1444 Taylor Street, NW
Dear Mr. Khan:
In its meeting of 18 September, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a permit submission for the renovation of and additions to an existing single-family residence at 1444 Taylor Street, NW (case number SL 14-151) to convert it to a four-unit multifamily residence. The Commission did not support the project as presented, due to serious reservations about several aspects of the proposal; at your request, the Commission will defer action until a revised submission is forwarded for review at a future meeting.
In their discussion, the Commission members expressed concern about the massing of the proposed addition and the design of the project as a whole, as it affects both the existing house itself and the surrounding context of parkland and the residential neighborhood. They noted that the house is one of a pair of modernist rowhouses, part of a larger pattern of mid-twentieth-century two-story brick rowhouses in the immediate neighborhood; they recommended that the design of the additions be more appropriate to the modern design of the existing house. While they expressed support for the idea of a third-level addition and some addition to the rear, they suggested numerous adjustments to the design: setting back the addition from the front of the house, using high-quality materials such as brick in the design of the facades, reducing the extent of projection at the rear, and designing the prominent fire stairs more architecturally. They also recommended further study of the site's hydrological conditions, noting that the addition would likely interrupt the existing pattern of water flowing from the neighboring houses toward the park. They emphasized that the rear addition—with its blank side wall, decks, and exterior stair—significantly reduces the view to the parkway from the adjacent row of houses, but neither offers in return a well-designed new building as seen from the park, nor takes best advantage of the park view for the residents of the building.
The Commission members expressed disappointment at the incompleteness of the submission, noting, for example, that there was no elevation of the east facade and that the proposed site plan inadequately described the complexity of the context. They emphasized that any revised design submission must be fully and accurately documented, including: drawings showing the immediate context of the parkway and the residential neighborhood; renderings of the proposed design from several viewpoints within these contexts; drawings of the existing building and site including the elevations of neighboring houses; and documentation of the proposed modifications, including all elevations, materials, and details.
In its consideration of the project, the Commission also acknowledged the interest in this project of the neighbors and the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC 4C), hearing oral testimony from several neighbors against the proposal and receiving a request from the ANC 4C04 commissioner to delay action on the submission for one month to allow consultation between the applicant and the neighbors. The Commission members also recognized that the question of how to approach these types of "pop-up" additions to single-family rowhouses is a current city-wide concern for the District's residential neighborhoods, and is the subject of proposed changes in the District's zoning ordinance.
The Commission looks forward to review of a revised design when a complete submission has been forwarded for consideration. In the interim, the Commission strongly urges the project team to consult with the staff which is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Mr. Mubashir Khan
Metro Construction, Inc.
718 8th Street, SE, Suite 2A
Washington, DC 20003
cc: Rabbiah Sabbakhan, D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
Rickey Williams, ANC 4C Commissioner