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 9:06 a.m.
Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer, Vice Chairman
Hon. Edward Dunson
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Toni Griffin
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. Justin Shubow
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
Mary Catherine Bogard
A. Approval of the minutes of the 17 October meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the October meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the minutes.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 16 January, 20 February, and 19 March 2020. He noted that no meeting is scheduled in December.
C. National Building Museum closure – 2 December 2019 to March 2020. Mr. Luebke noted the planned construction work in the Great Hall of the National Building Museum, adjacent to the Commission's offices. Depending on the noise and dust generated by the construction, the January meeting may be held at a different location; the tentative plan is to use the nearby conference facility at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority headquarters, across 5th Street from the Commission's offices.
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 for the artwork on streetlight poles, submitted by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities; the number of installations has been corrected from eleven to ten. Upon a motion by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission approved the revised Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler said that the recommendation for one project (case number SL 20-036) has been changed to be favorable, based on the receipt of supplemental materials. One project listed on the draft with an unfavorable recommendation has been withdrawn (SL 20-011), and an additional project has been removed for consideration in a future month (SL 20-014). Other changes are limited to minor wording adjustments. The favorable recommendations for twelve projects are subject to further coordination with the applicants; she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when the remaining issues are resolved, noting that these recommendations would otherwise be delayed for two months because the Commission will not meet in December. Upon a motion by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Bogard reported that the appendix has 26 projects; no changes have been made to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the Old Georgetown Act appendix.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider items II.E, II.F.3, and II.G.1. Secretary Luebke said that the Commission may wish to act on these submissions without presentations.
E. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
CFA 21/NOV/19-4, Reporters Building (commercial office structure), 300 7th Street, SW. Building renovation, alterations, and additions for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) headquarters relocation. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/OCT/19-8) Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission has reviewed this project several times at the concept level. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the proposed final design.
F. D.C. Department of General Services
3. CFA 21/NOV/19-7, Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, 925 Rhode Island Avenue, NW (site of the former Shaw Junior High School). New (replacement) school building. Final. (Previous: CFA 19/SEP/19-6) Mr. Luebke noted that the submission includes the final design for both the building and the site, but new issues involving the site design have arisen in the D.C. Government's internal review process, which will likely result in revisions to more strongly mark the alignment of 10th Street. He suggested that the Commission could act on the building design only. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the building design, with the expectation that a revised site design will be submitted for future review.
G. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
1. SL 20-034, 555 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW (The Newseum). Building alterations and additions to adapt for use by Johns Hopkins University. Revised concept. (Previous: SL 19-240, 19 September 2019) Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission has previously reviewed this project; the remaining concept-level issue is the recladding of the Pennsylvania Avenue facade, and the proposed stone detail—with a random pattern of shallow angled recesses in the stone panels—appears to be satisfactory. He added that if this revision is approved, the next submission would be at the building permit phase. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the revised concept design.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.1.
B. National Park Service
CFA 21/NOV/19-1, National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial, West Potomac Park at the southwest corner of 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue. Design for new memorial. Concept. (Previous: CFA 15/NOV/18-2) Secretary Luebke introduced the concept submission for the National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial, submitted by the National Park Service (NPS) on behalf of the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association. He said that in June 2018, the Commission approved the sponsor's preferred site at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. In November 2018, the Commission members reviewed an initial concept design and took no action, expressing support for the general concept of a plaza defined by curving, dune-like walls while raising concerns about the rigidly axial plan and the path bisecting the memorial space. He said the new concept design is more asymmetrical and gestural, still framed by dune-shaped walls, but with a smaller central space that is no longer bisected by circulation. He asked Peter May, the NPS associate area director, to introduce the presentation.
Mr. May said he is pleased to return to present the progress that has been made in the design. He asked Scott Stump, president of the memorial association, to introduce the project. Mr. Stump emphasized the association's commitment to ensuring that the design of the memorial will be appropriate for this important site on the Mall. He said that over the past year the project team has refined the design in accordance with the Commission's guidance, focusing on three of the Commission's key recommendations: moving the memorial footprint away from the street corner; tightening the footprint; and emphasizing the distinctive barchan dune form of the walls. He asked landscape architect Skip Graffam of the Olin Studio to present the design.
Mr. Graffam introduced lead architect Randy Schumacher of CSO Architects, along with artists James Nance and Robert Eccleston, who are designing specific commemorative elements as well as collaborating on the design as a whole. He indicated several important features on the context plan: the boundary of the Reserve, as designated by the Commemorative Works Act; the Lincoln Memorial to the south and the Institute of Peace to the north, which together create an emphasis on the 23rd Street corridor and frame its intersection with Constitution Avenue; the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to the east; and the Potomac River to the west. The memorial will be one among a series of areas situated along Constitution Avenue, from the museums to the Lockkeeper's House to the memorials, a sequence that continues west to the waterfront overlook of the Belvedere at the river's edge. He said that proximity to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and to the State Department were important factors in choosing this site, and proximity to other memorials will also help draw visitors; he noted that each year approximately five million people visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and eight million visit the Lincoln Memorial.
Mr. Graffam described the results of an arborist's study of the trees on the site and in the surrounding area. Most are in good condition, expected to live another 25 years or more. The trees in the allées along Constitution Avenue and 23rd Street likewise are in good condition, with only a few in poor health. The landscape includes some cherries to the west and several Kousa dogwoods inside the line of the 23rd Street allée.
Mr. Graffam said that the site lies outside the 100-year floodplain; it is situated at the edge of the currently mapped 500-year floodplain, but the proposed grading will raise it above this level. With a datum elevation between 20 and 21 feet, the memorial will comprise a segment of the Potomac Park levee system; the memorial would bring the levee to approximately sixty percent completion, with two nearby segments remaining to be completed. Based on consultation with the NPS, the memorial project will not include completion of the other segments; however, the proposal will not interfere with their future completion. He said that the more visible landform required by the levee would provide a better demarcation between the memorial and the recreation area to the south and west, with the land around the memorial rising at a gentle slope of approximately 2.5 percent, in comparison to the previously presented design that had a steeper change in grade. He noted that the memorial would be visible from many areas of the Mall's western end, but not from the front facade and steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Mr. Graffam summarized five key recommendations provided by the Commission at the previous review: emphasize low landscape forms rather than tall vertical elements; use more emphatic sculptural dune forms; make the design less static, creating dynamism through asymmetry; eliminate the bisecting path, allowing the memorial to stand alone as a distinct element rather than as part of a larger circulation pattern; protect existing landscape features by making the memorial as compact as possible; and collaborate with the artists to achieve a unified design.
Mr. Graffam said that the memorial is meant to be a celebratory place, where visitors are welcome to come learn about the conflict and also to enjoy being on the Mall. He presented a comparison of the previous and current plan of the memorial, indicating the footprint that would be set at a 45-degree angle to the intersection of Constitution Avenue and 23rd Street. In the earlier version, the northeastern dune wall was placed very close to the street trees, and the southwestern wall lacked a strong dune form; the high points of these two outer walls were aligned with the 45-degree axis, making the central space static. The path between the two sidewalks was previously symmetrical and passed through the center of the memorial, descending to create maximum height for the walls before rising back up toward the street. In the current concept design, the two dune forms have been rotated and shifted to almost converge on the northwest while opening up on the southeast, a solution that suggests a primary and a secondary entrance. The high points of the walls have been shifted toward the northwest, creating more enclosure on the Constitution Avenue side, and the walls would be lower toward the east and south, opening up the view toward the Lincoln Memorial. Circulation has been simplified to start from a single entrance on the east, leading into the "left hook" path—recalling the military strategy of the allied ground forces moving towards Kuwait City—which would rise from the lower grade at the entrance along 23rd Street to the higher grade in the central space. All of the paths would be barrier-free, with no slopes exceeding 4.9 percent. Deteriorated trees in the allées would be replaced, and a new tree may be planted in an empty space to complete a row.
Mr. Graffam said that the inner area of the memorial would be composed of three commemorative zones: the storm, the pivot, and the coalition. He emphasized that the dune walls are critical to creating a sense of enclosure and to conveying the physical context of Desert Storm and Desert Shield. The grade has been shaped to create more sculptural dune forms for the two outer walls. For most of their length, the height of these two walls would be less than four feet, rising higher in two areas to provide large surfaces for inscriptions and artworks. The outer sides of these two walls would be planted with grass to blend in with the Mall lawns. Their inner sides would be faced with a buff-colored stone used in a few other structures along the Mall, notably the National Museum of the American Indian; however, this would be the only memorial on the Mall to use this material. The color of the stone would evoke the color of dunes. Smaller dune forms within the central space would serve to accommodate the grade transition; they would also help form the "Coalition Grove" and separate the different commemorative elements. The memorial's footprint would remain compact, with the remaining open space on the block available for recreation, a primary use of the Mall landscape.
Mr. Graffam said that the largest dune would celebrate the liberation of Kuwait through the image of a storm, referring to the name "Desert Storm" but also to the formation of dunes by desert storms; dunes express the wind forces by which they were shaped. The idea of a dune would be conveyed by textured surface pattern; the same patterning would be used on the other walls and would extend onto the paving, tying all the elements together. On the largest wall, the texture would be transformed into an inscription and then into bas-relief sculpture representing the huge scale of the operation, and the speed and dynamism of its enormous troop movements; the visual theme would be a storm shaping desert landforms and achieving resolution through the intervention of the coalition forces. Accentuating the bas-relief narrative would be two stainless steel sculptures by Robert Eccleston—an eagle to symbolize the U.S.-led coalition, and a falcon, an important symbol in the Persian Gulf region, to represent Kuwait's liberation. These sculptures would be extended from the wall by stainless steel supports. Two quotations would be inscribed on this wall on each side of the bas-relief, the first setting the context of the operation and the other discussing its importance in the international geopolitical realm; beyond this quotation would be another stretch of textured wall surface.
Mr. Graffam said the smaller wall to the northeast would symbolize the transformation, or pivot, in the relationship of American society to the military as a result of Desert Storm. This wall would be the backdrop for a group of three sculptural figures by James Nance representing service members, intended to suggest the victory parade that marched along Constitution Avenue at the end of the conflict. He said the figures are also meant to establish a personal connection between visitors and the military, an important theme for Desert Storm veterans. The figures—realistic but heroic in scale, seven feet tall—would stand in front of the wall, in the visitors' space, set on the ground rather than being elevated on pedestals. The proposal is to represent two men and one woman, with a range of ages to include younger members of the military as well as the senior officers in Desert Storm who had been young officers during the Vietnam War; he noted that the pivot in attitude reversed the challenges of anger and rejection faced by Vietnam veterans when they returned to the U.S. The wall would feature a quotation from a speech by President George H.W. Bush. Mr. Graffam added that the ascending circulation path is intended as a counterpoint to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where the path's descent past the walls which form the memorial is a primary design idea. At the Desert Storm Memorial, the path would ascend three feet from the sidewalk to the high point in the center, providing a clear vista to the Lincoln Memorial; visitors will then be able to walk back down along one of several routes.
Mr. Graffam said that the central space of the memorial would symbolize the coalition, the group of nations that united to liberate Kuwait following its invasion by Iraq. This space would express the idea of an oasis—a calm and welcoming area with a water feature, benches, plantings including the Coalition Grove, and smaller dune walls, which would have plantings, integral benches, and a quotation from a speech given by General Norman Schwarzkopf, the leader of the coalition forces. The extent of the space would be 126 feet at its widest point, slightly less than the 132-foot-diameter circle at the Korean War Veterans Memorial. The water element would be a fountain in the general form of a table, circular in shape to symbolize that all nations were equal at the council table. He described it as a clean form: water would flow over its top and then fall, creating sound that would help mask traffic noise. He acknowledged that any water element in Washington needs to have meaning both with and without water; here, when the water is turned off, the top surface would be revealed as a sculptural relief, possibly in the form of a battered shield to represent military service and sacrifice. The sculptural motif would also be visible through the scrim of water when the fountain is operating. Around the rim of the table, the names of all the coalition countries would be inscribed, along with their flags and the name of each country in English and in its native language.
Finally, Mr. Graffam presented the proposed lighting concept for the memorial. The lighting is being designed to fit within the general lighting hierarchy of the Mall, in which the Lincoln Memorial is the most brightly lit structure at the west end. The memorial's lighting would be subdued, mostly for safety and focused on the specifically commemorative elements.
Chairman Powell expressed appreciation for the progress that has been made in the concept design, and he invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Referring to an image of the larger dune wall symbolizing the storm, Ms. Griffin asked for further information about the textures and patterns on the surface. Mr. Graffam responded that the intent is to recall the textures that winds form on dunes, and to use this patterning to create an organizational framework for the various sculptures and inscriptions; the pattern could also be transformed into the three-dimensional supports for the eagle and falcon sculptures. The texture is meant to be an organizing element that would integrate the idea of storm and wind with the bas-relief. Ms. Griffin asked if this texture would appear only near the bas-relief or whether it would be used along the entire length of all walls; Mr. Graffam responded that the textured stone would be considered the overall canvas, becoming more strongly textured in some areas and continuing through the narrative scenes in some way. Ms. Griffin asked if the bas-relief or any part of the walls would be metal. Mr. Graffam said the only metal on the walls would be the two birds and their supporting structures; everything else would be carved or textured stone, including the bas-relief panels. He said the concept for the inner walls is that they would all be of the same stone, refined and finished in some areas to form the bas-relief scenes. Ms. Gilbert asked about the diagonal lines shown in the rendering of the larger wall; Mr. Graffam confirmed that these are meant to divide scenes.
Ms. Gilbert asked for further information about the linear metal supports for the two bird sculptures. Mr. Graffam responded that the birds would create two powerful accents along the 180-foot-long wall. Aesthetically, the stainless steel supports would be meant to suggest the wind, and the projection of the birds would represent flight. Ms. Gilbert asked about their scale; Mr. Graffam said the wingspans would be approximately ten feet for the eagle and seven feet for the falcon.
Ms. Meyer commended the many improvements to the concept design and expressed appreciation for the effort to address the Commission's concerns; she said she hopes the additional work as the proposal evolves will enrich instead of complicate the design. She provided several recommendations for further refinement. She observed that basing the form of the walls on a barchan dune requires decisions about where the dune reference should appear and where it should end. She noted that the barchan dune is important not only for its shape, but also for how its form evolves. Barchan dunes are smooth on the inside and striated on the outside as a result of their formation through natural processes; however, in this project the outer faces would be planted with grass because of the Mall context. She suggested that the inner faces could be smooth instead of being primarily rough; she commented that the play between rough and smooth surfaces should be studied further.
Ms. Meyer suggested further exploration of the meaning of having water at the center of this memorial, expressing hesitancy about this part of the design; she said she is not convinced that the water feature is the right shape or that it works in section. She commented that in a desert oasis, people want to touch the water, and the commemorative elements displayed around the fountain's perimeter would confuse its meaning. She therefore recommended expressing the international coalition on the pivot wall instead of in the central space, commenting that the pivot wall is too concerned with how the American military views itself instead of the encounter between the U.S. and other countries; the design would be more powerful if the inscriptions concerning the coalition were located on the pivot wall. She also criticized the concept of the freestanding sculptures, commenting that they would become a kitschy place where visitors would take photographs of themselves to post on social media; she called them alien to the memorial's concept. She emphasized that the project presents a great opportunity for a sculptor to collaborate with architects and landscape architects on the fountain and walls.
Mr. Krieger said that he agrees with Ms. Meyer's comments, except for the concern with the freestanding statues; he said that the way people now interact with memorials involves some kitschy behavior, such as taking photos to post online. He expressed support for many aspects of the concept design, especially its modesty, and how a visitor would learn its story only gradually. He said he appreciates the attempt to abstract difficult concepts, such as military maneuvers and deserts; however, he observed that the country of Kuwait itself does not appear to be represented in the memorial, and the design appears to be more about American exceptionalism and American actions than it is about Kuwait or the Persian Gulf. Furthermore, the memorial seems to express the idea that the mission ended the conflict, instead of asking whether it unleashed a conflict that continues to this day; he raised the question of whether the memorial has a responsibility to address this issue or whether it could be left open for later modifications.
Mr. Krieger questioned the proposal to treat the top surface of the fountain as a shield, an image that implies military strength; he suggested that a better image might be a map of the Middle East showing the location of Kuwait within the region, since this was a key reason Kuwait was invaded. Mr. Graffam responded that a map had been considered; he cited the challenge in memorial design of providing just the right amount of information. He also noted that the falcon sculpture would represent Kuwait's liberation, but he acknowledged that this symbolism may not be clear enough. Mr. Krieger emphasized that more references to the role of Kuwait would be helpful.
Ms. Griffin commented that an earlier site selection presentation had impressed her because it presented the historical context for Desert Storm and the purpose of its commemoration. She said she is also impressed by the proposal to use the barchan dune walls to explain the event in a balanced way. She supported designing the walls to be surfaces for representing the narrative as an experience that visitors would move through; she also commended the alteration of the site's layout and topography to create this canvas, and she encouraged further exploration of the how the story can be experienced as a progression through the memorial.
Ms. Griffin said that she finds the proposal for the water feature, described as a floating table of water, to be challenging because the ideas of the coalition table and the oasis pool are in conflict. She suggested eliminating the table form and developing alternative designs to represent the coalition, considering the role each element could play in telling the story. She also expressed concern about the freestanding figures: when only three figures are used, questions inevitably arise about who is included and who is not, the number of figures depicted, and why the figures are depicted in a particular way. Acknowledging the hierarchical nature of the military, she said that the small number of figures would open up the memorial to public criticism about representation. Mr. Graffam responded that the three figures represent the sea, air, and land services; Ms. Griffin emphasized that visitors will look to see themselves represented in this story, and many people may not be represented here. Mr. Krieger acknowledged the troubling questions about the role of the sculptures, but he reiterated his plea for the memorial to include more representation of the Middle East beyond just the desert landscape.
Ms. Gilbert referred to a photograph in the presentation that depicts the crest of a barchan dune as marking the sharp divide between its two sides, one smooth and the other rough. She observed that the outer faces of the memorial's dune forms would be covered with grass and would therefore resemble berms, but the form overall should look like a dune and not like a berm; she added that the resemblance will depend on the detailing of the inner wall surfaces. She recommended paying close attention to the transitions between different textures, such as from the basic rough texture into a narrative scene; she added that treating the scenes in a cinematic way could be powerful, instead of just as a series of pictures.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the project team has succeeded in creating an overall sculptural form for the site, but she said that some of the art pieces, particularly the three freestanding figures, appear as if they have just been placed randomly because they have not been integrated into the design of the walls. She expressed support for representing the pivot in the smaller dune-shaped wall, as well as the proposed inscription; she advised further consideration of how the entire design could be expressed through the walls, with the sculptures incorporated into the walls or simply eliminated. She also questioned the water feature, noting that water in an oasis bubbles up from the ground, and so the image of water flowing over a table may not be appropriate; she suggested that the shape of the flowing water could reflect the spinning, gyrating energy symbolized in the memorial at the pivot.
Mr. Shubow agreed with the questions raised about the table-shaped water feature, observing that the design looks as if it is trying to combine the image of an oasis with the idea of the U.N. Security Council gathered around a circular table. While supporting a representation of the coalition, he said that an empty pool would not provide enough for visitors to focus on, particularly in winter when the water is turned off. However, he said that he does not object to using the image of a shield because it would refer to the conflict commemorated, similar to the longer dune wall representing the idea of a storm.
Mr. Shubow also agreed with Ms. Gilbert's concern that the three freestanding sculptures do not appear integrated into the wall composition and would encourage visitors to take undignified photos with the sculptures, especially if the representations lack gravitas. As an example of what can go wrong, he cited the bread line sculpture at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, which had been conceived as a somber scene but now attracts people taking photos of themselves standing in line with the statues. He advised considering what the appropriate military uniforms for the three sculptural figures should be if they are intended to appear as participants in the victory parade; he observed that one appears to be shown wearing a flight suit, which does not seem formal enough for a military parade. He added that the figures should look solemn instead of appearing to smile.
Noting the importance of successfully resolving the memorial's many details, Ms. Griffin questioned the large size of the eagle sculpture. She said that the rods supporting the birds appear spindly, and she is not convinced the proposal would work technically; she requested study of how the supports would be engaged with the wall. Referring to comments by Ms. Gilbert, she said she is struck by how the detailing of the dune wall extends over the berms; however, she said that the smaller walls in the center appear more like planters than dunes because of their seats and the continuity of the openings on top; she suggested breaking up the forms to make them more varied and irregular, such as by letting the texture on the wall surface sometimes extend over the top. Ms. Gilbert agreed, suggesting varying the angles of their sloping sides.
Ms. Meyer expressed general satisfaction with the concept design; Mr. Krieger agreed. However, Ms. Meyer said, the concept still requires a lot of work; she noted that the Commission expects more from memorials than from other projects, and she asked if a concept approval would be appropriate while many aspects remain unresolved. Secretary Luebke responded that a concept proposal should illustrate the character of the different elements and their relation to each other; in the case of this design, many elements have been worked out. He summarized the Commission's major concerns as the form of the water feature and whether it suggests a military action or an oasis, and the freestanding sculptures; secondary issues include the design of the inside surface of the long wall and the depiction of the narrative scenes in the bas-relief. He said that the Commission members appear to support many of the other elements, and a general concept approval would be appropriate.
To avoid numerous reviews, Ms. Meyer suggested prioritizing the issues. She emphasized that the major interpretive issue is the question of how to represent more fully the geographic setting of Kuwait, adding that it should not be left to inscriptions. She said Kuwait's representation relates to her question about whether the coalition should be symbolized on the pivot wall, with a different symbolism characterizing the center. She requested the development of alternatives that would inform the Commission about their thinking for this area; the remaining comments involve ensuring that the forms, materials, and experience will reinforce this concept. Mr. Luebke summarized the strong support for the layout, conception, pieces, and sequence, while work remains to be done at the symbolic and artistic level that concerns more than just details. Mr. Powell commented that the concept and direction are very good and provide much to work with; he offered a motion to approve the general concept with the comments provided. Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this action.
C. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
CFA 21/NOV/19-2, Marriner S. Eccles Building (2051 Constitution Avenue, NW) and Federal Reserve Board-East Building (1951 Constitution Avenue, NW—former Interior South Building). Modernization, alterations, and additions to both buildings. Information presentation. Secretary Luebke introduced the information presentation on options for the renovation and expansion of two of the three buildings housing the Federal Reserve Board (FRB): the Marriner Eccles Building and the FRB–East Building, most recently known as Interior South, located along Constitution Avenue between 19th and 21st Streets, NW. The Eccles Building, designed by the noted architect Paul Cret [CFA member, 1940–45], was built in the 1930s as the FRB's headquarters when it separated from the Treasury Department. The three-story, E-shaped East Building, located across 20th Street from the Eccles Building, also dates from the 1930s; it was designed by Washington architect Jules Henri de Sibour for the U.S. Public Health Service. During World War II, this building housed the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Combined Chiefs of Staff, and it has subsequently been occupied by the Atomic Energy Commission, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of the Interior. He said that the building was recently declared surplus by the Department of the Interior and was acquired by the FRB in order to consolidate its offices into a main campus centered on the Eccles Building. The third building on the campus is the Martin Building, to the north of the Eccles Building, dating from the early 1970s and designed by Cret's successor firm, Harbeson Hough Livingston & Larson of Philadelphia, now known as H2L2; alterations to and expansion of this building have been reviewed by the Commission and are currently under construction. He said the information presentation will provide background and context for a comprehensive master plan consolidating several hundred thousand square feet of space, parking, service, and security functions for these three buildings; the project will later be submitted at the concept level. He asked Jeffery Foltz, the construction program manager with the FRB, to give the presentation.
Mr. Foltz said that this project is critical to the FRB for implementing its long-range plan to locate most employees on one campus, which will improve collaboration and communication; the consolidation will also reduce or eliminate the FRB's leased space, demonstrating its commitment to fiscal responsibility. The project would incorporate improved amenities, such as enclosing the existing courtyards and providing new staff conference spaces, while retaining many historically significant features. He introduced members of the Fortus joint venture project team, including architect Tom Jester of Quinn Evans Architects, architect Rod Henderer of Callison–RTKL, and landscape architect Alan Ward of Sasaki Associates.
Mr. Jester said the presentation would address the scope and goals of the project, the three massing options, and the initial landscape approach. He said that although the Eccles and the East Buildings have been well maintained, neither building has been significantly modernized since being built in the 1930s, and they require comprehensive renovation. He also noted that both buildings were designed to be expanded. The current project's design approach proposes applying the highest levels of preservation to the Eccles Building, while envisioning more aggressive change for the expansion of the East Building; however, he emphasized the commitment to respecting and minimizing impacts to historic features on both buildings. He stressed the need to create a modern, efficient workplace for the FRB that will also allow the connections necessary for employee interaction by linking these two buildings with below-grade pedestrian access, tying into the existing utility tunnel and service connections. This project would incorporate state-of-the-art technology and provide a flexible infrastructure to meet the future needs of the FRB. He said the aim is to design alterations and interventions that will have enduring value but will have a contemporary expression, establishing a dialogue between historic and new features, and using sympathetic scale, details, and materials. He emphasized the project team's commitment to demonstrating environmental and historic stewardship, applying appropriate historic technologies for sustainability, and enhancing the public realm through appropriate changes to the site.
Mr. Jester described the existing conditions and the project area, bounded by C Street to the north, Constitution Avenue to the south, 19th Street to the east, and 21st Street to the west. He said that the Eccles Building is one of Paul Cret's most well-known civic buildings, designed in his characteristic stripped classical style; he said the building's monumental central stair hall was a key reason that Cret won the design competition. He described the East Building as somewhat less distinguished than the Eccles Building; the exterior has also been well maintained, and there are some important interior spaces.
Mr. Henderer presented the three options that have been developed for an overall massing strategy, noting that the two buildings will need space to accommodate 1,750 employees along with conference rooms, cafeteria space, and fitness rooms. He said that options A through C show greater variation in their treatment of the East Building, but less variation in the treatment of the Eccles Building. In each option, the south and north wings of the Eccles Building would be connected through construction of additions along 20th and 21st Streets, closing off the east and west exterior courtyards as envisioned by Cret in the 1930s; one or both of these courtyards would be converted into enclosed atriums, which will help in accommodating the program. For the East Building, each option features a rear addition on the north, an expansion that was intended from the time construction was completed. A major difference between the three options is the height of the East Building addition: Option A has a six-story addition; in Option B, the existing center wing would be removed to allow for a larger footprint, and the addition would be five stories high; and in Option C, the addition would have seven stories.
Mr. Henderer said that another variation between the options is the location of a parking garage. Option A would place the garage under the south lawn of the East Building; Option B would also place a garage under the south lawn, and it would extend beneath 20th Street; and Option C would locate the garage entirely beneath the addition on the north side of the East Building, eliminating the program space that is envisioned for this area in the other two options. He said that Option B is the project team's preferred alternative: it would best fulfill the program, even though it has the fewest number of stories for the East Building addition.
Mr. Henderer presented a series of eye-level views of the different proposals taken from points around the site to illustrate the differences that would be visible. For example, from the south side of Constitution Avenue looking north, Option A, the six-story addition plus a mechanical penthouse, would be visible above the existing East Building; Option B, the five-story addition plus a penthouse, would not be visible; and Option C, the seven-story addition, would be clearly visible.
Mr. Henderer said that a design variation among the options for the Eccles Building is the configuration of the new connecting wings in relation to the original building. In Options A and C, the connection would be set back five feet back from the historic street facades, preserving the corner return, but encapsulating the existing windows on the facades perpendicular to the street; the setback in Option B would be approximately fifteen feet, retaining a full window bay as part of the return, giving a better sense of the building's historic massing. In all options, the eastern atrium of the Eccles Building would function as a critical point of connection for the complex of buildings, and the historic fountain in each of the two courtyards would be retained.
Mr. Henderer presented Option B in greater detail. He said that Option B comes closest to providing space for 1,750 employees, while Option C would have space for about only about 1,570. The removal of the East Building's center wing would allow for a lower massing for the addition on the north, and also allow for creating a single, large atrium instead of the two smaller atriums shown in Options A and C. Part of the building program would be placed below grade, including the cafeteria, which would be located at the bottom of the East Building's atrium on the first below-grade level. Another key advantage of Option B is the configuration of the parking garage beneath the East Building's south lawn and beneath 20th Street, allowing for the garage to accommodate the requirement for approximately thirty spaces reserved for the Board of Governors with access to the Eccles Building; Options A and C, with a more limited footprint for the parking garage, would keep the Governors parking at a courtyard of the Eccles Building. The entrance to the parking garage would be from 19th Street, at the end of the East Building's east terrace, and cars would exit onto 20th Street. Mechanical ventilation and emergency exits for the garage and other areas would be located in the areaway between the historic terraces and the East Building; no above-grade structures would be needed to accommodate either exits or ventilation.
Mr. Henderer described the proposed interconnection of the three FRB buildings. The east courtyard of the Eccles Building, now reserved for service functions, would be modified to serve as the new entrance into the building through security screening, and it would be a point of connection tying the three buildings together. Alterations would include conversion of the courtyard to an atrium, as well as a new interior stair leading to the bottom of Cret's monumental stair on the building's main floor. A new tunnel under 20th Street would extend from the Eccles Building atrium to the East Building, facilitating operations, communication, and collaboration between the two buildings, and with daylight at each end; the existing tunnel connection would remain between the Martin Building and the Eccles Building. Mr. Krieger asked how the new tunnel would connect with the garage. Mr. Henderer responded that the garage would include four levels of parking, with elevators; people would park, ascend to the top level, pass through security screening, and then proceed either left through the tunnel to the Eccles Building, or right to enter the East Building.
Mr. Henderer said that the East Building would have the central receiving location for all three FRB buildings, with a loading dock off 19th Street; he noted that the Martin Building has never had a loading dock or a service entrance. A new service tunnel connecting the East and Eccles Buildings would be connected to the existing utility and service tunnel that runs between the Eccles and Martin Buildings.
Mr. Ward then presented the general landscape treatment proposed for the gardens in front of the Eccles Building and the East Building. He said that both sites are integral parts of the series of five buildings and landscapes that define the north side of this segment of Constitution Avenue; all of these classically inspired landscapes are composed of a central entry flanked by gardens. This project would rehabilitate the landscapes of both the Eccles and the Martin Buildings to meet present-day requirements for security and accessibility.
Mr. Ward described the stately classical character of the Eccles Building site, whose landscape design comprises walls, steps, and fountains, and mature oak trees. The landscape of the East Building is similar but less imposing; some of the original trees are missing and others are in decline. The placement of the parking garage beneath this area would be followed by rehabilitation of the landscape to recapture the original design; the garage would be configured to avoid damaging the root systems of several existing heritage trees.
Mr. Ward described the issue of perimeter security and barrier-free access for the two buildings. The existing vehicular barrier system around the Eccles Building, installed in 2004–2005, comprises a line of large, bulky, square bollards that step in and out of the border of trees; these would be replaced with a simpler, cleaner solution of post-and-cable barriers that would be integrated within the landscape design. A new vehicular barrier system at the East Building would also be integrated into the landscape. He said that the gardens of both buildings are elevated several feet above the sidewalk grade and are not universally accessible; the project would improve the accessibility of the gardens by placing sloping walks behind existing historic walls. The historic front entrances of both buildings, currently closed, would be opened for employee access; the gardens may be opened to the public for occasional events. He added that an accessible entrance into the East Building would be located on 20th Street, and the retaining wall at the East Building would become a vehicular barrier.
Chairman Powell opened the discussion for questions and comments. Mr. Shubow noted the historic plans to extend both buildings and asked if images of those plans are available. Mr. Jester responded that the project team has a sketch from the late 1930s by Paul Cret for extensions to the Eccles Building, depicting infill along the courtyards between the north and south wings; the facade treatment sketched for these extensions is similar to the existing facades. He said that because these were never built, the current design approach is to distinguish the new interventions from Cret's design of the existing building. Ms. Meyer asked for clarification of how the extensions sketched by Cret would relate to the footprint of the additions depicted in Options A, B, and C; Mr. Jester responded that Cret's extensions would have been aligned with the street facades on 19th and 20th Streets. He added that the East Building was completed with an E-shaped footprint in 1933, and at that time a plan was developed to enlarge the building by constructing an addition at the rear, resulting in a larger, square footprint; this work was never carried out, but he noted that in anticipation of this expansion, the materials facing the existing north facade are of a noticeably lower quality than the stone of the other facades.
Ms. Gilbert asked how the number of planned parking spaces was determined, the minimum number of spaces required, and if the amount of parking could be reduced by encouraging employees to commute by other means. Mr. Foltz responded that the project team has consulted with the National Capital Planning Commission but the allowable number of spaces has not yet been decided; he said that the illustrated footprint of parking is expected to be appropriate. He added that biking is encouraged, and charging stations for electric vehicles will be provided in the parking garage; the FRB also already runs shuttle buses to the nearest Metro station. He noted that some parking spaces at the Martin Building were eliminated during its recent renovation, and he reiterated that the presented location for new parking in Option B is the best solution. He added that a transportation management study is underway as part of the regulatory review processes.
Ms. Gilbert asked for clarification of whether the front landscapes are accessible to the public; Mr. Foltz responded that they are not. Ms. Gilbert asked if they would be made open to the public when they become universally accessible. Mr. Foltz said that opening the gardens during special events will be considered; he added that the landscapes do not have restrictive signs but are patrolled by security officers who keep people from entering. Ms. Gilbert observed that the fountains in front of the Eccles Building are beautiful, and she emphasized that access to all these gardens would be a welcome public amenity. Mr. Foltz said that allowing the public to visit the fountains at least is being considered.
Mr. Dunson asked how the proposed post-and-cable barriers would be integrated within the landscapes. Mr. Ward referred to the solution that was recently installed around the Commerce Department headquarters building along 14th and 15th Streets, NW. He said that a post-and-cable barrier is a simpler and less expensive solution than bollard systems; posts are set approximately ten to twelve feet apart, and the barrier would be concealed within the trees and shrubs of the planting zone along the sidewalk. He added that the barrier design will be submitted to the Commission for review. Ms. Meyer suggested coordinating this project with the streetscape project at the nearby State Department headquarters building, reviewed by the Commission several years ago; she recalled that it dealt with similar issues of developing a streetscape that incorporates security barriers.
Ms. Meyer then addressed the three proposed massing scenarios for adding to the East Building. She acknowledged the reasons for proposing Option B as the preferred alternative, but she emphasized the desirability of providing workplaces that will support the health and well-being of employees; she therefore questioned the decision to locate the new cafeteria in the basement of the East Building. Mr. Henderer noted that the cafeteria in Option C would be located on the top floor, due to the addition's below-grade area being used for the parking garage in this alternative.
Mr. Krieger observed that the seven-story addition of Option C seems obviously intended as a throwaway solution, certain to be rejected. However, he said that the development of a massing study imto an appropriate architectural design of a seven-story building could make it look just as good, if not better, than one with bad detailing on a five-story addition; he said he is not convinced that the seven-story addition is a bad idea, and he asked for clarification of the apparent reluctance to build it. He said that if cars become a less important means of transportation in the future, a parking garage beneath the garden or street would be unsuitable for any other function, while a garage placed within the building footprint could someday fulfill other uses; he noted that this is already being attempted at some commercial buildings. He asked if the real reason for the proposal to build a garage under 20th Street is to avoid building it beneath the front landscape of the East Building, facilitating the improvement of this landscape and plaza. Mr. Henderer responded that the seven-story solution of Option C would maintain the East Building's center wing and would therefore have a relatively narrow floor plate, as well as two small atriums instead of a single larger atrium. He acknowledged that the cafeteria in Option C would be on the top floor, providing good views; however, he emphasized that all three buildings need to work together, and the cafeteria, for example, should be easily accessible from the other two buildings, which would suggest that a location within the East Building atrium would be better. He also reiterated that the front garden of the East Building forms an integral part of the distinctive streetscape character of this segment of Constitution Avenue, defined by large buildings behind a continuous zone of gracious landscapes; the project team's preference is not to disrupt this character. Mr. Foltz described additional considerations from the perspective of the FRB. He said that parking located beneath a building presents an increased security risk; the FRB requires the underground parking to be outside of building footprints. The project also aims to create new uses for the courtyards of the Eccles Building, now partially occupied by parking for the Board of Governors and therefore not available for any staff activities; placing the Governors' parking under 20th Street would open the courtyard spaces for staff use.
Chairman Powell expressed appreciation for the presentation and said that the Commission looks forward to the project's future development.
D. Federal Railroad Administration / Union Station Redevelopment Corporation
CFA 21/NOV/19-3, Washington Union Station, 50 Massachusetts Avenue, NE. Union Station Expansion Project (federal properties). Information Presentation. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the information presentation on a project to modernize Union Sation, intended to increase its rail capacity while preserving the historic station. He noted that this presentation is focused on the federally owned property of the station and rail yard, not on the planned private-sector development of air rights above the rail yard. He said that the private-sector project, known as Burnham Place, is being developed by Akridge Corporation; a representative of Akridge is in attendance and may wish to address the Commission. Mr. Krieger asked about the Commission's role in the Burnham Place project; Mr. Lindstrom confirmed that it will be submitted for the Commission's review. He asked David Valenstein, a senior advisor with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), to give the presentation.
Mr. Valenstein emphasized the importance of Union Station as the city's multi-modal hub, the second-busiest station in the nationwide Amtrak system, and a historic property that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. He described the multiple entities involved in the project. The historic station building and some of the adjoining property is owned by under the jurisdiction of the FRA, which is serving as the lead federal agency for the project. The management of the station is delegated to the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation (USRC), a non-profit entity that was chartered by the federal government; the USRC serves as a public steward and as the landlord for the station's tenants. The railroad tracks and platforms are operated by Amtrak, which owns some of the underlying land; the remainder of the rail yard land, along with the parking garage above the western tracks, is owned by the FRA. The H Street viaduct to the north, crossing above the rail yard, is controlled by the D.C. Department of Transportation, which is undertaking a separate project to reconstruct the viaduct. Akridge owns the air rights for the area east of the parking garage as well as the area north of H Street, extending to K Street. South of the station, Columbus Plaza is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. The Metro line along the west side of the station is controlled by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. He emphasized the need for extensive coordination among these multiple entities. The project is currently going through the environmental and historic preservation review processes; a formal submission to the Commission is anticipated at the conclusion of these processes.
Mr. Valenstein said that the project is intended to provide a range of improvements to rail service and other transportation modes at Union Station, including capacity, reliability, safety, efficiency, access, and security. Reconfiguration of the tracks and platforms would enable Amtrak's planned expansion of long-distance passenger rail service to the north and south, while also allowing the two commuter rail systems to operate through-trains and all-day service; the project is intended to accommodate the projected doubling of the number of Amtrak and commuter rail passengers in the next twenty years. Union Station's bus facility is also critical for the region, already accommodating the majority of Washington's inter-city bus service.
Mr. Valenstein said that the project envisions many additional benefits for passengers, beyond the increased capacity. Concourse areas would be improved, including the creation of a skylit train hall, and train platforms would be widened and lengthened, with improved access. Pedestrian and vehicular circulation around the station would also be improved, along with local connectivity; the station is envisioned as a gateway to the city and the adjacent neighborhoods. The project is intended to support sustainable urban growth, including bicycle access and on-demand car facilities.
Mr. Valenstein described the project alternatives that have been studied. The first is the no-action alternative, which assumes that near-term improvements would continue; these include preservation of the station, replacement of the H Street viaduct with extension of the existing H Street streetcar line, and local development projects that have already been approved. The no-action alternative also assumes that Akridge's planned Burnham Place development will be built. The action alternatives all include improvements and programmatic elements that have been agreed to during the consultation process; these include rail and taxi service, bicycle and pedestrian access, improved concourses, parking with a reduced capacity, and preservation of the historic station. The action alternatives vary in the configuration of the train hall, parking garage, and bus facility. He noted that the alternatives are drawn to illustrate volumetric relationships, without intending to depict an architectural design. The action alternatives also illustrate the potential for further air-rights development within the federally owned area of the project, beyond the program needs of the current project; any such development would be submitted later as a separate project. He presented a generalized section diagram that is shared by the action alternatives: the trains would be immediately below the level of the H Street viaduct, with a lower concourse below the trains; parking and the bus facility would generally be above the level of H Street, although some alternatives include parking below the lower concourse. Pedestrian access from H Street to the center of the station, as well as a visual connection, would be provided by the train hall or by negotiating a designated "access zone" within the private-sector development area. Ms. Meyer asked for clarification of the purpose of a train hall in comparison to a concourse and the train platforms. Mr. Valenstein responded that the train hall would be the large enclosed space of the main concourse area; the alternatives vary in the train hall's relationship to other concourse areas and to the train platforms along the tracks.
Mr. Valenstein presented Alternative A, which features a train hall with a T-shaped plan extending north to H Street; this train hall would encompass concourse and waiting areas for train passengers. The parking and bus facility would be in approximately the same location as the existing parking garage, with access from the H Street viaduct. He indicated the volume of potential additional air-rights development within the federally owned area, which varies in configuration among the alternatives. He presented Alternative B, which would have the same train hall shape but would place the parking below grade; the bus facility would be above, as in Alternative A, and a larger volume would be available for potential air-rights development. Alternative C would have an east–west train hall to the north of the historic station, and much of the parking would be located north of H Street; the two variations of this alternative would place this parking to the northeast or northwest. Alternative D would have a larger east–west train hall that would incorporate the bus station wrapping around the train hall's upper level; parking would be split between an above-ground garage north of H Street and a below-grade area. Alternative E would be similar to Alternative D but with all parking below grade.
Mr. Valenstein said that analysis of the action alternatives, which were developed in 2018, has resulted in a combination of Alternatives A and C; the resulting Alternative A-C is now the preferred option, best addressing the project goals and responding to concerns raised during the consultation process. Alternative A-C includes an east–west train hall on the north side of the historic station, with the parking garage and bus facility extending north to H Street along the west side of the project area, in the approximate location of the existing garage. He presented additional details of the access points and vehicular circulation for this alternative, indicating the simple U-shaped roadway for pick-up and drop-off; the existing access roads on the east and west sides of the station would remain in use. He noted the potential for some combined development involving Burnham Place and part of the bus facility.
Mr. Valenstein presented plans for Alternative A-C beginning at the lower concourse level, which he said would be the same in each action alternative. The main passenger waiting area would be located beneath the H Street viaduct; this area would have access to the platforms, supplementing the existing access further south near the historic station. The various concourse areas, flanked by retail space, would be linked at the lower concourse level; convenient access to the existing Metro station would also be provided. The next level up, the train platform level, is similar to the existing layout and is also common to all of the action alternatives; it includes the main floor level of the historic station. The platforms would be widened to approximately thirty feet, allowing for faster loading and unloading of trains. He indicated the connections to the lower-level platforms for trains travelling south, an existing feature that will remain, and he emphasized the extent of daylight through the concourse levels. On the upper-level plans, he indicated the potential to configure the bus station on two levels with 40 bays; he noted that the existing bus facility has 65 bays. Pedestrian access points would be provided on each side of the H Street viaduct, with vertical circulation down to a mezzanine of the train hall; additional mezzanine connections would provide access between the train hall and the bus station. The parking levels would be above the bus station. Above and beside the parking would be the potential envelope for further development on the federal land; he indicated the possible location for vertical circulation serving this development, although it is not yet being designed. He presented section drawings to clarify the relationship among the program areas. He noted that the clearance above the tracks is tight beneath the H Street viaduct, and its construction in the 1960s may be the reason that some tracks on the west side of the rail yard were removed; the replacement viaduct that is currently being planned would have a similar profile, and the newly planned tracks along the west side would therefore be slightly lower than the other tracks to provide sufficient clearance.
Mr. Valenstein summarized the advantages of Alternative A-C: it would minimize the duration, depth, and complexity of construction; accommodate the multiple transportation modes in close proximity and near the historic station; minimize traffic impacts on the street network including the H Street viaduct; improve the urban setting; allow for a view corridor from the viaduct to the center of the historic station; provide commercial development opportunities around the bus and parking facility; and minimize the need to acquire privately owned air rights. He emphasized that this project provides a rare opportunity to improve this transportation hub in anticipation of future needs.
Mr. Krieger asked how this project could be sequenced while maintaining existing operations. Mr. Valenstein acknowledged that this is a significant challenge; the intent is to construct the project in four phases, moving from one side to the other, while keeping the train station functioning. This phasing, as well as the need for excavation, have resulted in a construction timeline of approximately ten years. Ms. Griffin asked about the anticipated users of the H Street concourse; Mr. Valenstein responded that it would have retail, waiting areas, and other facilities intended to serve passengers. Ms. Griffin asked if development above the train hall is anticipated, noting that the section drawing depicts its ceiling as a flat slab; Mr. Valenstein reiterated that the train hall would be a light-filled space with skylights, although the design has not been developed in the presented drawings.
Chairman Powell invited comments from members of the audience. David Tuchmann, vice president of development for Akridge, described his firm's involvement with this area. He said that a federal law in 1997 required Amtrak to sell the air rights above fourteen acres of the rail yard north of Union Station; Akridge acquired these air rights in 2006. Akridge's planned development is named Burnham Place in honor of Daniel Burnham, the architect of Union Station and the first chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts. In 2010, Akridge and Amtrak established shared design goals, including expanded station capacity, an enhanced experience for passengers and visitors, and the creation of harmonious public and private projects. The collaboration with Amtrak continued with a plan and vision, developed in 2012; this includes neighborhood connectivity and the allowance for daylight into the station interior. He noted that the southern half of Burnham Place will be subject to the Commission's review under the Shipstead-Luce Act.
Mr. Tuchmann emphasized that a successful design for Burnham Place is integrally tied to a successful design for the station's expansion, with the public realm mediating between the two projects. However, he said that the FRA's current plan presents overwhelming challenges to creating a high-quality urban design. He cited the 100-foot-tall parking structure, to be located in approximately the same place as the existing garage; he said it would have a similar total footprint and twice the height as the two parking garages at the Nationals baseball stadium. He said that the garage would dominate views to and within the site, and it would stifle the creation of compatible open spaces. An additional concern is that the FRA plan relies excessively on accommodating vehicles, with thousands of linear feet of roadways. He said that many urban rail stations in the U.S. and Europe are being transformed to have limited vehicular areas, little or no parking, and a greater emphasis on pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit access to support increased rail travel. He noted that Amtrak recently demolished its entire parking garage in Chicago, and Amtrak's leadership has stated that dedicated parking is not necessary for the anticipated growth in ridership. He therefore questioned why the FRA plan includes such a large parking structure. He said that this emphasis on parking reflects planning practices from the 1980s, not the current best practices. He noted that the existing parking garage would be demolished, providing a blank slate for a new vision that could incorporate world-class urban design and placemaking. He offered to provide an information presentation to the Commission providing further details of Akridge's suggested adjustments to the FRA's program that could address the project's shortcomings.
Mr. Krieger asked if Burnham Place would provide parking or if it would follow this advice of eliminating it from the program. Mr. Tuchmann responded that Burnham Place would have one level of parking just above the tracks, at approximately the same level as the mezzanine areas of the train station's concourses. He said that Burnham Place is constrained to be entirely above a deck located above the tracks, and the viable area for parking is therefore very limited. Mr. Valenstein added that the area immediately above the Burnham Place deck would be a shared space, and its use by Akridge for parking remains under discussion.
Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of the FRA's parking program. Mr. Valenstein said that the planned parking garage would be approximately two-thirds the size of the existing garage, which includes a substantial facility for rental cars. He said that Amtrak has surveyed passengers and found that many park at Union Station, particularly passengers from Virginia who are using Northeast Corridor trains. The parking is also important to support Union Station's retail stores, which are subject to a 100-year sublease granted by the USRC; he said that this sublease includes a commitment to provide parking at the station. He added that the parking garage has commercial value for the USRC, providing revenue that helps to support preservation of the station. Mr. Krieger said that some of these issues are beyond the Commission's purview, but he agreed with Akridge's concern that the parking structure in Alternative A-C may inhibit access to the Burnham Place project. He suggested that the best resolution could involve shared parking for the station and Burnham Place, while acknowledging the complexity of such negotiations.
Ms. Griffin asked about the future review process beyond this information presentation; Secretary Luebke responded that it will be submitted for review, either as a single proposal or with multiple alternatives. Mr. Valenstein said that the preferred option would be formally identified in the spring of 2020 as part of the environmental and historic preservation review process; the final decision to select an alternative could occur later in 2020, and the concept submission to the Commission would occur at approximately that time with some development of the design.
Ms. Griffin asked for clarification of the advantages or drawbacks of placing the parking below grade. Mr. Valenstein responded that the excavation could be problematic due to the water table below the station. He said that the floor level of the lower concourse is already being planned to allow for generous ceiling heights within these concourse spaces, and the parking would need to be below this level. He noted that the estimated extent of excavation for the lower concourse level is approximately one million cubic yards, and two levels of parking further below would double this amount. He added that removing the excavated material is a challenge, possibly moving it by rail to minimize impacts on the community. He noted that deeper excavation would also require more complex support along the sides.
Ms. Meyer commented that this presentation is interesting to consider in comparison to the preceding presentation on the Federal Reserve Board headquarters, which also involved parking issues. She said that both projects appear to be driven by a federal agency's reliance on a parking model from twenty years ago; she expressed appreciation for Mr. Tuchmann's comments, observing that his private-sector development company appears to be more forward-looking than the federal agencies. She said that the proposed parking program for Union Station would surely be excessive in ten to twenty years, due to changes in driving habits and retail trends. She suggested further study of whether Union Station is a destination for retail shopping; more likely, the customer base is largely passengers. She observed that the retail mix at Union Station is unremarkable, and people who want to visit one of the station's chain stores could more easily go to another location. She therefore encouraged careful consideration of reducing the amount of parking, particularly due to the negative impact of the planned large parking structure on the western side of the project area. Mr. Valenstein responded that within the environmental review process, the extent of parking is based on legal requirements such as the existing retail sublease; Ms. Meyer suggested that this could be renegotiated. Mr. Valenstein added that automobile access is also an important component of a multi-modal regional transportation hub, in conjunction with the growing use of vehicles for hire, and potentially autonomous vehicles in the future; storage capacity for vehicles will remain important, whether for short- or long-term use. He said that the illustrated configuration of a multi-level above-grade parking garage could easily be reduced by eliminating levels prior to construction in response to evolving needs. Ms. Meyer clarified that she is not recommending that the parking be below grade; the concern is that the amount of parking is far too much. She added that she has been using Union Station for decades, and the parking garage often appears to be very empty; Mr. Valenstein said that it is often full, and it was at capacity yesterday.
Mr. Dunson commented that the H Street viaduct seems to be an impediment, creating a barrier between Burnham Place and Union Station; he asked if alternative designs are being considered for replacing this viaduct. Mr. Valenstein responded that the replacement project is in response to structural deficiencies in the current bridge, as well as the desire to extend the streetcar line on the east to serve areas to the west; a streetcar station is planned on the viaduct, along with pedestrian crosswalks, so the new viaduct would have a more pedestrian-friendly character. He added that the viaduct will provide access to the Burnham Place development. Mr. Dunson acknowledged that any alternative grading for an east–west connection would be impeded by the level of the rail yard, but he encouraged a more creative approach to resolving this sectional problem. He also suggested further study of the north–south alignments between Burnham Place and the Union Station project.
Mr. Krieger suggested that Burnham Place should be named in reference to H Street, which will serve as its entrance frontage; he said that crossing H Street to reach the Union Station complex should not be problematic. He suggested enlarging the thin footprint of potential development that is illustrated on the south side of H Street, alongside the planned parking garage; he said that a more substantial depth for this development zone might lessen the perception of the parking garage as an overwhelming presence. He suggested the goal of a more consistent treatment of development along both sides of the H Street viaduct, in order to make it a more hospitable environment. Mr. Valenstein responded that the challenges include the need to accommodate a large number of buses using the adjacent bus station, and the configuration of property lines in this area, which this project is attempting to respect as much as possible. He said that the effect of the narrow development zones would be a combination of development opportunities that could form a wrapper around part of the parking garage. He also noted that the viaduct is relatively flat across the rail yard, but it slopes down steeply to the west alongside part of this development zone.
Mr. Luebke asked for the Commission's response to the general layout of Alternative A-C, noting that it locates the bus station closer to the rail concourse than in some other alternatives, allowing for some efficiency of associated passenger services. Mr. Krieger said that the reasons given for preferring Alternative A-C seem acceptable; the Commission's concern is with the scale of the parking and bus facility, which may have an impact on Burnham Place. He suggested further study of whether the illustrated layout of the bus station could be tightened. Ms. Meyer added that the reconsideration of the parking program extends to issues of the future of retailing and who would be using the parking. She said that longer-term needs should be the basis for the design, rather than existing lease requirements for retail stores that likely will not be viable in the next decade or two; Ms. Griffin noted that this longer time horizon is consistent with the lengthy construction timeline that is anticipated for this project.
Secretary Luebke clarified that no action is needed on this information presentation. Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's appreciation for the presentation on this challenging project and noted the concern with the parking component, an issue in many projects. Krieger agreed that the Commission now has a better understanding of the challenges in carrying out this project.
E. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
CFA 21/NOV/19-4, Reporters Building (commercial office structure), 300 7th Street, SW. Building renovation, alterations, and additions for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) headquarters relocation. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/OCT/19-8) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
F. D.C. Department of General Services
1. CFA 21/NOV/19-5, DC Bilingual Public Charter School (former Keene Elementary School), 33 Riggs Road, NE. Building renovation and additions. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal to expand the D.C. Bilingual Public Charter School, which has been operating for approximately fifteen years in the former Keene Elementary School near Fort Totten. He described Keene as typical of the D.C. public schools constructed in the 1930s, with a central pavilion and two flanking classroom wings; he said that the historic school and the expansion program are comparable to the recently reviewed project for the Capitol Hill Montessori School. He asked architects Casey Smith and Scott Walters of Hord Coplan Macht to present the proposal.
Mr. Smith said that the D.C. Bilingual Public Charter School currently has approximately 350 students from kindergarten through 5th grade. The school has many applicants and a long waiting list; the project goal is therefore to double the capacity to 700 students, while maintaining the same age range. In addition to added classrooms, the program includes expanded administrative and support space to support the increased number of students. He said that the project is intended to accommodate the program while being respectful of the historic building and expressing the charter school's contemporary educational approach.
Mr. Smith described the context, which is a mix of houses and apartment buildings. The site fronts on Riggs Road to the north, which has bus stops and a pedestrian route to the nearby Fort Totten Metro station; he said that approximately half the students arrive by public transportation or on foot, and the other half are dropped off by car. Rock Creek Church Road extends along the west side of the site. Adjacent on the south and east is Fort Totten Park, a National Park Service reservation, which has a playing field that is shared by the school. Within the school site, he indicated the play area on the west, the drop-off and parking area with 61 spaces on the south, and a large garden on the east that supports the school's strong culinary program. An access drive on the east side of the site connects Riggs Road to the south parking area. The school has a formal center entrance on the north, with a walkway leading from Riggs Road; an additional entrance from the parking area on the south into the eastern classroom wing; and access from the parking area to a recently added elevator adjacent to the eastern wing. He noted that the existing parking and drop-off area is not defined by curbs or sidewalks, and some of the paved area is also used as play space; the current project would improve safety by separating vehicular areas from pedestrian and play spaces. He said that the school's architecture is generally consistent with others built in the 1930s, such as Murch Elementary School, but has less ornamentation; for example, the school does not have a cupola nor interior wood wainscoting. He described the building's historic architectural features, which remain in good condition, including red brick facades with quoining and a stone base. He noted that the north facades of the classroom wings, facing Riggs Road, are more articulated then the south facades along the parking area. He indicated the partial basement with a cafeteria and library; above are the double-height gymnasium and multi-purpose room in the center and classrooms in the side wings.
Mr. Walters presented the proposed concept design. The program calls for twelve additional classrooms, which matches the size of each of the historic classroom wings; the project would therefore add a similarly configured rectangular wing. The challenge is in siting the new wing and connecting it to the historic tripartite composition. The west side of the site, along Rock Creek Church Road, has available space for siting the new wing in alignment with the connecting corridor that extends across the existing building. However, this configuration would obscure a significant part of the historic west facade; the proposed siting is therefore pushed further south, which has the effect of defining a reasonably scaled play space at the site's northwest corner. Extending the orthogonal geometry of the existing school would result in an unusable wedge of open space to the west of the addition, along Rock Creek Church Road; the addition has therefore been rotated slightly to follow the road alignment, which maximizes the space available for vehicular and play areas to the south of the school. A new "gasket" or hyphen structure would connect the addition to the existing western wing while also providing a relocated south entrance and additional support space; the new construction would extend across the southern end of the western classroom wing to abut the center pavilion, providing expansion space for the cafeteria and a new stage area adjoining the multi-purpose room. He said that this massing solution would allow the form of the historic school to be understood, the interior spaces to be connected, and the outdoor play areas to be generously sized and easily accessible.
Mr. Smith provided further details of the proposed site design. Separate play spaces would be designed for the school's various age groups. Barrier-free access would be improved by designing a sloped walkway along the Riggs Road frontage to connect the sidewalk to the elevated historic entrance. A sidewalk would be added alongside the existing access drive on the east side of the site; a marked crosswalk would link this sidewalk to the pedestrian zone along the south facade of the school, which would be defined with a traditional curb. An entry plaza with distinct paving would be created adjacent to the new south entrance. The existing kitchen garden would remain; play spaces would have a mix of hard and soft surfaces. A marked pedestrian walk through the parking area would provide access to the playing field in Fort Totten Park, which is used by the older students. The new classroom wing would have a green roof, helping to meet the stormwater management requirements for the school; he said the site's available softscape areas at grade level would be insufficient to meet current regulations. He presented images of several precedents for developing the site design, including terraced seating, play structures, a climbing wall, and community-based art. For the interior, he said that the most significant change would be the expansion and reorientation of the multi-purpose room with the new stage area, which could also be separated to serve as an additional multi-purpose room. The addition would contain a multi-purpose room with access to the play area at the site's northwest corner, and a new library would be located above with an expansive view to the north. The former library space in the basement would become a food laboratory, making use of the nearby food garden. The added administrative space would provide separate office areas for administrators serving the lower and upper grades; other support spaces include counseling and tutoring rooms. The new entrance lobby on the south would be at the level of the parking lot; the lobby's interior is being refined to include a lift to supplement the stairs leading up six feet to the school's first-floor level.
Mr. Walters presented the exterior design of the new construction, intended to relate to the composition and materials of the historic school. He cited the careful study of the existing eave line, water table, window groupings, and void-to-solid ratio. The addition's north facade would have large expanses of curtainwall facing the play area. The east and west facades would be metal or resin panels with groupings of four windows for each classroom, echoing the pattern of the historic classroom wings. The base would be ground-face block, extending to nearly a full story in height along the parking area; the base provides an opportunity for placing the school name alongside the new south entrance, which would be set within a curtainwall facade. An interweaving of materials would help to unify the facades. He noted that the floor levels of the addition would be approximately two feet lower than those of the existing school to allow for alignment of the eave line and building height. Vertical fins on the east and west facades would provide solar shading and add a sense of depth; glass wood be clear or fritted. He provided samples of the proposed materials and finishes, including a wood-grain finish on the panels and three different finishes for the blocks to avoid an overly monolithic appearance. He concluded with several perspective views of the proposal, and he clarified that fencing is located along the sidewalk edges.
Mr. Dunson commented that the exterior design of the connecting structure on the south appears to be more successful than the other facades; he suggested extending this vocabulary that interweaves old and new design elements. He acknowledged that the connecting facade may be intentionally different to provide a separation between the distinct classroom wings; Mr. Walters confirmed the intention to separate the historic school from the new classroom addition. Mr. Dunson suggested further study of the material colors to help differentiate or unify the different parts of the building; he commented that the identity of the gymnasium volume is lost in the proposed treatment of the facades.
Mr. Krieger acknowledged the tight constraints of the site and complimented the proposed solution; Mr. Dunson agreed. Mr. Krieger suggested that the more contemporary vocabulary for some of the new facades be extended throughout the new construction; he observed that the more traditionally composed classroom facades would not directly replicate the historic building, nor would such a match be possible, and instead their proposed treatment would add an uninteresting third design vocabulary to the school. He added that the new south entrance is somewhat lost among the more historicist gestures, and it would be more interesting if set within a larger area of contemporary facade. He reiterated his overall support for the concept proposal.
Mr. Shubow expressed a preference for the new classroom wing matching the color of the historic school. He also commented that the combination of materials and textures at the new classroom bays, along with the mix of horizontal and diagonal lines, is too busy. Mr. Krieger agreed that such details could be resolved; he emphasized his support for the general design approach of the new construction being complementary to the historic building when seen from a distance, and clearly differentiated when looked at closely. He cited the design team's admirable consideration of the proportion of windows to the overall wall surface, while treating the windows in a more contemporary way. He said that the more detailed concern with the varied scale and texture of the materials may be resolved through the value-engineering process; Mr. Walters added that the design team is continually refining the design, and usually simplifying it, in order to focus on the core principles of the project.
Ms. Meyer commented that the use of the term "gasket" may be an obstacle to developing a successful design for the new entrance; similarly, the historic building should be conceived as a composition of "wings" rather than "bars," which are a form that emerged with the Modernist style. She criticized the site plan as underdeveloped, more programmatic at this stage with little spatial development. She supported the proposed placement of the landscape spaces but encouraged further design of them. She questioned the use of the term "courtyard" for a space that seems to have little sense of enclosure, the term "food forest" for a narrow strip of landscape along the west sidewalk, and the lack of plantings to help in defining the entrance areas. She encouraged further consideration of the landscape's scale and spatial character.
Ms. Gilbert observed that a large part of the site is devoted to the parking area, which is depicted as a largely open area with some marked walkways but few trees. She suggested that the walkways be better defined with allées of trees that would create green corridors connecting different landscape areas, extending north to Riggs Road and south to the playing field. Similarly, she suggested that trees rather than just pavement striping could be used to guide cars to the drop-off area. She also questioned the size of this area and the amount of parking proposed; if the expanse of paved area is necessary, she asked if it could sometimes be used for other purposes, such as a weekend market. She said that the logic of the proposed layout is unclear but might become more evident with added plantings. She expressed appreciation for the sensitivity to the open space configuration in siting the proposed addition, and she suggested extending that sensitivity throughout the site design.
Mr. Walters responded that the amount of proposed parking is the minimum requred by zoning regulations. Ms. Gilbert asked if street parking is available; Mr. Smith and Mr. Walters said that parking is available on some nearby streets, but it is problematic and restricted in this residential neighborhood near a Metro station. Mr. Smith clarified that the proposal would add only two parking spaces, despite doubling the student population of the school; he said that the design team is doing its best to conserve open space, and he agreed to study improvements to the landscape as suggested by the Commission.
Ms. Griffin supported the concern of some Commission members that the design of the addition may have too many architectural languages. She acknowledged the apparent intent to express special spaces with large windows, but she described the resulting south facade as unclear; in order to strengthen the proposal, she suggested that the design treatment of the classroom facades on the addition's east and west sides be extended to wrap around the addition, while limiting the large expanse of windows to fewer special spaces that would stand out more successfully. She also suggested clarification of the palette of colors and textures, commenting that the combination of angled and striped panels is confusing. Ms. Meyer added that the clarification of the facades could include recognition of their different solar orientations, which might suggest the opportunity for different treatments of depth.
Mr. Krieger suggested that the resolution of these issues could be addressed in the next phase of the review process. He offered a motion to approve the concept subject to the comments and questions of the Commission members. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action.
2. CFA 21/NOV/19-6, John Eaton Elementary School, 3301 Lowell Street, NW. Building modernization and additions. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/MAY/19-9) Mr. Fox introduced the proposed final design for alterations to the John Eaton Elementary School, located in the Cleveland Park Historic District. He noted the Commission's approval of the concept design in May 2019, with the recommendation that the new additions be more respectful of the two historic school wings, and that the compositions of the new facades and other details be simplified. He said that in response, the design team has simplified the facades, reduced the footprint of the rear portion, and simplified the landscape to remove some of the retaining walls. He asked architect Chris Ambridge of Cox Graae + Spack Architects to present the design.
Mr. Ambridge said that the proposal continues to retain the two historic school wings from 1910 and 1923, while demolishing the 1930s multipurpose building and the 1980s addition; a new pavilion would be constructed between the two retained wings. The plans of the building addition and landscape have not substantially changed, aside from the relocation and reconfiguration of the outdoor classroom to be a semicircular space with a shade canopy, and the elongation of a retaining wall at the entry plaza resulting from the space's enlargement. He said that the design team has focused on clarifying the intent of the concept design in response to comments from the Commission and from the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board regarding the expression of the new addition, including the request to study the orange color of its terra cotta cladding and to give more emphasis to the historic buildings.
Mr. Ambridge presented drawings to compare the previous and newly proposed designs. He said that the D.C. Historic Preservation Office (HPO) noted the symmetry of the school buildings and therefore requested a more symmetrical composition for the south facade of the new infill pavilion, where the two-story library would be located above the new main entrance facing Lowell Street. Although the massing of the addition along the south has not changed, its facade has been refined to be more distinctive and deferential to the historic buildings. In the latest design, Indiana limestone would frame a curtainwall of clear and fritted glass; sun-shading louvers would also be used in some window bays, with the window proportions intended to reference the windows of the existing buildings; he noted that cast stone would be used if the limestone is too expensive. A canopy is proposed to signify the school's main entrance; it would also reference the historic canopy that was on the original, western wing of the school. He said that the current design addresses concerns with the south facade's hyphens between the new and old buildings by simplifying them and composing them of darker metal panels and a dark-framed aluminum glazing system.
Mr. Ambridge presented elevations of the east facade of the new addition, noting that the terra cotta cladding has been extended up one floor to better align and connect with the existing buildings. He said that the north facade has also been revised based on comments from the HPO concerning the fractured character of the facade design, as well as the Commission's advice to simplify the facade and roof elements. He indicated the simpler fenestration proposed, with framed windows similar to those proposed for the east and west facades, as well as the flat roofline intended to better align with the historic buildings. A large expanse of curtainwall is now proposed at the northwest corner of the addition to bring light into the major interior circulation stair. The previously proposed lantern for the below-grade gymnasium has been changed to clerestory windows. He said that the west facade has not substantially changed, and vertical sun-shading louvers would be used on the east and west facades.
Mr. Ambridge then presented perspective renderings of the proposal. He noted the more recessive character of the new south facade, as well as the revised playing surfaces and outdoor classroom on the north side. He said that the revised window detailing adjacent to the sunken outdoor dining terrace would bring more light into the indoor cafeteria. He presented several wall sections depicting the louvers, the window framing, and the double-height space of the library. He provided several material samples to the Commission, including the proposed glazing and two colors of metal panels; he noted that gray metal panels would be used on the hyphens to help them recede in the composition next to the historic buildings. He said that the project team is discussing with HPO the use of synthetic slate roof tiles on the historic buildings. He concluded with a description of the retaining walls proposed throughout the sloping site, especially at the northeast corner; these walls would have a stone veneer similar to that found on the 33rd Street frontage to the east.
Chairman Powell acknowledged the revisions to the design and thanked Mr. Ambridge for his presentation. Mr. Krieger asked if the design team prefers the previous design or the current one, which he noted was developed after significant input from the Commission and the HPO. Mr. Ambridge responded that the review and revision process has helped the design of the building. Mr. Krieger commented that the exuberance of the previous design is more appealing than the toned-down and somewhat boring revised design. He added that the use of dark materials to make elements of the design recede may result in the opposite effect: darker colors tend to appear more pronounced. He said that being in shade can help a material appear to recede, but the dark color of the material itself does not help. He summarized that the hyphens appear unnecessarily dark, and their proposed color is having the opposite effect from what is intended.
Mr. Dunson agreed that the hyphens now appear darker and duller, while the previous version of the design was more exuberant. He recalled that the north elevation received the most criticism in the previous review, with many disparate elements in its composition in comparison to the clarity and scale of the window groupings of the east and west facades, which he likened to objects on a palette. He commented that the proportions of the revised facades appear acceptable, and the design is stylistically reminiscent of the 1950s; however, the historic preservation and design review process has resulted in a design that lacks the punch of the previous version. He suggested brightening the new addition's color pallete to tie the composition together and create a more welcoming effect.
Ms. Griffin expressed support for the design revisions, which she said are successful and responsive to the Commission's comments. She said that the design now has more clarity and distinction than the previous version, which appeared to be fighting against the handsome facades of the historic buildings. She commented that the appearance of the building will change based on the time of day, and the library space will have the interesting effect of glowing at night. However, she agreed that the dark material will likely not recede in appearance as expected, and this detail should be studied further. She acknowledged the comments of other Commission members concerning the less exuberant design, but she reiterated her support for the current proposal and questioned what changes would make the design more emphatic, since the circulation and classroom functions contained in the new addition are fairly routine. She expressed support for the glazed corner stairwell; she observed that the green roof is being oddly depicted as a green carpet, but said that she does not want to be overly prescriptive about this detail.
Ms. Meyer expressed strong support for the handling of grading in the site plan, expressing admiration for the use of terraces across the challenging block-wide site. However, she questioned the specification and placement of trees on the southern side of the site, as well as the selection of materials relative to their thermal performance. She suggested that more substantial street trees be planted to provide shade along Lowell Street, and she said that the proposed planters may not provide enough soil for a robust canopy. Julianna Von Zimbusch of Cox Graae + Spack Architects noted that some street trees may have been omitted from the perspective renderings to provide unobstructed views of the buildings; she said the existing street trees are robust, and the project team is working with the urban forestry division of the D.C. Department of Transportation to replace two missing trees. Ms. Meyer observed that these two trees are not shown on the site plan, which appears underdeveloped. Regarding the sunken dining terrace on the east side of the new addition, Ms. Meyer commented that although the space may be pleasant in the spring—when the dark paving and building facade will absorb and radiate some heat—it may prove to be overly hot in the summer. She therefore recommended further study in selecting the building and paving materials to provide a more comfortable microclimate in this area.
Chairman Powell said he is impressed with the revisions, which are responsive to the Commission's comments, and he expressed support for approval. Secretary Luebke noted that the submission is a final design, and he suggested specific guidance from the Commission on the concerns that have been raised, such as the specification of trees and the selection of materials. Mr. Ambridge presented a material sample to demonstrate that the gray metal cladding would not be as dark as it appears in the presentation drawings; Ms. Meyer and Mr. Powell agreed. Mr. Luebke summarized the consensus to approve the final design, conditional upon resolving the issues discussed. Mr. Krieger agreed, requesting that revisions to the landscape design and dark material palette be considered. Ms. Meyer agreed that these suggestions could be incorporated into the approval of the project. Mr. Powell offered a motion to approve the final design, conditional upon the design team's successful resolution of these issues, in consultation with the staff. Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this action.
3. CFA 21/NOV/19-7, Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, 925 Rhode Island Avenue, NW (site of the former Shaw Junior High School). New (replacement) school building. Final. (Previous: CFA 19/SEP/19-6) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
4. CFA 21/NOV/19-8, St. Elizabeths Single Men's Shelter. St. Elizabeths East Campus, 2700 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, SE (east of the Barn and Stables Complex). New four-story building. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced a concept design by Wiencek + Associates for a new shelter to be located on the historic St. Elizabeths East Campus. The new building would accommodate several residential and supportive programs, and it would replace the existing 801 East Men's Shelter located to the south of the proposed site. The shelter is being contracted as a fast-track design-build project, scheduled to start construction in January 2020. She asked Agyei Hargrove, program coordinator for the D.C. Department of Human Services (DHS) capital construction portfolio within the D.C. Department of General Services (DGS), to introduce the project.
Mr. Hargrove said that the new facility is intended to meet the needs of men experiencing homelessness; providing a sense of safety for residents and the community is a priority. He said the proposed design responds to the existing site conditions, to the St. Elizabeths East master plan developed by the D.C. Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED), and to the programmatic requirements outlined by the DHS and the Mayor's Interagency Council on Homelessness. He asked architect Carl Skooglund of Wiencek + Associates to present the proposal.
Mr. Skooglund described the proposed site, at the edge of the ravine that extends through the eastern side of the campus. Immediately to the west are two historic barn and stables buildings that were part of the old St. Elizabeths Hospital farm complex, and to the northwest is the D.C. Office of Unified Communications (OUC) building and the sites for a proposed new hospital and associated parking garage. Pedestrian and vehicular access for the men's shelter would branch off from the existing access drive to the OUC building, which is reached from Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue along the west. He presented several photographs of the existing site conditions, including the historic farm structures. He confirmed for Ms. Meyer that that DGS is currently stabilizing these structures, which are vacant and have suffered from long-term neglect and recent damage. Mr. Krieger asked if the stabilization would allow the structures to be reused as part of this project; Mr. Skooglund responded that the stabilization will only prevent further deterioration, and thse buildings are not part of the men's shelter project.
Mr. Skooglund said the design concept features a low entrance pavilion connecting to a splayed configuration of three taller wings for the three major program components, each distinguished with its own color and material scheme. He indicated the proposed circular entry drive that would provide access to the entrance pavilion; trees would be used to create several focal points in this area, intended to provide sense of entry into the facility, and other vegetation would be low to maintain views of the historic farm structures. A large canopy across the facade of the entrance pavilion would provide covered space for people to queue outside the facility, solving a significant issue at the current shelter. He presented the floor plans, relating them to the different populations that will use each of the three wings. The upper floors of each wing would contain dormitory housing: seniors and medically frail men in the two-story southern wing; working residents in the three-story center wing; and low-barrier residents—those seeking a place to sleep for the night—in the five-story northern wing. Much of the ground floor would house a day center and health clinic, with a respite dormitory on the ground floor of the southern wing. The basement would contain back-of-house functions.
Mr. Skooglund presented the proposed building elevations, noting that the design is intended to create a strong base for the building. He indicated the prominent entrance canopy; the green roofs on the entrance pavilion and southern wing; and the massing and configuration of the wings, including the projecting stairways that would punctuate the facades. He concluded with a presentation of the proposed material palette, which would include red brick and glazed orange brick for the entrance pavilion, fiber center panels in several hues of grey and beige for the wings, and gray brick for the projecting stairways; dark polymer windows and an aluminum storefront system are also proposed.
Chairman Powell noted that construction is scheduled to begin in January 2020, but this submission is at the concept stage; he asked when the project would return for additional review. Mr. Skooglund responded that the timeline includes a lengthy period for excavation and foundation construction because the building is sited over a Metrorail tunnel; construction on the building itself would begin in the spring of 2020.
Noting the differing populations that would be served by the facility, Ms. Meyer asked for more information on how the facility would operate, including how residents would get to the building considering its somewhat remote location. Mr. Skooglund said that a majority of residents are from the nearby community and would come in on their own; however, people could arrive from anywhere in the city. Kristy Greenwalt, director of the Mayor's Interagency Council on Homelessness, said that the D.C. Government's goal is to help people transition to permanent housing, but emergency short-term housing is provided for people who have nowhere safe to go. Since many of the existing facilities cannot accommodate the varying needs of the diverse population seeking shelter, populations are often mixed together; the proposed shelter would address these varying needs in a consolidated facility with different program areas. She said that people seeking shelter within low-barrier facilities often have substance abuse and mental health challenges and may not be ready to accept an offer of housing. The low-barrier facility would therefore provide a bed for the night, with the option for people to remain on site while the dormitory is cleaned for the next night; most other shelters require people to leave during the day, often due to the lack of programmatic space to accommodate them. She confirmed that many people would arrive at the facility by van, adding that robust transportation options are provided including scheduled and on-demand services.
Ms. Meyer questioned the design of the large entrance canopy, asking if it is necessary for the operation of the facility. Ms. Greenwalt said that based on past experience, the required security screening for the low-barrier facility would likely result in long lines during times of peak demand. While most of the queuing space would be inside the building, the canopy would shelter the overflow of people waiting outside, many of them frail. Mr. Powell asked whether people would be allowed to stay within the facility for multiple nights, or if they would have to enter and exit each day. Ms. Greenwalt responded that people using the senior and working dormitories would be able to stay until they secure other housing; those in the low-barrier dormitory would be able to keep their beds, but would have to exit the dormitory area for it to be cleaned. She said the program is designed this way based on past experiences: residents would often leave their belongings and not return for several days, tying up beds that could be used by others in immediate need. She clarified that people assigned to the working dormitory would have access to their beds at any time, along with additional storage space for their belongings; seniors would also be able to keep their beds until they leave the facility.
Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the additional information. She encouraged reconceiving the canopy at the entry pavilion as a front porch with places for people to sit and linger when entering or leaving the facility, rather than just installing freestanding benches or chairs under a simple roof. She also observed that novel ecologies of native and non-native plants have developed on the site, giving the landscape a beautiful, wild quality, but the landscape offers few places for people to be outside. She suggested creating a comfortable place within this landscape, such as by planting a substantial and relatively inexpensive bosque of trees, allowing people to be comfortable outdoors. She advised avoiding the term "landscaping" when referring to the plantings, which makes them sound like items purchased from a nursery and simply scattered across the site; instead, she said they should be considered design elements that create spaces and places within the site.
Ms. Griffin asked if the proposed exterior-mounted vertical mechanical enclosures are necessary on the building wings, suggesting they be eliminated in favor of adding more windows to the facades—particularly on the wings housing the longer-term residents—to make the spaces more pleasant. She acknowledged that the enclosures serve to punctuate the rhythm of windows and create verticality on the facades; however, she said that adding two more windows or stretching the proposed module would be preferable. She added that differing window patterns could also distinguish the longer-term housing wings from the rest of the building.
Secretary Luebke asked for clarification of why the HVAC units would be mounted on the exterior, considering this is a new building and the interior could be designed to accommodate the mechanical systems. Mr. Skooglund responded that mounting the units on the exterior is intended to help resolve interior space constraints and maintain a consistent plan for the dormitories. He said that the configuration of these exterior-mounted elements is still under consideration, and perhaps they could be randomized to lessen their effect of breaking up the facades. Ms. Griffin described her reaction to the enclosures as generally negative, but if they cannot be eliminated, she suggested giving them less prominence, such as by making them the same color as the facade and thereby eliminating the fourth color in the palette.
Mr. Krieger expressed support for adding more windows or increasing their size, while acknowledging that more fenestration may increase the project's cost. Citing the proposal's overuse of fairly inexpensive cladding materials, he commented that the design appears to be compensating for a limited budget, but this strategy is not accomplishing the intended goal. He advised further simplifying the color palette, perhaps by replacing the gray cladding on the stair towers with one of the other colors; he expressed support for the detailing of the stair towers, while observing that these volumes would be recognizable as stair towers without a distinguishing color. He reiterated that having so many color variations would cheapen the appearance, as opposed to making the building appear calmer or more dignified. Mr. Shubow agreed that the color palette should be simplified.
Ms. Gilbert suggested cladding the stair towers with a lattice to allow for plant growth across the facades, giving them a silo-like appearance with a connection to the historic farm buildings on the property. She said the landscape should embrace the building more to help it feel like a healing place; she suggested adding gardening plots to augment the beautiful, rustic landscape. Ms. Griffin suggested consideration of using the landscape and outdoors as part of the social service programming of the facility. Ms. Gilbert agreed that the current proposal simply drops people off at the front door of the building, but there is an abundance of green space surrounding the building that could be therapeutic for people staying in the facility, especially the longer-term residents. Ms. Meyer agreed that many of the elements of the landscape could be more multifunctional; for instance, the biofiltration areas could also serve as pollinator gardens. She also recommended moving the proposed stormwater retention basins to locations within the landscape where they could function effectively as biofiltration areas, since the proposed location on top of the Metrorail tunnel would prevent rainwater from infiltrating deeply into the ground.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's advice to simplify the design and color palette of the building and consider augmenting the landscape with more useable outdoor spaces; he asked if the Commission members wish to approve the concept, subject to further review. Noting the apparent support for the siting and massing of the building, as well as the tight construction schedule, Ms. Meyer suggested that the Commission could review the next submission as soon as January; she asked Secretary Luebke if this timeframe for review is achievable. Mr. Luebke said that the staff could meet with the applicant to assist in developing the proposal for a January submission; he cited the issues raised regarding the color palette and the exterior mechanical enclosures, as well as the complex issues regarding the design of the landscape. Ms. Meyer suggested that the issues with the landscape design may actually be easier to resolve than those with the building architecture. Mr. Powell offered a motion to approve the concept with the comments provided; upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action.
G. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
1. SL 20-034, 555 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW (The Newseum). Building alterations and additions to adapt for use by Johns Hopkins University. Revised concept. (Previous: SL 19-240, 19 September 2019) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
2. SL 20-037, 411 New Jersey Avenue, SE. New residential building. Concept. (Previous: SL 19-244, 19 September 2019) Ms. Batcheler introduced a concept design by DZ Architecture for two new three-story row houses to be built on a vacant lot at 411 New Jersey Avenue, SE. She noted that the site is at the northern end of a row of five row houses in the Capitol Hill historic district, approximately one block south of the Longworth House Office Building and adjacent to the southern portal of the First Street railroad tunnel leading to Union Station. The Commission last reviewed this project in September 2019 and did not take an action, expressing support for the intention to continue the architectural expression of the adjacent row houses onto the New Jersey Avenue facades of the new houses, and providing recommendations for the development of a new concept submission. She said that two options for the treatment of the north and rear facades of the northern house will be presented; the renderings for Scheme B2 in the booklet provided in advance to the Commission incorrectly show scheme B1, and she distributed corrected drawings. She asked architect Mateusz Dzierzanowski of DZ Architecture to present the new concept design.
Mr. Dzierzanowski noted that he is presenting on behalf of the owner and developer of the property, Utku Aslanturk. He said that the current submission continues to propose two single-family row houses, with the intention that the single lot be subdivided in the future so that each house sits on its own lot. He presented photographs of the irregularly shaped site, emphasizing that its context varies from the broad and green New Jersey Avenue on the east, to the more industrial rear alley on the west, and the railroad right-of-way that extends along the site's long northern edge. He said the proposed design of the houses is influenced by the rhythm and alignments of the rest of the row, as well as the houses across the street and in the neighborhood. The site design is also derived from this context: he indicated the proposed landscaped front yards with cast iron fencing, entry walks leading directly from the sidewalk, and potential locations for benches along the entry walks. A lawn would run along most of the irregular northern edge, allowing maintenance access to the railroad's security fencing. He indicated the planted and paved areas at the rear of the houses allocated for enclosed parking and patio spaces along the alley. He clarified for Mr. Krieger that roll-up doors would be used to enclose these private parking areas. He said that an easement would likely keep open a portion of the property's rear driveway for use by the commercial buildings in the alley.
Mr. Dzierzanowski presented the first design option, Scheme B1, which he said was developed based on the most moderate of the three designs presented at the previous review. He described the basic massing of the two new houses: a rectilinear infill house on the south, and an irregularly shaped end house on the north with several setbacks following the irregular property line. The eastern facades fronting on New Jersey Avenue would feature bay windows, with a tower element at the northeastern corner; part of the eastern and northern facades would be punctuated by mansard roofs. He indicated a design element on the northern facade that is intended to transition from the historicist style toward New Jersey Avenue to the more modern flat-roofed volume toward the rear alley. The two houses would be clad in brick and would likely be painted, with a different coursing and material for the water table such as natural stone. He said the horizontal banding shown on the northern facade of the rear volume would likely be steel or cast iron; this rear volume would step down one story to be more consistent with the lower buildings along the alley. He presented the proposed floor plans, noting that they have been adjusted following the previous review to accommodate the stepping back of the massing along the north and to provide better views. He indicated the stairways and circulation spaces that would be located in the narrower areas of the northern house.
Mr. Dzierzanowski then presented Scheme B2, which he described as a more modern design that displays a stronger juxtaposition between the facades. The design for the front facades and the majority of the interior planning is consistent across both options. However, in Scheme B2 the northern facade would have only two traditionally styled bays with mansard roofs extending back from New Jersey Avenue; the third bay of the main volume, as well as the rear volume, would be more modern in appearance with dark metal cladding, floor-to-ceiling windows, and flat roofs. He said that other industrial design details for the fenestration are being considered, such as translucent glass. The vertical circulation volume of the northern house's third bay, which serves as a transitional element between the two styles, would be rotated in plan to align more directly with the railroad right-of-way. He said the rear volume is intended to read as its own element in the composition and relate to the context of the alley.
Ms. Griffin expressed support for Scheme B2, particularly for the revised orientation of the circulation volume. Ms. Meyer also supported scheme B2, commenting that while the front elevations for each scheme are elegant, the extent of the historicist, Victorian-styled northern facade in Scheme B1 has the appearance of wallpaper applied to the building volume and does not work as a design. Mr. Dzierzanowski acknowledged that the design of the northern facade has been an issue since the inception of the project, and the goal is for the building to realistically address its context. Ms. Griffin said that transitioning to a different style as the northern house turns the corner appears correct, and the detailing of the transition—particularly at the cornice line—is a design challenge that will need particular attention; Ms. Meyer agreed. Mr. Dzierzanowski responded that the transition could be developed to provide more separation between the traditional and modern detailing. Ms. Meyer said that if this area cannot be resolved then this part of the design may need to be reconsidered.
Mr. Krieger questioned to what extent the historicist style needs to be applied to the northern facade, suggesting that the transition between traditional and modern could occur closer to the corner. He said that historic preservation principles would encourage a respectful, historicist facade along New Jersey Avenue, while perhaps allowing for more freedom to design an interesting, modern elevation for the northern facade. Ms. Meyer agreed, suggesting that the grade change and retaining wall along the north could help to determine the placement of the transition. Ms. Griffin observed that Scheme B2 has a logic because it maintains the historicist styling for the portion of the building that approximates the standard depth of the historic rowhouses in the area, but she agreed that making a larger proportion of this facade modern could be explored. Ms. Meyer emphasized that the difficult site has two divergent contexts that need to be respected: New Jersey Avenue and the railroad right-of-way. Mr. Dzierzanowski suggested that the northern facade should convey a respect for the historic context due to the broad visibility of this facade from across the railroad property; he acknowledged that this visibility would be lessened due to vegetation during the summer months.
Mr. Krieger questioned the amount of useable square footage and daylight in the narrow infill unit on the south, commenting that this house may be unpleasant to live in; he suggested adding a skylight above the stairway. Mr. Dzierzanowski clarified that a skylight is intended, and the rear facade would be glazed to allow additional daylight for the interior. Ms. Meyer cautioned that the rear facade faces west and would therefore be very hot in the summer; she encouraged greater reliance on skylights, with floor openings to allow daylight to reach the lower levels. Mr. Krieger suggested reducing the size of the hallway closet on the top floor to allow for a larger skylight, as well as giving additional height to the living room space below. More broadly, he encouraged thinking more creatively overall about the plan, especially toward the middle of the house; he suggested developing a section drawing to study whether enough light would reach the first level.
Noting the detailed refinements being offered, Chairman Powell suggested a consensus to approve the concept submission. Upon a motion by Ms. Griffin with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved Scheme B2; Mr. Krieger reiterated his encouragement to further reduce the extent of the historicist treatment of the northern facade. Mr. Dzierzanowski welcomed this advice but noted that the D.C. Historic Preservation Office may have a different view.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:03 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA