The meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 9:08 a.m.
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer, Vice Chairman
Hon. Edward Dunson
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Toni Griffin
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
(In the absence of Chairman Powell, Vice Chairman Meyer presided.)
A. Approval of the minutes of the 23 January meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the January meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Ms. Griffin with second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission approved the minutes. Mr. Luebke said that the 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, as previously published: 16 March, 20 April, and 18 May 2017.
C. Report on the Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Design Competition. Mr. Luebke reported that three Commission members participated the previous day in a design jury for the U.S. Mint, continuing a review process that began in 2016. Ms. Meyer said that the jury reviewed eighteen entries for the coin design and agreed on a recommendation of a design for further consideration; she said that the review process is ongoing. Mr. Luebke noted that this design jury was required by the authorizing legislation for this coin, including participation by members of the Commission and the Mint's Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. Mr. Lindstrom added that the jury's recommendation included suggestions for modifications to the selected design, and the resulting proposal will be presented to the Commission at a future meeting.
D. Report on the approval of six objects proposed for acquisition by the Freer Gallery of Art. Mr. Luebke reported that earlier in the day Ms. Meyer, acting on behalf of Chairman Powell, approved the Smithsonian Institution's proposed acquisition of six objects for the permanent collection of the Freer Gallery of Art. He described the objects, all from China: three ink and color drawings from the twentieth century, with one drawn on a fan; a glazed porcelain tile from the 19th century; a scroll painting on silk from the early 13th century; and an ancient notched jade disk, unusually large with a pattern of geometric markings. He noted that a viewing of the artworks by the Commission members was not feasible due to the continuing renovation work at the Freer Gallery.
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 – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that the only change to the draft appendix is the addition of a report that the staff has approved, under delegated authority, the final design for the birdhouse at the National Zoo. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several changes to the draft appendix. One case was withdrawn by the applicant (case number SL 17-056); another case has been added, following its timely submission to the D.C. Government but an oversight in forwarding the case to the Commission (SL 17-059). Other changes are limited to minor adjustments to note the receipt of supplemental materials. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Stevenson said that no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which includes 29 cases; all of the supplemental drawings were received prior to distribution of the draft. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission approved the Old Georgetown Act appendix.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 16/FEB/17-1, National World War I Memorial. Pershing Park, Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets, NW. Concept. (Previous: CFA 20/OCT/16-1.) Secretary Luebke introduced the concept submission for the proposed National World War I Memorial, submitted by the National Park Service on behalf of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission. He said that an initial concept design for this memorial was presented in October 2016; the Commission had expressed support for the program to place the memorial in Pershing Park, but did not take an action. He summarized the Commission's concerns about the apparent intention to demolish the existing landscape—designed by the firms of M. Paul Friedberg and Oehme, van Sweden—and to rebuild it in a manner merely reminiscent of the original. The Commission had commented that this approach contradicted the potential project goals of either preservation or reconceptualization. He said that the design team has subsequently analyzed the existing park further to create a design that balances the insertion of new commemorative elements with the protection of critical existing character-defining features. The current submission presents two new alternative schemes. He asked Peter May, the associate regional director for lands and planning with the National Capital Region of the National Park Service, to introduce the submission, and Mr. May introduced Edwin Fountain of the World War I Centennial Commission to begin the presentation.
Mr. Fountain said that the Centennial Commission received legislative authorization to establish a memorial in Washington, D.C., commemorating the centennial of World War I. Because of obstacles to securing a site on the Mall, in 2014 authorization was given for the use of Pershing Park, which memorializes Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of American forces in the First World War. The Centennial Commission had initially understood that redevelopment of the park was an option. Historic preservation of the park landscape emerged as a critical issue in May 2015 in meetings with review agencies during development of the design competition program; in mid-2016, Pershing Park was determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mr. Fountain said that an international design competition initiated in June 2015 received 350 submissions. An independent jury selected five designs for a second stage; the winning design, "The Weight of Sacrifice," submitted by Joseph Weishaar, was determined to best meet the challenge of integrating the memorial with the park, and creating a memorial with the gravity commensurate with that of the war memorials on the National Mall. After further development, this design was presented to the Commission of Fine Arts as a concept proposal in October 2016.
Mr. Fountain said that the main commemorative feature is proposed to be a monumental bronze bas-relief sculpture mounted on a wall. While the sculpture itself is not presented for review at this meeting, it is conceived as a 75-foot-long representation of the stages of American involvement in the war through the device of a single recurring figure of a soldier. He acknowledged the challenge of inserting a wall into the existing park. He said that both of the currently submitted alternatives would place the wall along the western edge of a sunken space that would replace the park's central pool. The alternative known as the "Scrim & Green Concept" was endorsed by the Centennial Commission as the better solution to balancing commemoration and preservation; the second alternative, the "Pool & Plaza Concept," would preserve more of the existing design. He introduced Phoebe Lickwar of FORGE Landscape Architecture to describe the alternatives in more detail.
Ms. Lickwar said that Pershing Park was a project of the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation (PADC); it was designed by M. Paul Friedberg in the late 1970s, and soon after the park opened in 1981, the firm of Oehme, van Sweden redesigned the planting. The park is part of the Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site. In 2016, following legislation to establish a new World War 1 memorial at the site, the National Park Service completed a Cultural Landscape Inventory for the park along with a Determination of Eligibility for its listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Ms. Lickwar described Pershing Park as a transitional landscape between Freedom Plaza on the east and President's Park on the west. It is enclosed by berms and plantings on the east, south, and west sides, and opens to Pennsylvania Avenue on the north. It is organized spatially into two rooms: the smaller Pershing Memorial area with a statue and memorial wall, and a larger central sunken landscape with a central pool edged by terraced seating, stairs, and planters. The park's key focal points include a central fountain, now inoperable; a kiosk; and the statue of Gen. Pershing. In plan, the park is organized around the central sunken space; in section, it is organized around clearly articulated levels. A spatial study yielded several key observations: circulation through the park is multi-directional and non-hierarchical; the park relates directly to the PADC streetscape along Pennsylvania Avenue north of the Pershing Memorial; and the distinct edges of the PADC streetscape can be accommodated within a rehabilitation scheme. She said that the Oehme, van Sweden planting plan of shrubs, perennials, and grasses created a layered effect with year-round visual interest. However, much of the understory planting is missing, and much that remains is not consistent with the original plan; many trees are also missing or are in poor health, and extensive replanting is anticipated.
Ms. Lickwar said that the selected competition design best fulfilled the competition's objectives and was also considered the scheme most adaptable for the preservation of park features. This design has been radically changed but its primary element—the memorial wall with the bas-relief sculpture—has been retained. Modifications made after consultations with Commission staff in May and July 2016 included shifting of the wall to the western edge of the central space and lowering instead of raising the plinth. Proposed topographic changes included lowering of the berms and removal of steps between the upper walk, the Pershing Memorial, the Pennsylvania Avenue plaza, and sunken plaza; and removing the stepped terraces to improve universal accessibility and also visibility into and out of the park, creating stronger connections between the park and its surroundings. Key features to be preserved included the overall plan, the lowered plaza, the basic layout of the berms, the sense of openness, and the views across the site.
Ms. Lickwar noted the past comments that these changes would compromise the sectional shaping of the site—an essential part of Friedberg's design—and therefore the design and planting plan have been revised to explore further how to combine a new commemorative landscape with a more faithful rehabilitation scheme. Other comments suggested increasing the amount of green space and better defining the transition between the memorial space and the PADC streetscape at the north. She said that revisions began with small changes and identifying the most critical character-defining features to protect; a series of design proposals developed through this iterative process was then modified further.
Ms. Lickwar said the first revised concept to result from this process, the "Pool Concept," proposed replacing the fountain with a massive, irregular block of limestone brought from the region of the Western Front to symbolize the enormous impact of the war. A figural sculpture would replace the kiosk on its circular plinth. The south side of the planters on Pennsylvania Avenue would be used for inscriptions. This scheme would impose only a minimal impact on the existing park, affecting only the fountain, kiosk, and planters. However, this design is not being brought forward because it would rely on abstraction and interpretation in redefining the fountain and pool as the primary expression of commemoration, and would separate the abstract expression of monumentality from the realistic sculpture.
Ms. Lickwar said the next revised scheme, the "Upper Walkway Concept," proposes commemorative walls with bas-relief panels and inscriptions surrounding the terraced seating and a restored central pool. One wall would be used for stories, and the other would be used for art. However, because this option would relegate the primary commemorative elements—the bas-relief panels—to a secondary position within the park, and would increase the disconnection of the park from its context, it is also not being brought forward for review.
Ms. Lickwar said the project team then arrived at the preferred Pool & Plaza Concept, in which the existing park would be spatially organized around the central pool and surrounding plaza. This central space would be adapted to feature the bas-relief wall along the west, and a flagpole would replace the kiosk. The vertical surfaces of the Pennsylvania Avenue planters would be rebuilt in bronze and inscribed with stories from the World War I generation. This option would reuse much of the historic fabric; it would also maintain the historic spatial organization in section and partially in plan. The axial formality of the wall would oppose the informal and multi-directional layout of the park, and the removal of the fountain would change the character of the central space. This option proposes using replacement plant species similar in character and form to the original species to order to improve disease resistance and to be better suited for the existing soils; willow oaks would be maintained and planted as street trees on 14th and 15th Streets. Where possible, stormwater would be directed to biofiltration planters before entering the stormwater system; in some areas, stormwater would be stored in a below-grade cistern and reused for irrigation.
Ms. Lickwar said that original materials to be reused in the Pool & Plaza Concept would include the Pershing Memorial statue, walls, and paving, along with the PADC streetscape, most granite, and the existing ramp, although this would be expanded for accessibility. In addition, features including views and vistas, spatial organization, most circulation, and commemorative function would be maintained, as would the organization around three focal points, although the fountain would be replaced by the bas-relief wall, the kiosk by a flagpole, and the Pershing statue would be repositioned to align with commemorative features. The feature walls of the Pershing Memorial would be treated to improve legibility. The pool would be reduced and lined with paving to create circulation for the commemorative wall, and the cascading water would be eliminated.
Ms. Lickwar described the second submitted alternative, the Scrim & Green Concept. This design places the bas-relief panels on a larger wall along the west side of the central space, which would be modified to reflect the dimension, scale, and axiality of the wall. The central space would be sloped downward to the west, increasing its visibility from the perimeter. A rectangular scrim of water in front of the wall would recall the original pool and provide a reflective surface, and a lawn to its east would increase the range of park uses. Again, a flagpole would replace the kiosk on its circular plinth. This alternative would provide a greater amount of accessible circulation throughout the park. Red maples or a similar species of tree would be added to the central room to frame the view of the wall. A tree-lined path would emphasize a connection between the new wall and Pershing Memorial. This concept would require more adaptation of the existing design than the Pool & Plaza alternative, but it would maintain the idea of two rooms and three focal points. Both alternatives propose changing the spacing of trees and berms to increase the amount of soil volume; existing soils and berms would be amended.
Ms. Lickwar said that in the Scrim & Green alternative, granite would be removed, cleaned, and reinstalled, some in new locations. Similar alterations would be made to the Pershing Memorial as in the Pool & Plaza alternative. The PADC streetscape, the Pennsylvania Avenue pavers, and the historic views and vistas would all be retained. The topography would be modified, altering the spatial organization; stairs would be removed and the elevation of the Pershing Memorial area would be lowered by six inches. The terraced seating and planters would be removed; the steps defining the rooms would be removed and replaced with the gradually sloping ground plane.
Ms. Lickwar concluded with comparative images of the existing park and the two concept proposals. She summarized that the Scrim & Green alternative would require more modifications of the existing park than the Pool & Plaza alternative in order to create a symmetrical framing of the wall and to create the sloped ground plane of the central plaza; but both concepts would require fewer modifications to the park than the concept that was presented in October 2016.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited questions from the Commission members on the presentation. Mr. Dunson asked for clarification of how much the two alternatives would retain of the existing park's most important design elements. Ms. Lickwar responded that both alternatives are intended to balance preservation with adaptation. The park is organized around the central room; the question is whether the pool, and its constituent elements such as terraced seating, is the most important part of the Friedberg design. She said it could be argued that it is, but she noted the difficulty of separating the space from its enclosing berms, or from its relationship to the Pershing Memorial and to the Pennsylvania Avenue edge. She said that while the Pool & Plaza alternative preserves more or the original landscape than the Scrim & Green, it would not retain the character of this central space, and the Centennial Commission believes that the preferred Scrim & Green alternative would result in a stronger design.
Ms. Gilbert asked why the proposed commemorative element would be located in the central space, observing that other options could be feasible. Ms. Lickwar responded that when alternatives were considered that placed the commemorative element in other locations, the park still appeared to be organized around the central space but lacked any identity as a war memorial. She said that the west wall of the central space was the most successful option because the size and scale of the 75-foot-long wall would require sufficient height so the sculptured figures would not appear diminutive. This location would also be best for lighting the figures and inscriptions, avoiding the harsh glare at the north edge or the shade at the south, and would also allow more of the park to be retained.
Ms. Griffin asked if other typologies of commemorative form had been considered, observing that in some alternatives, the park would be manipulated to accommodate the proposed wall; she asked if the design team had explored manipulating this element to prioritize certain aspects of the historic landscape. Ms. Lickwar responded that the idea was that a long wall with a bas-relief, combining the figural and the monumental in one expression, would be the best way to acknowledge the enormity of the losses resulting from World War I. She added that options in which the wall was smaller were deemed inadequate.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited public comment, recognizing Charles Birnbaum of The Cultural Landscape Foundation; she noted that his written comments have been distributed to the Commission members. Mr. Birnbaum presented to the Commission a monograph on Friedberg, M. Paul Friedberg: Landscape Design (Process Architecture, May 1989). He said that among hundreds of projects completed by Friedberg, Pershing Park is recognized as one of his most important works. It is Friedberg's only design prepared in collaboration with Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden; the park has also been determined eligible for National Register of Historic Places, and the proposed changes merit close scrutiny. He said that the federal legislation for the World War I Memorial authorized a design to "enhance Pershing Park," but the Centennial Commission is considering concepts that would radically alter or demolish key elements; the preferred alternative design would harm the design's integrity according to criteria established by the National Register. He explained how the park's water features and tree canopy had been designed to provide a cooling respite in Washington summers. He said Friedberg himself had commented that these proposed alternatives are "an accumulation of pieces with no apparent relationship to each other," appearing as if they were assembled "to satisfy an authority." For example, Mr. Birnbaum said, water is proposed as a static pool that would not provide the sound, reflection, movement, symbolism, and focal point critical to the original design. He said that the preferred alternative also threatens the integrity of the Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site's expanded period of significance, of 1976 to 1990, and he noted that it is one of several significant Modernist parks—perhaps the most significant—of this site. Mr. Birnbaum emphasized that Pershing Park should be preserved.
Mr. Dunson questioned whether the preferred alternative would retain key elements of the Pershing Park design, as described in the presentation, or would instead obliterate the design. He noted Ms. Griffin's observation that the proposed commemorative wall—because of its length, size, and orientation—would break down key relationships of the Friedberg design, and he asked if other ways could be considered to achieve the commemorative intent.
Ms. Griffin observed that the history of the project as outlined by Ms. Lickwar made clear that the initial concept had been to redevelop the park, but new awareness of its historic significance had led to a reevaluation of this goal. From initially considering the site a clean slate, the project now shows an appreciation of the significance and meaning of the existing landscape. She commented that this inherently creates a complex design problem concerning three different and somewhat competing issues—historic preservation, the design of a commemorative memorial, and the typology of the park plaza—and the design problem is how to bring all three together.
Ms. Griffin said that a diagram in the presentation booklet titled "Balancing Preservation and Commemoration" represents an attempt to work out the different manipulations that need to happen. She suggested considering the site's experiential complexity, beyond simply manipulating the components by just shifting its elements—such as the stone, flagpole, and wall. She said that the central space and the design problem suggest a competition between two functional uses; while the presentation showed an understanding of how Pershing Park works now, with spaces for activity and strong formal rooms, the designers also need an understanding of its more intimate spaces and how they are used. She said that the park presents a three-dimensional design problem and requires finding places where commemorative elements can be inserted into the landscape; it also requires evaluating these elements to understand how they support the life and activity of the landscape as it functioned originally as a gathering space, and how it could function as a commemorative space.
Ms. Griffin suggested the potential for more precise interventions that would focus on the park's essential contemplative character that can reconcile passive and commemorative purposes. She noted that both presenters had discussed the importance of scale in commemorating the war, questioning how commemoration can be accommodated in this landscape with its very subtle scale. The larger scale of commemoration would have to be balanced with the actual physical scale of the park. She said she believes far more physical and spatial opportunities are available to meld successfully monumental scale with the existing scale, beyond the inclusion of a flagpole or a horizontal wall. She observed that vertical elements have not been explored, and she recommended looking at the berms, the steps, and how the existing design negotiates vertical scales. She summarized that the design problem has been framed as a competition between a park that has to accommodate a memorial versus a memorial that has to respond to a historic park. She encouraged exploration of how to develop the commemorative program in relation to the historic elements, commenting that changes could be both more precise and more subtle.
Ms. Meyer observed that landscape architects of her generation are still learning how to work creatively and respectfully in significant designed landscapes, requiring an understanding of the actual design intent. She said Ms. Griffin has described the difference between the park's elements and the intent: the issue is not simply the different elements but how they are composed, and this proposal is still focused on the elements instead of what they do within the design. She said that the park's topographic section and its water together were designed to allow a visitor to have an experience that was restful and contemplative because the park was separated from traffic and surrounded by the noise of cascading water, even though it is in the middle of the city; all these qualities give it potential strength as a site for a World War I Memorial. She said that if the site were flat, even the most beautiful bas-relief wall would not draw people because it would be too hot and noisy.
Ms. Meyer urged the project team to recognize that every site has certain capacities, and also that size is different from scale; scale in a landscape is relational. She said that the perceived scale of any element on this site will seem much larger than the same element on the expanse of the Mall, where it would appear puny unless it is enlarged; a smaller element in Pershing Park will have a different effect because the space is smaller. She emphasized that the idea of size, and not just the wall itself, is causing a design problem. While agreeing that the pool concept is preferable to the scrim, she advised abandoning the idea of the wall and developing a new concept. She supported treating a memorial here as an insertion in the existing park; she emphasized that the fabric of Pershing Park is intact, and an insertion implies that pieces would be removed and altered in some precise, limited way. She said that the commemorative program has many other potential expressions than the large wall, which is holding back the creativity of the designers; she encouraged them to reimagine the stairs or the kiosk as opportunities for commemorative features.
Ms. Gilbert commented that eliminating the topographic depression of the original fountain would also mean losing the opportunity for a visitor to experience the need for the berms, the way the stairs cascaded down to the water, and the movement into a sheltering space. She emphasized that there is a reason for the topography of the park and for the fountain in its current form; the size, proportion, and placement of the proposed scrim would be completely different. She urged the design team to look more carefully at how the different elements were meant to work together, and suggested thinking about new materials for the ground plane of the fountain, since it will no longer be used for ice skating.
Vice Chairman Meyer commended the serious attention given to understanding the character and extent of change required, and she said that the diagrams prepared for this presentation have allowed the Commission members to be more critical of the alternatives. She acknowledged the progress in the design process, but noted that the Commission members are expressing strong doubts about the scrim alternative. She said one element that has not been discussed is the proposal to include a lawn; she commented that it appears inconsequential, and it would ruin the idea of a park and plaza, because the park is a topographic piece around the central plaza: with another piece of green on the ground, the design would not build on the topographic hybrid of park and plaza. She summarized that the Commission encourages the project team to return with another concept.
Ms. Griffin agreed, adding that the Commission members appreciate the complexity of the project and the amount of work that has gone into the alternatives. She expressed hope that the project team will recognize this opportunity to move into a more integrated design process with the sculptor, the landscape architects, and perhaps even with the original designer, M. Paul Friedberg. She said that when a wider set of issues is considered, new ideas might emerge as the designers are able to establish hierarchies and to understand the intention and function of the existing elements coupled with the intentions of the new commemorative pieces.
Ms. Gilbert recommended studying the park's edges and considering how passersby could be encouraged to enter the park landscape from the perimeter, perhaps through the addition of more commemorative elements. Ms. Meyer agreed, noting that many tour buses queue on the north side of the park; if on-street parking were removed here, she said that the visibility into the park would be improved.
Mr. Dunson commended the project team for embracing the Friedberg design, but said that the proposal still has to evolve into a design that is both respectful of the existing park and also appropriate as a World War I memorial. He noted the qualities that make Pershing Park a place of respite in the city—such as the reflective pool and the calming noise of the cascading water. Ms. Gilbert commented that the park gives visitors a sense of surprise; Mr. Dunson agreed, adding that it is also a tremendous opportunity. Ms. Meyer said that six months ago she was certain that there was no way to imagine this memorial on this site, and now, because of the team's analysis and design work, she is far more optimistic. She encouraged thinking about the symbolism of moving water and of still water, of sound and of quiet. She noted that no one alive today is old enough to have fought in or even remember World War I, and she asked the project team to consider what that says about memory, and about a memorial designed much later than other war memorials in Washington, D.C., whose veterans were alive during the design process. She said that great potential has been revealed through the analysis—beyond Friedberg's legacy, it also includes the legacy of the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation, which helped transform central Washington into a livable city.
The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. CFA 16/FEB/17-2, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, West Potomac Park. Replacement commemorative "In Memory" plaque. Concept. (Previous: CFA 17/MAY/12- 1.) Secretary Luebke introduced the proposed replacement of an existing at-grade plaque at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, submitted by the National Park Service on behalf of several organizations of veterans. He said that the plaque had been placed at the memorial in 2004 to honor veterans who had died subsequent to, but as a direct result of, their wartime service in Vietnam. He noted the ongoing problem of legibility of the incised lettering of the original plaque, which was set flush with the paving. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. May acknowledged the relatively small scale of this project but noted the similar issues that were considered in the previous case of the World War I Memorial: operational and maintenance challenges that have persisted since the initial installation of this component of the memorial. He said that the potential solutions for this plaque are relatively straightforward and in keeping with the original intent of the project. He introduced architect J.C. Cummings to present the proposal.
Mr. Cummings described his longstanding involvement with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, beginning with his work at Cooper-Lecky Architects when that firm joined with Maya Lin in developing the original design for the memorial, and more recently his role as the architect of record for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund to address the numerous projects that have arisen over the years involving maintenance and preservation issues. He described the setting of the "In Memory" plaque in the corner of the plaza at the Three Servicemen statue, intended to relate the plaque to the overall Vietnam Veterans Memorial without intruding on it. He said that the plaque has faced significant technical problems, and the changes since its installation have included removal of nearby plantings, the addition of bronze letters, and the installation of various colors of grout. He described the problems as visibility of the installation to visitors, legibility of the inscription, pooling of rainwater, and accumulation of landscape debris such as seedlings, mulch, and grass clippings. He noted that the plaque honors a wide range of veterans whose names are not eligible for inclusion on the memorial wall because their service-related deaths occurred after their return; it is informally called the "Agent Orange plaque" in reference to one large group of such veterans. He described the numerous veterans groups that were involved in developing the initial project for the plaque and continuing the commemoration through an annual event to honor more veterans; he therefore characterized the plaque as a living memorial with active commemoration instead of a purely historical marker.
Mr. Cummings said that the proposal is to create a new plaque in bronze on a new stone plinth. He said that its raised lettering would improve legibility and the bronze color would relate to the nearby materials; the new plinth would raise the plaque above the wet ground and improve visibility while not standing out inappropriately within the context. An added benefit of the new configuration would be to discourage people from standing on the plaque, which can be particularly upsetting to some visitors to the memorial.
Ms. Meyer asked for clarification of the dimensions for the raised plaque. Mr. Cummings responded that the thickness of the plaque itself would be 3/16 of an inch; the plinth height would be 3/4 of an inch and the additional stone lift on the plinth would add another 3/4 of an inch. He noted that the plaque would not have a stone border due to potential technical problems and the intent to be consistent with the modern aesthetic of the overall memorial design. Ms. Gilbert observed that the bluestone pavers appear to extend beneath the plaque, including a joint line. Mr. Cummings clarified that an opening would be cut into the pavers to accommodate the proposed installation of the plaque and plinth.
Ms. Meyer noted that the presentation materials include a photograph of three alternative configurations for the plinth; she commented that the middle alternative, which she designated as alternative #2, seems less classical and therefore more fitting for the context of the memorial's modern design in comparison to the preferred alternative. Mr. Cummings responded that the alternative at the top of the photograph, with a more sharply angled slope for the plinth, was rejected because it would suggest that the plaque is directly related to the nearby statue; Ms. Meyer agreed that the angle in this alternative would be excessive. Mr. Cummings said that the middle alternative was also rejected because its shallow angle was not assertive enough; the decision of the project team was therefore to propose the flat plinth. He added that any of the alternatives would be welcomed by the veterans groups, and he invited further discussion from the Commission members. Ms. Meyer described alternative #2 as the most elegant in its treatment of the stone because it avoids the limitations of the classically detailed edge treatment in the flat plinth. The slight tilt of the plinth in alternative #2 also results in the plaque being oriented toward viewers, which improves the ergonomic comfort of visitors. She noted the need to balance between the more classical character of the Three Servicemen statue and the modern character of the memorial wall.
Ms. Griffin agreed that alternative #2 would be the best solution; she emphasized the relationship of this design to the modern aesthetic of the memorial, in contrast to the more traditional detailing of the flat mounting that was presented, which she said would appear out of place in the context of the memorial. She described the memorial's reliance on subtle and quiet gestures, which would be reinforced by the slightly angled mounting for the plaque. She summarized that this alternative would achieve the stated objectives with a clean, simple, and subtle design. Ms. Gilbert commented that the presented design, with a flat plinth and beveled edges, has the appearance of a bench top; she joined in supporting alternative #2, commenting that its shallow angle refers to Maya Lin's design for the memorial.
Upon a motion by Ms. Gilbert with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved alternative #2 with the shallow angle for the stone base. Mr. Cummings noted that the design intention for this alternative would be to mount a bronze plaque on this base, although the plaque is not illustrated in the photograph of mockups. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission's design guidance is clear, although the selected design is not well documented, and he asked if the Commission wants to review it again. Vice Chairman Meyer supported delegation of further review to the staff, with the understanding that the project team is willing to pursue the design recommended by the Commission instead of the design that was presented. Mr. Luebke said that the staff would bring the project back to the Commission if any problems arise in following the Commission's guidance. Mr. May added that the National Park Service is willing to accept alternative #2 and will work with the Commission staff in finalizing the design. Vice Chairman Meyer conveyed the Commission's appreciation for the long-term stewardship of the memorial site.
C. Department of State
CFA 16/FEB/17-3, Foreign Missions Center, former Walter Reed Army Medical Center—western portion at 16th Street and Alaska Avenue, NW. Master plan for new Foreign Missions Center. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 20/MAR/14-1.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the submission of the revised master plan concept for the Foreign Missions Center, which will be built on the western portion of the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center site at 16th Street and Alaska Avenue, NW. The initial draft of the master plan was presented to the Commission in March 2014. He introduced Grace Choi of the State Department's Office of Foreign Missions to begin the presentation.
Ms. Choi said that the Foreign Missions Center will be developed by the State Department as a diplomatic enclave to provide secure new sites for foreign embassies and chanceries; it will also help the United States government in negotiating land acquisition overseas to build secure U.S. embassies and consulates. The guidelines emphasize sustainable design, encouraging foreign governments to maintain existing landscapes and significant trees. The development will be "cost-neutral," funded entirely through leasehold revenue. The State Department will maintain the common grounds and infrastructure, and the foreign missions will maintain their own sites. She introduced architect Charles Enos of EYP Architecture & Engineering to present the revised concept.
Mr. Enos noted that the revised master plan is the result of five years of public meetings and historic preservation consultation with review agencies and advisory groups. The Walter Reed Army Medical Center was designated a historic district in 2015, and the initial property transfer from the Army to the State Department occurred in November 2015. He explained that the recent congressional assignment of the north central parcel to Children's Hospital led to changes in the plan and a reduction in the land designated for the State Department. He introduced the project's lead designer, Richard Clarke of EYP, to describe the plan's general framework.
Mr. Clarke said the site has two major components: a connection to the city through the westward extension of Dahlia Street through the site and a steeply sloping wooded area in the northwest part of the site that has a character similar to Rock Creek Park across 16th Street. The preferred option for the master plan maintains this remnant woodland character. Fourteenth Street would run north–south through the campus; a cul-de-sac at its north end would adjoin three lots, but the roadway would be closed off from the adjacent residential neighborhood to the north.
Mr. Clarke said that the goal of the master plan is to maximize the flexibility of lot development in order to accommodate foreign missions of various sizes, potentially through combining individual lots. The master plan diagrams a range of possible lot development schemes, from 11 to 15 lots. The plan emphasizes retention of the tree canopy in the wooded landscape and the preservation of existing green spaces throughout the site. A green landscape at the south end of 14th Street would act as a buffer between the chanceries and mixed-use areas of the campus. Dahlia Street and Main Drive would cross the campus east to west; the distinctive character of Main Drive, along the southern edge of the State Department site, would help give the campus its identity. Street trees would also help establish a consistent character across the site.
Mr. Clarke said that the site includes steep topography, and some areas would be difficult to build on. The plan preserves the tree buffer on 16th Street and Alaska Avenue, where a fifty- foot setback would maintain the dense existing plantings; green spaces would be retained across the site. Relationships among existing buildings to be retained and reused suggest an internal framework for new development, and the formal organization of the historic Walter Reed campus would be extended to the west through a series of U- and H-shaped buildings. A flagpole would be situated along the old east–west centerline to commemorate the historic medical campus. Street geometries would be reinforced by frontage guidelines, including setbacks; the densest area of campus would have a fifteen-foot setback relative to existing buildings. At the intersection of Dahlia and 14th Streets, a twenty-foot setback would provide more room for a landscaped area, a threshold to the parkway-style treatment of 14th Street; a rain garden element would be built within the median of 14th Street to manage stormwater runoff. He said that the prominence of the corner lot on 16th Street suggests that any building erected there should get special architectural treatment. The master plan illustrates the general characteristics proposed for individual sites, with planting and generic footprints indicated to test densities and various components. Buildings would be two to four stories high and would range from fifteen to forty percent lot coverage; Lot 6 would have the option for two buildings. Within each site, landscaping would be installed along fences, and guardbooths would be located at entries. He added that the design team has been directed not to include benches in the street furniture.
Mr. Enos discussed the campus's existing cultural resources. Significant buildings include the former chapel, already used by the State Department as an assembly hall. Building 40, the former Army Institute of Research, is in poor condition but an attempt will be made to find an organization to lease and rehabilitate it. Building 41, the former Red Cross building, is in good condition and already occupied; it may eventually become a chancery. Former officers' houses are located to the north; these will likely be razed. He added that the proposed cul-de-sac on 14th Street would be centered on the entrance to historic Building 54 on the east, part of the designated Children's Hospital property.
Ms. Griffin asked for a description of proposed public access. Mr. Enos responded that the campus will follow the model established by the International Chancery Center near Connecticut Avenue, NW. Public roads through the campus would remain open, and private roads would also usually be open. Pedestrians, vehicles, and bicycles would be able to use all entrances. Ms. Griffin asked for clarification about the proposed locations of fencing and whether every lot would be fenced; Mr. Clarke responded that each site could be fenced or not, following the requirements of each foreign mission. Mr. Enos added that design guidelines for every lot will stipulate where fences could be located; an open picket-type fence would be recommended. Ms. Griffin asked if fences would be required on any edge; Mr. Enos said they would not. Ms. Griffin asked about setback requirements for fences. Ms. Choi responded that each foreign mission may have its own guidelines for security setbacks; Mr. Enos added that the overall design guidelines will define the required minimum distance that fences should be set back from the street.
Ms. Griffin asked how parking would be accommodated on chancery lots. Mr. Enos responded that the project team has been working with the State Department and the D.C. Department of Transportation to set goals so that each foreign mission can accommodate all of its parking needs. A traffic management plan has defined the maximum number of employees on each site and anticipates a car for each person, but because of an emphasis on sustainability in the design guidelines, this stipulation will not be in effect. Each foreign mission will develop its own transportation management plan to be approved by District and federal authorities, incorporating the use of on-site bike-sharing, Metrorail, and Metrobus. No surface parking lots would be constructed, apart from small visitor parking areas accommodating four to six cars, to be located within the perimeter of each lot. Parking will be available for rent in an existing three-story parking garage behind Building 3 on the Children's Hospital parcel, and an additional large below-ground parking garage has been built nearby.
Ms. Gilbert asked which trees would be removed and which would be preserved when lots are developed. Landscape architect Bruno Carvalho of CGLA responded that a 2012 tree survey recorded the location and condition of every tree with a diameter of ten inches or more; several of the larger trees were designated for preservation, many located on the steep slopes to the northwest. He added that preservation of these trees would not interfere with proposed development.
Observing that plans depict strips of planting along fences, Ms. Gilbert asked if planting would be required on the private side of fences to create a hedge or some other substantial landscape. Mr. Carvalho responded that maintenance would be an issue for plantings along fences because, although everything on the public side of the property lines will be maintained by the State Department, maintenance of the private lands will be the responsibility of the individual missions. He added that evergreens are being considered for plantings along fences. Ms. Gilbert emphasized the importance of unified planting designs on both sides of barriers. Mr. Clarke noted that government guidelines prohibit plantings along a fence because they pose a security problem, providing areas to hide or trees that could be climbed to scale a fence; it is not known if the countries buying these lots would have guidelines requiring such plantings. Ms. Gilbert recommended eliminating the fringe plantings and concentrating on larger planting areas that would have more visual effect.
Mr. Dunson noted the proposed cul-de-sac termination of 14th Street and observed that only two access points are planned on the west side of campus, while on the east several roads would go through to Georgia Avenue. Mr. Enos responded that the very steep grade at the northwest makes access difficult, and therefore the State Department will leave assignment of Lot 1 in this area until last to see if it attracts interest; it may instead be left as a buffer. Mr. Dunson observed that many of the lots could not be built on if the trees are preserved, commenting that each lot will require careful study and specific guidelines so buildings can be located to save plantings. Mr. Carvalho said the critical root zones of trees will also have to be considered in relation to proposed building footprints, adding that development will follow the D.C. Department of Transportation's tree preservation standards.
Ms. Meyer commended the thoroughness of the master plan. However, she commented that some of the guideline diagrams concentrate on specific issues without recording the complexities of the individual lots, resulting in a lack of clarity about the potentials and limits of individual sites. She recommended synthesizing information critical to designing buildings for each site, including steep slopes and significant vegetation in addition to building setbacks. Observing that one lot would largely comprise a critical slope, she said that good buildings can be designed on sloping sites, but all the salient characteristics of each site should be shown in one diagram. Mr. Enos agreed to provide this. Mr. Clarke commented that the topography influences where property lines are proposed for the lots.
Ms. Griffin said that more complete diagrams would help to confirm whether the general guidelines are consistent, which may not be the case, particularly for buildings on sloping sites; she suggested that such characteristics as the number of stories could be varied in response to the conditions of each lot. Nuances of edge conditions would also test some of the general guidelines and indicate the need to be more explicit about development potential. She asked if the master plan would include illustrations of buildable area for each lot, and if lot coverage standards would be included in the guidelines. If lots are combined, she said that illustrations should clarify the buildable area and what should be preserved.
Ms. Gilbert asked why a cul-de-sac would be created at the north end of 14th Street, observing that it results in a road resembling a parkway that terminates in a dead end. Mr. Enos said the main reason was the State Department had lost the large parcel to the east where it had anticipated constructing a larger four- to six- story building. Because the Foreign Missions Center is zero-funded, with lease revenues used to fund buildings and maintain infrastructure maintenance, he said that the loss of this revenue would be significant; the State Department needs to maximize the amount of leasable land, and terminating 14th Street in a cul-de-sac allows for creation of a larger lot. Ms. Meyer asked if 14th Street has been shifted from its existing alignment with the city grid; Mr. Enos responded that it would be moved to the east. Ms. Griffin questioned whether the cul-de-sac treatment creates more developable area; she observed that the resulting site is awkwardly shaped, with a tight corner where no building could be located. She strongly recommended studying whether a connection could be created to the existing 14th Street on the north. Mr. Enos responded that the State Department is concerned about the possibility of increased traffic from such a connection. Ms. Griffin emphasized that Lots 1 and 2 would probably be combined, even if 14th Street is reconnected, because of the awkward triangular shape of Lot 1. Mr. Enos said that the potential to combine these lots will be considered further as the master plan is being finalized.
Ms. Griffin observed that the guidelines allow for some variation in parking and fencing because such decisions would be left to the discretion of the individual leaseholders. She asked whether a fence setback should be defined to support the plan's intent to use greenways and landscapes along public streets as unifying elements. She observed that the illustrations depict fences in areas that might be expected to be public rights-of-way with sidewalks; she suggested opening these areas to the street and pulling fences farther back into lots. She commented that the relationship between fence lines, property lines, setback lines, and allowable build-to lines is unclear; Mr. Enos responded that the intent is for the designers for each site to create an appropriate frontage for the building. Mr. Clarke added that some fences would be set back from the property lines. Ms. Griffin suggested establishing minimum lines indicating where fences can or cannot be located.
Ms. Griffin offered a similar suggestion regarding parking. She supported the plan's requirement for below-grade parking and acknowledged the guidelines for the treatment of small surface parking areas for visitors. She asked why lot coverage guidelines have not been defined, and if a more extensive document existed. Mr. Enos responded that the Commission had been given only a summary document, and the full master plan contains all the regulations regarding issues such as lot coverage and height restrictions. Ms. Griffin said such information should be included in a presentation.
Ms. Griffin commented that federal campuses in the District are often treated as enclaves separated from their surrounding neighborhoods by landscape buffers. She expressed support for the proposal to treat the corner lot at 16th Street and Main Drive as an edge to the adjacent neighborhood, and she suggested that any building on this lot should take that corner into consideration. She added that Lots 1, 2, and 3 are situated at intersections with public streets, and buildings on these lots might also address this condition. Observing that the aim of city planning has been to create connections between communities, she expressed strong support for the intention to create these open streets. Noting the possible limitations posed by steep topography, she recommended considering whether there are other places where buildings could address the more public side of their lots. Ms. Choi responded that the master plan tries to avoid the assumption that every foreign mission will fence its lot. She said that most foreign missions consider the United States to be a safe country, and therefore many missions and embassies in Washington do not have fences; while they are shown in the renderings as a possibility, she does not expect that most missions would install fences. Ms. Griffin reiterated that the plan could provide more guidance about fence locations, perhaps suggesting they be receded back into the sites, so that the campus would have an overall sense of openness regardless of whether a country chooses to fence its lot. She added that this guidance could be addressed in the renderings. Ms. Choi said that assuming the fence would be located at the lot line for each mission could lead to difficulties with the maintenance of landscape plantings because of the division of responsibility. Ms. Griffin responded that the lot line and fence line are very different types of regulations, with the lot line corresponding to the legal property line and the fence line being an aesthetic determination.
Ms. Meyer observed that the Commission's comments are intended to ensure careful attention to the public realm. She suggested that, where possible, visitor parking should be placed in the same relation to forecourts on all lots. She advised thinking about constraints that could also be opportunities for site planning, such as slopes and trees. She observed that the section of 14th Street proposed to be treated as a parkway would be on a steep slope; she commented that the proposed rain garden in its center will require extensive structural earthworks to perform as intended as a rain garden to absorb water.
Secretary Luebke said that proposals for each site will eventually be submitted for Commission review, but any issues with the overall framework should be addressed at this stage. Mr. Dunson offered a motion to approve the general concept for the master plan, requesting that the submission of the final master plan include more detailed plans for individual lots. Upon a second by Ms. Griffin, the Commission adopted this action.
D. U.S. Department of Defense
CFA 16/FEB/17-4, Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia. New employee pedestrian access control facility at Metro entrance. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal from the Department of Defense (DOD) for a new employee pedestrian access control facility at the main entrance of the Pentagon, adjacent to the Pentagon Transit Center. He asked William Battle, program manager with the DOD's Washington Headquarters Services, to introduce the project.
Mr. Battle said that the Pentagon Master Plan includes plans to develop better security solutions at the main entrance as well as improving connections to the Pentagon Transit Center, removing of temporary structures such as fencing and eliminating the need to use police officers as a backup to security personnel. The project will comply with the latest codes for anti-terrorism force protection, and it will use secure screening technologies to help move the large numbers of employees entering the building during the peak period on weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. He said that during this peak period, most people passing through this entrance will be screened; outside of the peak period, everyone will be screened. He introduced architect Steve Wakeman of Jacobs to present the design.
Mr. Wakeman said that the project is intended to unify the existing structures to create a clearer and more dignified experience for employees and visitors entering the building—approximately 25,000 people daily—and for commuters walking between the bus and train systems. The project area includes the primary front door to the building and a main transit hub for Metrobus, Metrorail, tour buses, and pedestrians. On an aerial diagram, Mr. Wakeman indicated the different entrances to the Pentagon and its complex web of surrounding roads and circulation routes for pedestrians, cyclists, and joggers. He said that the important views of this entrance are from the Air Force Memorial, Arlington House, and within Arlington National Cemetery. Ms. Meyer commented that the primary view is actually from Interstate 395; Mr. Wakeman agreed.
Mr. Wakeman said that the existing pedestrian routes at the Pentagon entrance are circuitous, with many temporary security features scattered throughout the area. In a November 2015 consultation, the Commission staff had advised better integrating the different structures in the entrance area and considering the experience from the perspective of those using the facility. He described the existing conditions, which include a forecourt leading to seven double doors that in turn lead to the building entrance. Two elevators and two sets of escalators lead to the ground level directly from the Metrorail platform level below, and additional elevators, escalators, and stairs connect to the outer band of the double-deck staggered bus platform. He said that the proposal would add a 9,700-square-foot secured entrance facility with a 16,000-square-foot canopy to replace two existing smaller T-shaped canopies; the new canopy would join with the existing entrance canopies over the Metro escalator entrances and the canopy along the inner bus platform. He emphasized that the proposal attempts to reduce the number of components in this area.
Mr. Wakeman described the new canopy and associated features. A glass wall in front of the canopied area would act as a windbreak, and a series of skylights in the canopy would admit additional daylight. Beneath the canopy, pedestrians approaching the Pentagon would descend to the slightly sunken entrance plaza, where they would pass through secured turnstiles into the main secured vestibule. They would then enter through a storefront system into the main enclosure, where they would line up to be screened by magnetometers or x-ray machines. After being screened, they would walk through the former lobby space of the entrance addition built in the early 2000s, and then enter the historic Pentagon building itself. Pedestrians transferring between bus and train without needing to enter the Pentagon would follow a freer route than currently.
Mr. Wakeman said that the aesthetic goal of the proposal is to juxtapose different but compatible forms: the proposed curving structure composed of cast-in-place concrete adjacent to the arched fabric panels over the bus terminal and the planar severity of the Pentagon. He said that the design team is attempting to develop an architectural language that will work with exterior guidelines, differentiating between new structures and the original Pentagon building, while also being compatible with the design of the Metro entrance structures. Proposed materials include limestone, curtainwall systems, glass turnstiles, and columns wrapped in metal panels. He concluded with several perspective renderings of the proposal.
Ms. Griffin asked for clarification of the different spaces, asking if any attempt was made to redesign the existing entrance addition for the new function; she also asked how this existing lobby space will be used after the security screening functions are moved to the proposed facility. Mr. Wakeman responded that it is an empty but secured lobby. Leo Pereira, representing the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, clarified that the existing entrance addition lacks sufficient space to hold all the necessary screening equipment because it contains four escalators. He said that advance screening is done using wands instead of magnetometers, and this is now performed outside, even in bad weather. Ms. Meyer asked what the older security space will be used for after the new one is built and if the new space would simply be a lobby leading to another lobby; she observed that the presentation did not include a drawing of this spatial sequence. Mr. Wakeman responded that the guards and turnstiles would be moved out to the proposed facility, leaving the lobby in the 2000s addition empty; within the historic Pentagon, people enter directly into the E ring corridor and office space without an additional lobby.
Ms. Griffin observed that, because of challenges in using the existing space for security screening, the proposed design would result in an underused receiving space; she commented that the design problem requires finding a solution for the entire sequence of old and new lobbies. She observed that the proposed design, even though it is arranged in distinct layers, might create bottlenecks, and she questioned whether this solution would actually result in an improved flow for large numbers of people. She acknowledged that greater efficiency would be created by placing new technology in sequential spaces, but she said the proposed design appears to accommodate the same flow of activity, just pulled into a new space with new technology. She recommended studying ways to integrate the two spaces of the existing and proposed additions to the historic building, commenting that the whole scheme looks uncomfortable.
Mr. Wakeman responded that moving the equipment farther out from the historic Pentagon means that people would not be able to loiter while moving through the security screening, but when they enter the existing lobby addition—an impressive double-height space with rusticated stone walls, overlooked by a mezzanine—they could slow down to appreciate their surroundings. Ms. Griffin agreed that the existing lobby would provide a respite but observed that getting there would still require passing through numerous doors. She expressed appreciation for the presentation's clarification that the design problem involves creating efficient circulation, but she said that the profusion of architectural components are a distraction from understanding this. She acknowledged that retaining the present vestibule would be problematic, and she instead suggested removing the facade of the existing addition to combine the existing and new lobby spaces into a single larger room, which could improve circulation flow while allowing enough space for an arrival point before entrance into the historic Pentagon. She also recommended developing a more restrained canopy design, observing that the outdoor arrival area now looks like a forced effort to connect a conglomeration of different pieces.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the proposed large canopy connecting the numerous site components is not a successful solution because the result would have too many canopy structures. She suggested that a simpler solution of one basic, beautiful canopy form with a fewer number of individual canopies would be better; Mr. Dunson agreed. Referring to an aerial view, he observed that in the past, when new pieces were added, they were placed to the sides of the entrance; he suggested unifying the design by organizing structures in a line extending out from the entrance. Mr. Battle offered to consider this.
Ms. Meyer agreed that the proposed scheme is too additive. She commented that the presentation does not make clear where the building envelope would be located, or distinguish between partial and full enclosures. She said it had been helpful to learn that a direct interior escalator connection to the Metrorail station had been eliminated after the 2001 attack on the Pentagon, and the result is this confused accretion of parts, but the lack of such basic information in the presentation makes it difficult for the Commission to provide good feedback. She supported the advice of the other Commission members to think about the arrival area and entrance sequence as a whole instead of as an aggregation of different parts. She cited the evident assumption that the existing lobby addition should not be touched, and she agreed with Ms. Griffin that this assumption should be reconsidered. She acknowledged that part of the difficulty may be the need to coordinate with so many other agencies and entities.
Ms. Griffin recommended squaring off the existing lobby so it could become a receiving area and help to integrate the sequence of spaces. She drew a diagram and suggested letting pedestrians enter this combined lobby from the sides as well as the front, rather than forcing everyone to enter at the front. She recommended placing the initial scanning equipment closer to these points of arrival, with the secondary security equipment moved back. While the result might be a more enclosed area, she said that it would align the different elements and allow more queuing space between the rows of scanners; it might also result in a cleaner architectural expression and make circulation more efficient.
Ms. Meyer said that Ms. Griffin's sketch suggests that people approaching the entrance from the sides could have direct access if the first line of scanning equipment were split into three parts, one at the front and two at the sides. Ms. Griffin asked if there is any constraint that would prevent this; Mr. Battle responded that the entrance sequence could not be moved back because the columns between the existing lobby addition and the proposed addition cannot be removed. Ms. Griffin recommended redesigning the structural supports. Mr. Battle said that the budget does not provide for structural changes; Ms. Griffin suggested reconsidering this issue. Mr. Battle added that another complication is the presence of deterrent security equipment in the areas where Ms. Griffin is suggesting to expand the existing lobby space. Ms. Griffin asked if this entire lobby is just wasted space; Mr. Battle said that it contains security equipment that cannot be blocked, resulting in the proposed design. He elaborated that the footprint for the new screening structure is constrained by these spaces as well as by the building, the platform, and the escalators. Vice Chairman Meyer said that all of these constraints need to be represented on the drawings so that review bodies can provide good feedback, and she emphasized that these constraints could have been represented without violating any security limitations. She said that the drawing implies a building wall and what looks like usable space, but only now are the Commission members told that the space is not really empty; she emphasized that diagrams must be clear for the Commission to evaluate the constraints.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized that the Commission members have serious concerns about the concept design, and she suggested requesting the submission of a new concept, not merely the same concept with small revisions; Ms. Griffin supported this approach. Vice Chairman Meyer asked if a sufficient response would be to provide the project team with a summary of the Commission's recommendations. Secretary Luebke said that this response would be appropriate, but the issue will be whether the project team would work with the staff on developing the design. Vice Chairman Meyer noted that the DOD has built a structure that was not approved by the Commission. Mr. Battle responded that this is the visitor screening facility, which had been approved by the National Capital Planning Commission; Ms. Meyer emphasized that this is not the same as approval by the Commission of Fine Arts. Mr. Luebke reiterated that the Commission had never approved this structure in concept, and it had never been submitted for final review, with the result that the DOD now has a credibility issue. Mr. Battle said that the visitor screening facility was built to separate visitors from employees; the current project concerns the movement of employees only, so it is being submitted separately. He agreed to address the Commission's concerns.
In conclusion, Vice Chairman Meyer said that the Commission looks forward to the submission of a new concept design responding to its comments. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
E. Department of the Navy
CFA 16/FEB/17-5, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, MacDill Boulevard and South Capitol Street, SW. Installation of ground-mounted photovoltaic panels at three locations. Final, with revised landscape plan. (Previous: CFA 23/JAN/17-5.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the revised final submission for ground-mounted photovoltaic panels and landscaped buffers to be installed at three locations on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB). He asked James Cannon and Nicole Tompkins-Flagg of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command to present the design.
Mr. Cannon said that he would present a revised planting list for the proposed landscape, which he believes is responsive to the Commission's previous comments; the design for the installation of the panels themselves has not changed. He indicated the three installation sites, which are on contaminated landfill and are considered underutilized. The panels would be surrounded by fencing and landscaped buffers to conceal the fence and views into the photovoltaic installations; this screening is required by JBAB's installation appearance plan. He said that the eight-foot-tall fence would serve as a security and safety barrier to prevent pedestrian intrusion onto the sites; it would be of made of black vinyl-coated chain link, and a green mesh on the fence would provide additional screening. He added that no barbed wire would be on the fence. He said that the planted barriers outside the fences would be configured in two rows consisting of trees and shrubs, planted in an alternating pattern so that the buffers would have a varied appearance when seen from a distance.
Mr. Cannon said that the project team consulted the Department of the Navy's Resilient Energy Program Office, which provided a revised planting plan for the buffers derived from the 2015 JBAB Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan (INRMP). He listed the plantings that were previously proposed, along with their replacements: northern white cedar trees, which he said would grow at too a fast rate, would be substituted with American holly trees; border forsythia shrubs and highbush blueberry would be substituted with inkberry, winterberry, and spicebush shrubs. He said that these updated plantings are native to the region, low-maintenance, and would be tolerant of soils with varying moisture content. He concluded by presenting simulated views of the three sites from locations across and above the river to demonstrate how the landscapes would obscure the photovoltaic panels.
Ms. Gilbert observed that the proposed shrubs would require a varying amount of water when first planted; some of these, such as lindera—commonly found on woodland edges—need consistent watering. She asked if there is a plan to provide appropriate amounts of water for these plants. Mr. Cannon said that the plants will be watered regularly until they are firmly rooted, and he confirmed that 1,300 shrubs would be planted. Ms. Tompkins-Flagg said that the private company contracted to install and maintain the photovoltaic panels would have a landscape architect on staff who would be responsible for the maintenance of the plantings over the 25-year life of the contract. Ms. Meyer asked the intended height of the American holly trees when planted; Ms. Tompkins-Flagg said they would be planted at mature heights of approximately 12 feet.
Ms. Griffin suggested that the green mesh be paired with a green fence, rather than a black fence as proposed, in order to integrate the fence with the landscape more effectively. Ms. Tompkins-Flagg said that she would convey this suggestion to the private contractor. Ms. Griffin reiterated her comment from the previous review that the simulated views of the proposed installations and buffers are from impracticable vantage points, such as a location suspended in the air above the water and from far across the river. She said that most people would view the sites from eye level and on the water or along its edge, and recommended that more appropriate visual simulations be prepared to evaluate views and revise the design of the landscape buffers. She also observed that the visual simulations also do not consider views from within the base. Ms. Meyer agreed, encouraging the project team to consider the buffer design from the perspective of the base employees who will be working near the panel installations. Mr. Cannon suggested that the more relevant views are from far across the river because the public would consistently view the installations from these locations, as opposed to only intermittently viewing them from the water. He said that the prepared views comply with requirements for the environmental assessment, and that views from the water could be simulated by zooming in on the presented simulations.
Ms. Meyer encouraged the project team to think about plants as living organisms with ecological and habitat needs, rather than inert objects to be placed on the site as mere visual barriers or decoration. This perspective would likely result in a coherent landscape that works, rather than an assemblage of plants developed using basic visual criteria. She observed that the design proposes identical plant species along both north- and south-facing fences, and she urged the design team to consider the survival of the proposed plantings in these two differing exposures. For example, she recommended that kalmia and lindera, which need shade and generous watering to survive, be banked along the north-facing fences, with hollies planted behind for shade. Mr. Cannon agreed and said that a landscape architect under contract would ensure that the plants would survive and be maintained. Ms. Meyer commented that the best practices in landscape architecture no longer necessarily emphasize all native plants in landscapes; various factors, such as climate change and contaminated urban soil, have led to a new concept—novel ecologies—that encourages the selection of plantings based on site-specific suitability, not simply origin. She said that plants considered native to Washington may no longer be the most suitable because the undisturbed soils and climates that were common 100 or 200 years ago have changed. As a result, native plants may not be as hardy as those brought throughout time from Asia, Africa, Australia, and Europe. She encouraged the agency to be aware of this development in urban ecological science and the related shift in the practice of landscape architecture. Ms. Tompkins-Flagg said that she would provide this information to the Resilient Energy Program Office for its update of the INRMP. Ms. Gilbert suggested that the plantings be arranged in thickets of similar shrubs to form wildlife habitats. She said that this arrangement, as opposed to lines of shrubs, would attract more birds and animals while still appearing natural. Mr. Cannon responded that attracting birds to the installations would result in excess droppings on the panels, diminishing their energy production if not cleaned frequently. Ms. Meyer said that the proposed native plants would in fact attract numerous birds, and she reiterated that the landscape design should be functionally specific to the site and the program requirements.
Mr. Cannon said that he disagrees with Ms. Meyer's conclusion that the proposed plantings are inappropriate; he claimed that the updated plant list follows her guidance from the previous review to use native plants, as opposed to non-native ones. Ms. Meyer recalled that the Commission had not recommended limiting the landscape palette to native plants only. Mr. Cannon said that he would relay these comments to the private contractor's landscape architect, who would be more knowledgeable about the plantings than himself or Ms. Tompkins-Flagg. He added that additional time is available to consider the design of the landscape, since it would be installed later in the project's overall timeline.
Secretary Luebke confirmed for the Commission members that the project is submitted for final review, and that the scope of review includes both the fence and landscape. Ms. Meyer observed that the submission does not include a plan nor typical section describing how the plants would be grouped. Mr. Luebke asked if this type of documentation has been produced for the project; Mr. Cannon responded that one slide from the presentation includes an image of a plan for a typical landscape provided by the contractor, and the design includes approximately forty sheets of plans that were not provided to the Commission for review. Ms. Gilbert observed that the drawing in the presentation is a general plan that does not show directional orientation or other locational information. Ms. Meyer said that the project does not have a single typical condition because the fences are planned along several different exposures; the microclimate of soil, heat, and light conditions would vary at different points along the fences. While acknowledging the progress in revising the plant list, she said that a full landscape plan should consider that the landscape has four sides, each with varying conditions that will affect the plantings. If these conditions are not initially considered, then the plantings will not survive, resulting in a waste of resources. She suggested a further submission that shows plantings proposed for fences facing north, south, east, and west, which would help the designers account for these varying conditions and better plan the landscape. Ms. Tompkins-Flagg responded that the private contractor is not required to provide this type of plan at this stage of the project; she asked if the Commission would consider approving the plan for the installation of the photovoltaic panels with the understanding that a revised landscape plan would be resubmitted at a later date.
Secretary Luebke confirmed that the Commission could approve the final design for the installation of the panels and fences at the three proposed sites, with the condition for further review of a revised planting plan that responds to the comments provided. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer, the Commission adopted this action.
F. EventsDC (Washington Convention and Sports Authority)
CFA 16/FEB/17-6, Saint Elizabeths East Campus, Oak Street, SE. New entertainment and sports arena. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 17/NOV/16-7.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the revised concept design by Marshall Moya Design with Rossetti Architects for a new entertainment and sports arena (ESA) building on the St. Elizabeths East Campus, submitted by EventsDC in partnership with the D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) and Monumental Sports and Entertainment. She said that the ESA would be the first large new building to be constructed on the East Campus, and it would serve as a new home basketball court for the WNBA Washington Mystics and practice facility for the NBA Washington Wizards. The Commission last reviewed the project in November 2016, approving the concept with several recommendations for its refinement. She asked Greg O'Dell, president and chief executive officer of EventsDC, and Ed Fisher, executive director of the St. Elizabeths East Campus development project for DMPED, to begin the presentation.
Mr. O'Dell said that the completed complex would serve as a catalyst for economic development on the East Campus and in Ward 8, and it would bring a measure of gender equity to professional sports in Washington, D.C. Mr. Fisher said that DMPED is currently coordinating an investment of $58 million in infrastructure improvements for the East Campus, which includes new roads, utilities, and streetlights. In addition, 60 to 120 townhouses and 252 units of affordable housing are planned for the campus; commercial office space would also be built. He said that the ESA would bring people from other parts of the city to the East Campus, the Congress Heights neighborhood, and Ward 8. He introduced architect Michael Marshall of Marshall Moya Design to present the revised proposal.
Mr. Marshall said that the design for the ESA has been revised based on recommendations provided by the Commission and changes to the facility's proposed programming and operation. He indicated the proposed location of the ESA on the East Campus and its proximity to the current Saint Elizabeths Hospital, the GatewayDC pavilion, Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, and the Congress Heights Metro station. He indicated the streets surrounding the ESA building site: Oak Street on the southwest, Cypress Street on the northwest, a planned extension of 13th Street on the northeast, and Cherry Street on the southeast. The building would front Oak Street, and the grade drops approximately thirteen feet from Oak Street to 13th Street. Across Oak Street are the buildings of the historic hospital's continuing treatment campus (CT), which are planned for redevelopment as affordable housing; across 13th Street is the site planned for future residential and commercial development that would be constructed after the completion of the ESA.
Mr. Marshall said that since the majority of ESA patrons are expected to arrive from the Metro station, the main public entrance would be on the south at the corner of Oak and Cherry Streets, which is closest to the station. Secondary entrances for the public and employees would be located along Oak Street; entrances for players would be adjacent to the parking lot on the Cypress Street side; and service entrances would be on 13th Street. On the practice facility side of the complex to the northwest, he indicated the multi-level practice court area and its upper concourse, along with spaces that would be allocated to operations for EventsDC and Monumental. He also indicated the sunken basketball court and arena bowl in the southeast portion of the building, player support spaces, the upper-level arena mezzanine, and the main-level undercroft concourse that wraps around the perimeter of the arena bowl; this concourse would be glazed to enliven the exterior appearance of the building. Adjoining the concourse on Oak Street would be a street-level retail space with entrances from both inside and outside. He said that along the Cherry Street frontage, the design of the concourse has been revised to remove some programmatic functions, allowing portions of this facade to be set back from the property line.
Mr. Marshall said that discussions with consultants have resulted in a proposed reduction in the slope of the arena roof by raising the roof height along 13th Street, allowing for a larger arena volume to accommodate the scoreboard and various types of rigging for events. This revision also allows for the back wall of the arena along 13th Street to be moved further away from the street with the addition of a terrace, which would wrap around to Cherry Street; doors on the 13th Street side of the concourse would provide access to the terrace, located one level above the descending grade. The arena roof's re-entrant corners would also be squared off, resulting in a more rectilinear building plan.
Mr. Marshall described the proposed exterior materials: red-toned insulated metal panels would clad the front and rear of the upper-level volumes, with beige-toned panels on each end; the street-level facades would be a cream-colored block similar to Roman brick. He said the colors are intended to reference the brick and terracotta CT buildings across Oak Street, and the striations resulting from the different tones of the metal panels are intended to diffuse the monolithic appearance of the large roof volumes. All of the glazing, including the storefront, would have dark mullions. He said that because the client does not want natural light in the arena, the glazing and catwalk along the second story of the Oak Street facade would be replaced with a continuation of the proposed red metal panels. Glazing on the upper level of the 13th Street side of the practice facility is also now proposed to be the same metal panel system. The previously presented enclosed stair volume at the main entrance leading to the removed catwalk would be eliminated, and it would instead be a retail store. He showed a simulated view juxtaposing the scale of the proposed complex with the historic CT buildings. He then introduced landscape architect Craig Atkins of Wiles Mensch Corporation to present the landscape design.
Mr. Atkins said that the parking lot on the Cypress Street side of the complex would have fifty spaces as stipulated by an agreement between EventsDC and Monumental. The lot would have permeable paving, conventional asphalt driveways, and a bioretention area in the center for stormwater management. The area previously designed as a sunken entry plaza is now proposed as a walled courtyard that is accessed from inside the building. Players would use ramps and a stairway to reach the revised lower-level entrance, and more plantings would be added to this area. A security fence around the parking lot would run along the Cypress Street edge of the site, continuing across a triangular lawn on the west toward the building; a sliding gate would allow access to the parking lot at Cypress Street. The triangular lawn would be planted with a bioretention area, low grasses, and trees to maintain the open views toward the nearby historic building to the west; plantings would buffer the bioretention area, security fence, and views into the parking lot. He said that the appearance of the streetscapes along Oak and Cherry Streets would largely be determined by the first phase of the St. Elizabeths infrastructure improvement project; new elements would be coordinated and integrated with that process.
Ms. Gilbert asked about the use of the second-floor outdoor terrace along Cherry Street; Mr. Marshall confirmed that it would be occupiable, and he indicated the entrances to this terrace from inside the building. Ms. Griffin asked for more details regarding the storefront retail and the entrances to the complex. Mr. Marshall confirmed that only one of the two Oak Street retail spaces would be accessible from both inside and outside the arena, with the main public entrance at Oak and Cherry Streets.
Ms. Griffin asked for more details regarding parking for players, staff, and event patrons. Mr. Fisher responded that the parking lot described in the presentation is for players and Monumental staff; for the public, surface lots and street parking would be available by the time the ESA is completed, and a planned garage structure will be located somewhere in the ravine section of the campus. He offered to provide a draft diagram of the proposed parking areas. He added that DMPED will be negotiating with Metro to reconfigure access to the Congress Heights station as part of the planned extension of 13th Street. Ms. Griffin asked for a further description of the proposed development across 13th Street; Mr. Fisher responded that a mix of residential and commercial development is planned for this area as part of the 2012 campus master plan. He also confirmed the 4,200-seat capacity of the proposed main arena.
Ms. Meyer noted a discrepancy between the printed drawings and the PowerPoint presentation regarding the glazing along the northeast side of the practice facility facing 13th Street. Mr. Marshall confirmed that the latest design would remove the glazing from this area to eliminate the intrusion of natural light into the practice facility. Ms. Meyer commented that windowless interior spaces are inferior and unpleasant, and she recommended embracing opportunities to add windows to the design. She asked if shades or other methods could be used to regulate the amount of natural light, instead of eliminating the windows; Mr. Marshall offered to study this further. Mr. O'Dell commented that EventsDC has advocated keeping the windows previously proposed for this facade.
Ms. Gilbert questioned the proposed elimination of the second-floor glazing and adjacent interior catwalk on the main arena's Oak Street frontage. She suggested that the second-level outdoor terrace on Cherry Street be wrapped around to this Oak Street frontage, which would improve the composition by reintroducing a transitional element and alleviating the large, unbroken facade; this would also enliven the exterior of the building. She added that a shading structure for the sidewalk would improve the pedestrian experience in this location. Mr. O'Dell agreed that enlivening this area would be beneficial; he noted that the retail store would be open even when the arena is not open for an event. He said that elimination of the second-level glazing was necessary to create the "blackout" effect desired for many events, particularly concerts, and that a shading system capable of achieving this effect would be operationally expensive.
Ms. Gilbert observed the small scale of the signage presented for the main entrance, and she asked if larger signage will be proposed. Mr. Marshall said that a formal signage proposal will be submitted when a sponsor is identified. Secretary Luebke asked if the historic preservation agreement for the development of the East Campus includes any restrictions on signage, noting that the Commission typically advises installing smaller-scale signage when possible. Mr. O'Dell responded that he is unaware of signage restrictions, but the design will comply with them if they exist; he said he would investigate the issue. Ms. Griffin suggested that signage guidelines for the campus be established if they do not already exist.
Ms. Griffin observed that the Oak Street frontage of the ESA complex will face the quiet, low-rise residential neighborhood of the rehabilitated CT buildings; in contrast, 13th Street is planned to become a major vehicular and pedestrian thoroughfare lined with high-density, mixed-use development. She acknowledged that the current phasing of the campus redevelopment reasonably calls for locating the front face of the ESA along Oak Street, but she said that placing the front along 13th Street would be more consistent with the long-term campus development plan. In addition, she observed that the most direct routes to the ESA from the Metro station and other main roads surrounding the campus would suggest placing an entrance at 13th and Cherry Streets, not at Oak and Cherry Streets. Mr. Marshall responded that the design situates the front of the building along Oak Street to better accommodate the arena program: because of the thirteen-foot grade change between Oak and 13th Streets, the arena bowl and practice courts would be built into the hillside, allowing patrons to enter at street level and circulate down into the facility; this also allows for a lower apparent height along Oak Street. He added that the grade is relatively level between the Metro station and the proposed Oak Street entrance; however, if the main entrance were on 13th Street, patrons would have to walk downhill to enter the complex. Ms. Griffin acknowledged this logic but suggested that alternative design solutions may be available to address these issues. She emphasized that if the design is built as proposed, the high-density—and potentially high-value—future development on 13th Street would face the loading docks and blank rear walls of the ESA complex. She encouraged the project team to thoroughly consider ways to make the 13th Street side of the complex better anticipate its relationship to the planned development in this area, and to make alterations to the design now rather than retrofit the building after it is constructed.
Ms. Meyer suggested that including patron and pedestrian circulation in and around the building along Cherry Street would help to animate the downhill corner at 13th and Cherry Streets. Ms. Griffin suggested studying the possibility of using this corner area to allow for the inclusion of a retail space, possibly with access up to the concourse level. Mr. Marshall said that the previous design had included a street-level basketball court or other outdoor community amenity on this corner of the building; now that an elevated terrace and plaza would be in this area, the space underneath at the level of 13th Street is designed as enclosed storage.
Ms. Meyer observed that the losses to the design—reducing the slope of the arena roof and eliminating the second-floor glazing and catwalk along Oak Street—means that more emphasis should be placed on the public spaces between the building and the street. She emphasized that the streetscapes need to be beautiful, comfortable, and well-scaled to compensate for these losses. She also noted the loss of the intermediate scale provided by the glazing; she questioned the new compositional relationship between the low, glassy ground-floor spaces and the large-scale metal panels cladding the expansive arena above. She also commented that the design of the streetscape along Oak Street may be more important than the small bioretention area—the only portion of the landscape design that was presented in detail. She said that adopting the city's standard distance between street trees would result in a poorly-defined public realm; she suggested increasing the number of trees along Oak Street and at the main entrance plaza at Oak and Cherry Streets to create a more substantial streetscape, a better sense of enclosure, and more shade. She also suggested that the entrance plaza could accommodate double rows of trees.
Ms. Meyer expressed concern that the Commission's previous comments regarding the parking lot and entrance on the northwest side of the building are not adequately addressed in the current design. She said that the proposed parking lot appears suburban and cheap in character and would result in an inferior daily experience for employees and athletes; she questioned whether it would be a worthy compliment to an important sports and cultural institution. She suggested that too many elements are now included in its design, and she recommended reducing the number of parking spaces while increasing the number of trees planted.
Mr. Dunson said that because this brand-new facility will anchor the transformation of the historic campus, the design needs to further ground the building on its site. He said that this could be accomplished through careful design of the paving, curbs, and trees, as well as the development of a more integrated and contiguous landscape across the entire site to link the ESA effectively with the neighboring buildings across Oak and 13th Streets. He added that the overall design will not be complete until critical areas such as the parking lot are successfully resolved. He said that the November 2016 design for the Oak Street facade, which included the second-floor glazing along the interior catwalk, was a stronger composition. He likened this portion of the building to the first few levels of a tower in New York: while a tower may be quite tall and impressive when seen from far away, the portion that defines and encloses the streetscape is more important for the public realm; even with Washington's shorter buildings, it is these first few stories that are of high importance. He said that the revised design requires further modification to address the loss of the glazing and catwalk, and he recommended reinstating the glazing or adding some mediating architectural element in its place. Ms. Gilbert commented that the clear demarcation of the entrances provided by the intermediate vertical band of glazing has also been lost.
Ms. Griffin suggested that the second level could be articulated on the building's facade without the use of glazing. She also suggested that the areas lining the interior mezzanine walkway could be offered as rentable space, wrapping the second-level terrace from Cherry Street around to Oak Street and opening it to the interior; this would provide a programmatic rationale for restoring the intermediate scale now missing in the design, without resorting to a false appliqué of glazing. She recommended that this solution be extended to the 13th Street side of the building, adding that it could also enhance the profitability of the rentable areas. Mr. Dunson agreed that the articulation of the second level should also be applied to the 13th Street side, and that a programmatic rationale should be found for this articulation. He also clarified his earlier comment, noting that he was not suggesting the use of a false appliqué element but was instead emphasizing the importance of the building's exterior appearance.
Ms. Gilbert said that the proposed bioretention area on Oak Street should not be buffered by other plantings, and she suggested extending it into the parking lot to create a shady, rugged, and continuous garden-like landscape with a variety of plants. Ms. Meyer summarized Mr. Dunson's and Ms. Gilbert's recommendations to create a more cohesive landscape, and she suggested allowing public circulation between Oak and 13th Streets through this area, especially since pedestrians would likely want to cut through the parking lot. Mr. Marshall responded that for security reasons, fencing would restrict access to the parking lot. Ms. Meyer suggested that given this constraint, the parking lot could be arranged more efficiently, and the bioretention area proposed for the center of the lot could be consolidated with the other planted areas now dispersed throughout the lot's perimeter and the building's entryways. She said that this revision would create a more coherent, adaptable, and resilient rain garden and bioretention basin, and the landscape would be more hospitable for players and employees. She also expressed confusion regarding the various site elevations and the proposed entry sequence for this side of the building, requesting drawings with spot elevations to better understand the area topographically. Mr. Marshall said that the grade changes in this area would be accommodated by retaining walls, ramps, and stairs leading from the parking lot down to the lower-level entrance; a previously presented exterior stairway along the building, leading down to the former sunken entry plaza, has been removed in the current design. He clarified that vehicles would enter through a gate along Cypress Street, then turn right through a second gate into the parking lot or continue down a driveway toward the loading areas. Ms. Meyer asked if a design has been considered in which the building would be entered at the same level as the parking lot, with interior circulation down to the lower level; Mr. Marshall said that such a configuration is under consideration. He also clarified for Mr. Dunson that the driveway and service lot for the loading area would be approximately three feet below the adjacent 13th Street sidewalk; this grade change would be accommodated with a retaining wall.
Ms. Meyer suggested preparing a physical model to allow more detailed study of the topographically complex area around the parking lot and loading area. Ms. Griffin added that the preparation of eye-level perspective drawings of the building's 13th Street side, similar to those presented for the Oak Street frontage, would help illustrate the public realm created by the proposed design and elucidate the resulting experience for pedestrians along the street. She said that these drawings would be important to the development of the design, especially the loading area, street edge, and potential addition of entrances on this side of the building.
Vice Chairman Meyer asked if the Commission members wish to approve the revised concept with the comments provided. Mr. Dunson supported approval; Ms. Gilbert agreed but requested the opportunity to review a revised concept design for the parking lot and players' entry sequence. Ms. Griffin also requested review of an additional revised concept submission. Acknowledging the progress of the design from the previous submission, Mr. Luebke suggested that the commission could approve the concept while requesting a submission at an intermediate design phase, before the final design submission. Ms. Meyer supported this action, with the approval being conditional on submission of a further-developed design that responds to the Commission's comments, particularly involving the entrance areas, public space issues, and the articulation of the second floor on the exterior. Upon a second by Ms. Griffin, the Commission adopted this action.
G. District of Columbia Department of General Services
Secretary Luebke noted that there may be members of the audience who wish to provide comments on some of the following related cases. Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept designs for short-term family housing in three of Washington's eight wards, part of a city-wide initiative to decentralize the housing that has been provided at the former D.C. General Hospital near the Anacostia River. She asked Michelle Chin of the D.C. Department of General Services to provide an overview of the initiative.
Ms. Chin said that the D.C. Department of Human Services is partnering with the Department of General Services to design and build eight short-term housing facilities, one in each ward. The initiative began in February 2016, and design guidelines have been developed in coordination with multiple D.C. agencies, community groups, and other stakeholders. The program for each facility includes a main floor with administrative and support space, including a small health clinic for the residents, along with a dining space for meals that will be delivered to the site. Each upper floor contains approximately ten housing units, along with indoor common space, an outdoor play area, and a monitoring station. The site program includes playground spaces for younger and older children.
Ms. Chin said that the D.C. Government initially selected D.C.-owned sites in some wards, and solicited acquisitions of new sites in other wards. The D.C. Council subsequently decided to require all of the facilities to be on D.C.-owned sites, resulting in a renewed site selection process leading to the three submissions being presented today for Wards 3, 5, and 6; the projects in other wards have been moving through the approval process more quickly. [Concept designs for the facilities in Wards 7 and 8 were approved on the Commission's Consent Calendar in July 2016; the concept design for the Ward 4 facility was approved on the January 2017 Consent Calendar; and the final design for Ward 7 is on the Consent Calendar approved earlier in today's meeting (agenda item II.A, Appendix I).]
Ms. Chin acknowledged the neighborhood opposition to some of the proposals. She noted the D.C. Government's extensive public communications effort, including the creation of advisory teams with stakeholders and local representatives. She said that the exterior designs being presented today have been developed through community meetings that addressed issues such as fencing, landscaping, and facade design.
1. CFA 16/FEB/17-7, Ward 6 Short-term Family Housing, 850 Delaware Avenue, SW. New seven-story building. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced John Burke of StudioTwentySevenArchitecture, which is working with Leo A. Daly on the design of this building. She noted that the housing would replace an existing health clinic on the site. Ms. Chin added that StudioTwentySevenArchitecture recently designed the La Casa Permanent Supportive Housing building for the D.C. Government.
Mr. Burke said that the purpose of decentralizing the existing 260-family housing facility at the former D.C. General Hospital is to create facilities with a more residential character and a dignified and modern appearance, with designs that better fit the program and serve the residents as they seek to achieve stable housing. The proposal for the Ward 6 facility is a seven-story building with fifty housing units. In addition to the typical program of facilities for such housing, this building will also contain a more substantial health clinic to replace the clinic that currently exists on the site, as requested by the community. He indicated the site well south of the National Mall, with Arena Stage several blocks to the west, the Nationals baseball stadium several blocks to the southeast, and Interstate 395 two blocks to the north. The site is a truncated triangle along Delaware Avenue, providing a visual relationship with the U.S. Capitol. Immediately to the north and west is a residential townhouse and apartment development designed by Chloethiel Woodard Smith; he said that the residents of this development have been involved in the current design process, along with other neighborhood representatives. He summarized the resulting guidance to maintain the existing tree canopy, avoid intruding into viewsheds, and provide multiple entrances so that no side of the building is perceived as the back. Another community concern is that the project relate appropriately to a planned 110-foot-tall condominium project to the east that is part of the redevelopment of the former Randall School; he indicated another nearby apartment building that is 90 feet tall.
Mr. Burke presented a detailed plan of the site boundaries, indicating the small federal reservation immediately to the north for a triangular park, the wide public space corridor along Delaware Avenue to the northwest, and the alignment of First Street to the east; the proposed building footprint would be entirely within the property line. For consistency with the front facade of Randall School to the east, the proposed I Street entrance level is slightly elevated from the sidewalk level, allowing for continuation of the school's streetscape of steps and low retaining walls. The proposed parking is based on the needs of the program rather than the more extensive zoning requirement, and the project will therefore require further zoning review. The building height allowed by current zoning is only three stories, notwithstanding the existing and planned 90- and 110-foot-tall buildings in the vicinity, and the proposed height of 88 feet will therefore also require a zoning action. He noted that the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission voted earlier in the week to support the proposal.
Mr. Burke introduced project designer Jake Marzolf of StudioTwentySevenArchitecture to present the design in more detail. Mr. Marzolf said that the adjacent federal park reservation would be untouched or may receive some small landscape improvements as part of this project. The existing street trees along Delaware Avenue and I Street would remain. The entrance to the health clinic would be on the south along I Street; for functional and security reasons, the primary residential entrance would be at the other end of the building, at the north end of the Delaware Avenue frontage. Diagonal parking would be located along First Street to the east, with a hedge providing the 42-inch-high visual screening that is required by zoning. Permeable pavers are being considered for the parking area so that it relates more closely to the landscape. He said that the public space to the west, between the property line and the Delaware Avenue cartway, may be developed as a play space for the building, subject to further coordination with the D.C. Office of Planning; if approved, this siting would meet the programmatic goal of a play space for children that is within sight of the building.
Mr. Marzolf presented the floorplans, beginning with the health clinic that is primarily located in the cellar level; the elevation of the first floor several feet above grade may allow for bringing natural light into the basement space on the west and east sides of the building. The north end of the basement level would be storage space for the housing. The first floor would include the lobby for the health clinic on the south, including a stair and elevator providing access to the cellar; the residential lobby to the north, with a 24-hour reception desk and two elevators providing access to the upper floors; administrative spaces; and a dining room, computer room, and health suite for residents. Each of the upper floors would contain residential units, a variety of private and family bathrooms, a laundry room, a staff station, and a flexible community room at the north end to take advantage of the view to the U.S. Capitol. Each upper floor would also have an outdoor play area that is protected by a brick screen wall; these would be located along the east side of the building, and the position would shift at each floor to provide a sense of movement on the east facade. The upper-floor play areas would be more easily used than a ground-level area, and they would be sufficient for the residents if the intended ground-level play area along Delaware Avenue is not feasible. He indicated the stepped-back massing of the upper floors along the Delaware Avenue facade, intended to better preserve the viewshed and tree canopy. He presented the elevations, indicating the extensive glass along the upper-floor community rooms; he emphasized that each facade is different and responds to the context as well as to the programmatic requirements, while also avoiding the perception that any facade of the building is the back. He said that the materials would be glass and a light-toned brick, possibly in two shades, intended to relate to the existing and planned buildings in the vicinity. The brickwork would be articulated to give a sense of depth and movement on the facades. He said that I Street is the busiest side of the site, and the south facade responds to this condition; the east facade facing the Randall School redevelopment would be the calmest while being enlivened by the shifting screen walls of the upper-floor play areas; the northwest facade, which he characterized as a ziggurat form, would be the most dynamic. He concluded with several perspective views of the proposal, indicating the large street trees that would remain. The proposed landscaping includes groundcover around the building edges. The play space along Delaware Avenue, if developed, would be enclosed by a 42-inch-high fence as required by zoning; additional hedges and flowers would be provided. The stepbacks along the northwest facade would allow for small planting areas that would give a sense of a green roof cascading down the building. He indicated the alternating position of windows for each residential unit to enhance the dynamism of the facades.
Ms. Griffin asked if the facades of the upper floors would be slanted, as suggested in the perspective views. Mr. Marzolf clarified that the Delaware Avenue side of the site is angled in plan, but all of the building walls would be vertical, and all of the exterior walls above the first floor would have an orthogonal alignment instead of aligning with the angle of Delaware Avenue. Ms. Griffin asked about the depth of the planted stepbacks on the Delaware Avenue side of each of the upper floors; Mr. Marzolf said that the stepbacks vary from approximately three feet to slightly less than one foot. He said that these narrow green roofs would not be accessible, and the plantings would be held in place by a small parapet, not shown on all the renderings. Ms. Griffin asked about maintenance of the plantings; Mr. Marzolf responded that they would be self-maintaining on the stepbacks, and the large top roof area would also be planted. Ms. Gilbert questioned whether the self-maintaining plantings would simply last, or die.
Ms. Griffin asked why the ground-level fenced play area would be along Delaware Avenue instead of in the federal park reservation to the north. Mr. Marzolf responded that the current guidance is not to attempt to locate anything in the federal reservation, which is currently just a grass field; the hope is to add some small landscape features such as trees, groundcover, and walking paths. Ms. Griffin asked about staff entrances to the building; Mr. Marzolf indicated secondary entrances on the east and west, in addition to the primary entrance to the residential lobby toward the north end of the building. He said that the secondary entrances would provide convenience for those arriving from the parking area to the east.
Ms. Meyer commended the D.C. Government for its effort to decentralize this type of housing, notwithstanding the political tensions that may arise. She said that breaking down the fifty-unit building into communities of ten or fewer families is also very powerful. She asked for clarification of the arrival sequence for new residents. Mr. Marzolf said that new residents would enter at the residential lobby, then go to the administrative office suite for processing. They would be given supplies such as towels and blankets, then brought up to the floor of their assigned unit. Ms. Meyer commented that the overall massing of the building appears to be handled well, although its merit might be more clear if the perspective drawings included more of the context, and she described her concerns as relatively small. She supported the proposal for a green roof at the top of the building but said that the plantings on the narrow "shelves" of the northwest facade will be problematic; she said that no landscape would truly be maintenance-free, and the money would be better spent on ground-level site improvements. She added that the planted shelves could be feasible where a plentiful maintenance budget is anticipated, but not for this project. She said that the upper-level porches have the potential to be amazing features. She said that the details of the project would be important, and she asked for further discussion of the materials. Mr. Marzolf responded that many of the details are still being resolved; the current intention for the brick on the porch screens is to use two or three tones of light gray, with a dimension that is larger than the standard brick so that the openings in the screen wall would be generously sized. Mr. Dunson asked if the brick would be installed in panels; Mr. Marzolf said that it would be built by hand.
Ms. Gilbert commended the design for the careful siting of the building, particularly the decision to step back from the property line in some areas. She said that the treatment of hedges and the park reservation show the effort to make the project a good neighbor, giving the building a "settled-in" appearance that is interesting from all sides. Mr. Marzolf responded that the numerous constraints of the site and context have been helpful in generating a better design. Ms. Gilbert said that her initial reaction was to question the wide expanse of glass in the community room at the north end of each hallway, but she is reassured by the description of the special view to the north that will make the entire hallway area feel like a special place. Mr. Marzolf said that one design goal is to provide some daylight for these interior halls, which may be achieved through the residential units or by placing windows along the outdoor spaces that are recessed into the plan.
Ms. Griffin noted the multiple references in the presentation to providing a variety of spaces for children; while supporting this design goal, she also suggested consideration of communal space for the adults—likely to be primarily women—who will come to this building during a time of distress. She said that places of support and bonding for the adults could be an important feature that could easily be overlooked. Mr. Burke agreed, noting that this issue had been raised during a design consultation with the non-profit group that operates the La Casa project that his firm had previously designed. The guidance that emerged was to emphasize the establishment of a community on each floor, fostering such results as two families becoming friendly and moving out to a shared apartment that might not be economically viable for one family alone. Ms. Griffin added that even the sharing of everyday tasks, such as laundry, can provide extraordinary opportunities to build networks; the design should therefore reflect careful thought about the needs and daily routines of the residents.
Ms. Griffin said that she is a longstanding supporter of bold contemporary architectural expressions, and she supported the risk-taking that is evident in the presented design. She described this proposal as an unconventional residential project in a city that sometimes does not welcome innovative architecture. She said that this design approach brings with it a responsibility to detail it carefully to avoid an unwanted institutional character; for example, she said that the upper-level porches with open masonry screening could be seen as reminiscent of 1960s public housing. She encouraged the design but cautioned that such unwanted parallels could be drawn, which should be anticipated through careful detailing. She added that the south and east facades could also appear overly institutional if not developed well. She observed that the ground-floor exterior design appears somewhat uniform around the building, notwithstanding the different uses; she suggested that a more varied treatment of the ground floor and additional windows could help in avoiding an overly institutional character for the project. She suggested careful study of the details and dimensions to ensure that the building feels appropriately grounded.
Ms. Griffin commented that the window treatments will be another important feature of the building and can carry cultural significance; she described the tradition in families of color, likely to include many of the building's residents, to draw curtains or blinds at sunset instead of leaving the interior space exposed to public view. She said that these features should be included and should be designed for durability and consistency of appearance, with an understanding that the building will not be occupied in the way that is often illustrated in design magazines. As an example, she said that the lack of working curtains or blinds might result in residents simply putting a sheet across their window. She encouraged continued communication with the potential operators and inhabitants to understand how the building will be lived in, and how people's use of the building will affect the architecture.
Mr. Luebke said that no public testimony or comment letters have been offered for the Ward 6 proposal. Vice Chairman Meyer suggested a motion on the concept, noting that the project would return as a final design submission for further review. Upon a motion by Mr. Dunson with second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission approved the concept submission with the comments provided.
2. CFA 16/FEB/17-8, Ward 5 Short-term Family Housing, 1700 Rhode Island Avenue, NE. Renovation of former police station and six-story addition. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the second short-term family housing concept proposal, for a six-story addition to a former police station in Ward 5. She said that the existing Colonial Revival building dates from the early 1920s and would be renovated for use as part of the housing proposal. The combined existing and proposed buildings would encompass 47,000 square feet with 46 residential units. She noted that an existing cellular telecommunications facility at the northeast corner would remain on the site. She said that a letter has been distributed to the Commission members from the Citizens for Responsible Options; representatives from this organization are present and may want to address the Commission. She introduced architect Ronnie McGhee of R. McGhee & Associates to present the design.
Mr. McGhee said that the context is particularly important in the design of this project; the site has numerous encumbrances, and community members have provided extensive input. He also noted the extensive consultation with the Commission staff and the D.C. Historic Preservation Office on how to add a building to a site that already has a handsome historic building. He said that a relatively open design character was initially considered for the new construction, but the community request was to relate more closely to the traditional apartment buildings in the area. He said that the program is comparable to the other short-term family housing proposals being presented; the proposed height is taller than might be expected for this site due to the requirement to configure the housing with approximately ten units per floor to foster a community atmosphere.
Mr. McGhee presented the existing conditions, indicating a one-story garage wing that would be removed from the police station. He indicated several interesting features of the historic building and said that its exterior is largely intact; some features are in disrepair and would be restored as part of this project. The interior would be reconfigured; it has been extensively altered and is now utilitarian in character. On the west side of the site is 17th Street, with single-family houses across the street. To the southeast is Rhode Island Avenue, an important street in the city with a 130-foot-wide right-of-way; he noted that the police station protrudes into this right-of-way, extending beyond the site's property line. The buildings across Rhode Island Avenue are mostly commercial and residential. To the east is a public alley, and on the northeast portion of the site is the telecommunications facility that includes a small control building and a 150-foot-tall antenna. He said that the proximity of this facility to the alley would not normally be allowed by zoning regulations. To the east of the alley is a lot used for sales of car tires. To the north of the site is a recently constructed four-story condominium building, located directly on the property line. He described the neighborhood as consisting primarily of older houses and bungalows, along with many larger buildings along Rhode Island Avenue; the proposed design is based on the precedent of these larger buildings, using traditional materials and design features instead of a contemporary glassy appearance that was not wanted by community members. He indicated examples of four- and five-story buildings along Rhode Island Avenue in the wider vicinity, some older and some recently built. He also noted the recently built branch library several blocks to the east, designed by Bing Thom.
Mr. McGhee said that the area available for new construction includes much of the northern and eastern portions of the site, avoiding the historic police station on the southwest and the telecommunications facility at the northeast corner. The police station has a formal entrance portico facing Rhode Island Avenue, which would be used as a staff entrance for the proposed residential project. He said that the D.C. Historic Preservation Office advised not placing new construction on the southeastern portion of the site, in order to maintain the visibility of the police station in the vista looking southwest along Rhode Island Avenue. He said that aside from the telecommunications facility's physical presence on the site, its electromagnetic radiation can be problematic in proximity to housing; increasing the height of the residential building could therefore require raising the height of the 150-foot-tall antenna in order to maintain a sufficient separation.
Mr. McGhee presented the proposed design, indicating the brick facades with punched window openings that relate to those of the historic police station. He indicated the massing articulation of the new construction, which is recessed slightly to retain the visibility of the corner quoining on the police station, which he said would still be perceived as a separate building. The new construction would be set back twelve to thirteen feet from the north property line, creating a green space as a separation from the apartment building to the north. He indicated the additional outdoor areas for the residents, noting that the site would become more open to the public due to removal of the existing fence. He emphasized the effort to integrate the historic building with the seventy-foot-high new building, which would be slightly taller than other nearby buildings. He said that the police station would remain as the most prominent feature of the site, particularly for people travelling along Rhode Island Avenue.
Mr. McGhee presented the proposed floorplans and elevations, indicating the first-floor shared dining room with a view of the site's landscaped open space. The adjacent boundary wall along the north edge of the site would have plantings and warm-colored materials. The facades of the proposed building would relate to the horizontal features of the police station through the detailing of the brick and other features; two colors of brick would be used, with aluminum windows and stone sills. A mansard roof element is proposed to give the building a residential character, as preferred by the community representatives; a full-story mansard was initially proposed, but this has been reduced in size at the suggestion of some review agency staff. He said that the existing basement of the police station would accommodate the project's needs for functions such as storage, and the new construction would not require an additional basement area. He noted that the new construction would enclose and overhang the telecommunications control building; initial guidance was that this facility could be removed from the site, but this has proven to be very expensive and also logistically difficult due to the government agencies that rely on the telecommunications facilitated by this antenna. On the ground floor, the proposed residential entrance would be on the west along 17th Street, corresponding to the prevailing residential use along this street. He indicated the service entrance, staff entrance, administrative area, health suite, and computer and meeting rooms. He described the configuration of the upper floors that responds to the site constraints; the layout and interior glazing has been carefully configured so that the staff station would have a view toward all of the floor's common areas. He indicated the windows that would bring daylight from several directions to the central common space; each laundry room would also have a window. He added that the lower floors of the new construction would be aligned with the floor levels of the police station, which would include residential units on the upper floors. He emphasized the variety in the facades and room layouts and the abundance of daylight for the interior. He then introduced Ryan Moody of Moody Landscape Architecture to present the landscape design.
Mr. Moody showed a plan of existing conditions, indicating a chain-link fence and overgrown shrubs that would be removed; two large trees would remain. He characterized the site as overgrown and underutilized; the new project presents the opportunity for improvement and a landscape design that would reduce the stress of homelessness. The landscape design is also intended to enhance the setting for the historic police station. The proposed recreation spaces include a courtyard garden and a variety of spaces for different age ranges of children. The public space along Rhode Island Avenue would primarily be restored as lawn, in keeping with the historic setting of the police station; perennials and small trees would also be included. New street trees would be planted where needed to increase the tree canopy, subject to coordination with the existing overhead power lines. Low walls would provide privacy and security, perhaps incorporating seating; metal screening could be used to allow more open views. Along 17th Street, a wood fence would be used for consistency with the street's residential character; louvers could be included to allow for more air circulation, and plantings would be installed on both sides of the fence. He noted that metal features in the landscape design would relate to the metalwork of the historic building. He presented additional studies of mixing perennial plantings to obtain interesting color effects; grasses and other plantings would also be chosen with consideration of varying seasonal appearances. He said that the sectional design is also important, with different heights established by the benches and various sizes of trees.
Mr. McGhee concluded by emphasizing the relationship of the proposed building to the landscape and context, with such features as trim bands and a rusticated base. He said that the appearance from the public streets and from within the courtyards have both been considered in the design.
Ms. Griffin asked for clarification of the requirement for ten residential units per floor. Mr. McGhee said that this is intended as a maximum, although this building would have eleven units on the second and third floors due to the use of space in the historic building. Ms. Griffin acknowledged the cited precedents and asked what building height is typical along Rhode Island Avenue. Mr. McGhee responded that this avenue extends from downtown Washington to Eastern Avenue, but the prevailing heights in the vicinity of this project include many one- and two-story buildings, with scattered three- and four-story buildings, including a mix of residential and commercial buildings. Ms. Griffin asked about the new condominium building immediately north of the project site; Mr. McGhee said that it is approximately forty feet tall and appears to be a relatively low-cost building with facades of brick, siding, and composite panels; he said that the finished facade materials have only recently been installed and are not shown in the presented photographs. He said that the portions of this adjacent building that abut the property line have blank walls; windows are present where the building steps back from the property line. Ms. Griffin asked about any parking requirement. Mr. McGhee responded that 22 spaces are required, but the design proposes three spaces plus a loading berth; the tentative intention is to seek zoning relief for the proposed height, floor-area ratio, parking, and loading.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited comments from the public. David Forrest, president of Citizens for Responsible Options, said that this community organization was formed in response to the proposal to place the short-term family housing at this site. He noted the organization's letter that has been distributed to the Commission members. He said that the local residents are surprised by this proposal and were not consulted by the D.C. government; the large scale of the proposed construction only became known to the community in December 2016. He said that the large proportions would put the homes across 17th Street in shadow. He acknowledged the difficult challenge for the design team in accommodating the large program on this modest site. He said that the existing large buildings in the vicinity—none as tall as this proposal—are typically in isolation, not closely sited alongside other buildings; the prevailing sense of open space settings would not be present in this project. He said that much of the context is modest two-story houses. He said that the proposed setback of linear open space along the north side of the site, intended for relaxation, would be merely an eleven-foot-wide corridor running between the proposed seventy-foot-tall building on the south and the recently constructed forty-foot-tall building on the north; the space would not receive direct daylight and would likely feel claustrophobic rather than relaxing. He said that the developer of the building to the north has intentionally configured that building with courtyards to ensure daylight for the condominiums; the proposed building would block this light. Secretary Luebke noted that the letter from Mr. Forrest's organization includes a statement that 300 people have joined in the petition concerning this project.
Vice Chairman Meyer recognized Dina Mukhamedzhanova, who raised issues with the telecommunications equipment on the site. She said that the facility includes an "antenna equipment cabinet" which has not been adequately described. She said that the new building would likely house approximately 75 children, who may end playing on the antenna tower rather than in the designed playground spaces; she observed that the antenna would be only a few feet from the proposed building, and she emphasized the need to consider the safety of children. She said that no provision is made for maintenance parking to service the antenna, which is a component of emergency communication systems. She said that maintenance vehicles would instead simply occupy the spaces intended for the proposed building. She said that the police station is a historically important building, designed by Albert Harris, and it has been under continuous ownership by the D.C. Government since its construction; she said that a landmark nomination for the building has been suggested but has not yet been obtained. She said that the community is interested in protecting this building and using it as a museum.
Ms. Mukhamedzhanova concluded that the area of the site for this project—12,000 square feet—is far smaller than the D.C. Government's guideline for a 30,000-square-foot site. She said that the adequacy of the site was not adequately evaluated before its seelection, and adequate public notice was not provided.
Vice Chairman Meyer expressed appreciation for the public comments. Mr. Dunson observed that the proposed design of the typical floors includes extensive circulation space, and he asked if a more compact configuration has been considered—perhaps addressing the building's width as well as height. He also criticized the proposal for a partial or clipped mansard roof, commenting that if a mansard is used then it should be a full story; he described the proposed design as merely a deceptive treatment for the top of the building to mask the actual height. He commented that the proposed stairwell along 17th Street at the south edge of the new construction, abutting the historic police station, provides an opportunity to articulate a hyphen or void between the two buildings, so that each would be perceived as more independent rather than seeing them as pressed together. He said that additional changes could be made to mitigate the mass of the proposed building, and the concerns of the neighborhood residents should be addressed. Mr. McGhee responded that the relationship between the historic and proposed buildings has been articulated carefully, although some of the details may not be apparent in the drawings.
Ms. Gilbert questioned the shape of the proposed plan for the building, observing that it appears to be filling all the available space remaining after subtracting the site constraints. She said that the result appears too big alongside the existing police station and should be studied further, and she suggested not connecting the new and old buildings on each level.
Ms. Meyer described the problem as too much focus on retaining the appearance of the historic building as being free-standing, and not enough attention to the concerns of the residents of the nearby houses. She noted that a decision described early in the presentation was to pull the new building back from the Rhode Island Avenue property line at the eastern edge of the site; the problems with the design have cascaded from this decision. She said that the police station will remain visible even if the new construction extends south to the property line, a change that would allow for a thinner or lower massing. She also agreed with Mr. Dunson that the excess of interior circulation space is problematic. She emphasized the importance of testing the site's capacity against the proposed program during the design process; if the program is excessive, then the design problems may simply not be solvable. She said that the presented design shows how fifty units can be placed on the site, and the result may be to show that this program is excessive. She suggested considering a program of forty units to explore how the massing could be reconfigured, particularly with the building extending toward Rhode Island Avenue. She also suggested accommodating more of the program at the ground level by eliminating some of the landscape program areas that are not viable. She summarized that she is not satisfied with the design solution, and the excessive bulkiness of the massing appears to result from the decision to pull back from the Rhode Island Avenue frontage. She said that issues raised by the neighbors, such as the impact on light and air, provide additional cause for concern with the proposal.
Ms. Griffin asked for clarification of the requested relief from zoning height restrictions. Mr. McGhee responded that the proposed building is seventy feet tall, compared to the current limit of fifty feet. Ms. Griffin agreed with Ms. Meyer that the program is poorly matched with the site, resulting in a scale problem that creates a number of challenges. Ms. Griffin said that the overall density of the project does not itself seem problematic, since the neighborhood already includes comparable multifamily residential buildings; she described the problem as how the density is configured on the site, which has difficult limitations. She said that some design gestures could mitigate the problems more successfully, such as improving the relationship to the building on the north. She noted that the building to the north is clearly configured to anticipate the possibility of new construction along its property line; she therefore questioned why the proposed building would pull back from the north property line to leave exposed blank walls. She said that the problem of excessive shadow may be most applicable to the narrow outdoor space proposed along the north, rather than the houses across 17th Street; she questioned the attempt to call this space a "garden." She encouraged consideration of the massing changes that were suggested by Mr. Dunson, and she suggested further study of the design responses to the site's challenges, as discussed by the Commission members, before concluding whether or not the program should be reduced. She suggested focusing on those design gestures that actually improve the character of the site and context. She also encouraged a more significant gap to give breathing space between the historic and proposed buildings, commenting that the proposed relationship is awkward.
Ms. Griffin said that the telecommunications equipment appears to be unprotected now, which is problematic regardless of whether a new building is constructed. She asked if research has been considered on any issues from living close to such a facility, including clearance distances and maintenance requirements. Mr. McGhee responded that a study has been done. Ms. Griffith said that a visual separation between this facility and the new residential building would be desirable.
Vice Chairman Meyer observed that the configuration of the residential building to the north, with blank walls along the property line, could be an opportunity for the proposed building to directly abut the property line at the same locations; Ms. Griffin agreed that this could be worth exploring. Mr. McGhee noted that a wall abutting the property line could not have windows; Ms. Griffin said that the adjacent space could be used for functions that do not require windows. Mr. McGhee offered to explore this further. Ms. Griffin summarized the guidance to reconsider the design choices in order to improve the project, possibly by reducing the total number of units, and to make the building better for both its users and its neighbors.
Mr. McGhee said that reconsideration of the setback from Rhode Island Avenue would need to be coordinated further with D.C. historic preservation officials. Mr. Dunson said that the situation is particularly interesting because the historic building extends beyond the property line; it may therefore be feasible to bring the proposed building closer to the property line while still maintaining the prominence of the historic structure. He said that such a change would relieve some of the programmatic pressures in other areas of the site and potentially improve the relationship to the adjacent building on the north. He emphasized that the Commission's role is not to redesign the building but to offer comments for consideration. Mr. McGhee said that the quality of space in neighboring buildings is not necessarily the design priority; Ms. Meyer countered that the suggested reconfiguration could also improve the quality of the proposed building itself.
Ms. Chin of the D.C. Department of General Services expressed appreciation for the Commission's insights into the challenges of the site. She said that the design has been through several iterations to respond to these issues. She emphasized the city-wide goal of accommodating the number of families currently housed at the D.C. General Hospital facility, with the housing units to be distributed among the wards. She said that the design team has done its best in addressing the challenges of the program and site that have been determined. Ms. Griffin reiterated that the constraints are placing great pressure on a complicated site, and these issues could be addressed through changes in the building volume. Ms. Chin expressed concern that the reconfiguration could result in windowless spaces that would not be usable for the needed family bedrooms. Ms. Meyer emphasized that these issues may be solvable, and Ms. Griffin said that the suggestions should be considered in their totality, including the savings of a reduction in the amount of circulation space. She indicated numerous opportunities for balancing the design changes in a way that may be able to continue accommodating the full program. She said that the results might address the concerns from both the Commission and the community.
Ms. Gilbert emphasized the importance of the landscape—as an aesthetic amenity within the neighborhood, as a setting for the police station, and as a needed play space for the children living in the building. She encouraged providing adequate outdoor space to accomplish these goals. Ms. Griffin added that the architectural and landscape gestures did not appear harmonious in the presented design, and she encouraged better coordination of the aesthetic approaches. She suggested that the beautiful historic building could provide the inspiration for the landscape design, such as by creating low brick walls with fencing above. She said that literally extending horizontal lines from the historic building to the new building may not be a desirable design feature.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the consensus to request an additional concept submission with further study of the massing. She acknowledged the extensive effort in generating the design but said that the Commission should not take a vote on the current submission. Mr. Luebke added that the site constraints would be ameliorated by relocating the telecommunications facility elsewhere; Ms. Meyer agreed that this could be one of the site constraints that could be reconsidered further as part of the requested exploration. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
3. CFA 16/FEB/17-9, Ward 3 Short-term Family Housing, 3320 Idaho Avenue, NW. New six-story building. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the third short-term family housing concept proposal, for a six-story building in Ward 3 adjacent to the Second District police station. She said that the building would contain fifty residential units and would occupy a portion of the police station's existing surface parking lot, necessitating the construction of a parking structure that is not fully documented in the current submission. She said that the site is also adjacent to a community garden and recreation area to the west, primarily on federal land. She noted two letters that have been distributed to the Commission members: a request from the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission to defer the project until it has sufficient opportunity for its own review; and comments from an advocacy group, the Neighbors for Responsive Government. She asked architect Jonathan Catania of Ayers Saint Gross to present the design.
Mr. Catania said that the design approach is based on the goals of giving the building's residents a place that feels like home, and considering community concerns as expressed during numerous public meetings. He indicated the site along Idaho Avenue, a block east of Wisconsin Avenue and near the recently constructed Cathedral Commons shopping center. To the north is an area of large residential and mixed-use development, and to the south are single-family homes with a buffer of tall trees. The broader site includes the existing two-story police station and related facilities for emergency vehicles. A retaining wall extends approximately north–south through the site; to its east is a surface parking lot on the west side of the police station, and to the west of the retaining wall is an extensive portion of the community garden that continues further west beyond the site boundary. He also noted the significant slope of Idaho Avenue, dropping approximately fourteen feet from the site's northeast corner at Newark Street to the south end of the site.
Mr. Catania said that the proposed housing would be located in a surface parking area to the south of the police station, which avoids the most problematic conflicts with the community gardens and police-related facilities on the overall site. The access drive would be along the north side of the building, with the street connection to be shared with a service drive that would branch northward to the police station. A playground with several play areas would be located to the south of the new residential building, serving as an additional buffer to the adjacent single-family homes. A staff parking area for twelve vehicles would be located on the west side of the building; existing retaining walls and site walls to the south and west would remain, with additional trellis walls proposed along the playground to establish a garden-like character. He indicated a wall along the south edge of the playground, visible from within the residential units, that could be developed as a colorful play amenity. The site design includes large plants along the southern edge of the site and more naturalistic plantings along Idaho Avenue, including grasses. The reentrant northeast corner of the building would define a small entrance plaza along the Idaho Avenue sidewalk.
Mr. Catania presented the proposed floorplans, indicating the first-floor lobby and administrative areas toward the east with an angled staff space that responds to the diagonal alignment of Idaho Avenue. On the west side of the first floor, several shared spaces would have extensive south-facing windows along the playground: a dining room, multi-purpose room, and play room. The north side would have smaller spaces including the computer lab, health suite for the residents, staff lounge, and storage areas. The five upper floors would each contain ten residential units along with a study room, community room, laundry, bathrooms, and staff station with a view along the length of the corridor. He said that the layout of the upper floors allows for windows at the east and west ends of the interior corridor to bring in daylight. The upper-floor community rooms would be located at the east end of each floor, facing Idaho Avenue to activate the building's street frontage. He summarized the double-loaded corridor plan as the most efficient response to accommodating the program within the site constraints, and he described the overall massing as a five-story linear building on top of a one-story base that extends eastward to Idaho Avenue.
Mr. Catania presented the proposed elevations, indicating the use of brick, terracotta, and glass; the scale and color of the materials would be varied. The south facade would use solar shading devices that are still being studied, and a canopy design will be developed for the building's main entrance. He indicated the intended use of a wood veneer material to create a warm character for the first floor near the playground. The north facade is being developed with a heavier character, perhaps using concrete, in response to the vehicular drives and police station service area to the north. He concluded with perspective drawings of the proposed design, indicating the relationship to the street, the massing of residential units into north and south volumes, and the vertical alignments of windows corresponding to special rooms and the ends of the corridor on each floor.
Ms. Meyer noted the extensive construction in the vicinity that is seen on the aerial photograph; Mr. Catania responded that the aerial view is outdated, and the nearby construction has now been completed. Ms. Gilbert asked about the height of the nearby row houses on the east side of Idaho Avenue. Mr. Catania said that they are relatively tall, approximately four stories on a terraced grade; Secretary Luebke added that they may be configured as three stories plus an occupied floor within the roof.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited comments from the public. Robert Wittie of the Neighbors for Responsive Government said that this non-profit organization is composed of neighborhood residents who are concerned about the proposed construction; he noted the organization's submission of written comments to the Commission. He said that the angle of the presented aerial photograph in the presentation was perhaps artfully chosen to exaggerate the size of certain buildings in the foreground, and it doesn't adequately convey the modestly scaled character of the context. He noted that for a presentation earlier in the day for another of the short-term family housing proposals, a Commission member had commented that a purpose of the review is to test the capacity of the site for the program; he said that the proposed site for the Ward 3 housing may not be able to accommodate the program adequately, which is the primary concern of the neighborhood organization. He described the proposal as "shoehorning" the project into an area that is constrained by the presence of an operating police station that serves a large portion of the city. He said that one of the neighborhood concerns is that the proposed residential building will interfere with the operation of the police station. He also said that the site was chosen with little advance notice to the community nor opportunity for comment. He noted that the sites in some ward were selected by the D.C. Mayor after an extensive search of candidate sites; others, such as in Ward 3, were selected by the D.C. Council with little search, as substitutions for the sites selected by the mayor in order to reduce the cost. He said the cost savings could be a good reason for the site change, but his organization believes that the actual cost at the proposed site will be much greater than for the site previously selected by the mayor. He acknowledged the provision of short-term housing as an admirable programmatic goal, but he emphasized the issue of the appropriateness of the site.
Mr. Wittie said that the upcoming zoning hearing on regulatory relief will involve issues of height, number of structures on the lot, parking, and the lack of a loading dock; he said that his organization would convey its concerns at that hearing. He suggested that the primary issue for the Commission of Fine Arts is the impact of the proposal on the surrounding area and particularly on the federally owned land to the west. He added that the planned parking structure that would be necessitated by this proposal, although not presented as part of the project, would have unknown additional impacts. He concluded by describing the Commission's review of the police station when it was initially designed: the Commission described it as a spare, modernist building that is nestled into the hill. He contrasted this character with the currently proposed housing, which clearly does not have the appearance of being nestled into the hill. He summarized that the parking structure would likely be three stories tall and would dominate the views from the federally owned open space toward the police station, and the other dominant feature would be the proposed 70-foot-tall building. Vice Chairman Meyer noted that the Commission members have had the opportunity to review his organization's thorough written comments.
Mr. Luebke summarized the letter from the Advisory Neighborhood Commission and his communication with the group's president. A primary concern is the height of the building, and the Advisory Neighborhood Commission believes that interesting options exist for reworking the site plan and possibly putting some of the program in a lower level; he said that this group has requested deferral and has not yet taken an official position on the project.
Ms. Griffin asked if the parking structure, as identified on some of the presented drawings, is part of the current proposal. Ms. Chin of the D.C. Department of General Services responded that only the housing proposal is submitted, but Ms. Griffin and Ms. Meyer noted that the construction of the housing would necessitate construction of the parking structure to replace the lost surface parking. Ms. Chin confirmed this need and said that 68 existing parking spaces, currently used by the police department, would be removed for the proposed housing; the new parking structure would replace this number of spaces. Samantha Mazo, an attorney working on the project's zoning issues, added that the planned parking structure would eliminate the need to seek zoning relief on the issue of parking. She said that the structure would provide three levels of parking; Ms. Chin clarified that one level would be at grade, with a two-story structure above. Ms. Mazo also suggested that the Commission of Fine Arts does not need to debate issues raised by the Advisory Neighborhood Commission; Secretary Luebke clarified that the review processes are independent but noted that the letter simply asks for deferral at this point, until the community process can proceed further. Ms. Chin reiterated that the project teams have been meeting extensively with community representatives in each of the wards, and will continue to do so; she added that the most recent community meeting for the Ward 3 project was the previous evening.
Ms. Gilbert asked if consideration was given to combining the parking structure with the proposed residential building. Ms. Chin said that the intention has been to keep these structures separate; the police department has requested the separation of functions to simplify their operations, particularly at critical times such as shift changes. Ms. Mazo clarified that the parking structure would primarily serve the police station and would be attached to it. Ms. Chin added that 23 parking spaces would be allocated for the residential building's use, fulfilling the regulatory requirement. Ms. Gilbert observed that this planned parking structure occupies a large area on the site plan.
Mr. Dunson observed that the overall police station site has extensive areas of open space, and he suggested consideration of other solutions for the proposed building. He said that accommodating the program in a lower-height building may be more compatible with the scale of the nearby buildings, including the police station itself. Mr. Catania responded that this question has been discussed extensively within the D.C. Government and at community meetings. The program calls for fifty residential units, and a configuration of separately monitored ten-unit communities on each floor has been determined to be the safest and most efficient arrangement, resulting in the proposed height for the building. The desired floor layout also rules out a different building shape such as an "L"-shaped plan. Ms. Chin added that the community has strongly supported keeping the open space that is used by the public, such as the community gardens.
Ms. Griffin said that the presentation of the project has not adequately conveyed the complexities of the context; the site plan and elevations were presented in isolation, but the area includes varied topography and multiple uses. She suggested creating a master plan for the larger site, allowing for a more comprehensive understanding of the relationships of varying uses. She cited issues such as police access to the planned parking structure, elevation relationships, and the mid-century modern design character of the police station. She said that consideration of these factors could result in a great design; but without this understanding, some opportunities may be missed for fitting the residential building into the neighborhood. She said that the proposed use is appropriate for this civic property within a residential neighborhood, but the details of the siting and design could be considered more carefully. She cautioned against an excessively institutional character for the building, which is somewhat suggested by the conceptual elevations that were presented. She said that the nearby housing—apartments and single-family homes—provide interesting examples of materials and color that could be used to improve the proposed design. She observed that the new building would serve as a transition between the single-family homes to the south and the institutional use of the police station to the north; she said that the design appears more closely related to the police station, and it could relate more closely to the residential neighborhood. She added that a master plan might also help in addressing design issues with the planned parking structure—its visibility from the community gardens, recreation area, and nearby homes, and the design of access to it.
Ms. Gilbert suggested preparing a long site section drawing along Idaho Avenue to illustrate the proposed building in relation to the police station and other nearby buildings, and to convey the varied topography that is not shown in the presented drawings. Mr. Catania said that such drawings have been prepared but were not included in the presentation; he added that the design team is continuing to study these issues. Ms. Griffin agreed that a panoramic drawing along Idaho Avenue would be helpful in understanding the proposal and may suggest opportunities to improve this project and the overall police station site.
Ms. Meyer acknowledged that the design is shaped by the programmatic ideal of ten families per floor. She agreed that a much larger number of families grouped together could be problematic, but she suggested studying how a different configuration, such as fifteen families per floor, could affect the building design; in addition to lowering the height, an "L"-shaped configuration might also be feasible. Ms. Chin responded that the design guideline for approximately ten families per floor was developed through an interagency council and stakeholder groups as the most dignified and safe solution. She said that one option could be to configure a floor with more residential units that are grouped into separate neighborhoods, although some concerns arose in studying this possibility. She said that other ways of meeting the programmatic needs have also been considered. Ms. Meyer supported further flexibility, commenting that the quick selection of a site may result in the need to adjust the program. She emphasized that the Commission is encouraging the exploration of alternatives and a consideration of the site's capacity.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the consensus of the Commission to request further work on the proposal, which would also allow time for the Advisory Neighborhood Commission to consider the project. Ms. Griffin added that design guidelines often need to be tested against the actual conditions of a site, with enough flexibility to respond to the challenges that arise and create a good design for the context. She said that the new residential building should become part of the neighborhood, and the design guidelines should not constrain the project from achieving this goal; the result of excessive reliance on the guidelines can be opposition and conflict, which should instead be addressed through the design process. She suggested that the D.C. government accept the back-and-forth process for developing the design, as part of a productive public program for the creation of housing. Ms. Gilbert emphasized the unusual siting situation of placing the building next to a police station; she acknowledged the tension between the differing uses, which constrains the options for siting the new residential construction. She agreed that the design guidelines need to be adapted to the unique characteristics of the site.
Vice Chairman Meyer said that the Commission looks forward to review of a further submission that responds to the comments provided. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 5:18 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA