1805 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Dear Mr. Chopivsky:
In its public meeting of 20 May conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the proposed concept design for a new mixed-use building at 1805 Wisconsin Avenue, NW (case number OG 21-111). The Commission approved the concept submission, adopting the report of the Old Georgetown Board and providing the following comments for the development of the design.
The Commission members expressed strong support for the new building’s massing, height, and penthouse setback, and they commended the tripartite organization of the primary facade, which they characterized as bold and elegant. However, they raised concern regarding the secondary level of detail, commenting that the building appears to have an industrial character that may be incompatible with the context. To address these concerns, they recommended refining the type, proportions, and detailing of windows on the upper stories to give the building a more residential character, as well as differentiating the ground floor with additional retail elements such as locations for signage and awnings. They agreed with the Old Georgetown Board’s concern regarding the dark gray brick proposed for the penthouse, suggesting that it be clad with either of the brick colors shown on the primary volume of the building.
The Commission and the Old Georgetown Board look forward to further review of this project. Please coordinate the next submission with the staff, which is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
George Chopivsky III, Managing Principal
The Fortis Companies
1300 19th Street, NW, Suite 725
Washington, DC 20036
cc: Hany Hassan, Beyer Blinder Belle
Jonathan Mellon, Goulston & Storrs
Encl.: Report of the Old Georgetown Board, 20 May 2021
OG 21-111 (HPA 21-205)
1805 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
(Square 1299, Lot 319)
Demolition of existing building and construction of new four-story mixed-use building
(Reviewed in concept as OG 21-111: Mar 2021, Apr 2021, May 2021)
REPORT: The applicant, Fortis Companies, proposes to demolish a one-story masonry building and surface parking lot at the northeast corner of Wisconsin Avenue and S Street, NW, to construct a new four-story, plus penthouse, mixed-use building. The proposed building is located at a topographically low point on Wisconsin Avenue, NW, as the street rises in elevation to the north and south. The streetscape context is primarily two-story commercial buildings, with commercial buildings increasing in height toward Glover Park. The Jelleff Recreation Center, athletic field, and parking lot is directly behind the site on the east and two-story, single-detached homes line the south side of S Street, NW.
The existing one-story masonry building was originally constructed as a Piggly Wiggly grocery store in 1933 and was substantially modified between 1964 and 1977 with an addition to the south and the redesign of the front façade, resulting in the current Colonial Revival design. In its meeting of 4 March 2021, the Old Georgetown Board (OGB) found that the existing building lacks historic integrity, particularly due to its mid-century alterations, and supported its demolition.
The proposed new construction consists of four stories and a non-occupiable penthouse, including a first floor of retail suites and residential units above, at a height of 44’-2” (not including penthouse structures). The building’s front elevation has a three-part design, generally symmetrical along Wisconsin Avenue, conveying a formal or institutional character similar to several buildings of similar scale in the vicinity. It is proposed to be clad with brick and have punched masonry openings, allowing it to read as a background building within historic Georgetown. Consistent with other buildings along Wisconsin Avenue, the building will hold the street wall at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and S Street, NW; the building is designed to bend back from S Street, NW near its southeastern corner to allow for outdoor dining and a driveway to a subterranean parking garage.
Overall, the OGB is supportive of the height and massing and general architectural character of the proposed multi-use building. At its meeting of 6 May 2021, the OGB recommended approval of the concept design, and requested that the applicant return with a new submission as a revised concept at the design development phase that addresses it comments as follows.
A major issue in the review of the project has been perceived scale of the new building within the existing context and the occupiable roof and terrace areas, typically discouraging visible roof decks and terraces along commercial streets, as they are an ahistorical condition and often detract from the architecture with railings, umbrellas, and other furnishings. In response to the OGB’s guidance, the fourth floor would be set back twelve feet on three sides in an effort to reduce the building’s perceived height. There would be no occupiable indoor or outdoor space on the roof, which is proposed as a green roof, and the penthouse consists of an elevator overrun, a service stair, and fenced mechanical yard. On the rear of the building at the second and third floors, and along the north, west, and south sides at the fourth floor, the applicant proposes terraces; the OGB expressed concern about the fourth-floor terraces, particularly those that may be visible along Wisconsin Avenue and S Street, NW.
In its support for the proposal, the OGB requested development of numerous details of the brick cladding, including: using a more traditional Flemish bond, with headers closer together; refining the spandrel design above the first floor that could provide a more useful area for future signage for ground-floor retail tenants; and reconsidering the proposed dark colored brick for the fourth floor, finding it too heavy and suggesting the use of a color that better recedes from the main block of the building beneath. In addition, the OGB requested refinements of the design of the building’s proposed step-backs and terraces, minimizing the view of plantings at the parapet and avoiding the visible placement of terrace furniture, umbrellas, and other items that may compromise the character of the historic district.
RECOMMENDATION: NO OBJECTION to concept design for the demolition of a one-story masonry building and surface parking lot to construct a new four-story mixed-use building, per supplemental drawings received 28 April 2021. File design development submission at DCRA with detailed and dimensioned drawings for review by the Commission.