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 10:27 a.m.
Hon. Pamela Nelson, Vice-Chairman
Hon. Diana Balmori
Hon. John Belle
Hon. Michael McKinnell
Hon. Witold Rybczynski
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
(Due to the absence of the Chairman, the Vice-Chairman presided at the meeting.)
A. Approval of the minutes of the 19 February meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the February meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance; he acknowledged the minor corrections that have already been provided. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the minutes without objection. Mr. Luebke said that the corrected minutes will be made available on the Commission's website.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 16 April, 21 May, and 18 June.
C. Status report on the National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs Program for FY 2009. 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 2009 grants have been received from 23 institutions that have previously received grants, as well as two new applicants. He said that the year's funding, enacted a week earlier, is $9.5 million which is an increase from previous years. He said that the staff will convene a panel in April to review the eligibility of the new applicants; the amount of the grants will then follow an established formula, with distribution of funds anticipated in May which is two months earlier than in past years. Ms. Nelson asked if new applicants are subject to a requirement of having existed for a minimum length of time. Mr. Luebke said that there is a requirement of three consecutive years with an operating budget of at least $1 million, exclusive of federal funds or other restricted funds; the institutions must also be Washington-based or active in Washington.
D. Report on the site inspection of a glass panel mock-up for the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. Mr. Luebke provided a report on the Commission members' site inspection earlier in the day of a mockup for the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial at 2nd and C Streets, SW. He said that the mockup included posts to mark the layout of the memorial's major elements, including a fountain, pool, masonry wall to the west, and artistic panels to the south, along with a full-scale mockup of the layered panels of bronze and glass and samples of the treatment of lettering within the laminated glass. He noted the complex design of the proposed panels and the Commission's request for the on-site mockup in its last review of 17 July 2008.
Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission members' comments given at the site inspection, including general support for the concept of the glass panel layered with a bronze cutout. He said that they characterized the quality of the glass and images as dynamic, ambiguous, powerful, and mysterious. They had commented that the opaque lettering alternative was not as appropriate as the incised or translucent lettering, which they called more subtle and elegant, and they suggested developing a related hierarchy of typography for the different types of inscriptions.
Mr. Luebke said that several Commission members expressed concern about the scale and character of the stone wall proposed along 2nd Street on the site's west side; they said the proposed height of fourteen feet would be too high and would block views to the Capitol dome from 2nd Street, recommending that this feature be studied further and lowered. He said that some Commission members commented that the pool, although reduced in size by 25 to 30 percent, may still be too large and may obstruct pedestrian movement across the plaza.
Ms. Nelson said the memorial's many components—including the flame, pool, wall, and art panels—may be competing with each other. She said the art panels would help to draw visitors away from the surrounding traffic to the site's interior.
Mr. McKinnell expressed support for the overall design but reiterated his objection to the wall along 2nd Street due to the obstruction of the view from the street to the Capitol dome. He said he did not consider lowering the wall or reducing its mass to be a good solution because the wall's massiveness is essential to the overall design of the memorial. Instead, he recommended that the design team consider reversing the locations of the glass panels and the masonry wall; if the wall were placed to the south, it would block the large and obtrusive highway ramps while saving the view to the dome. Mr. Luebke noted that the panels are proposed for the south side because of the changing quality of the light from this direction throughout the day, which is fundamental to the concept of the panels and cut-outs.
Mr. Belle said he thought Mr. McKinnell was right to emphasize the critical importance of the view to the Capitol but disagreed with Mr. McKinnell's proposed solution of rearranging the wall and panels; he urged the design team to study the masonry wall further to reduce its impact. Ms. Balmori commented that the views of the Capitol are an iconic element of the design and recommended that they be studied further. She said the wall as proposed would be very high, more like a building than a barrier, while the proposed entrances to the plaza are too narrow and should be widened. She requested an on-site layout of the footprint of the pool and fountain along with a mockup of the wall. She said the proposed panels and cutouts are effective, "quite poetic at their simplest," and emphasized that simpler would be better.
Vice-Chairman Nelson said that the Commission would send a letter summarizing the comments due to the complexity of the mockup. She added that the mockup was seen in the daytime and the Commission did not discuss lighting issues, but noted that the memorial would be open at all times and is adjacent to streets; she therefore requested that a lighting study be provided to the Commission with the next submission.
E. Confirmation of one recommendation from the February 2009 meeting after the loss of a quorum: CFA 19/FEB/09-11, Stoddert Elementary School, Building additions, renovation, and landscaping. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to consider confirmation of the recommendation concerning the Stoddert Elementary School which was reviewed in February after the loss of a quorum. He noted that the recommendation letter, which was distributed to the Commission members, included a request for submission of a revised concept which has already been submitted and is on the agenda later in the meeting. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission confirmed the February recommendation.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom described a minor change to the draft Consent Calendar, correcting the name of the submitting D.C. government agency for the small parks along New Hampshire Avenue, NW; he explained that the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation and the D.C. Housing Authority are cooperating on several park projects, and the correction does not affect the substance of the recommendation. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the revised Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act submissions: Ms. Batcheler said that there were no changes to the short draft appendix. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act submissions: Mr. Martinez reported several revisions to the draft appendix. One project with a negative recommendation has been removed from the appendix at the request of the applicants and will be re-submitted after further revision. Dates were adjusted for supplemental drawings that have been received, and supplemental drawings are still expected for one project to conform to the Board's requests; he asked for authorization for the staff to finalize this recommendation in the next week after further coordination with the applicants. He also noted that the appendix includes the permit application for the Safeway grocery store, which the Commission reviewed in concept with final review delegated to the staff; the case is included on the appendix to formalize the action. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the revised appendix including authorization for the staff to finalize the outstanding recommendation. (See agenda item II.E for two additional Old Georgetown Act submissions.)
B. National Capital Planning Commission and Commission of Fine Arts
CFA 19/MAR/09-1, Reimagining Washington's Monumental Core: A Framework Plan for Connecting New Destinations with the National Mall. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/JUL/08-1.) Mr. Luebke introduced the final draft of the Framework Plan, a joint project prepared by the staffs of the Commission and the National Capital Planning Commission. He said that the preliminary draft was reviewed in July 2008, followed by a public comment period, and comments have been considered in developing the final draft which is now proposed for the Commission's adoption. He noted the involvement of many people, agencies, and organizations during the three-year process of developing the plan. He said that the Framework Plan was initiated as a companion to the National Mall Plan being developed by the National Park Service, presented to the Commission the previous month; the two plans jointly provide guidance for Washington's monumental core. The Framework Plan also builds on the vision and principles of NCPC's Extending the Legacy plan as well as subsequent studies such as the Memorials and Museums Master Plan.
Mr. Luebke said that the Framework Plan identifies near- and long-term strategies for guiding design and planning decisions, and it also addresses topics such as environmental management. He described the Framework Plan's major goals: preserving the National Mall; integrating the Mall's special civic qualities into adjacent federal areas; guiding the federal government's future needs for new memorials, museums, public gathering spaces; and planning for federal office space so that this development will contribute to a sustainable city. He summarized the Commission's recommendations from July 2008: provide greater emphasis on sustainability; clarify the organization and graphics of the document to emphasize the plan's key priorities, goals, and recommendations; and describe more fully the plan's relationship to historic plans—particularly the L'Enfant, McMillan, and Legacy plans. He introduced several members of the National Capital Planning Commission staff who will take part in the presentation: Marcel Acosta, the Executive Director; Bill Dowd, director of the Plan and Project Implementation division; and Elizabeth Miller, the project manager. He noted the presence of the project's consultants from EDAW and members of the public who have been involved in the planning process.
Mr. Acosta described the extensive outreach and comments on the project, particularly during the public comment period in 2008; he said that many of the comments related to the issues that were raised by the Commission, particularly the topic of sustainability which is covered more extensively in the final draft of the Framework Plan. He said that the plan also incorporates current practices and ideas from other capital cities as a result of the September 2008 Capitals Alliance Conference. He said that some comments criticized the plan's earlier name—"National Capital Framework Plan"—as too broad in intent and scope, so the plan has now been renamed as "Reimagining Washington's Monumental Core: A Framework Plan for Connecting New Destinations with the National Mall." He said that the new name clarifies the plan's scope, geography, and intentions for the future. He described other comments concerning the need for a variety of transportation modes around central Washington, which is now addressed in the plan's recommendations. Recreation needs, particularly for D.C. and downtown residents, have been given greater emphasis. He said that the plan also includes further discussion of its relationship to past plans for Washington.
Mr. Acosta noted the close cooperation with the General Services Administration and the National Park Service. He said that federal agencies raised concerns and questions about proposed changes to federal properties, such as the Department of Energy headquarters complex at 10th Street, SW. The plan's strategies and wording have been coordinated with these agencies to avert near-term conflicts while conveying the importance of these locations in the future planning of the city.
Ms. Miller described the context for the plan, which is intended to address the needs of the federal government, the nation's citizens, and local residents. She said that the plan encompasses approximately seventy recommendations, of which four are considered "cornerstone strategies" that will be highlighted in the presentation: an improved connection between the Lincoln Memorial and Kennedy Center; developing a mixed-use destination on Pennsylvania Avenue between 9th and 12th Streets; establishing a festival green near the Jefferson Memorial; and redeveloping the 10th Street, SW corridor between the Smithsonian Castle and Banneker Park.
Ms. Miller discussed the plan's relationship to the principles of earlier Washington plans: the emphasis on topography, reciprocal views, and symbolic connections from the L'Enfant Plan; the interconnected park system of the McMillan Plan that links grand civic settings with city needs; the mixed-use concepts of Extending the Legacy with public features in multiple parts of the city; and the emphasis on waterfronts from the Memorials and Museums Master Plan. She said that the plan also calls for recovering some unrealized features of the L'Enfant Plan and proposes a more pedestrian-scaled street level that differs from the monumental character of the McMillan Plan. She noted the intensity of use on the Mall and the legislative protection of the central area in the 2003 amendments to the Commemorative Works Act; the resulting desire to spread uses outward from the Mall must be balanced with competing demands for nearby federal land such as office space, and the balance is more difficult due to current security needs. She explained that many of the modern-era buildings in the area are reaching an age at which their historic preservation value is being considered, while the urban planning effects of these buildings are sometimes in conflict with the current emphasis on fine-grained mixed-use development. The Framework Plan proposes the preservation of some of these buildings and the modification, re-use, or redevelopment of others.
Ms. Miller described how the Framework Plan shifts the emphasis of the city's development. The recent attention to the riverfronts is advanced by the Framework Plan, which calls for the waterfronts to be used for recreation, commemoration, and environmental stewardship. The Mall, traditionally perceived as the southern edge of central Washington, is treated in the Framework as the center of a wider core area, with additional connections and investment for the neighborhoods to the east and south. She said that this shift is consistent with the D.C. government's current initiative of the Center City Action Agenda. She also indicated the area covered by the master plan for the U.S. Capitol complex, currently underway, and explained that the Framework Plan addresses the predominantly federal areas located between these other planning studies. She emphasized the effort to coordinate these planning efforts and listed the common set of objectives that has been established for these plans: preserving the Mall; expanding the city center to the waterfront; creating distinctive, welcoming, and well-connected public places; and achieving a sustainable 21st-century city.
Ms. Miller described the types of improvements that will be needed to achieve the Framework Plan's vision: repairing the urban fabric, minimizing the barriers created by transportation infrastructure, and eliminating psychological barriers and visual obstructions. The plan proposes mixed-use infill development while retaining the inventory of federally owned office space; key structures would be reused for cultural purposes, making these historic resources more available to the public. She said that the proposals include approximately six million square feet of new developable area, of which one million would be suitable for federal office space, two million for private development, and two million for cultural facilities. The areas of development would be linked by a walkable open-space network including green streets and an estimated 120 acres of multi-purpose spaces that would include recreation.
Ms. Miller said that the Framework Plan also addresses the need for a modern, innovative, and sustainable transportation system. Examples include expansion of the Circulator bus system; an additional Metrorail station in Potomac Park; two additional station entrances near the Mall; bike-sharing stations and bicycle service centers; and a Mall transportation system that would help to serve people with special needs. She indicated the proposed location of an intermodal transportation center in the L'Enfant Plaza area, linking Metrorail lines with the Virginia commuter rail station. She also described the sustainable strategies included in the Framework Plan, while recognizing that the study area is only a component of a larger environmental system. The strategies include investing in high-performance buildings and renewable energy technologies; upgrading infrastructure; improving stormwater management; reestablishing the tree canopy; fostering healthy ecosystems; restoring the shoreline; appropriately programming uses within floodplains; and the energy-efficient transportation proposals. She described the example of a proposal to collect stormwater runoff from the Federal Triangle area and treating it for use on the Mall and nearby areas for irrigation, ponds, and fountains. She also described the proposal that energy produced by buildings with new energy-generating technology would be shared with other nearby buildings that are more difficult to retrofit with such modern technology. Overall, she said that the Framework Plan promotes clean air, water, and land, and connects people to the natural environment.
Ms. Miller then described the proposals for the four specific precincts covered by the Framework Plan. Southwest Rectangle, which currently has the character of a federal office enclave, is envisioned as a lively urban center with added cultural, hospitality, and residential uses. The key corridors for the area would be 10th Street and Maryland Avenue. Redevelopment of the Department of Energy's Forrestal complex along 10th Street, along with nearby areas, would be a critical element; she noted the potential for a new cultural facility across Independence Avenue from the Smithsonian's Arts and Industries Building. She indicated the proposed restoration of Virginia Avenue which would reestablish views to the Washington Monument. Infill development of building yards would help to reinforce the street edges and generate activity. The Southwest Freeway would be decked for private mixed-use development. The proposal for 10th Street includes a series of civic spaces with features such as gardens and fountains. A nationally significant cultural facility is proposed for the southern terminus of 10th Street, and its architecture would provide a visual relationship between the Smithsonian Castle on the north and the adjacent Southwest Waterfront; a grand staircase at this location would connect 10th Street to the waterfront. The railroad would be realigned and decked to allow the restoration of Maryland Avenue as a grand urban boulevard linking the U.S. Capitol with the Jefferson Memorial; the street grid would be restored and new buildings would face the restored avenue. A series of civic spaces along Maryland Avenue would include the Eisenhower Memorial, currently being planned at 4th to 6th Streets; the enhancement of Reservation 113 between 7th and 9th Streets; and a riverfront overlook at the Portals complex near 14th Street.
Ms. Miller described the proposal for Potomac Park as a unique destination for recreation and events, helping to reduce pressure on the Mall for these uses. She described the four key recommendations for this area: connecting the park to the city; developing a harbor area; reprogramming the park for more sustainable recreation; and establishing a festival area near the Jefferson Memorial. The connections would be achieved with a series of low-scale bridges across the Washington Channel, located at walkable intervals, with a mix of vehicular and pedestrian-only bridges. The proposals include a boardwalk connection that would be part of the planned continuous riverwalk between Georgetown and the National Arboretum. A canal is proposed between the Channel and the Potomac River, allowing for the construction of the low bridges and providing a distinctive feature that would function as a maritime gateway to the city with a shorter travel distance for boats to reach the Potomac River. The land connection between 14th and 15th Streets would also be widened to improve pedestrian connections to the park as well as improving the pedestrian path around the Tidal Basin. The proposed new Metrorail stop near the Jefferson Memorial would also serve the open space and other memorials in the area, helping the park to become a destination for national audiences as well as a local amenity. The proposed thirty-acre open space in this area would have the visual backdrop of major memorials; the proposal would require consolidation of the massive highway and railroad infrastructure in this area. Along the Potomac River the seawalls would be raised and widened, creating an active esplanade edge and potential sites for small commemorative works; other shore areas facing the Channel would be softened with wetland plantings. Low-scale development would provide cafes and water-oriented recreation. She said that the proposals for this area would complement the current D.C. government plan for intense residential development along the northeast shore of the Southwest Waterfront.
Ms. Miller said that the Northwest Rectangle area offers the opportunity to extend the character of the Mall into nearby park areas. The vision is for a walkable cultural destination and employment area with beautiful, active parks and monumental institutions. The key new linkages would be from the Kennedy Center southeast to the Lincoln Memorial and east to President's Park. The proposals would require infrastructure changes to the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge approaches and the Potomac Freeway. The ceremonial boulevard between the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Memorial would be a commemorative zone and would provide a gateway to the city; it would also complement the U.S. Institute of Peace which is under construction nearby. The proposed street pattern includes reconnecting Constitution Avenue to its historic terminus at a belvedere overlooking the Potomac River. She indicated the multipurpose recreation facilities that would also be provided; the riverfront walk would also be improved between Georgetown and the Lincoln Memorial. To the east, the E Street corridor would become the spine for a series of significant civic spaces. The decking of the Potomac Freeway would accommodate expansion space for the Kennedy Center which has been considered in recent years, while also providing a more dignified approach, on foot or by car, to this presidential memorial. The restored street grid would enhance mobility for the overall area. Expansion space would also be possible for the State Department's headquarters, and access would be improved to the Old Naval Observatory site. A major commemorative feature at the intersection of Virginia Avenue and E Street would provide a focus halfway between the Kennedy Center and the White House while also relating the corridor to the Mall several blocks to the south.
Ms. Miller concluded by explaining the proposals for the Federal Triangle and Pennsylvania Avenue area. The focus would be a new destination area between 9th and 12th Streets, including hospitality or cultural uses in the Old Post Office building, its annex, and potentially the northern portion of the Internal Revenue Service building. The large site of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's J. Edgar Hoover Building, on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue at 9th and 10th Streets, would be redeveloped to provide a nationally significant cultural facility as well as a mix of office and retail uses; a major memorial space could also be included. Improvements to provide more activity along 10th Street would emphasize the connection from redevelopment areas further north to the National Museum of Natural History and the Mall to the south. She indicated the improvements and connections proposed within Federal Triangle, including cultural and private uses as well as public access to open spaces and greater enjoyment of the art, architecture, and history of the complex. She said that the proposals throughout this area would supplement the past work of the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation. She described the goal of improving the experience of moving between downtown and the Mall as well as creating a destination.
Vice-Chairman Nelson recognized a member of the public, architect Arthur Cotton Moore, who asked to address the Commission. Mr. Moore said that in 1986 he had initiated the proposal to restore Maryland Avenue by reconstructing it above the railroad tracks, and in 1991 he achieved a portion of this vision at the Portals development. He said that the railroad company, which has control over much of this area, agreed in 2005 to join in the proposed further restoration of the avenue. He thanked the Framework Plan project team for endorsing this redevelopment concept. He supported the proposal to develop Reservation 113 as an improved public park, and he said that he has provided the General Services Administration with a proposed design for this area that is still under consideration. He supported the general concept of improving the western end of Maryland Avenue but commented that the Framework Plan's proposed overlook would not be feasible due to the rising alignment of the railroad tracks at this location. He said that other opportunities exist nearby for improved pedestrian connections, including an existing and planned connection westward from the Portals. He questioned the practicality of the proposed triangular infill development along Maryland Avenue as federal office space due to the inefficiency of the shape for office layouts; he said that private development of that site is more suitable. He also emphasized the security difficulties of attempting to combine federal uses with public uses such as retail space, citing the example of the problematic retail space at the Old Post Office building, and said that private-sector development would be preferable for animating Maryland Avenue. He questioned the proposal to create a deck over the 9th Street tunnel, commenting that the corridor is already blocked by the nearby L'Enfant Plaza development and would hinder development of a potential building site over the right-of-way. He offered the general comment that many of the plan's proposals appear to be based on two-dimensional study but should be analyzed further in three dimensions; for instance, he said that the proposed treatment of 12th Street at Maryland Avenue would be inconsistent with the first-floor grades of adjacent buildings. He also suggested that Maryland Avenue's 160-foot width from the L'Enfant plan be indicated through the Eisenhower Memorial site; he acknowledged that his effort to retain traffic on this alignment has been unsuccessful but said that the open vista is still a widely accepted design principle that should be shown clearly. He concluded by reiterating his appreciation for the Framework Plan's support of improvements to this difficult area of the city.
Mr. Luebke noted that the Framework Plan already calls for further detailed studies of many of the topics that Mr. Moore discussed. Ms. Balmori said that Mr. Moore's comments are nonetheless useful in assessing the feasibility and complexity of the plan's proposals. Mr. Moore emphasized the importance of grade changes in the area, with over forty feet of variation, and the resulting complexity of the infrastructure; he said that the grade issues involve the railroads, highways, streets, buildings, and parks. He commented that some of the Framework Plan's proposals might need to be adjusted to accommodate the height of double-stacked trains.
Mr. Belle observed that Mr. Moore's comments focused on Maryland Avenue and asked whether that emphasis is due to his familiarity with that corridor or a belief that this proposal is especially critical to the plan. Mr. Moore said that the avenue's importance is significant, since it would be the corridor that ties together all of the north-south streets. Mr. Belle asked if the difficulties described by Mr. Moore might preclude the avenue from serving that purpose; Mr. Moore responded that his analysis shows it is possible to tie all the north-south streets into Maryland Avenue while providing residential and retail uses and maintaining the security of the railroad.
Ms. Nelson asked what the first steps should be among the complex sequence of future actions identified in the plan. Ms. Miller responded that more detailed studies of the 10th Street and Maryland Avenue corridors would be high priorities because the Southwest area has such great potential for improvement. She acknowledged Mr. Moore's detailed study and said that the Framework Plan is looking at a larger picture to provide a guiding vision before moving to the more detailed next steps. She said that partnerships and funding will be needed to move forward with planning for this area.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked who would be responsible for conducting the proposed studies for this area. Ms. Miller responded that there could be a variety of implementation methods, such as a study by a specific federal agency for its own building, or a study of specific infrastructure components by the Federal Highway Administration, the CSX Railroad, or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Mr. Belle asked if a first step would involve acquiring land or gaining control; Ms. Miller responded that a feasibility study would come first, drawing on work such as that done by Mr. Moore and bringing it to a more advanced level. She emphasized that the project team is already familiar with many of the comments given by Mr. Moore and agrees with most while disagreeing with some. Mr. Dowd reiterated that feasibility studies would be the next step and said that the National Capital Planning Commission intends to undertake these in the coming years. He added that the studies would be used to convince agencies controlling the properties, such as the General Services Administration, of the benefits that can be achieved through redevelopment; he offered the example of the Department of Energy headquarters site, which he said is inefficiently developed. He said that newer buildings could be more energy-efficient and could change the character and type of development in this area of the city.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk acknowledged the potential of NCPC's role and said that the Framework Plan's description of proposed organizational and funding tools is therefore too tentative; she suggested that this section be revised to give more direct guidance for the next steps. Ms. Miller said that the plan gives greater emphasis to establishing a vision that will capture people's attention and illustrate the need for taking the next steps. She added that another potential mechanism for implementation is legislative creation of a corporate entity that could redevelop this area, but it is premature to seek a commitment to such a strategy until there is support for the vision. Ms. Balmori commented that the Framework Plan could nonetheless provide a more specific description of necessary next steps to implement the proposals for key areas such as those that Ms. Miller identified; such a description would make the plan "much more convincing." Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the plan would benefit from an emphatic statement that NCPC is ready to move forward with the next steps toward implementation.
Ms. Balmori said that a stronger hierarchy among the proposals would be helpful to ensure that the more important ideas do not get lost due to the complexity of the plan. She suggested that the text emphasize that the plan is not intended as a vision but is instead a current snapshot of Washington and the possibilities for improving the city; she described the plan as a series of proposals that include projects that are either underway, have been previously discussed, or involve land that is becoming available and buildings that could be transformed. She emphasized that readers expecting a grand vision will likely be disappointed, and the plan would therefore benefit from stating its purpose more clearly at the beginning of the document.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the final draft is much clearer than the previous draft that was reviewed in 2008, and she said that the presentation—following the outline of the printed plan—was informative and easy to follow. She added that the introductory part of Ms. Miller's presentation was clearer than the introductory pages of the book, which Ms. Plater-Zyberk said gave only a partial understanding of the complex process that produced this plan. She recalled the discussion of hundreds of meetings and coordination among parallel planning initiatives, recommending that this planning context be described more clearly toward the beginning of the document. She added that there is nothing negative about stating that the document is not intended to be a vision plan, commenting that there are many visionary proposals but the overall intention is to achieve the city's potential rather than to rethink it altogether.
Mr. Luebke suggested that the project team work on revising the first few pages to respond to the Commission's comments; Ms. Balmori agreed. Mr. Belle commented that the previous draft contained less detail but provided a broad inspirational statement which he encouraged maintaining in the final document as the continuing basis for the entire planning effort. Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed and said that this is conveyed in some of the initial slides in the presentation, such as the list of goals which she said is not evident in the document. Ms. Miller and Mr. Luebke said that the goals are in the document but could be given more emphasis graphically. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that key phrases from the slide, such as "protect from overuse," would be important to have in the document to clarify this major goal and generating idea of the planning effort. Mr. Belle agreed, commenting that such critical issues were discussed more in the previous review than in the current submission.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the Memorials and Museums Master Plan is given insufficient emphasis as a precedent for the Framework Plan; she suggested that an image of the master plan be included in the sequence of historic plan graphics. Ms. Balmori agreed that the Memorials and Museums Master Plan needs more emphasis. Mr. Luebke said that this master plan is difficult to convey with a single graphic, since its key diagram is a series of dots across the city map; Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the master plan should nonetheless be included, and Ms. Balmori noted that it was previously included but has been dropped. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the important point to be conveyed is that plans in modern times are developed by building upon past work and collaborative processes rather than by single entities acting alone; Ms. Balmori agreed.
Mr. McKinnell supported the comments of the other Commission members and said that the document jumps too quickly to the precinct studies without establishing the philosophical basis for the plan. He said there is insufficient discussion of the modern avoidance of grand planning, in contrast to past eras such as when L'Enfant planned the city; modern planning employs different methods for addressing the growth of cities, such as smaller precinct studies which can be realized in a reasonable period of time rather than over many generations. He said that this approach to planning should be emphasized at the beginning of the document, adding that the planning structure is an important part of the planning strategy and must be communicated in the plan document. Mr. McKinnell also supported the suggestion to provide a more detailed concept for a particular small area of the plan, in order to provide readers with a stronger image of how the planning proposals would appear when realized.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk reiterated that Ms. Miller's presentation was clearer than the written document and suggested that the text be edited to more closely resemble the presentation. Ms. Balmori agreed, commenting that the presentation clearly explained the decision to focus on selected areas and achievable proposals.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the plan needs a strong identity but the new title—beginning with the word "Reimagining"—does not provide one. Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori suggested reverting to "Framework" or "Framework Plan" in the title. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that this phrase could be in the subtitle, such as "Washington's Monumental Core: A Framework Plan for Connecting...." Ms. Nelson said that the plan should be identifiable by a single word such as "Framework"; Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that this word is generic, but "Monumental Core" might be a useful identifying phrase.
Ms. Balmori reiterated the suggestion that the plan conclude with a more detailed treatment of a selected idea that would convince people that the plan is achievable; Ms. Nelson suggested an image of water taxis or a similarly compelling feature. Ms. Miller said that the plan includes several proposals that can be achieved within the next couple of years, although this may not be explained well in the plan; Ms. Balmori recommended emphasizing this.
Mr. Luebke said that the submission is for a final draft; he asked whether the Commission's recommendations should be treated as substantive changes to the plan or as straightforward editing of the submitted document. Ms. Balmori responded that the recommendations involve editing. Mr. Dowd said that the goal is to complete the plan, and he offered to incorporate the Commission's comments before the final printing of the document. He noted that the plan will be presented to NCPC for adoption in two weeks, which may result in additional comments; he expressed the hope that all of the comments could be handled in conjunction with the final production process.
Mr. Luebke suggested a consensus of the Commission to adopt the plan in substance subject to the comments that were provided; he offered to circulate the revised text to the Commission members before the final printing of the document. Several Commission members agreed with this suggestion. Ms. Miller added that an executive summary or brochure would be developed to provide a more compelling description of the plan, following the model of her presentation; she said that this document would be intended to make a strong case for starting the next steps. She said that this document would be prepared after the plan is approved. Ms. Nelson agreed that such a document would be useful and supported modeling it on the format of the presentation; Ms. Balmori agreed.
Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the final draft, subject to the comments that were offered, with the request to see the revisions before publication, and with the understanding that the comments would also be incorporated into the executive summary that will be prepared. Mr. Luebke confirmed that the Commission's comments would be conveyed in a letter which would be provided to the Commission members for confirmation before its release. Ms. Balmori added that while additional coverage of sustainability would be desirable, she acknowledged the difficulty of emphasizing it for the entire planning area but suggested that it be considered in the development of specific proposals. Ms. Miller responded that NCPC intends to prepare a sustainability plan for the federal government; she noted that the D.C. government is currently working on a comprehensive sustainability plan that looks at broad systems and their relationship to smaller planning actions. Ms. Balmori agreed that the small actions are needed in the near term because the larger proposals are many decades away from implementation.
C. District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities
CFA 19/MAR/09-2, Columbia Heights Streetscape Project—Public Art. 14th Street and Park Road, NW. Installation of mosaic medallions. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for the art component of a streetscape project at 14th Street and Park Road, NW, in the Columbia Heights neighborhood. He noted that this is the first submission of the project so it is listed as a concept, although the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities is asking for final approval because of the short schedule for the entire streetscape project. He said that the artwork comprises a series of mosaic medallions by artist Jann Rosen-Queralt set within the sidewalk paving. He said that Ms. Rosen-Queralt could not attend, and he introduced Rachel Dickerson, Public Arts Manager for the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and project architect Otto Condon of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects.
Ms. Dickerson described the artist's intention to integrate the art with the streetscape and presented images of other work by the artist illustrating the integration of art with its context. She described the overall streetscape proposal for the area, which has recently undergone extensive redevelopment. The artwork would extend along 14th Street from Monroe to Irving Street, where a Metro station entrance is located, and the focal point will be the fountain plaza at the intersection of 14th Street and Park Road. She said that the artist's concept is inspired by a kaleidoscope, and the proposal is for rings of tiles and tile medallions that will incorporate textile patterns reflecting the varied ethnic origins of Columbia Heights residents. She indicated the medallions that are included in the current proposal and others that will be developed in collaboration with neighborhood artists. She said the medallions would be 18 inches in diameter and made of fused glass tiles.
Ms. Nelson asked whether the tiles would have a slick surface; Mr. Condon said that they would have the appropriate friction resistance for tile. Ms Balmori and Ms. Nelson asked for further information, expressing concern that a vitreous tile would create an undesirably slippery surface for walking, particularly near a fountain. Mr. Condon responded that this type of tile has been used in fountains and meets the requirement for friction. Ms. Balmori emphasized that this issue has arisen in other projects and should be studied carefully; Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that there would probably be code requirements for such walking surfaces. Mr. Belle asked whether the artist had used such a technique before; Ms. Dickerson did not know but said that the artist has worked with ground-level surfaces. Ms. Nelson noted that the medallions would be small enough that people could walk around them. She asked what material would be used for the proposed ring shapes in the pavement; Mr. Condon responded that the rest of the fountain plaza, including the rings, would be ceramic tile manufactured by the Dal-Tile Corporation. Ms. Nelson asked whether this would be a slick porcelain surface; Mr. Condon said it is intended for exterior use under wet conditions. Ms. Nelson commented that she has used Dal-Tile in projects for walls, but not on ground-level surfaces.
Ms. Dickerson presented further illustrations of the project including the rings and the fountain jets. Ms. Nelson inquired about the canopies shown on one image; Mr. Condon explained that five canopies are proposed to frame the plaza and provide solar energy. Ms. Balmori asked if the energy would power the fountain; Mr. Condon said that the canopies will probably provide power to the streetlights. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for clarification of the green patches shown on the plan; Mr. Condon said that they indicate small lawns. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked whether the proposed trees would interfere with the solar panels. Mr. Condon explained that the angles and orientation of the canopies are still being studied.
Ms. Nelson asked for images of the artwork proposed at the Metro station entrance. Ms. Dickerson indicated the plan for this area but confirmed that no three-dimensional image is available; she noted that this area is flat and has no fountain, but Mr. Condon confirmed that one of the solar panels would be at this location. Ms. Balmori asked if the artist had also designed the benches and the area surrounding the fountain; Ms. Dickerson said the design was a collaboration between Ms. Rosen-Queralt and Mr. Condon.
Mr. Belle summarized the difficulties the Commission members were having with the project as presented. He said there seem to be many unanswered questions and noted that the project is dependent upon very specific ideas. He said that a slippery tile surface would be a major flaw, and the solar panels need further study of their orientation, the energy they will produce, and the fixtures they will serve. He noted that the medallions will be located in pedestrian areas, so the nature, shape, and three-dimensional space of these sites will be constrained and must be thoroughly understood.
Mr. McKinnell commented that the proposed tile medallions are too delicate. He referred to a slide in the presentation showing a Columbia Heights mural painted on a wooden fence, which he said is a more appropriately tough, indigenous form of urban art; he noted that it could be repainted if necessary. He said that the proposed tiles would be beautiful in a private garden, but the proposal "is just not bold enough to sustain itself in that environment." Ms. Balmori agreed that the project is too timid and small in scale; she commented that it should engage the benches, which now overwhelm the design, and suggested that the artwork address the entire corner site.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the proposed artwork is a surface decoration of a space that is defined by buildings, with the surface already modified by engineering structures typical of an urban streetscape—such as parking indications, streetlights, utility boxes, and fire hydrants. She said that the artist's delicate work is dealing only with surface and is going to be overwhelmed by the engineering structures; she also expressed concern about whether the paving surrounding the medallions and rings would age well. She suggested two different directions that could be followed: the art piece could expand its influence more robustly; or it could be diminished to work only with the surface, and the surrounding paving would be normal concrete sidewalks with the effort focused on the medallions. She said that trees and other landscape elements could be used to further shape the space, as the buildings do. Mr. Belle agreed and said that these issues should have arisen as part of a thorough site analysis that would normally be undertaken before development of an artistic concept in order to understand the parameters and limitations of the site. Ms. Dickerson said this study had been done as part of the collaborative design process. Mr. Belle said it was not evident in the presentation; Ms. Dickerson responded that the presentation focused only on the artwork proposal, which Mr. Belle said is an unrealistic approach. Mr. Luebke said that additional information on streetscape elements may be included in the technical drawings; he asked the Commission to provide guidance on whether the fundamental concept of tiles imprinted with textile patterns is appropriate. Ms. Balmori said that the concept could work at an urban scale if the medallions were larger and bolder.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk referred to one drawing that showed what she described as the enclosed geometry of the circle. She observed out that the fountain would define a central space from which everything else radiates, but the larger space then needs to be similarly defined. She said that the trees seem to be placed arbitrarily—sometimes on the rings and sometimes off, neither defining the space nor being totally random—which confuses the intent. She added that she is looking for an understanding on the part of the artist that there is a three-dimensional spatial component as important as the two-dimensional pattern created by the artwork; this three-dimensional component is already expressed in the buildings and proposed streetscape elements. She said that the textile patterns apparently have a more local meaning related to the neighborhood population and declined to comment on the choice of images.
Mr. McKinnell commented that the small size of the medallions would make them difficult for a pedestrian to decipher in the middle of a busy sidewalk. Mr. Belle and Ms. Balmori agreed that a pedestrian might not experience the medallions in the way they appear in the plan; Ms. Balmori reiterated that the medallions need to be at a larger scale and without so many other three-dimensional elements. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that an important characteristic of the medallions is that they will always be seen in perspective, so the perception of their pattern changes.
Vice-Chairman Nelson summarized the opinions of the Commission members and the consensus to request submission of a revised concept, perhaps with material samples. She added that it would be helpful to have the artist present for the next submission.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider the two Georgetown projects (items II.E.1 and II.E.2).
E. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Old Georgetown Act
1. OG 09-082 (H.P.A. 09-134), 3019 P Street, NW (Square 1269, Lot 866). Residence. Alterations to rear fence and brick piers. Permit—appeal. Mr. Martinez introduced the applicant's request for the Commission's reconsideration of the negative recommendation from the Old Georgetown Board concerning the rear garden enclosure at 3019 P Street, NW. He said that the scope of the proposal is relatively small, involving partial demolition of an existing brick wall and construction of a replacement fence along the rear alley, named Orchard Lane; but the proposal is part of a larger project that has had multiple reviews by the Board. He noted that the Board's report has been distributed to the Commission members, including a recommendation against the proposal and favoring retention of the existing garden wall; he said that this viewpoint is shared by the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, the Citizens Association of Georgetown, and a resident of Orchard Lane.
Vice-Chairman Nelson recognized the applicant's representatives: Andi Adams, an architectural historian with the law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman; and Merle Thorpe, the project architect. Ms. Adams said the existing garden wall was built in 1954 as part of extensive alterations to the older house which dates to 1826. She acknowledged that the wall generally contributes to the character of the alley which is part of the historic district, but said that the wall is not old enough to be part of the area's historic character which the Commission is authorized to protect under the Old Georgetown Act. She said that the period of significance for historic Georgetown extends through 1950, and features constructed from 1951 onward—including this 1954 wall—are, by definition, not part of Georgetown's historic character. She said that, under D.C. law, structures built outside the period of significance are non-contributing and can be demolished without further review; she therefore asked for the Commission's support of the proposal to remove portions of this wall, and for the Commission's approval of the proposed new fence design which will be presented by the architect.
Ms. Adams reported that the Foundation for the Preservation of Historic Georgetown holds an easement on the property "for the purposes of protecting the historic aspects of the house"; she said that the Foundation has reviewed the proposal and granted permission for the demolition and replacement of the garden enclosure.
Mr. Thorpe presented details of the existing wall and the proposed replacement fence. He said the new fence would be six feet high, measured from the prevailing grade on the garden side. He indicated features that the Old Georgetown Board has already approved for removal, including a portion of a similar fence. He said the owners are also proposing to relocate the area of trash containers to another side of the property, away from a large existing elm tree; he said that this new location would be concealed by gates, and the trash containers would not be visible from public space.
Mr. Thorpe said that the proposed fence design would continue the pier rhythm of the existing wall while extending the height from five feet to six feet; the upper portion of the piers would be constructed of brick to match the existing. Ms. Nelson asked whether the existing brick piers would be retained. Mr. Thorpe clarified that the piers are integral to the brickwork of the wall and would need to be removed, with only their bases retained; the piers would then be rebuilt above the bases. He said the fence is designed to accommodate vines hanging over it, so it will become part of the landscape.
Mr. Luebke asked Mr. Thorpe to provide overall orientation to the site and to indicate the portion of the wall that has been approved for demolition. Mr. Martinez clarified that the approved portion of replacement fence is not located along the alley, and the approved wood fence at that location would have less impact on the nearby tree than a new fence with brick piers.
Mr. Thorpe said that the Old Georgetown Board had suggested a solution of removing a small portion of the existing wall to allow for a gate, while retaining the corner pieces; however, this would cause problems for the placement of the trash in conjunction with the steps to the gate, and the owners also want additional height for privacy. Mr. Luebke asked how much higher the proposed fence would be than the existing wall; Mr. Thorpe said it would be 18 inches taller.
Mr. Martinez noted a concern that the proposed location for the trash bins would be more visible to someone entering the alley than the current location. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked how far this location would be from the street. Mr. Thorpe responded that the alley is very long, so the proposed gated enclosure for the trash would be a very minor component. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission's jurisdiction includes any element that can be seen from public space, which includes this alley, adding that several houses front the alley which gives it some of the character of a street. Mr. Thorpe noted that most of these houses were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s. Ms. Adams acknowledged that the Commission has jurisdiction over such issues but said that they should not be treated as historic preservation issues because the proposal involves structures that are more recent than the historic district's period of significance.
Ms. Nelson noted that the existing wall falls outside the period of significance by only a few years. Mr. McKinnell asked for further clarification of the height; Mr. Luebke said that the proposed height of six feet facing the garden would result in approximately eight feet in height facing the alley, which would be the tallest in the immediate area. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for clarification of the Board's suggested solution; Mr. Luebke said that the Board recommended retaining at least the corner portions of the existing wall, which are the most prominently visible portions from public space, due to the concern that the replacement fence would be of lesser quality and greater height. He also noted that the Commission, as a design review board, may comment on any aspect of design, including recent construction. He said that one option could be to refer questions of historic determinations to the D.C. government's Historic Preservation Review Board, which would consider the case in accordance with the D.C. historic preservation law. Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson supported this option. Ms. Nelson said that retaining the existing wall would be the best choice aesthetically for the neighborhood and the alley, commenting that the existing wall has a strong and well-integrated presence along the alley while the proposal appears unwelcoming. Ms. Balmori agreed and said that the existing wall is well resolved aesthetically.
Ms. Nelson suggested that the desired privacy for the garden could be achieved by adding plants or some other feature to the existing wall; Mr. Martinez said that the Old Georgetown Board members had said they would consider such options, including planters above the fence with a temporary appearance. Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that when the Commission has altered the Board's recommendations, it has been usually been because the Commission is more demanding, and she said she did not want to change the Board's recommendation on this proposal. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission adopted the report of the Old Georgetown Board with the advice to refer the proposal to the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board.
2. OG 08-225 (H.P.A. 08-343), Apple (retail store), 1229 Wisconsin Avenue, NW (Square 1208, Lot 59). Demolish existing structure and construct new building. Concept. Ms. Barsoum introduced the proposal to build a new one-story retail computer store for Apple, Inc. at 1229 Wisconsin Avenue; she described the location as being in the heart of commercial Georgetown and said that a three-story building from the 1980s currently occupies the site. She noted that the Old Georgetown Board's report has been distributed to the Commission members. She introduced Benjamin Fay of Apple to begin the presentation.
Mr. Fay summarized the past reviews with the Old Georgetown Board, which he characterized as a collaborative process resulting in a successful design that has the support of Apple and the Board. He introduced architect Frank Grauman of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson to present the design.
Mr. Grauman described the site on the east side of Wisconsin Avenue a block north of M Street, indicating its prominent location at a bend in the avenue and at the terminus of Prospect Street which extends to the west. He described the existing building, which he said is newer than others on the block and is a non-contributing structure in the historic district. He described how the proposed design is intended to respect the historic commercial character of this street while being differentiated from its neighbors. He said that the program is for only a single-story building, but the facade would be 32 feet high in order to provide an appropriate presence along the street; the proposal includes a glass and painted-brick storefront beneath an abstracted corbelled cornice, comparable to other buildings on the street which often have large glass ground-level storefronts with punched-window facades above.
Mr. Grauman said that careful attention has been given to proportions, particularly of the front facade windows. The only signage would be a large apple logo in Lucite, set within a transom window and slightly brighter than the surface behind it. He described the sequence of spaces in the building: a double-height entrance area near the street; the central part of the building with stainless-steel detailing; and a rear area, treated as a garden, with detailing that relates to the entrance area. He said that the rear facade will be new construction but the existing basement parking and rear ramp will be retained, along with the foundation and first-floor structure.
Mr. Grauman presented the details of the front facade as refined through consultation with the Old Georgetown Board, describing the sequence of previous design proposals. He presented a sample of the proposed custom steel mullion system and confirmed that the large window panels will be thick laminated glass. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the unusual thickness of the side walls along the interior of the retail space. Mr. Grauman said these walls would accommodate various displays, some of which would include rear illumination. Mr. Fay added that Apple prefers to place the mechanical systems out of sight, and much of the ductwork for this store would run through the side walls in order to keep the ceiling simple. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if the wall thickness relates to an optimum interior dimension that Apple uses to provide a crowded character to its retail stores. Mr. Fay explained that the stores are designed using a 30-inch grid module; he said that crowding is not a design goal, and this store's width is maximized subject to the operational requirements for the thick side walls. Mr. Grauman said that the design model has been adapted to Apple stores in prominent locations around the world.
Ms. Nelson noted that Apple stores often have lines of people at the entrance, and she asked about the setback of the front door and the depth of the overhang; Mr. Fay said that the entrance recess would be sixteen feet wide and four feet deep. Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that there appears to be a room for employees in the rear and suggested that a window be provided to light this area, which would also improve the building's appearance from the alley. Mr. Fay agreed that this would be possible; Mr. Grauman noted that the design is still only at the concept stage, despite the extensive study of detailing that has already been undertaken.
Mr. McKinnell asked if the Commission had previously seen a proposal for this store with an all-glass facade; Mr. Luebke said this project has not previously been formally presented to the Commission, but designs might have been seen by the Commission members informally or through the media. Mr. McKinnell commented on the beauty of the Apple store in Boston with its all-glass façade; he expressed regret that the earlier all-glass proposal for this Georgetown location has been abandoned. Mr. Grauman said the project has evolved in response to community comments, which has resulted in a different outcome than was achieved in Boston. Mr. Fay said that the design review process was similar in Boston, but the residential character of Georgetown resulted in an early decision not to pursue the all-glass solution due to issues such as light spillage; instead, the design places greater emphasis on replicating the rhythm of other structures on the street. Mr. Grauman emphasized that the project team is pleased with the result; Ms. Nelson noted that the Old Georgetown Board agrees.
Mr. Luebke said it is before the Commission to decide whether to adopt the report and recommendation of the Old Georgetown Board. He noted that the Commission might also decide to delegate the final approval to the Board and the staff without requiring an additional presentation to the Commission. Mr. McKinnell commented that the project is much further developed than is typical for the concept stage. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the concept design and delegated the final review to the Old Georgetown Board and the staff.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.D.
D. District of Columbia Public Schools
CFA 19/MAR/09-3, Stoddert Elementary School, 4001 Calvert Street, NW. Building additions, renovation and landscaping. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 19/FEB/09- 11.) Mr. Simon said that the proposal was previously reviewed in February and was revised in response to the comments from the Commission, as ratified earlier in the meeting due to the lack of a quorum in February. He introduced architect Sean O'Donnell of Ehrenkrantz Eckstut and Kuhn to present the design.
Mr. O'Donnell presented an overview of the project for the benefit of Commission members who had not seen the previous presentation, adding that the project was recently presented to the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission which approved the concept and emphasized the importance of the school as the center of the community. He explained that the building and site will be jointly used by the D.C. Public Schools and the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation in accordance with a memorandum of understanding that establishes zones in the building for shared or weekend use as well as academic-only areas. He described the site's location in the Glover Park neighborhood, north of Georgetown and west of Wisconsin Avenue. The 6.5-acre site has a 17,000-square-foot building from 1932 that will be retained and two modular structures from recent decades that will be demolished; a small recreation building on the site will also be demolished, with its early childhood program relocated to the expanded school building. The project involves expanding the building to approximately 64,000 square feet, providing more adequate facilities for the existing student population. He noted that the gymnasium would be larger than necessary for the students due to the additional use for Department of Parks and Recreation programs.
Mr. O'Donnell described the site's topography and vegetation, with slopes along the edges and a level playing field toward the east; the western portion of the site includes extensive tree cover, with some additional large trees in other parts of the site. He noted the importance of the trees to the community and explained the extensive neighborhood consultation process of ranking the importance of each tree to determine the best location for the new construction. He indicated the view looking northward on 40th Street, which terminates at the school site. The new entrance lobby is planned to align with this axis, consistent with the 1930s site plan that was not fully realized; the 40th Street alignment is currently occupied by the school's driveway and parking lot. He explained that the most feasible locations topographically for driveway entrances are at the center of the north and south boundaries; the existing driveway on the south, at the congested area near the school entrance, will be replaced by the proposed new driveway on the north. He said that most students walk to the school, but several buses are also used.
Mr. O'Donnell said that the 1932 Georgian-style building is attractive and in good condition but does not provide an adequate entrance area; the intended entrance pavilion was never built. He said that natural light is plentiful in the existing building, and its prominent bay window would be referenced in the design of the new construction.
Mr. O'Donnell described the proposed design concept. A new entrance courtyard and shared-use wing would terminate the 40th Street axis, creating a civic presence for the school while retaining the large trees in this area. The slope leading up to the building entrance—shallow enough that handrails will not be required—would provide seating and play areas for the children; he said that the design proposal for this area will be developed further. A new academic wing would be constructed toward the west, with an east-west circulation spine connecting this new wing with the edge of the existing building and the new shared-use wing. This configuration would create two "neighborhoods" within the school which would help to break down the scale of the academic community. A courtyard would be developed at the southwest edge of the complex; the two-story existing building would be on the east, the two-story glass facade of the new academic wing's corridors would be on the north, and the forested area of the site would be on the west. He indicated the proposed location of the driveway and parking on the north side of the new construction, for use by staff during school days and community parking at other times; food service and garbage pick-up would also be provided from the driveway, and the location would not conflict with the school's pedestrian entrance on the south. A doorway on the north would be provided for staff and service use. He said that the topography and trees would serve to screen the parking from the north-facing windows of the classrooms, cafeteria, and multipurpose room, while the massing of larger elements along Davis Place—including the gymnasium—would correspond to the neighborhood's larger buildings to the north.
Mr. O'Donnell described the revisions that have been made since the previous submission. The proposed driveway on the north has been reconfigured to reduce the length of the curb cut, providing improved pedestrian conditions along the sidewalk. The connections between the existing and new construction are also being adjusted to stay below the cornice of the 1932 building and to eliminate direct adjacency of new and old masonry; instead, glass will be used at the intersection locations. The configuration of the main entrance facade has been refined further, with a monumental bay to terminate 40th Street encompassing the administration area on the first floor and the media center above. In response to the Commission's concern, the south-facing glass wall of the new academic wing has been refined to include a significant overhang supported by exterior columns, with seating areas inside and outside as well as exterior doors that relate to the interior first-floor classroom entrances, which will encourage movement between the classrooms and the courtyard. A louver system between the columns would provide additional solar shading while still allowing views from the second-floor corridor to the trees. He said that details of site grading and connections with the existing building are still being studied.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the courtyard facade has been greatly improved since the previous month and she reiterated her support for the overall site planning. However, she expressed concern that the westernmost portion of the proposed parking area might require extensive regrading with cutting and filling, resulting in a negative impact on the wooded area that would extend beyond the area of impact shown in the drawings. She said that several options could be considered for eliminating this portion of the parking lot. Mr. O'Donnell responded that the parking program has already been reduced from 80 to 40 spaces. The site grading is being studied to minimize impacts, but refinement of the service area dimensions has resulted in pushing the parking lot slightly further into the wooded area. He said that the community has supported the proposed solution. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the community may not realize that the impacts will extend beyond the edge of the parking pavement due to topographic adjustments in this steeply sloping area; she said that existing trees would likely be removed in areas that are being regraded. She suggested moving the proposed parking area further east, perhaps requiring some adjustment in the position of the new classroom wing. Mr. O'Donnell said that the constraints include the appropriate access location due to the topography along the street, the need to accommodate loading space and dumpster locations, and the need for service vehicles to make a three-point turn. He said that other configurations were considered but would have more severe impacts. He emphasized the site constraints including the desire to keep the new construction away from the windows and foundation of the existing building as much as possible, and he confirmed that the total of 40 parking spaces is a requirement.
Mr. McKinnell suggested that the landscape architect for the project should provide detailed information on which trees would be removed as a result of the proposed parking lot and the regrading around it; Ms. Balmori agreed that the regrading of the site would be extensive and would have a significant impact on the trees. Ms. Nelson asked if the parking area could be split between two locations; Ms. Balmori noted that the problem would be the lack of another suitable driveway access point along the perimeter of the site. Mr. O'Donnell said that the only other suitable access locations would be along the playing field, which would not be acceptable to the community; the proposal is therefore to consolidate and screen the parking area. He acknowledged that the loss of trees is a concern and said that this has been discussed with the community; the intention is to have a landscaped edge along the parking area and one possibility is the replanting of some trees. Ms. Plater-Zyberk clarified that the concern is not with the northern edge of the main parking area but with the angled extension of the parking area to the west, where the slope is most significant. Mr. Luebke said that a large retaining wall could be an option; he estimated the grade difference as fifteen to eighteen feet. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the limited amount of tree loss shown in the drawings seems to suggest the use of a retaining wall, even though none is proposed.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested a motion that the Commission approve the concept for the project while conveying the concern about the configuration of the parking lot. Mr. Belle added that the Commission should request that the design team's landscape architect study the site layout and parking issues more carefully.
Mr. McKinnell commented that the scale of the entrance facade is very monumental for a school, perhaps excessively, and he suggested caution in developing this feature. Ms. Balmori agreed, and Ms. Nelson added that the monumental facade would appear very large to a small child. Mr. O'Donnell responded that this could be addressed through the detailing of the windows and explained that the tall ceiling heights are the welcome result of the need to align with the floor levels of the existing historic building.
Mr. McKinnell recommended further study of the gymnasium facades, which he said are often problematic due to the typical omission of windows. Mr. O'Donnell said that this gymnasium would have windows, including windows along the Davis Street facade, but these elevations have not yet been developed due to the tight project schedule.
Ms. Balmori suggested that the Commission see an additional submission for the project. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission could consider the schedule for the next submission as part of its action; he noted that the project is on an expedited schedule. Mr. O'Donnell said that the intention is to pour foundations at the end of March; he clarified that this would be for the building and would not include the parking. Mr. Luebke said that a final review submission should therefore be feasible within the project schedule. Mr. O'Donnell said that the final review is anticipated at the Commission's April meeting. Ms. Balmori emphasized the need for further review of a more developed site plan with contours so that the Commission could see the actual effect of the proposed parking on the existing forested area.
Mr. Luebke summarized the motion to approve the revised concept with the comments that were provided concerning a reduction in the impact of the western parking area, further refinement of the architectural scale, and further information on the treatment of the gymnasium facades. He said that these issues could be addressed by the design team in the short time available before the next submission deadline. Upon a second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved this motion.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:58 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA