Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer, Vice Chairman
Hon. Toni Griffin
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. James McCrery
Hon. Justin Shubow
Hon. Duncan Stroik
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
A. Approval of the minutes of the 18 June meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the June meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the minutes.
B. Dates of next meetings. Secretary Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 17 September, 15 October, and 19 November 2020. He noted that no meeting is scheduled in August, and upcoming meetings of the Commission and the Old Georgetown Board may continue to be held by video conference if necessitated by the public health emergency.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Secretary 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 reported two changes to the draft appendix. A proposal for two building identification signs has been revised with an improved location for one of the signs (case number CFA 16/JUL/20-q), and the recommendation has been updated to note the receipt of supplemental materials reflecting this revision. A project has been added for minor revisions to the approved design of the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park (CFA 16/JUL/20-zg); the electronic submission from the National Park Service was timely, but due to a technical problem it did not reach the staff in time for inclusion on the draft appendix. He said that these revisions include an improved layout for some of the memorial’s text; the addition of a border around the bronze medallion at the center of the belvedere’s stone paving; and the deletion of multiple small medallions, shaped like poppy flowers, that were intended to contain graphic symbols allowing visitors to obtain interpretive information through a cellular telephone. Ms. Meyer asked if the deletion of the poppy medallions is due to the elimination of the interpretive program through visitors’ telephones; Mr. Lindstrom said that the interpretive program would likely remain as part of the project, but telephone access would make use of a different graphic device that has not yet been determined. Secretary Luebke noted that any future proposal for a new element at the memorial would be presented to the Commission for review. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the revised Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler said that one item from the draft appendix has been removed (case number SL 20-052); she anticipated that it will be reviewed in a future month. Other revisions are minor wording changes and the notation of dates for the receipt of supplemental materials. The recommendations for eight projects are subject to further coordination with the applicants, and she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when supplemental materials are received. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act appendix. (See agenda item II.H for an additional Shipstead-Luce Act submission.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Stevenson reported that the appendix has thirty projects; the only changes to the draft appendix are updated recommendations for four projects to note the receipt of supplemental materials. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised Old Georgetown Act appendix.
At this point, the Commission considered items II.E.3 and II.F; both projects are located on the St. Elizabeths East Campus. Secretary Luebke said that the Commission had identified these as submissions that could be approved without presentations.
E. D.C. Department of General Services
3. CFA 16/JUL/20-6, 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. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/APR/20-3) Mr. Luebke noted that this project has been reviewed several times, and the current submission responds to the remaining concerns with the landscape design and the building’s palette of brick colors. Ms. Griffin commented that the Commission supports the project team’s preference for the lighter brick color as the primary material, contrasting with the color of the stair towers. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Griffin, the Commission approved the final design.
F. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
CFA 16/JUL/20-7, St. Elizabeths East Campus (2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE), Parcel 6, at Cypress Street and the temporary 13th Street, SE. New seven-level parking garage structure. Concept. Mr. Luebke said that this parking garage, although large, will be partially concealed in the future by planned mixed-use construction in front of it. Mr. Krieger commented that the proposed design is very rudimentary, and the garage would be an unsightly presence on the campus until the intended adjacent construction is implemented. He encouraged more effort to design the garage’s facades, notwithstanding the future plans. Mr. McCrery agreed, commenting that the future construction may be delayed or cancelled; he said that the garage should be designed as an attractive building instead of relying on future development to conceal its exterior. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the concept submission subject to the comments provided, and with the request that the design team work with the staff in developing the design.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.1.
B. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
CFA 16/JUL/20-1, 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. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 21/MAY/20-2) Secretary Luebke introduced the revised concept design for the proposed renovation and expansion of the Federal Reserve campus, located north of Constitution Avenue between 19th and 21st Streets, NW, which includes additions to the Eccles Building, located between 20th and 21st Streets, and to the FRB–East Building, located between 19th and 20th Streets. He said that the current submission only addresses design changes to the FRB–East Building addition, responding to comments provided by the Commission at the previous review in May 2020, when no action was taken on this portion of the project scope. He noted the Commission’s previous recommendation for refinements to the articulation of the glazing system in order to create a more unified design by extending the architectural geometries of the historic building into the addition’s elevations; other comments included the suggestion to study the treatment of the glass panels at the corners, which appeared too insubstantial in the May 2020 submission. He said the revised design for the addition is intended to create a stronger relationship with the proportions and articulation of the historic building, along with changes to the recessed staff entrance facing 20th Street and nighttime renderings showing the intended balance of the proposed lighting. He asked Jeffrey Foltz, the construction program manager from the Federal Reserve Board (FRB), to begin the presentation.
Mr. Foltz thanked the Commission and expressed appreciation for the assistance given by the staff of the Commission and of other regulatory agencies for refinement of the design. He said that this project for renovating and expanding the buildings on the Federal Reserve campus is critical to the FRB as it implements a new office space plan. He introduced Rod Henderer and Tom Jester of Fortus, a joint venture of the architectural firms CallisonRTKL and Quinn Evans Architects, to present the revised concept.
Mr. Jester said the presentation will focus on three items: refinements to the curtainwall of the addition to the FRB–East Building; changes to the proposal for its entrance on 20th Street; and the proposal for exterior lighting. He summarized the project’s design goals, which are to ensure that the additions to both buildings emphasize the civic importance of the Federal Reserve while appearing as simple, restrained, and calm compositions resulting in a unified architectural character for the campus. He said both proposed additions would respect the character-defining features of the historic buildings while using contemporary materials and technology.
Mr. Henderer said the exterior design of the addition is intended to capture an abundance of natural light essential for the health and productivity of employees, while avoiding solar heat gain. Monumental double-height window bays would project approximately fourteen inches from the addition’s facades; the historic building’s windows are recessed fourteen inches within the facades, and the reversal of this relationship is intended to relate the old and new construction to each other. Contemporary materials have been chosen that would recall the architectural elements of the historic building. The monumental windows would have acid-etched patterns that correspond to the historic building’s aluminum spandrels. Low-iron glass would be used on all of the addition’s facades; the frit previously proposed for the new glazing has been eliminated, and instead glare and solar gain would be controlled on the east and west facades by the use of roller shades, which would be activated by sensors to rise and fall uniformly. The vertical elements separating the windows would be composed of 4.5-inch-thick diffusing glass to suggest the historic building’s pilasters. Panels of white Georgia marble would be used for the base, cornice, and other details, consistent with the historic building; he said that the inclusion of marble within the more contemporary materials palette will maintain the historic building’s overall white tonality. The window frames would be bead-blasted stainless steel that matches the color of the historic building’s aluminum window frames.
Mr. Henderer presented the previous design for the addition’s west elevation, noting the Commission’s request for further articulation of the glazing system through the extension of key regulating lines from the historic to the new facades. He identified these lines as the horizontals of the base, sill, cornice, and eave, and the vertical lines of the repeated pilasters and windows that form the historic building’s bay divisions; he indicated the continuation of these patterns in the proposed addition. He described the revisions to the design of the west facade’s new staff entrance, which would be located adjacent to the historic building in a bay recessed four feet from the primary facade plane. Instead of the extensive areas of glass previously proposed, marble panels would be emphasized more for this area of the facade; the monumental window above the entrance would provide a vertical emphasis. He said that the facade areas near the corners of the historic building have relatively little detail and are essentially flush with the primary facade plane; correspondingly, the corners of the addition have been treated as coplanar with its facades instead of as projecting pavilions. He summarized that the proposed changes will create a more consistent and unified architectural expression between the historic building and its addition.
Mr. Henderer presented nighttime photographs of the historic building from 1933, 1950, and the present day, emphasizing that the FRB–East Building, like its neighbors along Constitution Avenue, has always been lit at night. Through the use of tunable LED lighting, the night lighting of the addition would be balanced with the warm, subtle tone currently used on the historic structure. At sunset, the color temperature of the new lighting would be 2700 degrees Kelvin, the temperature of incandescent light; at 10 p.m., when the interior of the addition would be mostly dark, the exterior lighting would be dimmed by 50 percent and set at 2200 Kelvin. All facade lights would turn off at midnight. He added that the night lighting is intended to respect circadian rhythms and allow stars to be visible. He presented nighttime perspective views of the building and indicated the accurate depiction of the surrounding trees, noting that the seasonal tree cover affects the appearance of lighting.
Chairman Powell invited comments on the proposal; Secretary Luebke first summarized a public comment letter from the Committee of 100 on the Federal City. The letter commends the design team for its excellent job in applying the Secretary of the Interior’s standards for historic preservation, noting that the addition to the FRB–East Building will be clearly differentiated from the original structure. The letter says that the Committee of 100 agrees with the proposed demolition of non-historic elements and endorses the Commission’s support for the effort to achieve a balance between old and new that will provide flexibility in the workplace interiors to meet current requirements and accommodate future changes.
Mr. Krieger commended the design team for its more careful coordination of regulating lines between the historic building and the addition in the revised design. However, he said that some of the new renderings exaggerate the transparency of the glazing, making the addition appear less responsive to the existing building. He noted that the addition’s large glazed areas would not be this transparent except under certain daylight conditions, and so the continuation of lines will actually be more apparent than shown in the renderings. He expressed support for the design team’s continuing efforts to find contemporary ways to respond to the historic building.
Mr. McCrery said that the revised design is a tremendous improvement over the previous version. He commented on the issue of transparency and visibility of the addition’s interior spaces by offering a comparison between two iconic, glass-sheathed office buildings in Manhattan—Lever House and the Seagram Building, which occupy nearly adjacent blocks on either side of Park Avenue. He said that the Seagram Building implemented a strict orderliness in its interior spaces, while Lever House had no such interior restrictions and therefore its interior spaces could appear either orderly or messy. He suggested that under different FRB leadership in the future, a reconsideration of the open work spaces of the FRB–East Building addition could lead to the partitioning of the interior space, in which case the addition would appear like a mess from the outside, to the vast detriment of this design.
Mr. Henderer responded that many office projects today are designed in consideration of the possible work space of the future, and the design team has been working with the FRB on alternative strategies, looking at both open and closed office environments. He emphasized the commitment of the FRB to try to give every employee equal access to natural light, even in a closed office environment; he said the FRB is also committed to avoiding the construction of private offices against the exterior wall, instead intending to maintain an open perimeter that will be accessible to all employees.
Mr. McCrery said that this may be the stance of the current FRB, but in the future different directors might insist on north-facing offices, and he asked what assurance is provided that this perimeter would be kept clear. Mr. Foltz responded that the FRB is committed to maintaining the orderly appearance of the open work space; it has created some pilot spaces in existing buildings and has also set up working groups to establish standards and guiding principles for creating a good work environment. He emphasized that he does not anticipate that this commitment will change, although he acknowledged that he cannot say what might happen in the future under different leadership. Mr. McCrery, indicating a rendering of the north elevation, said he thought the architects would agree that the design’s success will depend on the open and empty appearance of the addition’s three principal floors for a considerable distance into the building; if these floor spaces were to be chopped up with partitions, the appearance would no longer be successful. He suggested that the Commission may have some jurisdiction over the protection of these interior spaces, observing that the addition’s exterior will be so transparent that what lies beyond the glass of the facades could be perceived as part of the public realm. He summarized that the design of the addition is only supportable if the interior is treated as shown in this rendering.
Ms. Griffin agreed with Mr. Krieger’s comment that the glass appears far more transparent in the rendering than it would look in reality; she observed that the rendering gives a transparent appearance for the spandrels and other horizontal elements carried over from the historic building, whereas an accurate rendering would show them as having a solid appearance that would result in a more horizontal character for the addition. She said it is unclear whether the issue is a flaw of the rendering or of what will actually be visible; additional issues with the glass include the appearance and texture of the acid etching, and whether the etching will be flush with the glass surface. Mr. Henderer responded that the actual etched spandrels will have more visual presence than is apparent in the rendering; he added that physical samples of the materials, including the acid-etched glass, will be part of the final design submission. Ms. Griffin noted the acknowledgment that the color of the spandrels has not been depicted accurately in some of the renderings; she summarized that the concept design may be going in the right direction, but understanding the accuracy of such details is important. Mr. Henderer indicated an image of the historic building in which its aluminum spandrels are shown in a warm, medium-gray color, and he said that the acid-etched spandrel pattern is intended to replicate this tone. Ms. Griffin said she likes its warm quality, emphasizing that this should be legible on the actual facade.
Mr. Krieger commented that one of the most important things the renderings should do is to accurately portray the transparency of the glass, but this may be difficult to achieve; he commented that people tend to trust too much in the ability of drawings to accurately depict reality. He observed that the renderings effectively convey the vertical expression of the middle floors. He expressed doubt that the Commission would be able to control the interior space, noting that not even Mies van der Rohe had been able to do that with the Seagram Building. Observing that the ceiling planes will be very visible through the transparent glazing when viewed from the street, he commented that their design and visibility should be the greater issue. He said that while the design of ceilings is not usually a major concern of the Commission, in this case it will be important to give attention to the orderliness of the lighting fixtures and other features. He questioned whether the addition of partitions would actually make much difference; he added that, in his experience, open offices simply tend to be cluttered.
Mr. Stroik asked how the roller shades on the addition’s east and west sides would function; he noted that Mies, when designing the Seagram Building, had required the shade settings to have only three positions, to facilitate a consistent appearance. Mr. Henderer responded that these shades would be activated by daylight sensors: on the east side, they would go down in the morning to block the light and would rise in the afternoon, when the shades on the west side would be lowered; the shades on both sides would go up in the evening, and on overcast days they would not go down at all.
Mr. Shubow asked why the addition’s implied pilasters would be made of diffusing glass instead of stone. Mr. Henderer responded that this glass had been chosen over marble or the window glass for several reasons: it will admit additional, but softer, daylight; it will provide more insulation and thus a better performance and greater energy savings than the glass selected for the windows; and it has a tonality that will relate well to the marble pilasters of the historic building. Mr. McCrery asked specifically why stone had not been chosen; Mr. Henderer clarified that the reason is to increase the amount of daylight within the addition. Mr. McCrery said he is not persuaded by this response, observing that the vast majority of the addition’s facade would be made of transparent glass; Mr. Krieger suggested that this material has been chosen to avoid directly replicating the historic building, which Mr. Henderer acknowledged. Mr. McCrery said that using stone for the addition’s pilasters is a reasonable suggestion and would not even begin to replicate the existing building.
Mr. McCrery, indicating the perspective view of the addition’s northwest corner, said he agrees with Mr. Krieger on the importance of the ceiling design, but he emphasized that the possible future addition of interior partitions is also an issue. He said that the design of the Seagram Building’s ceilings had been important, increasingly so as the building rose and its ceilings became more visible; this would not be as critical for the modest height of the new addition, but it will still be important. In order to retain the open, undivided interior space of the addition, as evident in this drawing, he asked if the Commission can require design review for any future proposals to partition the interior. Secretary Luebke responded that the Commission’s authority generally pertains to building exteriors. He said this question had been tested under the Old Georgetown Act, with the result that, within this area, the law has been interpreted to give the Commission jurisdiction over a distance of approximately eighteen inches into the building interior. However, he noted that this determination concerned signage control rather than architecture, and whether it could be construed as applying to the FRB proposal is an open question. He noted that the project team has been very cooperative in discussions with staff and would likely consider any concerns about the interior; but if the FRB decides to add partitions in the future, it is not certain whether this would come to the Commission for review. He added that the interior could be configured to locate circulation at the perimeter of each story, placing all offices to the inside.
Mr. Krieger observed that the ceiling heights appear to be tall, and therefore the ceilings will be the most visible part of the interiors. Mr. Henderer clarified that the ceiling height at the first level would be sixteen feet high, matching the main level of the historic building, and the other floors would be approximately thirteen feet high. Mr. Krieger suggested that the FRB agree to some design control of the interior space, such as limiting the height of any partitions installed in the future so that the ceilings will retain the appearance of continuous planar surfaces; he emphasized the importance of this to the appearance of the addition.
Mr. Krieger complimented the design team for its improvements to the new entrance on 20th Street. Recalling the discussion in the previous review concerning the proposed sunken terrace adjacent to this entrance, he asked if a decision had been made as to whether it will be accessible to the public; Mr. Henderer responded that this is still under discussion with the FRB.
Mr. Krieger offered a motion to approve the revised concept design for the addition to the FRB–East Building, with the comments provided for further refinements. Upon a second by Mr. Powell, the Commission adopted this action; Ms. Griffin, Mr. Krieger, Ms. Meyer and Mr. Powell supported the motion, while Mr. McCrery, Mr. Shubow, and Mr. Stroik voted against it.
Secretary Luebke summarized the general support for the proposed adjustments to the design, primarily applying the proportions and patterns of the historic building to the new addition. He noted that the identified issues include the visibility of partitions and ceilings, as well as questioning the transparency of the windows and pilasters; he asked if the inclusion of these comments would make the revised concept more acceptable to the three Commission members who had voted against it. Ms. Griffin clarified that the issue of the window transparency on the addition may only be a problem of the rendering technique; she asked the design team to provide a more accurate depiction of the glass so that the Commission members can clearly understand the relationship of transparency to opacity and daylighting. She added that careful study and a clearer understanding of the material choices is also vital for the Commission’s evaluation, not simply a change in the rendering technique. Chairman Powell supported the importance of this issue, observing that the rendering shows total transparency, while in reality glass has tremendous reflectivity and is never totally transparent; he agreed that the visual quality of the proposed materials should be presented more clearly to the Commission. Secretary Luebke said that, in the absence of further comments from the three members who had voted against the approval, the meeting would move to the next case on the agenda.
C. U.S. Department of Agriculture
CFA 16/JUL/20-2, U.S. National Arboretum, 3501 New York Avenue, NE. Master Plan. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the proposed update to the master plan for the National Arboretum, a national research facility founded in the 1920s. The updated plan is proposed to strengthen the identity of the arboretum, expand its capacity to serve the community, and recognize its role as both a scientific institution and a significant open space within the city. He said the update is intended to align with previous planning efforts, which include a master plan from 2001, a 2007 update to the 2001 plan, and a recent strategic plan from 2017. The current update defines a future direction for the arboretum that can be achieved by sustainable and incremental means, recognizing the budget process of the federal government and fluctuating funding cycles. He listed major changes in the update: expansion of the central Ellipse Meadow; a simplified system of roads and pedestrian trails; improved destination areas and exhibits; and significant additions to the administrative core, including renovation of the existing display pavilions and the construction of new pavilions. He said the update has been developed by Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architecture in collaboration with the arboretum staff and the non-profit group Friends of the National Arboretum. He asked Richard Olsen, director of the National Arboretum, to begin the presentation.
Dr. Olsen said that the National Arboretum is part of the Agricultural Research Service, a component of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and it is the federal government’s flagship institution for horticultural research. The property is located two miles northeast of the U.S. Capitol, just beyond the original L’Enfant city; it encompasses part of the city’s topographic bowl, including a promontory called Mount Hamilton. In 1902, the Senate Park Commission Plan identified this site as a location for an arboretum; the National Arboretum was formally established in 1927 as a garden gateway to the city, and the federal gardens and research collections on the National Mall were moved here in the 1930s when redesign of the Mall was begun in accordance with the Senate Park Commission Plan. The neighborhood around the arboretum is framed by commercial and industrial corridors, which are increasingly changing to dense residential development; he said the arboretum is now in an ideal location to realize the goal of the National Capital Planning Commission for federal facilities to embrace and integrate with communities.
Dr. Olsen said that research and public outreach are both key parts of the arboretum’s mission. For this update, the data used to prepare the 2007 Master Plan is being re-analyzed with consideration of current fiscal and environmental needs, with the goals of preserving and enhancing its agricultural and ecological context. It is expected that the master plan can be implemented through small changes, recognizing the reality of federal budget cycles while allowing for strategic but often random major capital investments from Congress and stakeholders. He added that the arboretum has been attracting 600,000 visitors each year, and the master plan will support the D.C. Government’s alternative transportation plans. He introduced landscape architects Doug Reed and Joe James of Reed Hilderbrand to present the master plan update.
Mr. Reed said that the direction for the current update has been to analyze and reevaluate the 2007 Master Plan’s proposals based on the 2017 Strategic Plan, identifying recommendations that remain consistent and appropriate as well as recommendations that need to be reexamined. For example, the 2007 plan had called for a large visitor complex with extensive surface parking; this has been discarded as infeasible, and the update includes an entirely different approach to handling visitors and parking.
Mr. James described the intent for the updated master plan to reinforce the unique character of the arboretum’s existing landscape, which is based on its landscape heritage, while recognizing research as a critical part of its identity; these functions will be combined into a unified experience. He described the updated master plan recommendations as a series of components organized under four categories: identity and arrival; circulation and parking; vegetation patterns; and the Core Area. The identity of the National Arboretum as both a renowned scientific laboratory and a unique ecological and cultural resource will be expressed. Emphasis will be on the four primary character zones comprising the arboretum, which include woodland hills, meadows, agrarian fields, and a system of dendritic, or branching, ravines; these four zones reflect the specific soils, topography, hydrology, and ecology of the arboretum’s geographic location as well as the imprint of culture over time.
Mr. James said the arboretum’s original circulation plan had been inspired by a 1937 Preliminary Road Study prepared by the National Park Service in collaboration with the National Capital Park and Planning Commission (the forerunner of the National Capital Planning Commission), which had recommended developing a system of loop roads to circumnavigate the landscape’s topography and ecology. Only certain parts of this roadway system were built, including roads at Mount Hamilton and Hickey Hill.
Mr. James described the existing vehicular circulation system. The main entrance for vehicles is located at the west from R Street, within a residential neighborhood; a second is located at the north along New York Avenue; and a third is at the south on M Street. Entering by way of the R Street entrance, visitors currently encounter a complicated road network that lacks hierarchy; most of the two-way roads are poorly designed for the topography, and many even seem unnecessary. He said the proposed update follows the recommendation of the 2007 Master Plan to create a single primary visitor entrance at the southwest on Bladensburg Road; the R Street entrance would be reserved for staff, the New York Avenue entrance would be used for service vehicles, and the M Street entrance would be available for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Mr. James described the clarified circulation pattern that is envisioned, with an entrance sequence that orients visitors to the landscape as a whole while providing a clear sense of arrival at the Core Area. Visitors entering at Bladensburg Road would drive along a new two-way road leading around the wooded hillside of Mount Hamilton, affording a view of the large Ellipse Meadow and the U.S. Capitol Columns, an installation of the original columns from the Capitol’s east portico, before arriving at a loop drop-off at the existing administration building. A series of secondary one-way loop roads would branch off the main roadway to circumnavigate each of the arboretum’s larger character areas before returning to the primary road. He presented a diagram of recommended changes, identifying the existing roads to remain or be removed and the new roads to be added. Other recommended changes include reducing the length of the main road and realigning the central loop road around the Ellipse Meadow, thereby enlarging the meadow to enhance its spatial qualities and expand the arboretum’s apparent scale.
Mr. James described the proposed changes to pedestrian circulation. He said the arboretum has few pedestrian routes beyond the Core Area, except for the area of plant collections on the east side where pedestrians have to share the road with cars and cyclists. The updated plan proposes a system of mulched pedestrian paths traversing the more sensitive areas to connect the Core Area with the east side; in addition, some existing vehicular drives will be converted to twelve-foot-wide pedestrian paths.
Mr. James presented the changes that are proposed for parking. Most existing parking is located in lots that are far from visitor services and the arboretum’s primary features; these were intended for previous visitor center proposals that were never constructed, and they have remained to serve a tram system that is no longer in operation. The new proposal will take advantage of existing impervious surfaces by creating parallel parking along the one-way loop roads; overflow parking for occasional events will be located in the stabilized meadow. He said the revised circulation system will provide a clear hierarchy for visitors and service vehicles, with routes for vehicular, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic extending across the entire arboretum.
Mr. James identified the arboretum’s large scale—446 acres of open space in an urban context—as one of its greatest assets. The update recommends augmenting the appearance of this expanse through careful, intentional plantings. Canopy trees would reflect the character of larger natural systems by reinforcing circulation patterns, providing shade along drives, and framing views of adjacent landscapes. New promenade and display gardens extending along the campus’s south edge would link the herb garden to the larger collections area, culminating at a new event pavilion on the east edge that would overlook the Ellipse Meadow and the Capitol Columns. Mr. James said that visitor services would be consolidated in the Core Area: instead of the existing series of non-public, disconnected gardens and research plots, the Core Area is envisioned as a cohesive whole that is connected to the community, with science and research functions open to the public. The reorganization of the Core Area would be based on the Modernist character of the Administration Building from 1963, designed by Albert G. Mumma of Deigert & Yerkes. The building’s orthogonal orientation would be extended to new research and visitor services buildings, which would have exterior courtyards for garden displays; existing greenhouses would be renovated and reconceived as an interactive teaching complex.
Mr. James summarized that the updated master plan would be both pragmatic and attainable, building upon the existing strengths of the institution and its landscape. Overall, the arboretum’s new, more rational order would be clearly juxtaposed with its many romantic and pastoral landscapes.
Chairman Powell opened the review for discussion. Mr. McCrery commended the decision to locate the main entrance at Bladensburg Road; he asked for further information about this planned entrance. Mr. Reed said that at the selected location along Bladensburg Road, the entrance turns would be both feasible and safe. Because Mount Hamilton is located near this point, an additional advantage is the experience of driving around this large hillside before arriving at a view of the meadow and the U.S. Capitol Columns. Mr. McCrery noted the steepness of the slope on Bladensburg Road, and he asked more specifically what design features would be used to help vehicles approaching from either direction to turn into the arboretum; Mr. Reed responded that the road’s vertical curve has been studied, and the entrance would include a traffic light, signage, and a large gate. Dr. Olsen added that the design of this entrance will be handled under a different project and submitted for review at a later date.
Ms. Meyer commented that the National Arboretum has been underused and underappreciated. She said she is very pleased to see such a pragmatic approach to a master plan instead of a document that appears impressive but would have little chance of being realized; she commended the proposal for being both visionary and realistic. She observed that the project team clearly understands the design of both landscapes and roads, commenting that the presentation could serve as a model not only for illustrating a landscape proposal but also for making clear the proposed degree of change. She cited in particular the diagrams that compare existing and proposed circulation, showing what will be added and what will be removed; she said these drawings are very helpful in understanding the logic of the planning and the amount of change necessary. She said that what differentiates this master plan from others is the consolidation of intensive programming and garden spaces that would connect the back-of-house research operations with the visitor center. She emphasized that the ability to understand the arboretum as a research institution—a place to think and speculate as well as to enjoy an immersion in the landscape—will make it a wonderful experience for adults as well as children.
Ms. Meyer strongly recommended further study of the larger landscape mosaic as the master plan update is developed. For example, in regard to vegetation patterns, she noted the description of the landscape ecology mosaic as comprising patches, matrices, and corridors in relation to the display gardens; she recommended that this analysis should also relate the arboretum to the larger landscape ecology of the Anacostia River. She said it would be helpful to understand at a slightly larger scale how this property will contribute to the biodiversity and resilience of other landscape projects currently being undertaken along the river by the National Park Service and the Anacostia Watershed Society. In conclusion, she called the master plan update a very exciting project. Mr. Reed thanked her for these remarks, and he thanked the Commission staff for helping the team to clarify its presentation.
Mr. Krieger added his compliments for the sensitivity and inventiveness of the proposal and for the clarity of the presentation. Noting that he had worked on the Anacostia Riverfront Master Plan many years ago, he expressed support for Ms. Meyer’s suggestion to widen the understanding of the arboretum’s relation to the ecology of the Anacostia River.
Observing that the transformations proposed around the Core Area appear extensive, Mr. Krieger asked how much of the plan is aspirational and how much is likely to happen relatively soon. Dr. Olsen responded that the value of this plan is that it is both pragmatic and aspirational—it will guide larger investments when they are available but is not dependent on them. He said that the largest investment will be the Bladensburg Road entrance, initially designed almost twenty years ago although funding for construction was never available until now. He said that the master plan concept for building repair and renovation will inform the layout of the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum because the planning process has allowed envisioning how this museum can fit into the larger plan. He noted that engagement with stakeholders, such as the Friends of the National Arboretum and the National Bonsai Foundation, has led to successful fundraising efforts for particular projects. The master plan update is also helping guide the repair of the arboretum’s deteriorating road system, and as roads are repaired, improvements can be made to stormwater management. Mr. Reed noted the large amount of permeable land that would be created through the removal of impervious surfaces; Mr. Krieger said this is clearly shown in the diagrams.
Dr. Olsen expressed appreciation for the Commission’s comments regarding the larger ecology of the Anacostia River valley; he said this subject was not stressed in the presentation, but numerous improvements are being implemented or planned that relate to the watershed. Artificial lakes would be removed from Hickey Run, improving the hydrology of the floodplain; and Springhouse Run has already been restored in collaboration with DC Water. He said that within the Core Area, the size of the Ellipse Meadow would be increased by at least thirty percent to create the type of rich, open meadow habitat that is rarely found in Washington.
Regarding the subject of habitat, Ms. Meyer stressed the importance of the arboretum’s many north-facing wooded slopes; she said that these will become reservoirs and refuges for plants that are now native to the Washington area but will soon no longer be viable here because of climate change. She encouraged including the underplanting and replanting of these slopes in the plan, suggesting that this project be added to the list of potential donor opportunities.
Mr. Stroik expressed appreciation for the presentation’s inclusion of historic precedents, such as the one-way streets at Kew Gardens near London and Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan. He asked how the National Arboretum compares to other major American arboretums; Dr. Olsen responded that it depends on the characteristic being considered. The National Arboretum is among the top ten arboretums in the country for number of visitors. It is also in the top ten for budgets, although there is a huge difference in budgets between the top five and the next five; the National Arboretum has an annual budget of $15 million, while Chicago’s Morton Arboretum has a budget of $30 million for a 3,000-acre campus. He clarified that the arboretums with larger budgets devote much of their spending to gardens and educational programs, while the National Arboretum’s budget is dedicated to research. He emphasized that the National Arboretum is the only federally funded arboretum and public garden to focus on research; by comparison, the U.S. Botanic Garden at the foot of Capitol Hill on the Mall does not have a research function.
Mr. McCrery offered a motion to approve the U.S. National Arboretum Master Plan Update. Commending the design team for an excellent proposal, Chairman Powell seconded the motion, and it was adopted. Secretary Luebke noted that proposals for the Bonsai Garden and other display areas will be submitted soon, and today’s presentation has therefore been important in order for the Commission to see the whole framework for the property before reviewing individual projects.
D. D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation
CFA 16/JUL/20-3, Stead Park Recreation Center, 1625 P Street, NW. Playground renovation and building addition. Concept. (Previous: CFA 19/JUL/18-8) Secretary Luebke introduced a new concept design for modifications to the Stead Park Recreation Center. He noted that the Commission had reviewed and approved a different concept proposal for the site in July 2018, prepared for the Friends of Stead Park organization by Outerbridge Horsey Associates. However, in response to a competitive bidding process for the project, a new design has been developed. He said the project’s current scope is similar to the previous, consisting of the renovation of and addition to the existing two-story former carriage house, as well as alterations to the southern part of the site; the playing field on the northern side of the site was renovated several years ago and is not included in the scope. He said that issues to be discussed will include the front facade treatment of the central carriage house—a composition of vernacular alley buildings dating from the 19th century that were modified with utilitarian additions in the 1950s and 1990s—and the hyphen between the carriage house and the proposed addition. He asked Brent Sisco, the Capital Projects Planning and Design Officer for the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Sisco expressed appreciation for the opportunity to present the project to the Commission, and he confirmed that the new concept proposal is the result of a competitive bidding process undertaken by the D.C. Government. He introduced Joe Celentano and Noah Marble of VMDO Architects, along with Joe Chambers of Landscape Architecture Bureau, to present the design concept.
Mr. Celentano described several factors that were considered in the design process for the proposed building addition: the relationship in size between the addition and the historic carriage house, which currently serves as the community center; how the program spaces would be integrated with the carriage house, which will be the main entrance to the new building complex; how the addition could be perceived as a pavilion within the park; and how there could be a clear diagrammatic approach that relates to the northern and southern parts of the park. Regarding the landscape, he said that the design is intended to reestablish a formal axial quality that was present in earlier configurations of the site. He said that the project has significant sustainability goals, and it is intended be the first net-zero energy community center building in the District; to achieve these goals, the new construction would provide shade and a large surface area for solar panels, and stormwater retention strategies would be incorporated into the experience of the park.
Mr. Marble indicated the location of the site within the Dupont Circle Historic District; the carriage house is a contributing structure. He said that the carriage house was a support building for several former properties on the site, most significantly the Hurt House. By 1887, the site had been mostly developed with 30-foot-wide row house lots; by 1903, some of the row houses in front of the carriage house were demolished; and by 1916, these lots had been consolidated and the Hurt House had been constructed. In 1953, the site was dedicated as Stead Park, and all of the existing buildings were demolished except for the carriage house, which was modified for use as a support building for the new park. He indicated several features on the southern half of the original park plan: the multiuse basketball court to the west, the central entrance walkway extending south from the carriage house, and the playground areas to the east. By 2005, the central area had been modified with additional paved play areas, and in 2010, the southern part of the park was reconfigured with a new playground and splash pad. Around 2015, artificial turf was installed on the playing field on the northern part of the site. He noted that the site’s context has increased in scale since the construction of the carriage house, resulting in the wide and open park with a very small building at its center. He said that there are appealing aspects of the early park configuration, lost in the subsequent renovations, that inspired the proposed design. He then presented current photos of the recreation center building, noting the utilitarian rear addition constructed in the 1990s, which would be removed. He said that the carriage house with the proposed addition would serve as the transition area between the planted and play areas at the south and the recreation field to the north.
Mr. Chambers presented the site design. Programmatic requirements include the creation of a public gathering space that can accommodate large public events and meetings; the management of a majority of the project’s stormwater since the proposed rooftop solar panels would preclude the use of green roofs; and the provision of a sensory garden. He said that the existing playground and splash pad would be redesigned; the existing basketball court would be kept in its current location to avoid disturbing the area, which may have archeological resources. An unusual feature of the site is that it is approximately five feet higher than the sidewalk level, separating the site from the public right-of-way. A prominent component of the proposed design is the creation of an entry plaza along the P Street sidewalk, opening up sightlines to the carriage house, with the adjacent garden spaces approximately two feet above this level. Stairs would lead up from the center of the plaza, along the centerline of the carriage house; symmetrically arranged trees would frame views to the facade, while the inclusion of seating to the west of the plaza in one of the garden areas would create a more open area, in addition to allowing people to experience and move through the garden to access the northern end of the site. Two ramps leading from the P Street sidewalk would provide barrier-free access to the upper level. He indicated the sunken courtyards that would be within the new building addition, noting that one is intended to have plantings for stormwater and sensory purposes, while the other would be hardscaped to allow for programming. He presented a north–south section drawing through the site illustrating the depressed entry plaza and the surrounding trees and 18-inch seat walls, as compared with the existing grade.
For the proposed modifications to the carriage house building, Mr. Marble indicated the canopy structures that would extend out from the proposed addition to the west and east, noting that the western part would provide shade for the seating and circulation space underneath. He presented precedent images for the canopy structures, as well as several perspective views of the proposed canopies from locations throughout the site. He said the shallow historic building would be separated from the larger proposed addition to its north by a hyphen. He noted that a significant portion of the program space would be located on the new below-grade lower level to preserve as much open space in the park as possible. He presented the lower level plan, including the multipurpose spaces and the sunken courtyards, which would let light into the surrounding spaces. The ground level would have an office and multipurpose room, with the largest space being a community room that can seat 250 people. He then presented several renderings of the interior and exterior of the building, including the community room, the courtyards, and the front and rear facades.
Mr. Marble presented the proposed palette of materials. He noted that the existing brick building, which has been painted several times, would again be repainted and its windows would be replaced. The building addition would be unpainted brick, perhaps in a tone similar to the paint proposed for the historic building. He said that while the historic brick appears rustic, the new brick would be more crisp and would be left unpainted, giving the new building a similar appearance to the old while not replicating it. He said that material samples could be presented at the next review.
Mr. Marble presented a range of options for the treatment of the eastern end of the hyphen structure located between the carriage house and the addition. Option 1 is a vision glass curtainwall; Option 2 is metal paneling with a natural or painted finish; Option 3 is a perforated scrim; Option 4 is channel glass; and Option 5 is a vegetated green wall.
Mr. Marble concluded by presenting several options for the treatment of the front facade of the historic building. He said that the existing conditions, which date from the 1950s and 1990s, are outside the period of significance; these interventions include the rectangular window infill on the upper level, and the brick infill on the ground level on the center portion of the historic carriage house. The design team is continuing to study which era should be the reference for a potential restoration. He said that the proposed options are ordered from the least to the most alteration to the existing condition of the building. In Option 1, the two end volumes flanking the center section would be left intact; the existing window infill of the center section would be removed and replaced with a window system framed with slim metal components resembling the appearance from the 1950s. The brick infill on the ground level would be removed and replaced with the same framing system to create a vestibule. Since the brick to be removed is only one wythe thick, the walls of the vestibule would be clad with the same metal material, differentiating the interventions from the existing historic brick. In Option 2, the upper-level fenestration would be recessed to create a balcony. New brick would be used on the return walls, which would require careful detailing. Option 3 would attempt to restore the center section to its condition before it was modified in the 1950s; in the absence of documentation of this earlier condition, the rear fenestration arrangement as shown in drawings from the 1950s would be mirrored on the upper level of the front facade. He said this option is intended to unify the three sections of the historic building, but he acknowledged that the design is a conjecture, not an accurate restoration. Option 4 would further modify the center section by removing its Queen Anne-style pediment, which was added by Hurt, who was the earlier owner of the historic mansion that was demolished for the creation of Stead Park. This would give the three volumes the appearance of simple, flat-roofed row house stables—likely how they would have appeared before their modification by Hurt. The historic lintel beam between the ground and upper levels of the center section would be retained in all options.
Mr. Stroik expressed support for the proposed entry sequence from the sidewalk. However, he questioned placing the plaza at the sidewalk level; while acknowledging that this would provide easy access from the sidewalk, the result would be for the plaza to separate the basketball court on the west from the playground areas on the east, rather than have all of these areas at the same level. Mr. Chambers said that the goal of the plaza design is to open up sightlines to the park and make it more visible, welcoming, and accessible from the street. He emphasized that the park is a civic institution and community destination, and the landscape is intended to have the character of a public or civic space that allows people to gather and relax. He noted that the site is used by many people to eat lunch, and the stairs leading up from the entry plaza would provide much-needed seating surfaces. He agreed that the proposed configuration has some inconvenience, comparing the trade-off to residential landscapes where a backyard barbecue can be placed near the first floor level for convenience to the kitchen, or else at a lower level that is more convenient to a backyard seating area; however, he emphasized that this design would create a welcoming civic space that is open to everyone in the city.
Mr. Stroik asked for clarification of the barrier-free access provided in the design; Mr. Chambers indicated the ramped route through the central activity area, between the sensory garden and the children’s play area. Mr. McCrery asked about the dimensions of this route in comparison to regulatory requirements for barrier-free access; Mr. Chambers said that the slope of the walkways is more than five percent in some areas, requiring handrails at these locations. Mr. McCrery asked if the width of the ramps would allow for two people using wheelchairs or strollers to pass one another; Mr. Chambers said they are not currently wide enough to accommodate that situation, and he agreed that the ramps should be widened to allow for two-way traffic.
Mr. Krieger expressed strong support for the project, commenting that the well-designed building and landscape are superior to the previous proposal; he added that putting program spaces below ground is a more sophisticated approach than the previous attempt to add a larger above-ground building volume to the historic carriage house. Regarding the options for the hyphen structure, he said the most effective treatment would be one that provides more transparency, such as Option 1. For the carriage house facade treatment, he expressed support for retaining the pediment, which he said is a part of people’s memories of the park; he particularly recommended Option 1, commenting that it avoids the problem in some of the other options of attempting to match the new brick with the old, which is especially difficult in replicating the dimension of the mortar joints.
Mr. McCrery asked if the site can be accessed from the adjacent alleys, or if the only entrance is on P Street. Mr. Chambers indicated the existing entrance from the western alley at Church Street and the small entrance at the northeast corner. Mr. McCrery asked if more entrances could be provided, such as from the alley along the eastern side of the park; Mr. Chambers said that this may have been overlooked in the proposal. He added that the existing entrance from the western alley is adjacent to mechanical equipment and dumpsters for the businesses along 17th Street, giving this area an unattractive quality. Mr. McCrery noted that the conditions in the alley and the businesses could change over time, and the park will be a long-term amenity for the neighborhood. Mr. Chambers agreed that more entrances would be beneficial. He acknowledged that additional space would be available to improve the entry from the western alley, because the basketball court would be moved south several feet to give more space between the court and the new building. However, he said that a new entrance from the eastern alley at Church Street would require stairs, ramps, and handrails to accommodate the approximately four-foot grade change, and the current project’s budget would not cover this expense.
Ms. Griffin said she agrees with Mr. Krieger regarding the options for the carriage house facade treatment. For the hyphen structure, she expressed a preference for the options with more glazing, such as Options 1 and 4. She expressed interest in the steel columns of the pavilion structure, commenting that their intersection with the brick walls reminds her of architect Harry Weese’s work in Chicago, and they have the potential to be beautifully detailed. She said she initially thought that the columns could disappear into the brick wall, leaving a clean profile, but then thought that perhaps there could be an interesting way to have the columns engage the brick; she suggested further study of the expression of the seams between the columns and brick. She said she looks forward to reviewing further development of these and other details, including the treatment of the materials at the interior returns, and the treatment of the column bases as they meet the ground plane.
Ms. Griffin asked if the solar panels would be transparent and how they would be maintained, expressing concern that the panels could appear dirty when viewed from below. Mr. Celentano said that the panels would be opaque, with gaps between each panel to allow for light to filter through. He said that the panels could be walked on for maintenance, and three access points would be provided for the three disconnected roof areas. Ms. Griffin noted that bird-proofing is an important issue to be considered in the design.
Mr. McCrery agreed with Ms. Griffin’s preference for Options 1 or 4 for the hyphen; he suggested that an Option “1A” could be developed, in which a specimen tree is planted in front of the hyphen structure. Regarding the carriage house, he noted that the building has been substantially altered over the last century; he expressed support for Option 3, which he said is interesting because it borrows from the building’s north facade to inform the treatment of the southern side. However, he said that if Option 1 is preferred by the project team, he suggests that the vertical infill elements align between the first and second levels; as presented, the facade appears disjointed with five bays above and six bays below. He suggested that both levels be divided into five bays, which provides a sense of openness at the center. Mr. Krieger said that having double doors on the ground level would be difficult with only five bays, but he agreed that Option 1 looks odd as proposed; Chairman Powell agreed. Mr. McCrery also suggested aligning the new enclosure system of the upper level with the pattern of the rosettes on the exposed steel beam to make the building appear more cohesive and vertically aligned, while at the same time still giving the appearance of three distinct structures that are joined together.
Ms. Meyer agreed with Mr. Krieger’s assessment that the current proposal is a substantial improvement over the previous concept. She expressed support for placing the entrance plaza at the level of the sidewalk as proposed, commenting that it would be a welcoming threshold to the park and a place for people to linger and socialize. She agreed that the ramps should be widened to allow for two-way pedestrian traffic. She commented that in comparing the plan and perspective drawings for the landscape, there appear to be two different attitudes regarding the structure of the planted forms along P Street: the plan emphasizes the allée connecting the P Street sidewalk to the building entrance, while the perspective emphasizes the street trees, with the allée appearing as a small bosque. She suggested that the design as shown in the perspective would be preferable, observing that the allée is less strong due to the significant change in grade between the southernmost trees of the allée, which are in the lower plaza, and the remaining trees, which are elevated in the adjacent gardens. She also noted that during her time on the Commission many projects have incorporated stormwater gardens; however, the gardens often end up being nothing more than mulch pits. She therefore encouraged the client to recognize that these types of gardens are financial investments that require maintenance, not just pieces of infrastructure to meet regulatory requirements. Cautioning that it is often difficult to transform a stormwater garden into a sensory garden, she recommended planting a stratum of perennials, grasses, and shrubs to make the garden feel like a place rather than just a site to absorb stormwater. She noted that these are details for further development, and she emphasized her overall support for the design. She commended the architects for designing an addition that does not overwhelm the historic carriage house; she said they have found a building typology of open-air pavilions that will allow the small, historic structure to feel comfortable and important.
Mr. Shubow said that he does not support Option 1 for the carriage house’s south facade, commenting that it appears to be a discordant mishmash of styles. Instead, he expressed a preference for Options 2 and 3, with his first choice being Option 2, which he characterized as elegant and pretty. Mr. Stroik said that the pediment and historic beam with the rosettes should be retained since they are part of the history of the building. He expressed support for Option 2, commenting that it would retain the pediment and have a uniform color for both the pediment and infill; he expressed a preference for having the upper level infill kept open as a balcony, which would be an attractive amenity that would animate the building and park. He said that Option 3 is also acceptable, since it may be more historically accurate. He acknowledged the intention in Option 1 for the infill color to match the color of the steel of the new addition; however, he said this would visually separate the center section from the rest of the historic building, and he would prefer them to appear unified. He asked how the existing paint on the historic brick would be treated; Mr. Celentano responded that it would be overpainted with a new, lighter color derived from the historic photograph from the 1950s. Mr. Stroik asked if there is any information on earlier paint colors; Mr. Celentano said that the building has many layers of paint, and a full paint analysis has not been performed. Mr. Stroik reiterated his preference for all elements of the central bay to be one color. He asked if it is possible to have both levels of the center section kept open, such as by using a colonnade rather than a storefront on the ground level; Mr. Celentano said that the ground level is needed for interior space. Mr. McCrery commented that the alignment of the vertical infill members as shown in Option 2 makes the composition stronger; Mr. Celentano agreed that this arrangement makes the building appear calmer.
Mr. Krieger said that although he prefers Option 1 for the south facade, he could support Option 2; however, he cautioned that the success of Option 2 depends on achieving an appropriate relationship between the historic and new brick, reiterating that it would be difficult to match the size of the bricks and mortar joints. For this reason, he prefers the metal infill as shown in Option 1, which would be a simpler solution. He said that he would expect to see documentation indicating the resolution of this detail if it is pursued. Mr. Celentano confirmed for Mr. McCrery that the three volumes that comprise the existing carriage house were historically separate carriage houses. Mr. McCrery therefore suggested trying to use the existing brick of the historic party walls to form the return walls, rather than installing new brick; Mr. Celentano said there may be some small stem walls that are intact, but this would need to be verified. Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the way Option 1 would create a visual transparency or overlap between the carriage house and the long, shed-like addition, which results from the two similarly colored metals used on each of the buildings; Mr. Krieger agreed that this is one of the reasons he prefers Option 1.
Chairman Powell suggested that the design team explore the presented options further. Secretary Luebke said that the parameters of the design have been well-established, and particular issues regarding the treatment of the corners and the color palette could be further explored in the design development phase. Mr. McCrery recommended that the design team focus on Options 1 and 2 for the facade treatment; Chairman Powell agreed. Secretary Luebke added that a hybrid option could also be developed.
Chairman Powell suggested a motion to approve the concept design with the comments provided; upon a second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission adopted this action. Mr. Krieger asked that the next presentation include more information on the net-zero energy component of the project. Mr. Stroik thanked the project team for providing several different options in the concept presentation.
E. D.C. Department of General Services
1. CFA 16/JUL/20-4, Congress Heights Recreation Center, 611 Alabama Avenue, SE. New recreation center building. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the proposed replacement of the Congress Heights Recreation Center. He noted the project’s location on the interior of a block, with access from an alley and pedestrian paths but without any street frontage. The proposed 24,000-square-foot building would be placed at the northwest corner of the parcel, near the connections to Alabama Avenue on the north, and the remainder of the site would be a continuous open space with several play areas; a restored streambed is located along the southern edge of the site. The new building would be organized around an east–west circulation spine. He asked architects Ronnie McGhee of R. McGhee & Associates and Eliel Alfon of Hughes Group Architects to present the design.
Mr. McGhee described the goals for the project: to create a public face despite the lack of street frontage; to improve vehicular and pedestrian access; and to revitalize the recreation facilities. He noted that the adjacent elementary school on the west makes daily use of the site’s outdoor recreation space. He said that the existing recreation center, housed in a pair of trailers, has served the neighborhood for the past forty years, and the public has provided many comments on designing the new recreation center. The proposed siting of the building will emphasize the access route from Alabama Avenue, via the school’s rear parking lot; this route also brings visitors past the adjacent private buildings, and the proposal provides a configuration such that pedestrians do not need to cross the vehicular driveways. The secondary pedestrian access routes are from dead-end Savannah Street on the south and from two paths on the east.
Mr. McGhee said that the streambed restoration project on the south resulted in removal of many trees, and the current proposal includes landscape improvements that will relate the streambed area to the recreation facilities; the open space is envisioned as the central focus of the landscape design. The heritage trees remaining on the site would be preserved, and the streambed area could serve as an outdoor classroom. A large playing field would occupy the eastern side of the site, and smaller play spaces for different age groups would be located closer to the recreation center building and along the streambed park. He said that the proposed splash pad, to be located at the center of the composition, would likely become a popular feature. The site’s primary circulation routes would link the various outdoor spaces, emphasizing the opportunities for recreation; similarly, the circulation spine within the building would highlight all of the building’s public amenities. A community garden area would be located on the north, and a demonstration kitchen would be provided within the building.
Mr. McGhee said that the building’s main entrance would be located on the west, providing easy access for those approaching from Alabama Avenue or Savannah Street. The exterior would have a light color, and a green roof is part of the design; stormwater management and other sustainability features would be incorporated into the design of the building and site. He asked Mr. Alfon to describe the building concept in greater detail.
Mr. Alfon said that the interior would be organized along an east–west circulation spine, designated as the community atrium. Several activity rooms and a fitness center would be on the south, with windows overlooking the property’s open space; taller spaces and those that do not require ground-level windows, including a gymnasium, a two-lane bowling alley, and mechanical rooms, would be on the north alongside the service area of an adjacent church. The atrium, designed with clerestory windows, is intended as a beacon that would be visible from the approach routes and from the outdoor spaces. The roof of the atrium would be tilted, rising to provide emphasis at the main entrance. An entrance canopy would provide further emphasis and would relate the building to the outdoor space, and the east end of the atrium would have a view to the large playing field. The exterior materials would include metal panels and brick. Mr. McGhee added that the large, blank wall on the east side of the gymnasium would provide an opportunity for a community mural facing the playing field, contributing to the community’s sense of reclaiming this site as part of the neighborhood.
Mr. McCrery asked about the size of the playing field; Mr. McGhee responded that a full-size field is not feasible on this site, and the proposal is approximately half the size of a football field, which will be sufficient for youth soccer and football games or as a practice field. Mr. Stroik observed that the existing baseball field is not part of the proposed design. Mr. McGhee said that a baseball complex and tennis complex have been built nearby, and the community representatives do not want to replicate these uses on this property; the community preference has been to accommodate football and soccer.
Ms. Meyer expressed support for the carefully designed site plan and for the understanding of the slow regenerative process of the streambed landscape; she agreed that it is currently in poor condition but has the potential to become a wonderful outdoor classroom. She suggested including more trees in the design to provide adequate shade for the playground spaces, which she said would not be enjoyable if they become too hot. She said that the trees could also be used to shape spaces, particularly at the parking lot to the west of the recreation center building; she suggested adding a row of trees between the parking lot and the entrance plaza to define an outdoor lobby and threshold area that would be shielded from the late western sunlight. She emphasized her overall enthusiasm for the project, which she said would be a great resource for the community.
Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission approved the concept proposal with the comments provided, and with the request for the project team’s continuing consultation with the staff as the design is developed.
2. CFA 16/JUL/20-5, Arboretum Recreation Center, 2412 Rand Place, NE. Renovation of existing building, new gymnasium addition, and site improvements. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the concept design submitted by the D.C. Department of General Services (DGS) on behalf of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation for the renovation and expansion of the Arboretum Recreation Center, located adjacent to the National Arboretum. He said the small existing recreation center is a 1,400-square-foot pavilion housing a community room. The pavilion is characterized by its distinctive folded-plate or zig-zag roof profile and was built under the Mission 66 program of the National Park Service (NPS); although it is in poor condition, it has been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. He said the proposal is to restore this pavilion and increase the size of the facility through the addition of a new gymnasium, community room, technology lounge, fitness area, and support spaces. He asked Peter Nohrden of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation to begin the presentation.
Mr. Nohrden said that the project will provide improved amenities through a sustainable and resilient design, an especially important consideration because of the site’s proximity to the National Arboretum. He introduced Rick Harlan Schneider of I Studio Architects to present the design.
Mr. Schneider said that the project for the expanded Arboretum Recreation Center has three main goals: providing more community amenities; respecting the existing Mission 66 pavilion; and ensuring that the changes are as sustainable and resilient as possible. He introduced members of the design team and asked Dan Snook of I Studio Architects to describe the context and existing conditions.
Mr. Snook said that the existing recreation center is the main feature of a small park in a residential neighborhood located immediately west of the National Arboretum, south of New York Avenue and east of Bladensburg Road. To the north are garden apartments and a new mixed-use development, and the area further north across New York Avenue is more industrial.
Mr. Snook described the small site and its challenges. He indicated the location of existing basketball and tennis courts, playgrounds, a concrete patio, and other amenities, which are scattered seemingly at random throughout the site, in front of and behind the existing building. Extending through the middle of the site is a broad easement, following the route of a planned extension of Rand Place that was never built. Utilities have been laid along this easement, and nothing can be built within it; Mr. Schneider noted that even playground equipment is discouraged within such utility zones. Mr. Snook said the desired setback line from the boundary of the U.S. National Arboretum, which further restricts the buildable area.
Mr. Snook said the existing pavilion is regarded as one of the finest examples of modern NPS architecture, exemplifying the transition from the rustic style typical of earlier NPS buildings to a more contemporary style. The pavilion is contemporaneous with the National Arboretum’s Modernist administration building, which was completed five years earlier and has a similar roof profile. He noted that the pavilion met the eligibility criteria of both the National Register and the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites. Ms. Meyer asked who the architect was for the pavilion. Mr. Snook said that this has not been determined; several different architects worked on the building, but the original drawings do not have an architect’s name. Ms. Meyer noted that the NPS had hired some outstanding architects for its Mission 66 projects, and the pavilion may have been designed by one of these outside consultants.
Mr. Snook said that the pavilion had been inexpensively built, using steel columns, cinder block walls, and two-by-four wood framing for the roof. This roof is deteriorating and will be entirely replaced; the distinctive zig-zag profile will be replicated. The facades have a somewhat unusual cladding of stucco and exposed-aggregate concrete panels. The primary space in the pavilion is a community room, along with an office, restrooms, storage, and utility spaces; several changes have been made to the interior since its construction. Existing site amenities include a wood structure and a deteriorated greenhouse that will be relocated and repaired. He noted that the design team has studied the site’s natural conditions and resources, diagramming the solar path through the southern sky and determining the primary wind direction to be from the southwest.
Mr. Schneider described the program and some additional challenges in developing the design. The easement restrictions result in a bow-tie configuration of developable space next to and behind the existing pavilion. Important existing tree plantings include a grove of large, mature white pines on the east side and a stand of mixed mature hardwoods on the west. The expanded recreation center would have 7,700 square feet of program space, which includes the 1,400 square feet of the existing pavilion; some program elements, most notably the new half-size gymnasium, require a large spatial volume.
Mr. Schneider said that the new construction will include two volumes for the gymnasium and community room; these have been conceived as dynamic, interlocking geometric forms that will contrast with the refined form of the historic pavilion. The pavilion will be the first structure seen by visitors arriving on Rand Place; the larger, simpler volumes of the new construction would rise behind it. The forms of the new volumes would be slightly tilted to reveal entrances and areas of glass below wall surfaces sheathed with perforated panels, intended to control glare and solar gain. The community room would occupy a large, glazed “interstitial space,” designed as a bar connecting the older pavilion with the gymnasium volume. Design precedents include the Arboretum’s administration building, with its solar shade wall of perforated yellow metal that plays against the form of its zig-zag roof. Mr. Snook added that the new construction would be clad with high-quality fiber cement rain screen panels; perforations or openings would expose areas of south-facing glass to admit daylight.
Mr. Schneider said that to avoid overwhelming the small pavilion, the proposal is to push the new volumes partially into the ground by approximately two feet for the community room and seven feet for the gymnasium. The gymnasium volume has been pushed back as far as possible to avoid towering over the pavilion; it would have a roof sloping from 20 to 28 feet, with solar panels and equipment integrated into it. Ms. Griffin asked if the gymnasium could be pushed deeper into the grade to further mitigate the scale of this volume; Mr. Schneider responded that this has been discussed with a civil engineer, and it cannot be depressed more than seven feet into the ground.
Mr. Schneider said that the new construction would be located to avoid the root zones of the site’s mature trees. The site would have new recreational spaces; a gateway area between the pavilion and the additions would lead to the amenities toward the rear of the site, which would include ball courts, playgrounds, community gardens, handicap parking, and an area for trash collection. New plazas would include an entrance plaza and two stepped plazas, one outside the community room and the other at the basketball court in back. Intervening spaces would be planted to function as bioretention areas that are intended to be rich, resilient, and composed primarily or entirely of native plants; some areas of the site would incorporate xeriscaping. New trees would include river birches, poplars, oaks, and maples; the existing white pines, which shade the playground, would remain.
Ms. Griffin asked how the angles of the additions had been chosen and why so many different angles are used, particularly in the front facade. Referring to the site plan, Mr. Schneider responded that the design had begun with simple masses, which were manipulated to create forms that would be visually interesting without overwhelming the small pavilion in front. He said that the angles resulted from a slight tilting of the volumes to reveal entrances and large areas of glazing; the intent has been to create organic yet tectonic forms from these simple, random masses. Ms. Griffin asked about the color palette; Mr. Schneider said that the gymnasium would be slate gray as a contrast to the lighter color of the pavilion. The edge of the pavilion’s roof is currently painted dark blue; the proposal is to paint the entire underside of the roof in light blue for a more artistic effect. The bronze-gold of the community room volume is based on the distinctive golden yellow color of the screen wall at the Arboretum’s administration building.
Ms. Meyer said she is not convinced by Mr. Schneider’s explanation of how the angles of the additions had been determined; she said the logic is not persuasive, and the composition seems to be extremely arbitrary and personal. She commented that although the proposal is visually interesting and she supports inventive architecture, the design appears to lack a three-dimensional understanding of the geometries and has not found the right balance between rigor and arbitrariness. She observed that Mr. Schneider relied on the plan to explain his design logic, which indicates that these forms are not being thought of sculpturally, as they need to be; she stressed the need to find a way of describing these additions that will clarify the design process, if not the logic. She also recommended carefully considering the points where the different volumes touch or come close to touching, which appear to be areas that are jarring without being experientially rich.
For the landscape design, Ms. Meyer emphasized that a plant palette is a way to realize design intentions; just as a concept design for a building would include more than a simple palette of materials, a landscape design also should include a discussion of how the structure and form of plants will be used to shape the space. She said that what has been presented is not really a conceptual landscape plan.
Mr. McCrery asked if views of the proposal from the neighborhood and the National Arboretum have been developed. Mr. Schneider responded that the existing belt of trees will block views from the Arboretum; the proposed construction would not be very visible except from the entrance or the parking lot of the garden apartments to the north, and possibly from glimpses between the neighborhood’s single-family houses; he acknowledged that views from these directions are not well documented in the presentation. Mr. McCrery suggested including such views in the next submission; he expressed support for the intention to reinforce the existing tree canopy with additional tree planting to create a visual barrier, particularly along the property line with the Arboretum. Mr. Nohrden suggested that successional growth might be an additional consideration, so that younger trees will fill in as existing trees die.
Ms. Meyer expressed support for Mr. McCrery’s comments. Referring to the National Arboretum master plan update that was reviewed earlier in the day, she noted that immediately on the other side of the recreation center’s property line is the area where the Arboretum’s research facilities and greenhouses are located, which the master plan envisions becoming part of the visitor experience. She therefore suggested moving some of the recreational spaces on the east side of the pavilion away from the property line with the Arboretum, allowing room to plant a much thicker area of vegetation along this edge.
Ms. Griffin returned to the issue of the design logic for the architecture, expressing appreciation for Ms. Meyer’s support for this concern. She said that in the presentation, the logic behind the folds and angles displayed in the gymnasium addition was described as originating with references to the historic pavilion, a logic that she supports. She agreed with the decision to celebrate the historic building’s strong identity; but she questioned using the color blue to accentuate the folding of the pavilion roof, and she questioned how the new additions respond to the pavilion, apparently being treated as a backdrop. She recommended greater care in the number and the use of angles. She said that the image on p. 22 gives a better understanding of the reason for the roof fold of the glazed interstitial area and clarifies that the new construction would be engaged in a collaborative dialogue with the old; however, she said that the other elevations appear to be confusing. She advised reconsidering the strategy of folding; noting the various angles of the gymnasium volume, she said refinement of the design is needed to clarify the logic of this language and to improve the relationship of the new construction as a complement to the historic pavilion.
Mr. Krieger said he shares the reservations of the other Commission members; he encouraged Mr. Schneider to be more self-critical and to focus more on having the gymnasium appear subordinate to the historic pavilion. He commented that it is not necessary to create a logic for a formal or artistic point of departure, but he recommended looking more critically at the renderings; he observed that in some views, the new gymnasium does not appear to be upstaging the historic pavilion, while in others the balance seems slightly out of control. He noted that the value engineering process may result in a somewhat quieter design. He said that there will always be differences of opinion over a design direction such as this, and he is not opposed to the aesthetic direction; but he advised Mr. Schneider to work with the project team and think more carefully about the design of these new structures instead of just making them more visually prominent.
Mr. Schneider responded that the design had evolved from somewhat arbitrary, non-orthogonal changes to simple forms, such as tilting the gymnasium form to reveal the glass and the entrance; he said he wanted each move to have a functional as well as an artistic purpose, without making the design look simply eccentric. Mr. Krieger commented that the description of the gymnasium design makes formal sense as a response to use and solar orientation, and he emphasized his appreciation for the design’s adventurous quality. However, he raised concern about the excessive outward tilting of the interstitial structure linking the pavilion and the gymnasium, and he asked whether this form needs to tilt in all directions, or whether it should tilt at all. He said that since both the pavilion and the gymnasium are quirky designs, perhaps this linking structure should mediate between the two instead of competing with them. Mr. Schneider said that the interstitial area has been designed as a glazed slot that is meant to disappear in the space between the other volumes; Mr. Krieger responded that it appears to be neither one thing nor the other. Ms. Griffin commented that the new construction should be explored in three dimensions to ensure the success of all elevations.
Mr. McCrery observed that without a norm against which the tilted angles can work, the result is visual mayhem. Because the gymnasium is an orthogonal volume that is rectilinear in all dimensions and directions, he suggested focusing on the glazed interstitial structure as the unconventional, irregular piece. He commented that he does not agree with the design approach, but his comments are intended to improve the direction that has been chosen; he recommended considering each volume with a more regularized design to determine what combination works best.
Mr. Krieger summarized the consensus of the Commission that the proposed concept design is an interesting point of departure but requires further refinement within its own logic; Ms. Griffin noted that the Commission members have offered several directions to pursue. Mr. McCrery observed that significant improvement is needed in both the site plan and the architecture, and he suggested that no action should be taken; instead, the design team should work with the staff and return for another concept-level review. Chairman Powell agreed with this response; he said that the comments will be transmitted, and the Commission looks forward to the next review. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
3. CFA 16/JUL/20-6, 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. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/APR/20-3) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
F. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
CFA 16/JUL/20-7, St. Elizabeths East Campus (2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE), Parcel 6, at Cypress Street and the temporary 13th Street, SE. New seven-level parking garage structure. Concept. The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
G. D.C. Department of Transportation
CFA 16/JUL/20-8, Pennsylvania Avenue, Potomac Avenue, and 14th Street, SE. Intersection improvement project—Reconfiguration of traffic intersection and new park in the circle. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the proposal to reconfigure the intersection of Pennsylvania and Potomac Avenues, SE, at the southeastern edge of Capitol Hill. He noted the multiple government agencies involved in the proposal, as often happens with Washington projects: the submission is from the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT), in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration and the National Park Service (NPS). On the north side of the intersection is the entrance to the Potomac Avenue Metrorail station, and this intersection is an important transfer point between the rail and bus systems. The project is intended to improve pedestrian safety, transit connections, and overall circulation. The intersection is currently configured with Pennsylvania Avenue uninterrupted, and other streets channeled by an irregular group of traffic islands within the roughly rectangular space. The result is a confusing pattern of pedestrian crossings, some problems with pedestrian safety, unsignalized intersections of the secondary streets, and discontinuous public space. The proposal is to organize the intersection around an elliptical rotary; this would reduce the number of turns and traffic conflict points, allowing for narrower vehicular lanes and a more continuous public space. The central space could become a site for a future commemorative work, but the landscape design has not yet been well developed; the focus of the design effort has been on the intersection’s general configuration and alignments, to be followed by a more detailed submission.
Mr. Luebke asked project manager Morvarid Ganjalizadeh of DDOT to begin the presentation. Mr. Ganjalizadeh introduced engineer Redeat Lodamo of Brudis & Associates to present the design.
Mr. Lodamo said that the project has currently been developed to the thirty-percent level. He described the context and existing conditions. Pennsylvania Avenue is classified as a principal arterial, with three travel lanes in each direction plus curb lanes for bus stops and parking. Potomac Avenue is a two-way connector roadway, and 14th Street is a narrower local street that is aligned north-south through the intersection. The land use in the vicinity is generally residential, with some commercial and mixed-use development along Pennsylvania Avenue. He indicated the five bus stops located at the intersection, and he emphasized the large number of pedestrians; the Metro station entrance is typically one of the endpoints of the pedestrian routes. He said that sidewalks and crosswalks are prevalent, but they only indirectly accommodate the desired routes of pedestrians due to the intersection’s existing geometry; the result is informal, unmarked pedestrian patterns that are dangerous. As evidence of the problem, he indicated the dirt path that has been worn across the landscaped median of Pennsylvania Avenue. One purpose of the project is therefore to provide more direct connections for pedestrians and to improve the location of bus stops in relation to the Metro station. Another purpose of the project is to improve the geometry of the intersection; the current skewed layout results in many traffic lights within a short distance, and the intersection is difficult to navigate for drivers as well as pedestrians. Drivers must make quick decisions about which light to obey and which lane to use, sometimes resulting in stopped vehicles that block crosswalks. The proposed design will reduce the number of conflict points, which should reduce the area’s high rate of accidents.
Mr. Lodamo said that the Environmental Assessment (EA) from 2017 resulted in a preferred alternative of an elliptical traffic circle and a new system of crosswalks. An advantage of this solution is that the central space would resemble other open space reservations within Washington’s intersections. The elliptical shape avoids the need for sharp turns by vehicles, which allows for narrower traffic lanes and therefore more landscaped space. He said that the EA studied other alternative configurations such as a triangular or rectangular park, and the elliptical shape resulted in the largest public space.
Mr. Lodamo said that subsequent to the EA, recent work has included careful study of topography, utilities, and trees, resulting in refinements to the design; the lane dimensions have also been studied to ensure that large vehicles such as buses and trucks will be able to navigate the curves and turns. The crosswalk pattern illustrated in the EA, which had some staggered alignments, has been refined to provide more direct access for pedestrians. He presented the resulting plan, indicating the six crosswalks leading to the central ellipse; pedestrian safety at the crosswalks would be enhanced by traffic signals, signage, and pavement markings.
Mr. Lodamo said that the design is being developed to address stormwater management, making use of landscape areas and permeable pavers. A preliminary design for the landscape treatment has been developed, and the project will include new lighting. He said that the proposal is being reviewed by DDOT, NPS, the D.C. Department of the Environment, and Metro staff; the design team is addressing the concerns raised during these reviews. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2022, extending for 1.5 to 2 years.
Mr. McCrery observed that the north–south crosswalks into the ellipse are aligned with the sidewalks of 14th Street; he asked what the rationale is for the alignment of the east–west crosswalks, which are not aligned with the street and sidewalk pattern. Mr. Lodamo responded that the crosswalk locations are based on observations of the typical origins and destinations of pedestrians; he noted the location of bus stops in relation to the crosswalks. Mr. McCrery suggested reducing the number of crosswalks, which he said could be unsightly and also dangerous; he described how a simpler crosswalk system could accommodate pedestrian movements with only minor variations from the proposed plan. He added that the diagonal placement of the east–west circulation route seems odd, which suggests the need for an opposing diagonal route to achieve balance, although such an additional route would not be desirable. Mr. Ganjalizadeh noted that the preferred pedestrian routes were identified in the EA process, and the current design responds to this need. Mr. McCrery asked if the east–west route currently exists; Mr. Ganjalizadeh said that it is not a marked pedestrian route, but there are social trails in the landscape such as within the Pennsylvania Avenue median that indicate desire lines across the site. He indicated a specific example of an existing crosswalk that is typically ignored by pedestrians in favor of a more direct route.
Ms. Meyer observed that the existing pedestrian problem is limited to a small area on the western edge of the intersection, while the proposed solution is a linear pedestrian route that extends across the entire intersection; the result is crosswalks that would be dangerously located in the middle of the curving segments of roadway. She agreed with Mr. McCrery that the proposal has too many crosswalks and could be simplified in order to greatly improve the design.
Mr. McCrery noted that Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, is a major artery for commuters, trucks, and buses approaching central Washington from Maryland and the southeast part of the city, with somewhat high speeds; he observed that the proposed ellipse would have the effect of reducing the traffic speed, an important benefit, but he reiterated that the multiplicity of crosswalks would be dangerous and unsightly. He observed the prevalence in Washington of pedestrians stepping out into crosswalks without regard for traffic signals; he said that a safer solution would be to have fewer crosswalks and to align them perpendicular to the traffic lanes. Mr. Krieger observed that the current informal pedestrian routes are roughly consistent with the solution being suggested by Mr. McCrery. Mr. Lodamo responded that the design logic is to provide linear routes for the shortest pedestrian distances, and also to encourage pedestrian access to the new elliptical public space; he said that the proposed crosswalk alignments are convenient and would be protected by traffic signals.
Mr. Ganjalizadeh noted that the EA considered an option without diagonal crosswalks, but the conclusion was that these roughly east–west connections should be included. He emphasized that the current design effort is intended to implement the configuration that emerged from the EA process, rather than to continue studying multiple alternatives; he said that DDOT may not have the flexibility to revisit these decisions. Mr. McCrery expressed concern that the Commission’s comments are being treated as unimportant in the design review process; Ms. Meyer clarified that the earlier stages of the process may have reflected the staff’s involvement. Mr. McCrery asked if the EA alternatives could be considered by the Commission; Mr. Ganjalizadeh said that the rejected options are not being offered for further consideration.
Noting that the conceptual decisions have apparently already been made, Ms. Meyer asked about the purpose of the Commission’s current review. Mr. Ganjalizadeh said that the Commission is welcome to provide input, but the EA has already studied different alternatives. Ms. Meyer acknowledged the sequence of decisions but observed that the Commission is now being discouraged from commenting on the crosswalks; she reiterated her question about what type of advice DDOT wants from the Commission. Mr. Ganjalizadeh invited the Commission’s input on landscaping and on any other features that could be changed; Ms. Meyer said that the extent of allowable change in the project has not been made clear.
Mr. McCrery asked if the Commission had reviewed the project during the EA process in 2017; Ms. Meyer said that only the staff would have been involved at that stage. Mr. Luebke added that the EA process typically involves a wide range of stakeholders, such as the D.C. Historic Preservation Office; he confirmed that this project was not previously presented to the Commission, although it was subjected to an extensive regulatory process. He suggested that the Commission could accept the decisions that have been made about the general layout, focusing its comments on the landscape design; or the Commission could continue to challenge the crosswalk configuration but might not be successful in achieving change for this part of the design. Mr. Stroik suggested that the Commission convey its opinion, notwithstanding the other viewpoints that have previously shaped the process. He suggested a consensus of the Commission to voice concern about the proposed crosswalks, while offering general support for the creation of the elliptical public space. He acknowledged the complexity of the intersection and the desirability of a simple path system that respects the geometry of the ellipse; he suggested consideration of reducing the number of major path alignments across the ellipse from three to two.
Mr. McCrery agreed that the central space could be a lovely oval. One of its purposes would be to push traffic toward the periphery of the roughly rectangular area of the intersection, while slowing traffic speeds. Another purpose would be to create a beautiful space, but the presented design simply extends pathways straight across it, without regard to the shape of the space. He said that a more appropriate conceptual approach would be to design the oval space as a coherent landscape extending to its curb line, while limiting the crosswalk geometries to the areas within the traffic cartway. He said the result should be a special place along Pennsylvania Avenue, comparable to the city’s squares and circles, instead of the presented checkerboard pattern with path alignments extended through the space as if they were racetracks.
Mr. McCrery added that in recent years, DDOT has been making the city’s infrastructure uglier by painting brightly colored lanes for bicycles and buses; the multicolor safety patterning is particularly obtrusive. He suggested that the Commission recommend against introducing such features to this intersection, instead supporting a quieter design of white markings painted onto black pavement. Mr. Ganjalizadeh expressed appreciation for this guidance on the future development of the design, which he said would be considered to the extent possible.
Ms. Meyer offered additional comments on the treatment of the elliptical space. She suggested that the diagonal pedestrian routes connect to the ellipse at the crosswalks but not be extended to slice across the central oval space; the space should instead be designed with a central plaza area, and people walking across the plaza would readily see the route that brings them to the opposite sidewalk. She said that removing the transverse paths from the interior of the ellipse would be a great improvement. She also suggested adding many trees so that the ellipse will be a pleasant space for people to occupy. She estimated that Dupont Circle, with a diameter of approximately 400 feet, has 40 trees within it; the proposed ellipse is approximately 250 feet long but is shown with only 10 trees, which seems insufficient. She suggested a more generous budget for plantings, with a ring or perhaps multiple concentric rings of trees to define the elliptical shape; the effect would be an area of bright sunlight at the center of the ellipse, with extensive shade along the periphery.
Mr. Ganjalizadeh clarified that the central space would be under NPS control, although the D.C. government is negotiating a transfer of jurisdiction. He said that NPS has approval over the types of trees or grass that are used in the space, but he offered to convey the Commission’s suggestions for NPS consideration. He added that the D.C. Office of Planning had expressed concern that large trees in some locations could restrict the sightlines of drivers. He said that the current design work for the landscape is attempting to respond to all of these issues.
Mr. Krieger commented that the graphics of the presented plan may be contributing to the problematic impression of the design. He described the plan as a diagram of destinations and desire lines rather than a landscape design. He agreed with the concern about running the pedestrian paths in insistent straight lines through the ellipse, and he said that this will likely be addressed as the design is developed by a landscape architect. However, he questioned whether the Commission has the expertise to evaluate the layout of the crosswalks within the cartway, and he discouraged the Commission’s focus on this issue. He said that other successful open spaces in Washington may have similarly configured crosswalks; the important issue is the design of the open space, with less emphasis on providing a continuous linear pedestrian route. He suggested that the Commission await the submission of a more developed landscape design rather than provide extensive criticism of the submitted circulation diagram. Mr. Luebke and Mr. Ganjalizadeh confirmed that the design for the elliptical space will be submitted for further review, in conjunction with coordination of the NPS ownership and jurisdiction.
Ms. Meyer observed that the Commission is being told not to comment on the design features outside of the elliptical public space because those issues have already been decided, and the Commission is also being told that comments on the design of the ellipse are not timely for this submission because the NPS will control the central space. She reiterated her question about the Commission’s role in the current review. Mr. Luebke agreed that the process seems to be problematic; ideally, the project would have been submitted for Commission review during the EA process in 2017. He noted that the submitting agencies determine when to submit their projects, and he questioned why DDOT has waited until this stage to make a submission, after so many key decisions have been made. He said that the Commission’s comments could nonetheless be provided to DDOT for consideration.
Mr. McCrery noted that he has co-authored a substantial study for DDOT on the South Capitol Gateway area, addressing the design of numerous intersections along South Capitol Street, and he is familiar with the technical issues. He reiterated his concern that the diagonal crosswalks would be dangerous due to their unexpected location and their close proximity to other crosswalks. He disagreed with a comment by Mr. Lodamo that the shortest path is the most desirable for pedestrians; instead, the safest paths are best, and these are rarely the shortest alignments. He said that the current prevalence of pedestrians using unmarked routes does not justify the proposal’s reliance on straight-line paths; he added that the redesigned intersection will create a new context, and people’s behavior would not be the same. He therefore discouraged the apparent design approach of simply ratifying current behavior patterns in the layout of the new infrastructure. He urged that this advice be conveyed to DDOT and to any other agencies that have been involved in the decision-making process.
Mr. Lodamo responded that the intent was not to present a design that the Commission could not influence; he welcomed comments while noting that other agencies and the public are also providing comments. He reiterated that the current proposal has been developed as a refinement of the preferred alternative that was identified in the EA process; the refinement is ongoing, and the Commission’s comments will be incorporated into the process. He said that recent NPS consultations have addressed the treatment of the center of the ellipse, which could possibly be a memorial or a fountain. He noted that the most recent electronic submission includes more detailed engineering and landscape drawings, and he invited review and comment on these.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus that the Commission provide its comments on the current submission and await a more developed landscape proposal. Ms. Meyer agreed, observing that not taking an action to approve the project would be appropriate at this point. Chairman Powell noted that the project team is requesting comments rather than approval; Ms. Meyer said that the project is submitted as a concept, which would normally be a request for approval, but the Commission’s action should wait until the landscape design is submitted.
Mr. McCrery offered an additional comment to discourage overhead signage and traffic signals at this intersection, whether supported by poles or suspended from wires; he said that these may already be prohibited and should certainly not be part of this project. Mr. Lodamo responded that no overhead signs or signals are planned; the signals would be on pedestals, and the signs would be on the sides of the streets. He noted that these details, at the current thirty-percent stage of the design, are included in the more detailed drawings that have been submitted to the Commission. He emphasized that the presentation has been limited to a few images, but the entirety of the submission is more substantial.
Mr. Stroik suggested looking at other successful public spaces for inspiration in developing this design. He noted the unusual challenge of designing an oval space; precedents with this shape are not seen in Washington but exist in other cities, and Washington’s many well-designed circles, particularly Dupont Circle, should also be studied as models for this design. Chairman Powell agreed; he summarized the Commission’s interest in reviewing a forthcoming submission of the landscape design, which Mr. Luebke said would come from the National Park Service. Ms. Meyer reiterated the Commission’s preference for reviewing projects at a stage when comments can still have an effect on the design. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
(During the following agenda item, Ms. Meyer and Ms. Griffin departed before the conclusion of the review.)
H. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
SL 20-169, 280 12th Street, SW. New 11-story hotel building. Concept. (Previous: SL 20-153, June 2020) Secretary Luebke introduced the third submission of a concept design for a hotel building to be located on a vacant lot at 280 12th Street, SW. He said that in June 2020, the Commission had reviewed a second concept submission and did not take an action, instead recommending that the height be further reduced and the facades be articulated to diminish the perceived height—such as by providing a datum or cornice line that is lower than the full building height, and possibly by stepping back or sloping the massing above this line. Other comments from the June 2020 review included regularizing the spacing of the bays and pilasters on the facades; potentially articulating the building’s northwest corner to acknowledge its visual connection to the National Mall; reducing the heavy, oppressive appearance of the cornice; selecting a more appropriate exterior material than the manufactured stone veneer panels that were proposed; and, for the park space at the north end of the site, grouping the trees distinctly from the hedges as a bosque surrounding a small central glade. He said that the current submission has not been reduced in height but has more articulation at the top, an eleventh-floor step-back on the north side, a reduced cornice that has been lowered to the 11th floor, a belt course at the sixth floor, and additional use of glazed curtainwall on the north facade. For the landscape design, the trees on the north have been grouped into a bosque as recommended, but the trees along the hedges have not been removed. He added that the project team did not contact the staff until the day before the submission deadline, precluding the staff consultation that had been requested by the Commission; the project has been submitted despite the staff’s advice to postpone so that meaningful consultation could occur.
Mr. Luebke asked Aria Mehrabi of Pacific Star Capital, the owner of the development parcel, to begin the presentation. Mr. Mehrabi introduced architect Bahram Kamali of BBGM and landscape architect David Lesiuk of LD7 studio to present the design.
Mr. Kamali said that the design team has responded to most of the comments that were previously provided by the Commission. He summarized the site’s location south of the National Mall and the unusual constraint of a Metro train tunnel below and access easement on the surface of the site; the result is a very limited area available for structural loading, primarily at the east and west edges of the site. The design solution is to place shear walls at these perimeter locations, and to create a three-story truss system to support the building. Only limited facade openings can be provided within the shear walls. The north side of the site would include a small landscaped park and a driveway for Metro maintenance access; the hotel entrance would be on the south facade, which would be aligned with the extension of C Street, SW, consistent with the south facade of the U.S. Department of Agriculture South Building to the west across 12th Street.
Mr. Kamali presented photographs of other buildings in the vicinity, emphasizing that the hotel is being designed as a background building within this context; this intent is expressed through similar height, design vocabulary, and color. He presented drawings of the current proposal for the hotel, indicating the revisions that have been made in response to the Commission’s guidance. The south facade is now shown with a regular pattern of pilasters; the west facade is stepped back at the top to reduce the perception of the building’s height; the cornice at the top has been simplified to have a less heavy appearance; the north facade has been developed with three-story-tall glazing at the third, fourth, and fifth floors above the Metro access opening; and a similar treatment is incorporated into the south facade, in addition to double-height glazing at the building’s base adjacent to the hotel entrance. He noted that the triple-height glazing corresponds to the location of the large trusses of the building’s structural system. He presented options for the window configuration on the north and south facades, establishing different relationships between the top and bottom of the building and also relating to the views and the massing step-back. He said that the proposed exterior material is a natural stone that is the same color as the nearby limestone buildings; he acknowledged that the appearance may not be clear in the computer images, but a physical sample of the material has been provided to the staff. He concluded by presenting the interior plans, which have not changed from the previous submission; he indicated the reduced area of the first and second floors to allow for access by Metro maintenance vehicles.
Mr. Lesiuk said that six to eight trees have been added to the design of the park in the northern part of the site, in order to achieve the bosque grouping that was previously recommended by the Commission. A fountain would be located toward the center of the park, and a gap in the trees along the west side would allow open views of the fountain from 12th Street. The extent of hardscape has been reduced, and more groundcover and grass panels have been included in the design; this will improve the project’s stormwater management and help to meet the regulatory ratio for green space. For the top of the building, he noted that the area of green roof has been reduced due to the creation of a step-back at the top floor; the change has been offset by the additional planting area at the ground level.
Shane Dettman, a land use planner with the law firm of Holland & Knight, presented an overview of the planning and context for this area of the city. He noted his past interaction with the Commission through his previous position at the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC). He said that the past reviews have focused on the hotel’s relationship to the Agriculture South Building, located to the west across 12th Street. Other buildings to the south are 130-foot-tall office buildings, either government buildings or privately owned, sometimes with government agencies as tenants. He compared this to the height of the hotel project, initially proposed as 130 feet and now submitted as 110 feet. He also noted that the initial design proposal had a very modern aesthetic, while the current proposal blends in more with the design character of the context, helping to fulfill the Commission’s guidance to treat this hotel as a background building. He presented a height comparison of nearby buildings, including the Agriculture South Building and many others, and he emphasized that the proposed hotel is within the typical range of heights for this area of the city. He also presented site sections that extend to nearby buildings: a private office building at 130 feet; the U.S. Postal Service headquarters at 124 feet; and the Agriculture South Building, which is somewhat lower at their main cornice line.
Mr. Dettman presented several photographs of the site from distant viewpoints, with the proposed hotel drawn into the views. From the base of the Washington Monument, the hotel would be slightly visible above the trees, but he characterized it as not being out of scale with the context. From L’Enfant Plaza at 10th Street, SW, the hotel would be seen in the context of taller development at The Portals and potential future development associated with the recently privatized Cotton Annex building, immediately south of the proposed hotel. When viewed from the north, the hotel would be seen in the context of the area’s transportation infrastructure that includes sunken highway ramps.
Mr. Dettman said that the context for the hotel site could change significantly under the guidance of planning for this area that has been developed by the NCPC in cooperation with the Commission of Fine Arts, along with the D.C. Government; he noted that these are long-range plans that are coming to fruition slowly. They include the Monumental Core Framework Plan of 2009, which provided an in-depth study of knitting together this area of the city by overcoming problems of past planning and infrastructure design. He said that the Framework Plan envisions covering the sunken highway ramps and reestablishing 11th, 12th, and C Streets at grade in the immediate vicinity of the hotel site. More generally, the long-range planning calls for removing barriers, reestablishing the historic street grid, and increasing the density of development in this area. A more recent study was NCPC’s Southwest Ecodistrict Plan, which included the consideration of the appropriate height for development of specific land parcels in conjunction with achieving the broader area-wide goals of sustainability, connectivity, and improved urban design. The planning approach was to encourage a critical mass of development to reinvigorate this area of the city, with some federally owned sites being transferred to the private sector for development. The D.C. Government has prepared a plan for Maryland Avenue, with consideration of the development potential along this corridor and its role in reconnecting the city. He said that these planning efforts were influential in the recent rewriting of D.C. zoning regulations; in conjunction with this effort, NCPC prepared detailed modeling of different development heights along the south side of Independence Avenue, immediately north of the proposed hotel site. He said that NCPC favored less height in order to preserve the relatively open character along the south edge of the Mall, but recognized that other goals for the area would best be met through denser development; NCPC’s conclusion was to support an allowable height of 130 feet but with a step-back at 110 feet along Independence Avenue. He noted that with this modeling, NCPC recognized that the backdrop context to the south of the Mall would change, and multiple goals would need to be balanced.
Mr. Dettman summarized that the proposed hotel—as currently revised based on the Commission’s helpful comments—is responsive to the existing context and would serve as part of the backdrop to the Mall, an important consideration. He urged the Commission to also consider the hotel’s compatibility with long-range planning for the area, including the possibility that the hotel would eventually not be significantly visible from the Mall if the open area immediately to its north becomes a developable site.
Chairman Powell invited comments from the Commission members. Mr. McCrery asked that Secretary Luebke first read a public comment letter from the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, as part of the record. Mr. Luebke said that the letter acknowledges the minor adjustments that have been made to the design but do not go far enough; it emphasizes the importance of the site due to its proximity to the National Mall and the major museum buildings along Independence Avenue, which requires a design of the highest quality in response to this historic setting. The letter characterizes the open space between the Mall and the hotel site as a permanent condition, resulting in an unobstructed view of the hotel from the Mall, and further emphasizing the need for an especially good design and a scale appropriate to the context. The current proposal does not meet these standards, and the hotel would be visually obtrusive, towering over the Freer Gallery of Art; the height should instead be consistent with the nearby Forrestal Building, which does not have the effect of towering over the museum buildings. Notwithstanding the revised proposal for the exterior material, the building would have the character of a bland highway hotel rather than an urban hotel in the heart of the nation’s capital; the hotel would benefit from design excellence that is commensurate with its prime location. The letter concludes with the concern that this hotel could set a bad precedent for the height and aesthetic quality of new development in the Southwest Ecodistrict and throughout the city, as the D.C. Government seeks to maximize development citywide; the Committee of 100 hopes that the Commission will recognize the unintended consequences of allowing this hotel to become a precedent for other buildings, and urges the Commission to continue pressing for a better design.
Mr. McCrery said that he is in full agreement with the comments from the Committee of 100, and he expressed appreciation for the letter. He urged the Commission members to consider the prominence of this site when evaluating the design.
Ms. Meyer observed that the current proposal does not fully respond to the Commission’s previous comments. She expressed appreciation for the presentation of the urban design studies for this area, which have included the Commission’s involvement in the past. She agreed with the Committee of 100 that the Commission should consider how the hotel could serve as a precedent for other development. She observed that the hotel site is located toward the northern edge of the Southwest Ecodistrict area, while also being near the southern edge of the National Mall; in such situations of urban design, at a seam between two areas, a hybrid solution often emerges. She said that the review process is appropriately shaping this proposal to be an intermediate height—not matching the 130-foot-tall buildings farther south, but taller than some of the buildings farther north. She said that matching the height of the Agriculture South Building seems to be a reasonable outcome; she added that even if the parcel above the highway ramps becomes developable immediately north of the hotel site, this parcel should not be developed to a height of 130 feet.
Ms. Meyer commended Mr. Lesiuk for the design of the site’s public space, which appears to have great potential; she said that the design has improved, and it will have a more consistent canopy of shade. She said that the small area of grass in the design may be infeasible to maintain and keep healthy, and she suggested further consideration of designing this area with groundcover or hardscape as the concept is developed.
Mr. Krieger said that his comments would be limited because he did not participate in the previous reviews of this project. He said that the presentation on the urban planning for this area was persuasive, including the possibility that the hotel will eventually be less prominent as nearby parcels are assembled and developed. He said that he is not bothered by the potential juxtaposition of differing heights, noting that Boston is proud of the setting of its small, colonial-era State House within a cluster of 400-foot-tall buildings. He suggested more effort to develop facade details relating to the cornice height of nearby buildings, which should be sufficient to avoid the need for a further height reduction. He said his primary concern is that the proposed architecture is undistinguished and is not commensurate with the site’s prominent location. He agreed with Ms. Meyer that the landscape design seems to be improving.
Ms. Griffin commented that the proposed massing appears acceptable in the view looking south from the Mall; she said that at the illustrated scale, the hotel appears to recede into the background successfully. She recalled that this view had been problematic in the Commission’s initial review, before the reduction in the height of the hotel and the improvement to its architectural character. She supported the design approach of treating this as a background building, commenting that a foreground building would need to be exceptionally distinctive on this prominently located site. She agreed with Mr. Krieger that the height is appropriate but the architectural quality could be improved. She suggested further consideration of the view from the 10th Street promenade, commenting that the hotel will be particularly prominent from this vantage point; she said that the massing and appearance of the hotel should be studied carefully, with an awareness of how these affect the hotel’s branding.
In evaluating the presented view toward the hotel from the Mall, Mr. Krieger commented that people tend not to focus on a single distant building when perceiving a broad cityscape. He said that within this view, the proposed hotel does not look particularly egregious; even if slightly taller than some nearby buildings, it seems notable more for its mundane appearance. He said that even if another floor were removed to reduce the height, the hotel would remain visible in this view but would still have a mundane character; he therefore recommended that the Commission’s guidance focus on improving the quality of the design, with the height remaining as currently presented.
Mr. Shubow agreed with the other Commission members in finding the architecture to be undistinguished. He said that a building on this prominent site near the Mall should have a less utilitarian appearance, as recommended in the letter from the Committee of 100.
Mr. McCrery questioned the line of reasoning that a tall height could be acceptable on this site if the architecture is very good. He said that this would generally be good guidance, but the prominence of this site would require exceptionally magnificent architecture to make an oversized building acceptable, and such a strong design does not seem to be emerging for this project. He suggested looking at well-designed public buildings as precedents, and he particularly suggested the Jefferson Hotel at 16th and M Streets, NW, as an example of an appropriate hotel design for a prominent, exposed location. He added that the proposed hotel appears inordinately large in its height and massing, which will not be solved by slightly improving the facades.
Mr. McCrery observed that the presented view southward from the Mall appears to have been carefully aligned to juxtapose the hotel with other tall buildings located two blocks farther south, giving the inaccurate perception that the hotel would be compatible with the existing skyline. He said that other views show more clearly that the hotel would be inappropriately tall in comparison to the buildings immediately to the west, southwest, and south. He described the proposed hotel as being a sore thumb and having a swollen appearance, and he summarized his fundamental dissatisfaction with both the massing and the architecture.
Mr. Mehrabi responded that the background character of the architecture has emerged from the Commission’s guidance in recent months; he noted that the initial submission had a very different character. Ms. Meyer clarified that the Commission’s guidance for a background building does not mean that the architecture should be bad; she said that a background building can be a beautiful building if designed well. Mr. Mehrabi said that the project team does not consider the proposal to be a bad design, nor did the Commission in the previous review; the past guidance has focused on making the building fit in better with the context, resulting in the current design. Mr. Kamali added that the proposal specifically responds to the Commission’s previous comments, such as enlarging the street-level windows at the hotel lobby, articulating the building volume with a step-back, and establishing a lower cornice. He acknowledged that further improvement to the design is always possible, but he said that it has evolved into more of a background building without being a badly designed building. He emphasized that the design and color fit well with the context. He said that a completely different design approach could be taken if the design is fundamentally problematic, but this has not been the Commission’s past guidance.
Mr. Stroik suggested a reminder of the Commission’s previous comments. Secretary Luebke summarized the recommendations from the letter sent after the June 2020 review. A primary concern was the building’s height, or at least the perception of its height; the Commission had recommended consultation with the staff to consider such techniques as a lower cornice, a change in materials for the upper stories, and a step-back or slope for the upper part of the building. He reiterated that the project team did not consult with the staff as directed, and the staff does not characterize the current submission as being fully responsive to the Commission’s previous comments. He added that the submitted sample for the exterior material is a 3/16-inch-thick veneer of stone laminated to insulated foam with an aluminum backing; the entire assembly has a thickness of approximately 3/4 inch or less. He said this product may be viable as an exterior material in Washington’s climate, but it would not look like traditional stone. Mr. Kamali said that limestone would be used as the stone veneer in this material. Mr. Luebke observed that neither the stone nor the finish of the submitted sample is actually intended for this project, and the sample serves only to convey a general idea for the material. He displayed a side view of the sample to show its thinness alongside a ruler for the Commission’s inspection; Mr. McCrery said that it is clearly a fake stone. Mr. Luebke said that this material would need to be detailed as a panel system rather than as dimensional stone, which would affect how particular locations such as corners are treated. Mr. Kamali clarified that the product is limestone; he emphasized that the stone is real, and it can be obtained in a variety of colors. He added that this material would serve as a rainscreen and can be detailed successfully for corners. Mr. Luebke said that even with real stone, the thinness of the veneer is problematic.
Mr. Stroik summarized the general concern of the Commission members that the materials should be thoughtfully selected and very durable. He said his own preference would be for a more substantial limestone base, with limestone-colored brick above, giving a more solid appearance for the building. He acknowledged the modifications that have been made since the previous review, particularly as they affect the perception of the hotel from the Mall; he said that the Commission remains open to further revisions that would address the perception of the hotel being overly tall, while preferring not to recommend specific design modifications.
Observing the sequence of submitted designs and views from the Mall, Mr. Krieger commented that the height issue is exacerbated by the strong cornice line that draws the eye to the top of the building, increasing the perception that the hotel would be much taller than the Freer Gallery of Art. He said that in addition to introducing other datum lines that correspond to other nearby buildings, the primary cornice on the hotel should be lowered by perhaps one story, and the portion of the building above this cornice should be treated as a special penthouse level. He said that this adjustment would help greatly in reducing the apparent height, although he acknowledged that some might nevertheless consider the building to be too tall. He also clarified that in his support for an architecture that is more distinguished and less mundane, he is calling for careful detailing rather than an attention-getting shape for the building; he commented that the proposed exterior material does not seem suitable for the quality of detailing that is desired.
Mr. Kamali noted that the submission includes an option for treating the top story with a greater emphasis on glass, which would achieve the penthouse effect that Mr. Krieger is recommending. Mr. Krieger said that this design is a modest step in the direction that he is recommending, and he urged further development of this design approach; the treatment of the top story could be more distinctive than simply having slightly larger windows than on the stories below.
Mr. McCrery suggested that the Commission convey its comments without taking an action, and with a renewed request for the project team to consult with the staff in developing the design in response to the concerns of the Commission and the Committee of 100. Chairman Powell supported this outcome, and he agreed with Mr. Krieger that the currently presented height is not problematic but would be more acceptable with improved articulation of the building mass. He said that the Commission looks forward to reviewing another iteration of the design at the next meeting. Mr. Stroik requested that the next submission include a comparison of perspective views of each submitted version of the hotel, including the view from the south side of the Mall at 12th Street, so that the Commission can better evaluate the resolution of the design concerns within this important viewshed; Chairman Powell supported this request.
Mr. Luebke said that the staff will try to work with the project team in addressing the issues that have been raised. He said that the step-backs and cornice adjustments could be straightforward to resolve. However, the proposed stone laminate material, even if viable for exterior use, would have an inherently modern character that may be favored by some Commission members but not by others who may prefer a more traditional and substantial character for this building; he questioned whether a solution could be found that would be satisfactory to all of the Commission members. Chairman Powell said that the project team is responsible for resolving this; he agreed with Mr. McCrery that the Jefferson Hotel provides an appropriate example of a beautiful hotel, and he also agreed that the choice of materials will be very important. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:20 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA