4652-4656 Broad Branch Road, NW
Dear Mr. Dvorishin:
In its meeting of 18 February, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept submission for three new single-family houses at 4652, 4654, and 4656 Broad Branch Road, NW (case number SL 16-053). The Commission did not take an action, expressing concern about the impact of the designs on the adjacent federal Rock Creek Park, and providing recommendations for the redesign of the houses and the landscape.
The Commission members observed that this segment of Broad Branch Road has the character of a place of respite, winding through a steep and wooded valley at an edge of Rock Creek Park where the houses are generally not visually intrusive. They emphasized the importance of protecting the sensitive woodland character of the park’s edge and expressed concern that the number, size, and density of the proposed houses on small lots would create the appearance of a continuous wall of development inconsistent with this woodland character. They also cautioned that the two proposed curb cuts on Broad Branch Road, the projecting two-car garages, and the extent of driveway paving would be disruptive and may not even be programmatically sufficient for houses of this proposed size. In general, they found that the large scale of the development proposed for these sites—three houses of 5,000 square feet or more on approximately quarter-acre lots—is inappropriate for this location.
Given these concerns, the Commission members made several suggestions for design revisions. Acknowledging that a contemporary architectural style could be appropriate for houses in a woodland setting, they suggested that the houses be redesigned to have a lighter appearance and a smaller footprint on this landscape. Noting the proximity of the proposed houses to each other, they suggested careful study of the proportions and orientations of the large windows on the upper floors. They also observed that excavating into the hillside results in ground floors with few windows, and they recommended that the garages be relocated within this ground-floor space, rather than projecting from the main building mass toward the park. For the design of the landscape, they recommended that the natural woodland character of the setting remain continuous across all three sites, from the steep slopes behind the proposed houses down to the road, rather than to impose new formal landscape treatments. They requested study of alternatives for vehicular access, including a shared driveway extending from the alley to serve all three lots, or a shared curb cut and driveway for the two easternmost properties.
The Commission encourages the project team to aspire to the best possible design for these very sensitive sites along Rock Creek Park—a design that also accommodates the many regulatory and other constraints for this development, such as the on-site management of stormwater runoff, the tree and slope protection required in the Forest Hills neighborhood, and the planned widening of Broad Branch Road by the D.C. Department of Transportation. The Commission looks forward to review of the next submission, which should include a physical site model and renderings of the houses as they appear from more distant viewpoints along Broad Branch Road and from within the park. As always, the staff is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Right Way Development
6820 Commercial Drive, Suite D
Springfield, VA 22151
cc: James Phillips, Workshop T10
Harvey Yancey, H2 Design Build
Tara Morrison, National Park Service, Rock Creek Park
Jamie Henson, DC Department of Transportation
Mary Beth Ray, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner 3F03