral is now considered important, although this is less historically significant because the cathedral was constructed during the twentieth century. Similarly, the view east to the modern Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is considered important for the campus. She said that all of these views, historic as well as modern, are considered in the proposed master plan.
Mr. deShong addressed the concern that the master plan is a patchwork of unrelated areas. He showed the existing and proposed plans for the campus in the context of the surrounding neighborhoods, characterizing the existing campus as "a large fissure in the fabric of the city" with the proposed development intended "to knit this back together." The development proposed in the three zones would give them a distinct character that responds to the surrounding urban context while preserving the character of the site's historic core. He explained the decision to place larger-scaled buildings toward the south and east, near the hospitals and other institutional neighbors, while proposing a residential scale of development on the west toward the adjacent neighborhood. The master plan acknowledges the existing trees along the edge of the campus by designating a peripheral green zone; this area would be linked by tree-lined streets to the open space at the center of the site. He described how the major open spaces of the AFRH campus, including the golf course and the meadow, would provide continuity to the wider context of large open spaces including the McMillan Reservoir to the south and cemeteries to the north, as well as the open space of Catholic University's campus on the east. The relationship with North Capitol Street and Irving Street is also an important consideration, with possible future changes to the character of these streets; this would be discussed further as part of the Zone A proposal.
Mr. deShong described the views into the campus from the periphery, intended as episodic views rather than a dramatic perspective that would be out of character with the historic landscape. He discussed the view northward toward the site from North Capitol Street, noting that this alignment is already interrupted by a building at the VA hospital immediately south of the campus. A backdrop of trees at the AFRH campus is currently visible above the hospital; the proposal for Zone A would include a building on this alignment, with the specific design treatment to be addressed later as part of the architectural design. He said that the intent of the master plan proposal for Zone A is to provide a broad background for the North Capitol Street axis rather than focus on a single design feature; the effect would be to emphasize procession around the site.
Mr. deShong described the revisions to Zone B, with a reconfiguration of buildings to emphasize views from Irving Street to the open space and lakes within the campus. The proposed buildings have also been revised to relate better to the hospitals on the south and to the Zone A proposals on the east. He said that the water running through this part of the site could be enclosed or configured as an open stream.
Mr. deShong explained the design team's difficulty in responding to the Commission's comments on the proposals for Zone C. He described the preferences expressed by neighbors from the adjacent residential community suggesting open space and a permeable boundary; the preferences of historic preservation advocates to preserve the existing historic fence and to keep development away from the historic route taken by President Lincoln along the western edge of the site during his many visits to the campus; and the topographical and hydrological constraints. He discussed the early master plan proposals to extend the neighborhood's pattern of buildings, streets, and alleys into Zone C while providing public access to the open space toward the interior of the campus; the public response was to encourage less development, more open space, and a buffer area between new development and the approach to the Lincoln Cottage.
After numerous design revisions, the master plan for Zone C proposes row houses configured to screen cars and service from neighborhood views, with the development placed toward the south to allow a buffer area toward Lincoln's route. Mr. deShong said that the proposed buildings would follow the contours of the site, and the existing stream along the road would remain to minimize disturbance to the site's hydrology. He said that the proposal for Zone C therefore remains as previously presented. He added that the master plan includes a provision that the Zone C area could be purchased by the National Park Service or another entity to establish it as an open space amenity for the neighborhood. He also noted that the proposed development for Zone C could evolve through further review processes.
Mr. Bell of Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn presented further details on the revisions to Zone A, beginning with an overview of the general issues for the master plan of this area. He described the importance of views to the historic pasture and to the historic tower of the Forwood Building, both from within the campus and from the perimeter. He said that the existing trees and hydrology are also important design considerations. He indicated the existing statue of General Scott and the expansive views from that point—looking across a portion of Zone A—toward the Capitol and the central part of Washington. The appearance of new development from Irving Street, North Capitol Street, and the pasture is also a design consideration. He explained the overall intention to create a mixed-use neighborhood in Zone A, with streets and blocks that define open spaces and relate to adjacent areas; hospital-related office and research buildings would be to the south, near the hospitals that are south of Irving Street, and the residential buildings would be to the north. The development is intended to highlight the historic buildings to encourage appreciation of them and investment in their revitalization. He emphasized the walkable character of the proposed neighborhood and the flexibility of the design to adapt to potential changes in the area such as development of the Catholic University property to the east or a more pedestrian-oriented redesign of Irving Street and North Capitol Street including the possible removal of their grade-separated interchange. He described the importance of providing public access to a large open-space area, noting that this part of the city has extensive open space but little of it is open to the public.
Mr. Bell compared the current revised site plan to the previous submission. He indicated the adjustments to street alignments to align more precisely with the Forwood Building's tower, resulting in clear views of this historic feature from the major streets outside the campus; views toward the Shrine to the east have been similarly improved. The street and building alignment along the pasture have been adjusted to provide a simpler edge to the open space. He said that the design of this edge is an example of how the Zone A proposal addresses the transition between the picturesque character of the campus and the urban character beyond the site, explaining that the curving street will offer shifting views of the open space.
Mr. Bell described other features of the design for Zone A. He indicated the proposed "town square" at the north edge of the pasture, where it will relate to the open space and the proposed and historic buildings. He explained that the taller buildings are sited where they will not obstruct historic views, and parking structures are intended to be "convenient but not obtrusive"—usually either below-grade or in the middle of the blocks, otherwise screened when visible along the building facades. He indicated the park around the perimeter of the campus along Zone A, along with small parks scattered among the building parcels. He described the two main retail areas, one along the main access road which would be an extension of First Street north of Irving Street, and the other around the town square and secondary entrance to the north; he noted that the First Street retail could be a popular pedestrian-accessible destination for the hospital workers across Irving Street. He said that parts of the complex of historic buildings in Zone A would be designated for a hotel and an assisted living facility; he emphasized that the proposed development would not obstruct the views from the historic Barnes Building's terrace toward central Washington to the south and the Shrine to the east. He presented the proposed reconfiguration of tree-lined Pershing Drive as a boulevard with a wide median that would retain the existing trees and include a bike path and also showed the stormwater management facilities which would be treated as attractive features of the landscape. He explained the varied massing that is intended on the proposed building sites; heights would range from 65 to 120 feet.
Mr. Bell discussed the treatment of the North Capitol Street axis, noting that the street itself bends eastward around the campus and has close to a highway character in this vicinity. He said that the development in Zone A would include an architectural feature on the skyline to terminate the northward view along the axis, improving on the current unsatisfactory termination by the VA hospital building south of the campus. The proposed massing in Zone A is more generally intended to shift the visual emphasis from the axis to the curved alignment of North Capitol Street. He described how the southeast corner of Zone A could become an important entrance if the interchange is removed at Irving Street and North Capitol Street.
Mr. Bell said that the park-like character and large trees of the Irving Street frontage would be maintained. He said that the master plan, at the request of the D.C. Office of Planning, also provides for the potential conversion of Irving Street into a pedestrian-scaled street; retail space could be created to face Irving Street, with multiple levels of parking set behind within the existing topographic change on the site as well as curb-lane parking along Irving Street. This concept might result in the loss of some trees but illustrates the flexibility that is available for future planning.
Mr. Bell concluded by emphasizing that the development and open spaces would be an amenity for residents of nearby neighborhoods and people at the nearby hospitals as well as for the people who would live or work within the project area. Mr. Sheckler added that the presentation was intended to show how the proposal has been revised in response to the Commission's comments as much as possible, while also addressing the concerns of other stakeholders.
Mr. Luebke noted that some members of the public had asked to address the Commission. The Chairman recognized Barbara Zartman, representing the Committee of 100 on the Federal City. Ms. Zartman said that she had participated in the Section 106 historic preservation review process, commenting that it was a notably pleasant process and complimenting the project team. She said that one unresolved issue is whether any development in Zone B and Zone C is actually necessary. She explained that AFRH has not provided financial details on the amount of funds needed to preserve the historic features of the campus, making it difficult for the public to assess whether the negative effects of the new development are a necessary tradeoff for public benefits. She recommended that the Commission give approval to the master plan proposal for Zone A—along with advice to maintain the open space as much as possible—while postponing approval for the proposed development in Zone B and Zone C until the financial need is clarified in the future. She said that this position by the Committee of 100 is consistent with the recommendation of the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board.
The Chairman invited Mr. Sheckler to respond to Ms. Zartman's remarks. Mr. Sheckler said that AFRH has identified urgent capital projects, including deferred maintenance, with a cost of approximately $360 million. Other financial issues are anticipated but not immediately quantifiable, caused by a shift in the resident population from veterans of World War II and Korea to veterans of more recent conflicts. He explained that the shift from a draft to an all-volunteer military during that period results in increasing expectations for the quality of care that should be provided. He also explained that the recent veterans are more likely to have serious injuries requiring special facilities, noting that people were less likely to survive such injuries in earlier wars. He said that the financial implications of such trends are not yet determined.
Mr. Powell asked about the phasing and timetable for implementation of the master plan in the various zones. Mr. Sheckler confirmed that the implementation phases would follow the sequence of zones—A, then B, then C. He said that the Zone A proposal has already been the subject of a Request for Qualifications and a Request for Proposals, resulting in more detailed information in the master plan for Zone A than for the other zones. He explained that the build-out for Zone A is anticipated to take ten to fifteen years; AFRH would then evaluate the financial situation before proceeding with the additional zones. Mr. Powell commented that this process appears to be somewhat consistent with the recommendation of the Historic Preservation Review Board; Mr. Sheckler agreed. Mr. Luebke clarified that the submitted master plan would allow future development in Zone B and Zone C, even if this would not be implemented immediately. Mr. Sheckler confirmed that the master plan does not preclude such future development, although AFRH does not intend to undertake simultaneous development of all the zones.
Mr. McKinnell said that a question from the previous review remains unanswered: whether the amount of development proposed for Zone B and Zone C could be accommodated through increased density in Zone A. Mr. deShong said that earlier design studies demonstrated that the amount of development proposed for Zone C, but not for Zone B, could be accommodated in Zone A while maintaining the conceptual framework for this area. Mr. Sheckler added that various stakeholder agencies have advised that the amount of development currently proposed in Zone A is appropriate and should not be increased, based on the responses to the Request for Proposals. He also noted that the amount of development in Zone C has been cut nearly in half from the initial proposal in the draft master plan, from approximately 950,000 or 1 million square feet to 550,000 square feet.
Mr. Rybczynski expressed disappointment that the previous master plan proposal has only been adjusted, rather than fully rethought, while acknowledging that this indicates the design team's conviction that the master plan's overall approach is right. He questioned the design team's characterization of the Zone A proposal as "semi-urban," commenting that a semi-urban proposal would be appropriate for the site but the current proposal is actually very urban in character. He said that the best justification for the Zone A proposal is that its urban character will allow preservation of much of the remainder of the campus; the additional proposed development in the other zones is therefore difficult to accept. He said that fiscal rather than planning principles appear to have priority; he described the resulting master plan as "stuffing it in wherever you can" and said that the approach of creating urban development on every developable open space is unacceptable. He instead suggested that a semi-urban pattern of development—perhaps a campus or suburban style—be used, or that development be limited to Zone A with an urban character.
Mr. deShong responded that the proposed development is intended to continue the character of the existing built-up area in the northeast portion of the campus; he said the result would be a continuity and consistency of the campus fabric. Mr. Ryczynski strongly disagreed, contrasting the "campus" character on the northeast—which he said the master plan addresses appropriately in this area—with the "urban" character of the proposed development to the south. He said that there might be a justification for the contrasting treatments, but they should not be described as similar. Mr. deShong said that the proposed buildings are comparable in height, scale, and character to the existing campus; he also acknowledged the differences which he said are a response to the different character and context in various parts of the campus such as along the Irving Street boundary. He also acknowledged that the development proposed for Zone C is very different from the other areas of the campus.
Ms. Nelson said she hoped that Zone C could be reserved as parkland, and that perhaps no development would be necessary in Zone B and Zone C when the program is reassessed in future years. Within Zone A, she said that the massing and materials appear uniform despite the effort to have variety; she hoped that the staged implementation would produce an appropriate result. She suggested that the Commission give final approval for only the Zone A proposal to allow that portion to move forward and generate revenue, while postponing the decision on further development that would more radically change the historic character of the campus. Mr. Sheckler responded that the National Capital Planning Commission has requested that the master plan address the entire campus; he said that AFRH is otherwise willing to delay the approval of proposals for Zone B and Zone C, particularly because future updates to the master plan would likely be needed anyway when AFRH is ready to move forward with development of these zones.
Mr. Powell said that the most practical solution would be to approve the proposal for Zone A and withhold approval of development in Zone B and Zone C. Mr. Sheckler noted that the master plan also includes proposals for the portion of the campus to be retained by AFRH, which is not part of the development zones. Mr. Rybczynski said that the proposals for this area are acceptable; Mr. Powell and Mr. McKinnell agreed. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the master plan with the exception of the proposed development in Zone B and Zone C, which would be subject to further review in the distant future when development of these zones is more timely. Mr. Powell concluded by expressing appreciation for the thought that has gone into the master plan.
C. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
CFA 20/MAR/08-2, Old Convention Center Site Redevelopment, area bounded by New York Avenue, 9th, H, and 11th streets, N.W. Revised scheme. Information presentation. (Previous: CFA 19/APR/07-3, information presentation.) Mr. Luebke introduced the information presentation providing an update on the architectural design for redevelopment of the former Convention Center site, following up on the previous information presentations in June 2006 and April 2007. He noted that in February 2008 the Commission reviewed the concept design for the small triangular park, Reservation 174, that is included within the redevelopment project; today's presentation would provide additional context information for the park. He said that the project team, led by the Hines firm, is developing the portion of the Convention Center site that is south of I Street, in addition to Reservation 174. He summarized the Commission's concerns from the April 2007 presentation, including the need for further information about building sections and elevations, material choices, and generally how the developed site will relate to downtown Washington. He introduced Armstrong Yakubu of Foster and Partners to present the design.
Mr. Yakubu said that he is presenting the project on behalf of the development team including Hines, two architecture firms—Foster and Partners and Shalom Baranes Associates—and the landscape architecture firm of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd. He noted that the design development phase has just been completed for the project. He explained the design intention to integrate the site into the larger downtown area while creating buildings that would not be as large as many of the downtown buildings. He indicated the articulation of buildings on the roof plan including the setbacks on some buildings resulting in narrower top floors. He explained the proposed streets including the re-opening of 10th and I Streets that were formerly blocked by the Convention Center; I Street would end at the park that includes Reservation 174, where a water feature would provide emphasis to New York Avenue which leads to the White House. The proposed system of pedestrian walkways—called alleys because of the historic alley system that had existed within these blocks—would provide frontage for smaller retail stores and lead to a central plaza within the site, creating "a sense of place."
Mr. Yakubu summarized a consultant's analysis of the vibrancy of nearby city streets, including information on sidewalk widths, the amount of visible street life, and a count of people. The study showed that extensive areas of downtown were not well used; other areas, like Chinatown, had much vibrancy. He noted that parts of the area have changed due to new development since the study was conducted two years ago. He explained how the study predicts that the proposed development of the Convention Center site would add vibrancy to the entire area, particularly due to the creation of extensive retail frontage and additional pedestrian routes through the site.
Mr. Yakubu described the streetscape design features that would help to integrate the site with the surrounding area rather than give the appearance of a single large new project. The existing street trees on the site were catalogued and compared to the variety of area trees; the project's street trees are intended to relate to Washington's varied context. Streetlighting is also designed to use traditional Washington fixtures rather than a more modern design. Modestly scaled building entrances have been placed along the street frontage while the streetscape and retail frontage will have the primary emphasis. Curb cuts for vehicles have been minimized, with parking entrances only at 9th Street and 11th Street and a single loading entrance along 9th Street; the below-grade parking and service levels would extend across the entire site. Pedestrian access to the parking garages would be at multiple locations, including public access points at the central plaza and in the pedestrian alleys to encourage people to discover these features, as well as dedicated access points for building occupants. The most prominently located public pedestrian entrance to the parking would be a "jewel box" in the central plaza—a design that would be refined as the surrounding buildings near completion in the years 2011 and 2012. He emphasized that the parking would include ample space for the public—including retail customers—as well as for the residential and office buildings, with a total of 1,600 spaces on four levels.
Mr. Yakubu presented the merchandising plan illustrating the type of retail mix that would be on the site. He said that the D.C. government has requested the inclusion of as much retail as possible. He described the architectural intention to bring the design of the upper-floor facades to the ground level rather than create an entirely different architecture for the retail frontage on the lower two floors; the goal is to balance the vibrancy of the retail space with the integrity of the building designs. He presented renderings of the potential appearance of the retail areas animated by the presence of people; he noted the defined appearance of the building's columns through the lower levels and the visibility of the apartments above. Similar design principles would be used for the office buildings on the site's western block, where higher-end retail would be more likely.
Mr. Yakubu briefly discussed the design of the northwestern park at Reservation 174, acknowledging that it is being submitted separately for review. He noted the water feature, textures, seating areas, and plantings, explaining how these parts are integrated into a design that is constantly of interest. He also discussed the design of the central plaza, which he said has been called the "living room" of the development. It would be a public space framed by restaurants, with public seating, awnings, hedges, varied textures, and a water feature. With the water turned off, the plaza could serve as a performance space.
Mr. Yakubu described how the large scale of the residential buildings is broken down through setbacks on the upper floors, which he added would improve the views from the apartments. He emphasized the sustainable design features such as stormwater retention, green roofs, and careful attention to mitigating solar heat gain. He explained the shading elements on the residential building facades, the varied use of solid and glass areas, and the extensive balconies on the south facades to provide additional shading; the north facades would emphasize bay windows to bring more light into the apartments. He said that the condominium buildings would have masonry cladding while the rental apartment buildings would have terra-cotta screening on the facade; wood details were considered but the material selection is still being decided. He described the sliding balcony screens that would enable the condominium residents to control the shading while generating a random pattern on the facade that he said would add interest to the buildings.
Mr. Yakubu said that the office buildings have different requirements, resulting in relatively consistent floor plans and an emphasis on maximizing daylight on the interior; multi-layered facades would vary to provide shade on the south, openness on the north facing the park, and additional glass screening at the corners where the solar gain is greatest. The floors would also become slightly larger rising up the building so that each floor would help to shade the level below; horizontal shading elements would also be included in the exterior design. The design of the east and west facades would vary to respond to the different solar conditions. He said the architectural goal is to provide a comfortable building through thoughtful design features rather than a larger mechanical system. The facades would be stainless steel—chosen because it is less reflective than aluminum—in addition to the glass.
Mr. Yakubu concluded by emphasizing the economic and ecological pressures that are shaping the design. Mr. Powell asked about the anticipated construction schedule; Mr. Yakubu responded that completion is scheduled for late 2011 based on a starting date in early 2009. Mr. McKinnell said that the project is a "stunning proposition" and complimented the developer for supporting the high-quality design; Mr. Yakubu acknowledged the client's support. Mr. Powell noted that no action is required on the information presentation.
The Chairman noted the loss of a quorum due to Ms. Nelson's departure. Mr. Luebke suggested that the remaining three Commission members review the final two agenda items, both involving concept designs, with the recommendations to be confirmed at the next Commission meeting.
D. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Old Georgetown Act
1. O.G. 07-127, Single-family residence, 1645 31st Street, N.W. New house, and alterations to garage and site. Concept. (Previous: CFA 19 July 2007.) Mr. Martinez and Ms. Barsoum introduced the proposal, a concept for a new house proposed to be added to the Georgetown property containing the Williams-Addison house. Mr. Martinez said that the proposal was previously reviewed in July 2007; the Old Georgetown Board had recommended no objection to the design of the proposed house at that time, but in the July 2007 meeting, the Commission decided not to act on the design until local zoning and subdivision issues are resolved for the property. He explained that the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) had subsequently voted against the subdivision of the property in September 2007; the property owner appealed this decision to the Mayor's Agent, who also decided against the subdivision in February 2008. He said that the owner's remaining options include an appeal in the D.C. Courts or obtaining a variance from the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment. Meanwhile, the owner has requested that the Commission again review the proposed design of the house.
Marc Teren, the agent for the owners of the property, addressed the Commission. He acknowledged that the process for this project is unusual, with parallel efforts to design the house and to address the regulatory questions of whether it can be built. He requested that the Commission's review of the design concept move forward at this meeting. He described the property—a .75-acre parcel facing 31st Street on the west and Avon Lane, a public alley, on the south, with a four-story apartment building on the north and a private home on the east. He noted that the property is listed as a D.C. historic landmark. The proposed site for the additional house is currently a tennis court dating from approximately the 1940s, along with the adjacent carriage house which would be renovated as part of the project; this renovation, along with a proposed new garage, have been submitted separately and are proceeding to the final design stage after having received concept approval. He discussed the favorable reviews of this proposal from the Old Georgetown Board and the D.C. Historic Preservation Office staff; Mr. Luebke and Mr. Martinez clarified that the proposal has not been approved by the Commission and has not yet been reviewed for design by the HPRB. He presented photographs of the adjacent house on the east, adding that the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment has allowed a two-story addition to this house that would extend eight feet to the property line, despite the objection of the former owner of the Williams-Addison house.
Mr. Teren explained that the project team includes architect Robert Miller from New York, local architect Dale Overmyer, and Carolyn Brown, an architectural historian and attorney from Holland and Knight. He introduced Mr. Overmyer to present the design.
Mr. Overmyer explained the siting of the proposed house; it would be placed as far away as possible from the historic Williams-Addison house located on the western part of the property, with less concern for proximity to the mid-20th-century houses located to the east. The proposed location on the tennis court would result in no loss of vegetation; the proposal would result in less paving and impervious surface than currently exists. The new house would be set slightly north from Avon Lane, similar to the houses on the east, and would be minimally visible above the low garage and carriage-house structures fronting directly on Avon Lane.
Mr. Overmyer said the massing, footprint, and height of the new house would be comparable to those of the existing houses to the east, including a repetition of their south-facing gables. The new house would extend the roof downward to approximately nine feet above grade, in contrast to the flatter roofs and tall brick walls of the houses to the east; this design is intended to respond to the Board's advice to bring down the scale of the new house and emphasize its residential character. The west elevation would have groupings of dormers; the scale of the upper dormers has been reduced in response to the Board's advice. The roof would be surfaced in Vermont slate with copper details and two copper-clad chimneys; the walls of the lower part of the house would be fieldstone and tongue-and-groove siding, providing a combination of traditional materials and contemporary detailing. He presented some examples of Mr. Miller's recent architectural projects that use similar materials. He offered to present additional views of the carriage house and new garage, emphasizing that they are less controversial and not part of the current requested approval.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the design has not changed significantly since the Commission's previous review. Mr. Powell said that the Commission's options are limited and subject to ratification by a quorum at the next meeting. Mr. Luebke clarified the options as approval or rejection of the design, as well as reiterating the July 2007 decision to defer action until the regulatory issues are resolved; he also noted that the Commission could act directly on the Board's recommendation. Mr. Powell commented that the project is subject to a regulatory decision that the Commission is not involved in. Mr. Rybczynski said that the regulatory question from July 2007 has now been decided unfavorably, so the Commission's position should be the same—to get permission for a structure first, possibly resulting in additional regulatory limitations, and then bring the design to the Commission. He emphasized that the design does not appear to be a factor in the regulatory decision-making process, so there is no sequencing problem that would result from deciding to defer the design review until after the regulatory permission is obtained.
Mr. Teren responded that the design review is part of the regulatory process. He explained that the D.C. Historic Preservation Office required a "generally approvable concept" prior to submitting the proposal to the HPRB; he acknowledged that the HPRB and Mayor's Agent do not evaluate the design concept at this stage. He emphasized the extensive design work that has been performed, including coordination with the Old Georgetown Board, and the variety of regulatory processes that can still be pursued to move the project forward. He acknowledged the Commission's concern that its decision not be perceived as influencing the HPRB's regulatory decision, but he emphasized that the HPRB decision was on the subdivision rather than on the design of the house. He expressed his appreciation and support for the Board's recommendation and asked the Commission to approve it.
Mr. Luebke noted that members of the public might wish to address the Commission. He also noted the Commission's own precedent of its July 2007 decision to defer action, which could remain as a consistent position concerning the decision review process—a process that is independent of the local regulatory review, as Mr. Teren had stated.
Mr. Powell said that the Commission normally supports the recommendations of the Old Georgetown Board and suggested doing so in this case. Mr. Rybczynski expressed a preference for reiterating the Commission's July 2007 decision to defer action, especially since there is no new information that suggests a need to change that position.
The Chairman recognized Kinley Dumas of the law firm Arent Fox who represents a neighborhood group, Friends of the Williams-Addison House. Ms. Dumas said that the circumstances of the project have changed in recent months—there is no longer a pending subdivision application due to the final unfavorable decision of the Mayor's Agent, nor is there any pending application at the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment. She acknowledged that some regulatory options could still be pursued which might again involve review by the HPRB. She said that the Commission's previous deferral was appropriate while a local regulatory decision was pending; now, with no local approval nor pending application that would allow the project to move forward, it is even less likely that the project can be built. She acknowledged the owner's expense in developing the design and pursuing design approval but said it was the owner's decision to incur this expense prior to obtaining the necessary local regulatory approval for the project. She disagreed with Mr. Teren's comments on the relationship among the regulatory and design processes, saying that an approved design concept is not required by the HPRB nor the D.C. Historic Preservation Office staff, according to the previous testimony of the D.C. staff. Mr. Teren later clarified that he said the HPRB process needs to include a viable design concept, as demonstrated by a favorable recommendation from the Old Georgetown Board, but not that HPRB requires the Commission's approval of the concept.
Carolyn Brown of Holland and Knight, representing the owner, asked to respond. She observed that the projects seen earlier in the day on the Commission's agenda would also require subdivision approval before proceeding, but this issue was not raised as a basis for delaying review of the design proposals; Mr. Luebke responded that these cases were somewhat different because they involved publicly owned land. Ms. Brown also said that a new subdivision application may soon be filed, superseding the previous application that has been denied by the Mayor's Agent; the new application would follow a special procedure with the Board of Zoning Adjustment. She said that the details of this process should not be a concern for the Commission nor for the Old Georgetown Board; Mr. Powell agreed, emphasizing that the Commission's role is to review the design concept.
Mr. Powell said that the Commission could only offer comments due to the lack of a quorum. Mr. Teren offered to bring the project back at the next meeting; Mr. Powell agreed that this would be helpful, while also allowing time for the regulatory questions to be further resolved. Mr. Luebke clarified that the Commission could either take no action until the next meeting or could choose to forward a recommendation for adoption at the next meeting. Mr. McKinnell said that he had no objection to the design concept that was presented but expressed unease at the Commission's approval being used to influence the regulatory decisions of other agencies, which he said would be an inevitable result of a design approval. Mr. Teren said that, due to the two-part process, it is not unusual for the Commission to approve projects that do not get other approvals needed for construction. He emphasized that the Commission should make its decision independently of the D.C. decision-making process, with the Old Georgetown Board being the only other body that should influence the Commission.
Mr. Powell suggested a consensus to approve the Board's recommendation—favorable to the design concept—subject to confirmation by a quorum at the next Commission meeting. Mr. Luebke noted that the other two Commission members appeared to be supporting a different position. Mr. Powell re-stated his recommendation as a motion, with second by Mr. McKinnell; Mr. Rybczynski voted against the motion.
2. O.G. 08-112, Harbourside Development—North Building, 901 30th Street, N.W. New window openings at penthouse, alterations to roof terrace for pool deck and glass railing. Concept. (Previous: O.G. 06-160, CFA 20 April 2006.) Mr. Martinez introduced the submission for alterations at the penthouse level of the building which is currently under construction, clarifying that the proposal is separate from the other unapproved work at the building that was briefly discussed in conjunction with the Georgetown appendix earlier in the meeting. The proposed alterations include the addition of a wood deck and glass guardrail beside the rooftop pool that is currently under construction, as well as some additional penthouse-level windows and doors. He explained that the building was designed with beams projecting above the roof level; the intention now to have people use the roof for access to the pool requires that a level terrace deck be created above the beams. The deck will require a guardrail, which is proposed as glass to match the guardrails elsewhere on the roof and building; exterior lights are also included in the submission.
Mr. Martinez said that in December 2003, in the initial concept review for the building, the applicant had requested to submit directly to the Commission rather than through the Old Georgetown Board. The Commission had granted this request, and as a result the Board has declined to take a position on the current proposal. He presented photographs of the building and depictions of the proposed alterations. He introduced Richard Williams, the architect for the upper-floor apartment involved in some of the alterations, to present further details of the proposal.
Mr. Williams confirmed the summary provided by Mr. Martinez and presented additional photographs and drawings. Mr. Williams showed the beams extending approximately two feet above the roof, explaining that these are located along the emergency egress path from the roof deck to the stairwell; a deck is therefore needed to provide a level route. Mr. Williams showed the penthouse apartment windows that were previously approved; Mr. Luebke clarified that these were approved at the concept stage but were not submitted for final review. Mr. Williams said that the previous architects are no longer involved and he intends to submit the final design of all alterations for approval. He said that a glass door near this location is requested to provide access from the roof deck to the mezzanine level of the apartment, which has a bridge structure and staircase at this level but no occupiable space. He also requested approval of a metal-clad door for a storage room at this level, due to the need for exterior access to this space. He showed the proposed lighting fixtures, including step lights and fixtures adjacent to the exterior door. He emphasized the generally low profile of the building's roof terrace and mechanical penthouse.
Mr. Rybczynski asked about the height of the proposed glass guardrail. Mr. Williams responded that it is approximately twenty inches high, unusually short because of its proximity to the beams projecting above the roof. He confirmed that some guardrails are set back from the edge of the roof, reducing their visibility from the ground, while others are placed at the building face. He emphasized that the glass design results in minimal visibility; Mr. Martinez said that the occasional layering of two railings from some viewpoints produces a different color effect in the existing design, a condition that would be repeated as a result of the proposed additional guardrail.
Mr. Powell did not see any problems with the proposal; upon his motion, the Commission approved the concept. He noted that the overall building is nearing completion and suggested that future modifications to the building be reviewed by the Old Georgetown Board in accordance with the normal review process. Mr. Martinez noted that the project was presented to the Board earlier in March, consistent with this suggestion, but the Board decided not to comment due to the unusual circumstances of this project's review. Mr. Powell acknowledged the special situation and asked that the Board be notified that the normal procedure should be followed for future submissions. Mr. Luebke noted that the approval would need to be ratified by a quorum at the next Commission meeting, and he clarified that the final design would still need to be submitted in conjunction with the permit application. Mr. Williams acknowledged this process.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 12:43 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: May 5, 2008