Minutes for CFA Meeting — 21 March 2024

The meeting was convened by videoconference at 9:01 a.m.

Members participating: Hon. Billie Tsien, Chair
Hon. Hazel Ruth Edwards, Vice Chair
Hon. Peter Cook
Hon. Lisa Delplace
Hon. James McCrery
Hon. Justin Garrett Moore

Staff present: Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Sarah Batcheler, Assistant Secretary
Jessica Amos
Kay Fanning
Daniel Fox
Carlton Hart
Vivian Lee
Tony Simon


A. Approval of the minutes of the 15 February 2024 meeting.  Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the February meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance.  Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission approved the February minutes.

B. Dates of next meetings.  Secretary Luebke presented the dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published:  18 April, 16 May, and 20 June 2024.

C. Report on the 2024 National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs grant program. Secretary Luebke noted that this annual program, managed by the Commission since the late 1980s, provides federal grants to support medium- to large-size arts institutions in Washington.  He reported that 25 organizations have applied to participate in this year’s program; all of them were grant recipients in last year’s program.  The staff will evaluate the qualifications of the applicants, and the results will be reviewed by a panel that includes the chairs of the Commission of Fine Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, or their designees.  The appropriated funding has been $5 million annually in recent years; the grants will be distributed among the eligible institutions using an established formula. He anticipated that the process would conclude by early June.

D. Confirmation of recommendations from the February 2024 meeting following the loss of a quorum.  Secretary Luebke asked the Commission to adopt the actions and recommendations for seven submissions from the February meeting that were reviewed after the loss of a quorum. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Dr. Edwards, the Commission confirmed its review of these projects (see meeting agenda for list). 


A. Appendices. 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. Hart reported that no changes have been made to the draft consent calendar, which includes nine projects.  Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.

Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions:  Ms. Lee said the appendix has 22 projects; changes to the draft appendix are limited to minor wording changes and the notation of dates for the receipt of supplemental materials.  The recommendations for ten projects are subject to further coordination with the applicants, and she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when the outstanding issues are resolved.  Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Ms. Delplace, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act Appendix.

Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions:  Ms. Amos said the appendix has 35 projects.  The only change to the draft appendix is the removal of one project at 3307 M Street, NW (case number OG 24-160); she anticipated that a revised submission will be reviewed by the Old Georgetown Board and placed on the appendix next month.  Upon a motion by Dr. Edwards with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission approved the revised Old Georgetown Act Appendix. Secretary Luebke noted that additional Old Georgetown submissions may be presented to the Commission in the coming months.

At this point, the Commission considered items II.B and II.D.  Secretary Luebke said that the Commission had identified these submissions as ones that could be approved without presentations.

B. American Battle Monuments Commission

CFA 21/MAR/24-1, Honolulu Memorial, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii.  Artwork for entrance gates at new interpretive center.  Concept.  (Previous: CFA 15/JUN/23-1)  Secretary Luebke said the currently submitted artwork for the two entrance gates had not yet been developed when the Commission approved the larger project in June 2023.  The artwork, by Cory Kamehanaokalā Holt Taum, comprises two pairs of bronze and glass entrance gates that incorporate abstracted natural figures and bold geometric forms derived from the artwork of native Hawaiians.  He noted that the Commission could also delegate review of the final artwork proposal to the staff.  Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission approved the concept submission for the artwork and delegated review of the final design to the staff. 

D. D.C. Department of Transportation

CFA  21/MAR/24-3, Small cell infrastructure in public space.  Stand-alone pole designs for use throughout the city.  Final.  (Previous: CFA 19/OCT/23-3)  Secretary Luebke summarized the lengthy and complicated review process for this project, which he said has resulted in a reasonable solution for accommodating new technology in public space.  Chair Tsien suggested acting on the proposal and then providing additional observations from the Commission members.  Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Dr. Edwards, the Commission approved the final design for the stand-alone poles as an update to the guidelines; Mr. Moore did not vote for the motion.

Mr. Moore acknowledged the effort by the project team and review agencies to develop the best result possible in designing this essential communications infrastructure for Washington.  However, he said he did not vote for approval because he considers the project to be a missed opportunity to seriously think about equity in urban design—most notably in the designation of special-interest areas that would have different spacing requirements for the poles.  He said the project team’s response to this issue has reasonably identified considerations such as density and land use as the basis for different requirements, but he said these considerations do not necessarily align with the mapped designation of special-interest areas, which encompass a range of neighborhood conditions such as density and typology.  The result is that the proposed guidelines for the infrastructure would treat similar areas differently.  While the proposal would allow for providing communications infrastructure in all areas, the coordination and care would be treated differently in the special-interest areas.  He noted that these areas correspond to historic districts, which are widely understood to raise questions of equity in urban planning, design, and development. He agreed that this project needs to move forward, but he said the Commission’s role in promoting good design includes supporting quality in the built environment in the most equitable way possible.  Noting that technological changes may provide the welcome opportunity to consider new iterations of this infrastructure in the future, he recommended that future projects include greater concern with these issues, including the private-sector technology companies  as well as the government agencies involved in regulating public space.

Mr. Moore summarized that he wants his concerns to be part of the record for the vote on this project.  Chair Tsien said these comments also reflect the very strong opinions of the other Commission members, notwithstanding the vote to approve the submission.

The Commission returned to the order of the agenda.

B. American Battle Monuments Commission

CFA 21/MAR/24-1, Honolulu Memorial, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii.  Artwork for entrance gates at new interpretive center.  Concept.  (Previous: CFA 15/JUN/23-1)  The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.

C. National Capital Planning Commission

CFA 21/MAR/24-2, Monumental Core Streetscape Project, National Mall and West Potomac Park, from 3rd to 23rd Streets, NW/SW. Update of the Streetscape Manual for the National Mall – complete guidelines and construction manual.  Information presentation.  (Previous:  CFA 20/APR/23-4)  Secretary Luebke introduced an information presentation on the Monumental Core Streetscape Project, which is a planning initiative managed by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) to address the update and development of three documents:  the Urban Design Streetscape Framework, a high-level mapping of street categories and character areas for the Monumental Core; the Streetscape Design Guidelines, which are intended to address streetscape elements and other emerging issues; and the Streetscape Construction Manual, which is used by government agencies that maintain properties and streets around the Mall. 

Mr. Luebke said the new Streetscape Design Guidelines build upon the Urban Design Streetscape Framework and Lighting Policy, which was reviewed by the Commission of Fine Arts in June 2019.  The guidelines also address vertical and surface elements, reviewed in February 2022, as well as small-scale streetscape elements, which were reviewed in April 2023.  These all provide the basis for the forthcoming update of the Streetscape Construction Manual.  He said the overall goal of the Streetscape Project is to provide a coordinated and consistent public realm for the highly significant and symbolic public spaces in Washington’s Monumental Core.  He asked Elizabeth Miller, director of physical planning at NCPC, to present the project.

Ms. Miller said the Commission members had requested a presentation of the entire guideline package following last year’s information presentation on guidelines for small-scale elements; today’s presentation will therefore describe the purpose of the project and provide an overview of the Urban Design Streetscape Framework and associated guidelines.  Much of the presentation is organized around topics raised in the Commission’s past comments that have been provided throughout the many years of reviewing the project.

Ms. Miller presented background information that informed the project’s scope of work.  The responsibility for designing and managing the public space and buildings in the monumental core of the city is shared among several D.C. and federal agencies, which include the Architect of the Capitol, the National Park Service (NPS), the General Services Administration, and the Smithsonian Institution; additional agencies have regulatory roles within this area, including NCPC and the Commission of Fine Arts.  She said the basis for this work is the 1992 Streetscape Construction Manual, which was developed by the Federal Highway Administration in collaboration with D.C. and federal agencies.  This manual was intended to achieve a coordinated and consistent streetscape treatment for roadways within the vicinity of the National Mall, and it played a role in coordinating 25 roadway improvement projects.  Following the completion of these projects, NCPC was asked to lead an update of the manual and to develop streetscape design guidelines; the updated manual is now titled the Monumental Core Streetscape Guidelines and Construction Manual.

Ms. Miller said NCPC and an interagency working group have evaluated guiding documents from D.C. and federal agencies in developing the scope of work for the project; field work and stakeholder interviews were also conducted.  The research identified the lack of a broad vision to guide decision-making, as well as a lack of design guidance and information on where the Construction Manual’s standards should be applied.  The Construction Manual also did not consider the unique character of different precincts, resulting in abrupt transitions and inconsistent streetscape materials.  She noted that jurisdictional responsibility for the many rights-of-way in the subject area was unclear, and federal and local guidance have been poorly coordinated. She said revisions to the 1992 manual are intended to improve the quality of public space and the pedestrian experience by providing guidance on streetscape design, landscape performance, and environmental health; addressing best management practices and emerging technologies; and improving coordination among agencies during planning, design, and review of streetscape projects.

Ms. Miller said the character of the Monumental Core should reinforce the city’s civic quality and create a welcoming and livable environment, as well as cultivate a sense of pride, permanence, and dignity.  To achieve these goals, the scope of work for the project includes four coordinated products: the Urban Design Streetscape Framework, the Streetscape Design Guidelines, the updated Streetscape Construction Manual, and an updated memorandum of understanding among the agencies in the working group.

Ms. Miller addressed the CFA comments that have been provided through its past reviews of the Streetscape Project components. Regarding the topics of administration and applicability, she said the Commission advised that technical experts should be consulted during development of the guidelines; governance and oversight should be improved; and the process for implementing both public- and private-sector projects should be clarified.  She said NCPC has collaborated with and built consensus among the interagency working group members; subject matter experts within the participating agencies and other agencies—such as D.C. Water, D.C. Fire and Emergency Services, and the D.C. Department of Public Works—were also consulted.

Ms. Miller said the important institutional and government buildings located within the Monumental Core are set in open spaces, necessitating cohesive streetscapes across nationally significant corridors that radiate out into the greater city; however, overlapping jurisdictions make this cohesion challenging to achieve.  A boundary delineating the project area was therefore established, resulting from extensive negotiation among D.C. and federal agencies, with the acknowledgement that areas both inside and outside of this boundary are important in defining the experience of the Monumental Core.  She said the D.C. Government has agreed to collaborate with NCPC to develop a companion streetscape review guide that will apply to certain streetscapes outside the boundary.

Ms. Miller said the Construction Manual would apply to the public space between the property line and the curb on both federal- and D.C.-controlled streets within the boundary.  New capital improvement projects must comply with the Construction Manual; compliance is not required for maintenance and in-kind repair projects, although the implementing agency could choose to use it. The administration process for the Construction Manual, which outlines the review requirements for projects based upon their location and their jurisdiction, is included in the document.

Ms. Miller said the Urban Design Streetscape Framework document includes key findings and the basis for the project’s vision, along with principles and criteria that have informed the development of the guidelines and how they should be used to direct future decision-making.  She summarized the Commission’s previous comments regarding this document:  major axial roadways should emphasize continuity beyond the boundary, and the boundary's edge may suggest locations for significant thresholds to the Monumental Core and between individual character areas.  The Commission also emphasized the importance of continuity within the streetscape and transition areas.

Ms. Miller said the document contains four components that help to address these comments—street categories, character areas, thresholds, and streetscape elements.  The street categories are intended to respect the hierarchy of the L’Enfant Plan and are defined by their national and local identities, their civic and ceremonial roles, and their spatial and visual relationships to nationally significant places and spaces.  The three street categories are:  radiating and edging streets, which are nationally significant and symbolic and which call for strong continuity within and beyond the boundary; connecting and traversing streets, which are nationally and locally significant streets that connect distinct neighborhoods across and beyond the National Mall; and local streets, which are the functional transportation network for the city. 

Ms. Miller said the next component, termed character areas, was developed based on a full range of attributes that serve to establish distinctive places within the broader urban landscape.  Thresholds and gateways into the city’s core have also been identified, along with streetscape elements that establish visual harmony and a cohesive identity.  She said the degree of consistency or variation in streetscape elements is important in either unifying an area or setting it apart.  The streetscape itself is organized into categories of vertical and surface elements.  She presented a diagram illustrating the relationship among the streetscape categories and elements, noting how they are organized along a spectrum of consistency:  the highest level of consistency is desired along the radiating and edging streets, with less consistency needed for local streets.  Consistency among streetscape elements is organized in the same way: vertical elements, consisting mostly of streetlights and trees, should be highly consistent throughout the Monumental Core, with less consistency needed on the local streets.  She noted that vertical elements tie the city together both physically and visually, in addition to shaping significant vistas and viewsheds.

Ms. Miller said surface elements, consisting of pedestrian circulation, pavement, stormwater management, and landscape plantings, contribute to the performance of landscapes in addition to establishing street character.  They also contribute to continuity, can set an area apart or serve as a transition among character areas, and mark important points of entry.  Small-scale elements, which include furnishings that are functional pedestrian amenities, offer the greatest potential to distinguish an area’s character and to add variety to the pedestrian experience.  Civic infrastructure includes systems that serve pedestrians, bicyclists, and emergency responders.

Ms. Miller then described how the Streetscape Design Guidelines, which are based on the framework document, have been modified in response to the Commission’s previous comments.  The guidelines consist of detailed planning guidance for streetscape design, character, and quality, including the placement, appearance, and function of streetscape elements; the guidelines will likely be most useful to designers and engineers.  She said the Commission members had commented that the streetscape elements should be considered as a collection of street furniture and be developed with a cohesive design character to strengthen the spatial continuity of the Monumental Core.  They also encouraged articulating a hierarchy among these elements, including establishing a relationship for their placement, and they emphasized the importance of protecting the central vista of the National Mall.  She said that to strengthen continuity, streetscape element guidance focuses on color, materials, design features, and the style of various elements.  The vertical elements are the primary elements that address hierarchy and continuity beyond the boundary between the Monumental Core and the rest of the city. To achieve this, streetlight guidance focuses on the type, style, height, and placement of light poles; street tree guidance focuses on the tree form, planting patterns, and placement, as well as tree box design.  The surface elements can strengthen continuity, emphasize transitions, and contribute to the unique character of an area; guidance for the surface elements focuses on materials, patterns, and colors to achieve continuity or an appropriate transition between character areas or special landscapes.  She noted that the guidelines identify landscape types such as urban, park, and garden; guidance for landscape plantings calls for species and heights appropriate to these settings.  Likewise, the stormwater management guidance focuses on the application and design of best management practices that are also appropriate to individual settings.

Ms. Miller said that like surface elements, small-scale elements also contribute to continuity, but they can also help to distinguish character.  Guidance for furnishings focuses on materials, shapes, design elements, and colors to achieve continuity and cohesiveness, with the introduction of different styles to help set apart the different character areas.  For example, all benches in the Monumental Core, except within a few specially designed landscapes, are composed of the same materials—wood and metal—but they are of many different styles, which contributes to the unique character of a particular area in which they are located. She said that to minimize the cumulative impacts of civic infrastructure, the bicycle racks, water stations, and post-and-chain fences would be of similar materials and black in color to be consistent with the streetscape family of elements; vehicular and utility infrastructure is gray.  She said the intention is for these elements to recede and blend in with the greater streetscape environment.  Guidance has also been developed to protect the National Mall's central viewshed for each of the elements included in the guidelines.

Ms. Miller then presented information on how the guidelines address issues of pedestrian comfort and experience, an issue that was raised by the Commission.  She noted that the Commission members commented on the importance of creating comfortable, welcoming, and functional streetscapes through socially oriented design, accessibility, and consideration of the needs of families.  She said the guidelines address barrier-free access through references to the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Architectural Barriers Act, as well as public right-of-way accessibility standards.  Vertical elements also contribute to pedestrian comfort; for example, the streetlight guidance focuses on pole height and placement as well as light quality, which affects visibility, safety, and the ambiance of the pedestrian experience.  The street tree guidance focuses on the location, placement, form, and species of trees, with consideration of how trees shape vistas, provide shade, create seasonal interest, and improve air quality.  She said the surface elements address circulation, accessibility, safety, comfort, wayfinding, and character.  Enhancement of pedestrian comfort and experience is achieved through the circulation guidance, which considers both everyday use and special events; the specific guidance focuses on pedestrian movement, including path width, alignment, and visibility, as well as the relationship of the walking space to other streetscape elements and travel modes.  The guidance on pavement is intended to improve the pedestrian comfort and experience through pavement quality, character, design, and material selections.  Additional guidelines address crosswalks and other pedestrian connections.  She said the landscape guidance focuses on appropriate plant palettes, species, height, and placement, as well as seasonal color for pedestrian interest.  The stormwater guidance focuses on the location and the compatibility of stormwater management areas in relation to pedestrian circulation, access, and curbside use.

Ms. Miller then presented information regarding the issue of landscape performance that was raised by the Commission, which had commented that the guidelines must be adaptable and address contemporary environmental issues such as resilience, environmental health, and extreme weather. She said the vertical elements would contribute to high-performing landscapes through the guidance for streetlights, which requires that new fixtures use energy-efficient LED lighting and calls for maximizing downlighting while minimizing upward and peripheral light spillage.  She said the street tree guidance is quite extensive, focusing on environmental and human health through increased tree canopy cover, biodiversity, use of native species, and improving the design of tree boxes with consideration of planting area and soil volume.  Additional guidance to ensure tree health includes requiring various tree protection methods, placing streetscape elements to protect tree roots, and conserving space for future tree planting.  Regarding surface elements, the guidance calls for lighter pavement colors to help reflect heat and the use of permeable, porous, and pervious pavements wherever possible.  The landscape planting guidance focuses on soil profile, volume, and treatment to ensure healthy vegetation, and encourages use of native and pollinator-attracting plants. The stormwater management guidance calls for improvement of environmental quality through filtering pollutants and reducing the strain on existing infrastructure systems through the application of best management practices, while also considering the impacts on urban design, historic preservation, pedestrian movement, curbside use, and aesthetic character.  The guidelines also address appropriate species and the proper maintenance of these facilities.

Ms. Miller then addressed the Commission’s past comments on emerging technologies, which emphasized that the guidelines should be adaptable and support planning for disaster response; the Commission also encouraged consolidation of the various elements in public space.  She said new guidelines have been developed that call for smart waste receptacles, and amendments have been made to the electric vehicle charging station guidelines since last year, along with the ongoing work related to small cell telecommunications technology.  She said the Commission requested consideration of ways to improve waste management, addressing pest issues as well as weather protection. The waste receptacle palette has therefore been expanded to include large-volume smart waste receptacles, which are solar powered and rain- and pest-proof.  These receptacles compact trash, thereby requiring less emptying over the day, and they can also alert maintenance crews when the bins are full. The new guidance allows these smart receptacles to be used throughout the Monumental Core, supplementing the existing palette of waste receptacles in areas with high pedestrian volume.  She said the new guidance also includes recommendations to collocate waste and recycling receptacles, and to place them to avoid impacting historic structures or impeding circulation.  The guidelines also recommend that the size, color, and finish of these receptacles be consistent with the larger family of streetscape elements, and propose limiting the graphics and branding to just the agency name and waste-related symbols and instructions.  Additionally, the guidelines call for the responsible agency to have the capacity to maintain these receptacles with consideration of their technology and mechanical functions.

Ms. Miller said that the electric vehicle (EV) charging station guidance has been amended to be consistent with D.C. transportation policies, which discourage the use of single-occupancy vehicles downtown and prioritize other curbside uses, such as public transit and bicycle lanes. The guidelines also address the functional challenges and safety issues with charging ports in public space, as well as the challenges of maintenance and parking enforcement.  The EV guidance also encourages locating the chargers adjacent to government buildings or other institutions whose mission, identity, or educational objectives align with promoting alternative fuel technologies, with the caveat that the agencies should have the capacity to ensure proper maintenance of the charging facilities.  The guidelines also encourage placing the chargers in publicly accessible parking lots and garages.

Ms. Miller then addressed the topic of small cell infrastructure.  She said D.C. and federal agencies have been working together to address the design and placement of these facilities, particularly stand-alone poles within the Monumental Core.  Locating this infrastructure around the National Mall has been limited while the NPS has worked to prepare an environmental assessment to evaluate the potential impacts.  Once this work is complete, the streetscape guidelines will be updated to appropriately reference the D.C. and federal guidance, as well as to include the final design of the stand-alone small cell pole.  She added that after NCPC approves the small cell guidelines, its staff will package the urban design framework, the vertical surface and small-scale elements, and appendices into one comprehensive document, which will then be presented to key government agencies to orient them to the material.  The information will also be posted on the websites of NCPC and members of the interagency working group.

Ms. Miller addressed the Commission’s comments related to the impacts of perimeter security on public space and visitor services. She said D.C. and federal agencies have been developing and improving the guidance for building perimeter security since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.  Currently, both the D.C. and federal elements of Washington’s comprehensive plan include policy guidance, and they cross-reference many other important guiding documents related to security.  She said NCPC continues to consider how to balance security, urban design, and public access; NCPC has been considering the changing nature of threats and has recently assessed both the positive and negative attributes of security projects in and around the Monumental Core.  This work will be used to scope and update the urban design and security policies in the federal elements of the comprehensive plan.

Ms. Miller said the Commission’s previous guidance has also emphasized the need to address the impact of curb-side vending and food trucks on public space, commenting that design, rather than just enforcement of existing rules, should be used to help control these uses.  She noted the specific vending and parking regulations for the National Mall vicinity, and that some stationary vending is permitted; however, a significant level of unpermitted vending is clearly occurring on and around the Mall.  She said the U.S. Park Police has been taking extraordinary regulatory efforts to address this unpermitted activity, including increased coordination among NPS and D.C. agencies to tackle this issue.  Other stakeholders, including nearby business improvement districts, have been researching potential land use and design solutions.  NPS is managing fifteen authorized food truck locations on the Mall, while also focusing on what can be done within its jurisdiction to accommodate the need for these trucks and to stop unpermitted activity.

Ms. Miller concluded by reiterating that D.C. officials are coordinating with NCPC to develop a companion streetscape review guide for nationally significant streets outside the Monumental Core boundary to help improve streetscape consistency and continuity along radiating and edging streets.  She presented a map illustrating eight neighborhoods with different guiding documents that often conflict with one another; for example, each side of 16th Street, NW—on axis with the White House—is subject to different design guidance. She said the recent coordination of the 16th Street streetscape is an example of federal and local agencies working together to reconcile conflicting guidance.  Government agencies will use these documents when planning and executing capital improvement projects or when working with developers on streetscape improvements in front of buildings.  Work on this review guide is scheduled for completion by the end of 2024. She said that as the remaining tasks are completed, NCPC will coordinate updates to the memorandum of understanding among the interagency working group members to improve coordination and formalize how D.C. and federal agencies will continue to collaborate.

Chair Tsien said the presented work could be considered “monumental” in its own right, and she expressed appreciation for the organization and clarity of the presentation.  She invited questions and comments from the Commission members.

Ms. Delplace congratulated Ms. Miller for the presentation and for addressing the Commission’s previous questions and comments. She asked how often the guidelines and other standards would be updated.  Ms. Miller responded that the current project is the first update to the original document, which has not changed since 1992.  She expressed appreciation for the collaborative effort of the participating agencies to update the various guidelines documents and noted that the process has improved the working relationship among the agencies generally.  She said the agencies would continue to meet on at least a quarterly basis to coordinate projects and to discuss revisions to the guidelines.  She added that the revision process will also consider the other planning documents cross-referenced in the guidelines.

Ms. Delplace commented that technology is clearly changing at a rapid pace, resulting in a greater demand for physical interventions in public space; she therefore recommended establishing a regularly scheduled process for the participating agencies to stay informed of new technologies before outside people or organizations dictate what they believe is needed in public space to achieve their own goals.

Mr. McCrery complimented Ms. Miller and NCPC for the thorough work generally and for looking into the issue of unpermitted vending on the Mall.  He said that food trucks, in addition to their visual intrusion, are also problematic for the sound they produce, including the repetitive musical jingles they broadcast. He also commented that parking should not be allowed on any of the streets that cross the Mall—particularly between Jefferson and Madison Drives—so that the major east–west vista between the Capitol and the Washington Monument is left “unpolluted” by the visual clutter of parked cars.  He said this prohibition would also be in the spirit of the D.C. Department of Transportation’s efforts to disincentivize personal vehicle use.

Mr. Moore commended the impressive consolidation of information and the responsiveness to the Commission’s previous questions and comments.  Regarding the presented summary of guidelines for surface elements and paving, he observed that recommending the use of lighter-colored pavement is not the same as recommending a high-albedo or environmentally performative paving material. He acknowledged that providing qualitative guidance like light-colored pavement would be appropriate, but he recommended developing additional performance-based guidance that evaluates measurable, quantitative criteria such as the heat island effect and the prevalence of tree canopy.  He added that New York City’s first street design manual was introduced in 2009 and is now on its third edition, with changes resulting from an effort to accommodate new technology in public space.  Ms. Miller said the urban design guidelines could include a policy about how new technology should be addressed over time.

Mr. Cook joined in expressing appreciation for the presentation. He asked if the updated documents have been presented to communities outside of the Monumental Core boundaries, with the goal of ensuring that those who reside outside the study area are part of the planning process. Ms. Miller said that NCPC has made an effort to meet with the appropriate business improvement districts and to present the project and receive feedback through public meetings.  She noted that responses were received from Arlington, Virginia, indicating the breadth of the outreach.

Chair Tsien summarized the Commission’s support for the presentation and the project.  Secretary Luebke confirmed that no vote is needed for this information presentation.  The discussion concluded without a formal action.

D. D.C. Department of Transportation

CFA  21/MAR/24-3, Small cell infrastructure in public space.  Stand-alone pole designs for use throughout the city.  Final.  (Previous: CFA 19/OCT/23-3)  The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.

E. D.C. Department of General Services

1. CFA 21/MAR/24-4, MacArthur High School, 4530 MacArthur Boulevard, NW. Renovations and additions to building and landscape.  Concept.  (Previous: CFA 15/FEB/24-6)

Secretary Luebke introduced the second concept submission for renovations and additions to the building and landscape of the recently created public MacArthur High School, now operating on the former lower school campus of the private Georgetown Day School.  He summarized the initial review from February 2024:  the Commission members had expressed support for the location and general form of the proposed addition, while providing comments to refine the architecture and some of the site design proposals.  The current submission responds to these comments, including a more deliberate design for the metal panelized facade at the upper part of the addition, along with alternatives for the metal panel color.  The Commission had supported much of the proposed use of masonry but questioned the long span of masonry across the entrance area; the current proposal would retain this long span but provides alternatives for the design of the brickwork. The site design has been revised at the school’s entry plaza to extend the sidewalk into the roadway as a traffic-calming measure and to improve the placement of seating and bicycle racks.

Mr. Luebke asked project manager Tom Henderson of the D.C. Department of General Services to begin the presentation.  Mr. Henderson introduced Alex Defee and Rachel Kenney of Studios Architecture and landscape architect Danielle Alexander of Studio AKA; he also noted that two representatives of the D.C. Public Schools are attending.

Ms. Kenney provided an overview of the project and the development of the design following the previous review.  In 2021, the D.C. Government purchased the former elementary school to create the new high school, intended to relieve overcrowding at other public high schools in the area.  Minor interior renovations in the summer of 2023 allowed the school to open last fall with approximately 200 students; the intent is for the school to remain in operation during the proposed construction, adding 200 students per year to reach a full enrollment of 800 students.  The project is therefore phased to include minor renovations during the next two summers in order to accommodate the increasing enrollment, followed by completion of the proposed addition in the fall of 2026 to reach the school’s full capacity.

Ms. Kenney indicated the school’s location in the Palisades neighborhood, to the west of Georgetown and close to the Potomac River and the C&O Canal.  The south side of the site slopes steeply downward toward the river, giving the site unique qualities as well as challenges.  The site is also unusual for being largely on the interior of the block; two existing entrance drives connect the site to MacArthur Boulevard, but several multi-story apartment buildings separate most of the site from the roadway, resulting in very limited views of the school.  She described this limited visibility as a significant challenge for creating a civic building without having a strong presence from the public roadway.  The two existing drives would remain as the access points; single-family homes to the east, as well as the steep topography to the south and west, preclude access from other directions.  She added that Metrobus service along MacArthur Boulevard is the only public transportation to the site; although service is very limited, the bus stops are located close to the school’s two entrance drives, which are being designed to provide pedestrian as well as vehicular access to the site.

Ms. Kenney described the evolution of the campus, beginning with the original building from the 1960s for Georgetown Day School; several expansions and renovations occurred during the subsequent decades, resulting in a collection of building components from different eras. She said that the unifying element is a relatively consistent palette of materials, but the architecture nonetheless has a disjointed character that is not commensurate with a high school.  She presented a series of photographs of the school, emphasizing its very limited visibility from MacArthur Boulevard on the north, as well as the steep topography and dense vegetation on the south. The existing gymnasium and playing field are on the eastern side of the site, near the eastern entrance drive.

Mr. DeFee presented a north elevation of the existing building, paralleling MacArthur Boulevard.  He indicated the consistent materials and horizontal datum lines on the facades of the multiple construction phases, which provide some unity to the differing architectural styles.  The lower part of the building is masonry; the roof form above is composed of green metal.  Among several siting options studied, the proposed location for the main addition is at the center of the building’s north side, which would allow the addition to contribute to meeting the project goals:  creating a civic presence for the high school, unifying the exterior design, creating a strong sense of arrival, improving the school’s function and circulation, and accommodating the three-year phased increase in enrollment during the construction process.  The addition at this location would have the further benefit of defining an internal courtyard space at the center of the school, which he said would provide a place of respite and assist with wayfinding.

Mr. Defee presented photographs of the existing entrance area, indicating the car-oriented entry experience and the lack of civic presence and aspirational qualities that are desirable for a high school.  The proposal includes a large entry plaza adjacent to the addition, providing the school’s entrance with a sense of place instead of having the character of a parking lot.  Noting the school’s complex sectional organization resulting from the site’s topography, he said the new entrance would be aligned more nearly to the grade of the entrance drive, reducing the existing entrance’s steep grade change. The new entrance would be three feet above the drop-off curb, providing elevated views into the courtyard and potentially to the notable landscape beyond.  He said the new entrance design, courtyard, and outdoor classrooms are intended to connect students to nature and to the unique characteristics of the school’s location.  The addition would also connect multiple levels of the existing school’s disparate wings, improving the building’s internal circulation.

Mr. Defee presented the conceptual site plan. In response to the Commission’s previous comments, the drop-off lanes have been reconfigured northward to provide a larger entry plaza and to improve bicycle circulation.  Bicycle racks are now proposed at each side of the school’s entrance, allowing bicyclists to reach the entrance without having to walk across the traffic lanes.  He presented views of the entrance area from the western access drive at MacArthur Boulevard, comparing the existing conditions to the previous concept proposal reviewed by the Commission in February 2024, and to the current concept proposal.  He indicated the proposed screening for the prominently visible mechanical equipment on the roof of the existing low wing of the building to the west of the entrance. He also indicated the continuity of the proposed addition with the established datum lines of the school’s north elevation; the masonry base would continue along the entry plaza, and the green roof form would be extended above.  He said the proposed green metal is intended to complement the existing building materials. The design team has responded to the Commission’s previous comments by studying different colors and materials as well as the details of the addition’s facade and fenestration; he presented a comparison of the previous and current proposals.  The design team’s preferred option uses green metal panels, intended to maintain a sense of unity among the varied architectural styles of the school complex; he also presented alternatives using glazed brick or fiber-cement panels, as well as other colors for the panels, including gray-brown and a terra cotta red.  He said that if the green color of the existing school’s roof form is not used on the addition, the new color should nonetheless be related to nature as part of the overall goal of making the school harmonious with the natural landscape setting.  The alternatives of green glazed brick or green fiber-cement panels would continue the color but with different materials.

Mr. Defee concluded by presenting the refinement of details for the north facade, including a vertical configuration of the green metal panels with the windows more deeply recessed.  At the lower part of this facade, the expressive masonry detailing would include a modern interpretation of the different masonry bonds seen on the school’s existing facades.  He presented the design team’s exploration of larger-scale masonry units for the base and of variations in the bond pattern and perceived texture; he said the design team is willing to pursue any of the options for the masonry.

Chair Tsien invited questions and comments from the Commission members.  Ms. Delplace asked for clarification of the existing parking.  Mr. Defee indicated the parking at the eastern side of the site and adjoining the existing entrance, where the addition would be located. He said the two vehicular access drives along MacArthur Boulevard are currently used for both entry and egress; based on traffic studies, the proposal is to change the traffic pattern to a one-way internal road, with entry at the eastern drive and egress at the western drive.  The parking area to the east would remain, providing the minimum amount of required parking for the school.  A walk along the eastern drive and the southern edge of the parking area would accommodate pedestrians who use the eastern access from MacArthur Boulevard. However, she anticipated that the primary pedestrian route would be along the western drive.

Ms. Delplace commented that the intended pedestrian experience alongside the access drives is unclear from the presentation, an important concern because many people are expected to arrive at the site as pedestrians.  She said the proposed pedestrian route alongside the parking area appears secondary, accommodating pedestrians only on the southern edge, and no pedestrian route is apparent along the western drive, which is intended to be the primary direction of approach for pedestrians.  She also asked if the extent of bicycle parking has been reduced in revising the previous design, observing that the proposed bicycle parking appears inadequate for an 800-student high school; she noted that bicycling is popular in Washington.

Ms. Alexander provided clarification of the site design to address these comments.  She said the current proposal has the same amount of bicycle parking as the previous design, but it would split the bicycle parking into two areas flanking the approach to the school’s main entrance.  She indicated the newly proposed sidewalk bump-out at this entrance area, intended to slow vehicular traffic and provide more sidewalk space for pedestrians and bicyclists.  She also indicated an additional bicycle parking area at the east end of the building, adjacent to the basketball court and playing field; she noted that this eastern parking is alongside a large stormwater management area with trees that would provide shade for the parked bicycles.  She said that bicycle parking is also being maximized because it contributes to the project’s LEED environmental rating.

Ms. Alexander said the design of the pedestrian access routes between MacArthur Boulevard and the school’s main entrance is somewhat constrained by the site conditions.  She described the pedestrian experience in the current design as having improved as a result of the entrance area revisions made in response to the Commission’s previous recommendation to relocate the bicycle parking.  She noted that the western access drive is partially on the school property and partially on the property of the adjacent apartment building to the west, which shares the drive for its own access needs; because the drive alignment is constrained by another private building on the east, the pedestrian walk is proposed alongside the drive’s western edge, which is actually not part of the school property.  She described this proposed pedestrian access as an improvement on the current condition of pedestrians often walking in the vehicular lanes. She said this pedestrian route may be treated as a raised crosswalk for enhanced visibility where it crosses the private access lanes.  For siting the pedestrian route along the eastern access drive, she indicated the existing large trees and steep slope in the narrow strip between the school’s parking area and the adjacent private building to the north; this constraint is the reason for proposing to locate the pedestrian route along the south side of the parking area.  The walk would adjoin the school’s stormwater management area, with a row of trees alongside the walk that would give a sense of procession as pedestrians move along this route.  Although an additional walk on the north side of the parking area does not appear feasible, she offered to consider additional crossings and pavement markings to facilitate pedestrian circulation within the parking area.

Ms. Delplace suggested that the further study of the site plan be extended to the pedestrian experience at the building’s main entrance.  She observed that an 800-student school should have some outdoor congregation space that is not concentrated only at the school’s front door; consideration should be given to people who are exiting cars across the wider area.  She recommended more consideration of pedestrian movement through this area, which would perhaps lead to exploration of other design options for the entry plaza; she also recommended stronger markings for places where pedestrians should cross vehicular lanes.  She summarized her guidance that the design should emphasize creating a pedestrian campus to replace the existing condition of a vehicular campus; she said the design has not yet achieved the goal of putting pedestrians and bicyclists first, with cars being secondary.  She also emphasized the importance of creating a processional experience as people approach the school. 

Chair Tsien described the proposed architecture as very admirable, and she said it would contribute to unifying the hodgepodge character of the existing campus.  While acknowledging possible budget constraints, she encouraged selection of glazed brick for the exterior, commenting that it would give the school a stronger sense of weight and gravity; she said that green glazed brick could be a beautiful solution that is more durable and appropriate than metal panels. She summarized her satisfaction that the design is being developed thoughtfully.

Mr. Cook acknowledged the difficult challenges of this project, including the constraints of the site, the phasing, and likely the budget; he said the design team has responded admirably.  He said the revisions in the past month have improved the design, such as by simplifying the access and relocating the bicycle parking.  He said the alternative materials of glazed brick and metal panels each have merit, but he agreed that the glazed brick would be especially handsome and more durable. He said the metal panels would have a lighter character, giving the desirable effect of appearing to float above the heavier base, but the quality of the panels might become problematic as a result of the value engineering process.  He summarized his support for the design team’s work.

Mr. Moore offered a motion to approve the concept with the comments provided and with a preference for using glazed brick. Upon a second by Mr. Cook, the Commission adopted this action. 

2. CFA 21/MAR/24-5, Neval Thomas Elementary School, 650 Anacostia Avenue, NE. Renovations and additions to building and landscape.  Concept.

Secretary Luebke introduced the concept proposal for the Neval Thomas Elementary School, submitted by the D.C. Department of General Services on behalf of the D.C. Public Schools.  The existing school, completed in 1946, was designed by the city’s Office of the Municipal Architect and is adjacent to the National Park Service’s Kenilworth Park South along the Anacostia River.  He described the original three-story brick building as a well-designed and historically significant example of the International Style; it was originally built to serve nearby African American elementary and junior high school students. He identified the characteristic elements of the building:  ribbon windows, corner windows, horizontal masonry banding, and an asymmetrically placed tower element at the north entrance.  The building was expanded in 1967 with the addition of a gymnasium and several classrooms.  The existing building is located within the floodplain; the first floor of the original building is above the flood elevation, but some of the 1967 addition is at or below the flood level and has flooded in the past.  The proposed addition is intended to address the school’s issues of flooding, circulation, and barrier-free access, which is compromised by the existing multi-level configuration.

Mr. Luebke said the front volume of the proposed addition, containing classrooms and a new entrance, would extend northeast from the 1946 building.  The addition’s rear volume, containing the school’s gymnasium, library, cafeteria, and performing arts spaces, would be oriented at an angle; a core volume with vertical circulation would connect the front and rear volumes, and a courtyard would be framed by the new construction.  He described the proposed architecture as a loose interpretation of the historic building’s austere, modernist character.  The landscape is designed to express the theme of a riparian hydrology, with its main program areas defined by ridges, berms, and swells that would also manage stormwater and allow for temporary inundation.

Mr. Luebke asked project manager Christopher Jenkins of the D.C. Public Schools to begin the presentation.  Mr. Jenkins introduced Tracy Hucul of Quinn Evans Architects to present the design.

Ms. Hucul summarized the background and context that led to the concept design.  She said the 1946 school building was one of the first examples of an International Style school built in Washington.  Immediately northeast of the school is Mayfair Mansions, which opened in 1942 as the first multi-family housing development built for African Americans and insured by the Federal Housing Administration; it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  To the southeast, route 295 was constructed in 1957; this highway, in combination with the Anacostia River to the northwest, effectively cuts off the school and its neighborhood from the rest of Washington.  After decades of little investment, the neighborhood has seen an infusion of new developments in the past twenty years as part of the Parkside master-planned community; this pedestrian-oriented development includes housing and commercial space organized around a central green.

Ms. Hucul described the existing building, comprising the academic wing and the cafeteria wing from 1946, along with the academic and gymnasium addition of 1967.  The site is located within both the 100- and 500-year floodplains; the original 1946 academic wing is the only part of the building located significantly above the 500-year floodplain elevation.  The proposal is therefore to retain only the 1946 academic wing and to demolish the rest.

Ms. Hucul said the program includes a school for 354 students as well as a child development center (CDC) for 40 infants and toddlers.  The CDC is intended as a discrete entity within the building, necessitating its own entrance and separation from the school operations.  She described four guiding design principles for the proposed addition:  restorative, safe-haven, connections, and history of place and people.  She said “restorative” refers to the sense of sustainability and resilience as well as the school’s pedagogy; she noted that the project incorporates sustainability elements and will meet requirements for a LEED Gold environmental rating and net-zero energy consumption. “Safe-haven” is an important concept to the school’s principal, with the goal that the students feel safe coming to the school.  Connections to the community and within the school would be strengthened, and the school should celebrate the history of the people in this area and of the place itself.

Ms. Hucul said the combination of these principles has helped the design team develop the proposal for the school to be a haven, with the proposed addition wrapping around it.  This configuration creates a hub in the back as a safe area for the students that is also open to the National Park Service parkland.  The east part of the site would be used to create connections to the community, including the connection along Grant Street to the nearby Metro station and the rest of the city, and the connections to the parkland and beyond.

Ms. Hucul described the addition’s overall massing of two bars connected by a core:  the three-story front bar would be an interpretation and extension of the historic building fronting Anacostia Avenue, while the two-story rear bar would house a new gymnasium, library, cafeteria, and stage.  The three-story vertical circulation core would connect these two bars.  The new main entrance for the school would be at the northeastern end of the front bar, facing Anacostia Avenue; at the opposite end of the building, the new CDC would use the historic entrance from 1946.

Ms. Hucul provided an overview of the landscape design, which is intended to create connections between the building and its different environments.  The site plan incorporates two porches:  an urban porch at the school’s entrance along Anacostia Avenue, and a rear porch that addresses the natural environment.  The site would also include a sheltered area and classroom for outdoor learning, a traffic garden, and specific play areas for various age groups.  On the northeast side of the building, a new path would connect the community with the parkland; this side of the site would include a parking lot with a solar canopy over part of it, a loading area, and a new basketball halfcourt.

Ms. Hucul said the design team analyzed other International Style schools in the Washington area to assist in developing the design of the proposed addition.  The analysis identified the importance of the tower element as a portal or threshold, the inclusion of a hyphen to connect different building masses, the use of ribbon windows to reinforce the horizontality of the facade, and the lightness of windows wrapping around the corners of the building. She also identified the building’s water table as an important design feature for this site’s location within the floodplain.

Ms. Hucul provided a more detailed description of the proposed addition’s fenestration and articulation.  She said the design team developed an architectural language that is similar to the existing building but slightly altered. The exterior would be a stacked bond brick pattern; bands of horizontal windows would have a similar module as the 1946 facade, and metal panels would be introduced that correspond to the existing facade’s secondary horizontal bands.  The street facade of the addition’s front bar would be set back several feet from the facade plane of the historic building; a narrow recessed bay would mediate between the existing and new parts of the building.  At the northeast end of the street facade, the new main entrance would be marked by a tower that has a horizontally articulated double-height window above the entrance door.  The rear bar, containing the new gymnasium and cafeteria, would have a very simple exterior palette consisting of brick, metal panel, and curtainwall.  A base of darker brick would wrap around the front and rear bars.

Joan Honeyman of Jordan Honeyman Landscape Architecture presented additional details of the landscape design, which she said will include native and adaptive plantings.  She  indicated the different types of paving used in this design, including concrete, asphalt, and decomposed granite.  She also indicated the proposed bioretention areas for stormwater management.

Chair Tsien thanked the design team for its thorough presentation and noted that she would recuse herself from commenting and voting on this proposal because of her firm’s ongoing relationship with Quinn Evans Architects.  She invited questions and comments from the Commission members.

Citing the presented floodplain mapping, Ms. Delplace questioned the location of the zone of inundation in relation to the green spaces; she suggested that the landform should be designed with more consideration of potential future inundation.  Ms. Honeyman said this zone is located on the northern part of the site and extends west and north into the National Park Service parkland.  The landform slopes gently from a high point at the rear of the building, descending toward the parkland to the west; the courtyard addresses the grade change with stepped seating.

Ms. Delplace requested additional information about how the program of the outdoor spaces relates to the interior spaces, which she said is not readily apparent from the presentation.  Ms. Honeyman indicated the adjacent interior spaces and the exterior doors that would connect them to the outdoor spaces.  She also noted that the proposed pathways would provide students and the community with multiple ways to traverse the site.

Mr. Cook comment that the building and site analysis were rigorous and the planning strategy is appropriate, but further exploration is needed for the execution of the articulation of the volumes and how they intersect with each other.  He said the building volumes and their articulation around the courtyard should be simplified, observing that the proposal includes a mixture of different materials, partial canopies, various entry points, and different fenestration patterns.  Mr. McCrery agreed and further noted that the ordered, logical, and austere character of the existing International Style school building is not apparent in the proposed design of the addition.  Mr. Moore agreed with the recommendation to simplify the design, and he added that the project should incorporate future locations for public art within the courtyard space in a more thoughtful manner.

Chair Tsien summarized that the Commission members generally appreciate the rigor of the presented analysis and support the location of the addition, but recommend that the design team continue studying and simplifying the overall articulation of the volumes of the addition to create a more cohesive design.  The next presentation should also include additional information on how the interior and exterior spaces work together and how public art would be incorporated into the design.  Noting the extensive comments on the proposed concept design, she asked whether the review requires an action today; Secretary Luebke responded that the Commission has raised fundamental questions about the project’s architectural character, and a new concept submission addressing the Commission’s comments would therefore be appropriate.  The discussion concluded without a formal action.

3. CFA 21/MAR/24-6, Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, Wheeler Road and Valley Avenue, SE.  Construction of a new racquet sports facility.  Concept.

Secretary Luebke introduced the concept design for an expanded racquet sports facility at the existing Southeast Tennis and Learning Center (SETLC), which is located at 701 Mississippi Avenue, SE, on the north side of Oxon Run.  The proposed site for the expansion is directly opposite, on the south side of Oxon Run; the site is an irregularly shaped six-acre undeveloped parcel that slopes down approximately thirty feet from Valley Avenue on the south toward Oxon Run on the north.  The site is currently maintained as open lawn with scattered trees and a wooded riparian area to the north; none of the trees are categorized as heritage trees.  A major utility line passes directly beneath the site.  He noted that a multipurpose trail was formerly located close to Oxon Run; this has been relocated to the higher ground along Valley Avenue.  Along with most of the land along Oxon Run within Washington, the site was formerly under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, and it was transferred to the D.C. Government in 1971 with the stipulation that the land would be used for recreation.

Mr. Luebke said the proposal is submitted by the D.C. Department of General Services on behalf of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR).  The project goals are to improve visibility and access for the SETLC; to expand the existing facility to meet the community’s recreational needs; and to create the capacity to host national U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) Junior Tournaments.  He asked project manager Andrew Bayer of the D.C. Department of General Services to begin the presentation.  Mr. Bayer introduced Cora Masters Barry of the Recreation Wish List Committee; DPR director Thennie Freeman; and project architect Brian Vassallo of MTFA Design and Preservation.

Ms. Barry provided background on the SETLC’s mission and the purpose of the proposed expansion.  She said this facility is like no other in the U.S. because it is both a tennis and learning center:  in addition to indoor and outdoor courts, it has computer labs, classrooms, and many other activities.  She noted that tennis is not usually accessible to the African American community, and especially underserved communities, but the SETLC provides services and activities for more than 100 children each day.  She said the proposal would expand the SETLC to serve more people and to provide more activities in addition to tennis.  National tournaments are already held here, and the SETLC has twice received national recognition from the USTA.  The goal is for this to become the first facility in the world located in an underserved or Black community to hold international tournaments. Currently only two tennis facilities in the U.S. hold international tournaments, and she emphasized that the SETLC is on par with these and has an excellent reputation; many world-famous players have used its courts, including Venus and Serena Williams and Billie Jean King.

Ms. Freeman said that DPR serves over 2 million residents and visitors with various events, and tennis is an integral sport to the District of Columbia.  She noted that tennis is popular among young people, and DPR wants to give them the opportunity to play the sport.  She said the SETLC uses an experiential learning model that focuses on the whole child, providing after-school and Saturday access and holding summer enrichment programs; after expansion, it will serve as a community center for Ward 8 and it will be a hub for junior tennis.  In addition to providing more tennis courts, the project will introduce pickleball courts to the SETLC.  She emphasized that this project is necessary in order to provide young people with opportunities to become engaged with sports; she noted that tennis can be very expensive, often limited to those who can afford to pay for access to private clubs. She said that DPR amenities and offerings are free and there is strong demand for them; the proposed expansion is intended to meet this demand and the growing popularity of tennis.  She added that the USTA supports the project.

Mr. Vassallo described the site and context; the existing SETLC and the proposed expansion site jointly comprise an approximately 20-acre area bisected by Oxon Run.  Adjacent roadways include Mississippi Avenue to the north, Wheeler Road to the east, and Valley Avenue to the south; a high-rise apartment building is farther south across Valley Avenue, and Hart Middle School is to the west of the existing SETLC, north of Oxon Run.  He indicated on a site plan the various challenges affecting the layout of the expansion:  a 20-inch water line and a 24-inch sewer line run east to west, each with associated easements; wetland and floodplain areas are located near Oxon Run; a large amount of fill has been deposited over the years; and some of the existing grade is relatively steep.  He said the context has many amenities, including recreation fields, playgrounds, schools, and the open space of Oxon Run Park.

Mr. Vassallo described the existing network of trails that support pedestrian access to the site, noting that the proposed work will not affect this system other than by adding connections to it. An existing Capital Bikeshare station is located at the corner of Valley Avenue and Wheeler Road, and existing bus stops are located along both of these roadways.  Wheeler Road on the east is the primary thoroughfare connecting the site to nearby neighborhoods, and safety improvements are currently being made to it.  Access to the proposed courts would be from Valley Avenue on the south, as requested by the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) because it carries less traffic than Wheeler Road.  A pedestrian bridge on the north is also proposed, spanning Oxon Run to connect the expansion with the existing SETLC; the bridge would align with the existing building’s entrance, and the pedestrian connections would continue northward to Mississippi Avenue.  At the south end of the bridge, a pedestrian plaza would connect to a stairway and ramp leading to the existing trail along Valley Avenue.  A parking lot with spaces for fifteen cars—the minimum number required by zoning—would have access from Valley Avenue; its siting would not interfere with the easements for existing utilities.  A pedestrian area north of the parking lot would provide an overlook to Oxon Run.  He said that to qualify for hosting large tournaments, the USTA requires a facility to have a minimum of ten outdoor tennis courts; this project will expand the SETLC with four new courts to reach this number, along with eight new pickleball courts on the site’s western side. He added that the pickleball courts would be slightly rotated to lie outside of the floodplain and wetland areas.

Mr. Vassallo then presented the proposed new building, which would contain indoor tennis courts and a multipurpose room. He said it would have a simple floor plan and a standing-seam metal roof, along with solar panels and other features for net-zero energy consumption.  The roof configuration above the entrance at the building’s northeast corner is intended to create a welcoming gesture toward the pedestrian bridge and the existing SETLC to the north.  A gallery along the north facade would overlook the indoor courts and would have windows with views to the outdoor tennis courts.  A paved exterior promenade to the north would connect the parking lot with the building’s entrance plaza, which would provide a welcoming hub; the scoring pattern of its pavement would create a sense of movement and connection between all the spaces.

Mr. Vassallo presented several perspective views of the project, indicating the multiple directions for pedestrians to approach the new building; the architecture uses inexpensive ways to add visual interest.  A ground-face masonry base is proposed for durability and to break down the building’s scale.  The walls above the base would be covered with a metal panel system in simple, varied colors; this treatment is intended to reduce the visual scale and express the trajectory of a tennis ball.  The entrance would be identified through the use of the yellow color of a tennis ball, and he indicated a wall surface for murals.  Signage would be located at the top corner of the facades to identify the building when seen on approach from the street.  The pedestrian bridge would have a long span to allow its abutments to be located outside the floodplains; it would be constructed of Cor-Ten steel to reduce the need for maintenance. 

Mr. Vassallo said the site features include the overlook, benches, and a trellis along the entrance plaza to provide shade. Most of the site’s landscape would be kept as natural as possible.  A green buffer would extend along both sides of Oxon Run, using low-maintenance native species.  Plantings would generally be kept to a height of three to four feet; shrubs would be planted along retaining walls to break down their mass as well and create a buffer. The parking lot would have a somewhat formal arrangement of trees, while trees on the rest of the site would be planted in more natural groups.

Chair Tsien asked whether this concept design has been seen by the staff; Mr. Luebke said it has gone through several cycles of staff review, and this is the first time it has been brought to the Commission. Chair Tsien invited questions and comments from the Commission members. 

Mr. McCrery thanked Ms. Barry for her dedication to the improvement of Washington and for her involvement in this project. He said the proposal has been well considered, and it will be a handsome and valuable recreational facility.  He asked if additional seating such as bleachers would be provided for tournaments, observing that their location is not apparent in the site plan.  Mr. Vassallo indicated the center court in the grouping of three courts north of the building; on the final day of a tennis tournament, bleachers would be provided on either side of this court, occupying part of the two flanking courts, as indicated by dashed lines on the site plan.  He said the use of temporary bleachers is a common practice for tennis centers because permanent seating reduces operational flexibility. Ms. Barry added that the temporary bleachers would be provided by DPR.

Noting the limited amount of on-site parking in the proposal, Mr. McCrery recommended providing Bikeshare racks at both the existing SETLC and the new expansion, and also supporting as many different modes of access as possible.  He questioned whether the pedestrian bridge would be large enough to accommodate the anticipated number of people; Mr. Vassallo said it would be approximately nine feet wide, which should be sufficient.  He added that the bridge’s height and width will be considered further as the design team coordinates with the manufacturer, and he indicated the constrained available width for the bridge at its north landing alongside the existing SETLC building.

Mr. Cook expressed admiration for the project’s mission, as conveyed in the phrase “Tennis is the hook, education is the key.” He commented that the Bikeshare rack would ideally be located closer to the building entrance instead of at the corner of the site, to improve convenience and safety; he suggested consideration of changing its location if possible.  He also observed that someone arriving by car at the parking lot would have to walk a long and non-obvious route along the length of the north facade in order to reach the building entrance.  Mr. Vassallo confirmed this route for visitors, while noting that staff members would be able to enter through a secured door closer to the parking lot.  Mr. Cook emphasized that visitors in the parking lot might not easily be able to recognize the location of the front door, and he advised giving more consideration to the experience of approaching it; he suggested revising the door’s location, perhaps orienting it northward on axis with the bridge so that visitors would not need to turn a corner to find it.  Ms. Freeman added that extensive street parking is available along Valley Avenue, and the front door is proposed at the closest location for people walking from Metro and approaching the building along Wheeler Road. Mr. Cook said the larger point is to think about all the various ways that people will enter this space, and what would be the easiest and most intuitive way for them to experience the entire facility.

Mr. Cook asked whether the size of pickleball courts would allow for them to be used as tennis courts.  Mr. Vassallo responded that generally four pickleball courts are equal to the size of one tennis court; the two proposed clusters of four pickleball courts are sized to allow for their conversion to tennis courts if pickleball becomes less popular in the future.  Mr. Cook expressed support for providing this flexibility in the design. Mr. Vassallo added that pickleball provides a way for children to learn racquet sports at a young age.

Mr. Cook asked if the brightness of the proposed site lighting could disturb the residents of the tall apartment building to the south across Valley Avenue.  Ms. Barry said this issue had arisen with the construction of the existing SETLC building in relation to the houses across Mississippi Avenue on the north; the existing lighting was designed to have minimal impact on the Mississippi Avenue residents, and she anticipated that similar design solutions would result in a similarly minimal impact of the new lighting on the Valley Avenue residents.  She added that the tall building is the only residential building directly facing the expansion site.  Mr. Vassallo said the project team is working with the same lighting manufacturer that DPR works with for all its lighting projects, and the technology allows for specifying very little spill of light from the courts. He added that minimum lighting levels must be provided for the facility’s classification, and a very detailed and specific analysis of the lighting will be conducted.  He also noted that the lighting will be on timers that will shut off the lights during the hours required by zoning regulations.

Mr. Cook provided a final comment that the proposed design for the building’s exterior supergraphic signage needs a lot of additional work; Mr. Moore agreed.

Ms. Delplace asked if seating would be provided for people watching pickleball.  Mr. Vassallo responded that generally the spectators at pickleball games are people waiting to play.  He indicated the small benches with shade canopies that would be located within the clusters of pickleball courts to serve as waiting areas; additional benches would be located along the adjacent trail for people who want to watch pickleball. Ms. Delplace observed that these nearby benches are shown facing toward the trail, not toward the courts.  More generally, she noted the extremely hot summers in Washington and observed that the proposal does not include much protection from the sun other than a shade canopy near the entrance plaza.  She suggested that more of the pedestrian spaces could be shaded, which would also help to alleviate some of the radiant heat from the pavement of the courts and adjacent areas.

Ms. Freeman responded that approximately 10,000 people play pickleball on DPR courts each year, and they typically watch the game while they are waiting their turn to play.  She said one DPR site has a dozen pickleball courts in direct sun, and the players seem to enjoy it.  She added that players just want to have these courts available.  Ms. Barry said that she attends tennis events all over the world, and spectators typically sit in the heat; tennis is an outdoor sport, and being in the heat is part of tennis.  Ms. Delplace said this facility seems like an opportunity to provide a different experience. She emphasized that providing additional seating would be advantageous; the seats will likely be in high demand from people who may be watching to size up the competition or are simply waiting a long time to play on one of the few pickleball courts that are proposed for this site.

Dr. Edwards agreed with the comments of Mr. McCrery and Mr. Cook concerning the valuable contributions of Ms. Barry and the late Mayor Marion Barry to Washington, and she emphasized the importance of this project.  She noted the summer tennis tournaments that are held at the Rock Creek Tennis Center, near the Carter Barron Amphitheater; these tournaments attract large numbers of visitors, and parking is available at Carter Barron and in the surrounding neighborhoods.  Citing the goal of expanding the SETLC to have the ability to hold large tournaments, she asked how people would arrive for these events.  She observed that fifteen on-site parking spaces would be available, along with nearby parking along Valley Drive, and that a Metro station is nearby; she asked how a large number of drivers would be accommodated. Ms. Barry responded that major events have been held at the SETLC for more than twenty years;  cooperative agreements provide access to several large parking lots at nearby schools during these events.  Ms. Freeman added that public parking is also available at nearby DPR facilities and on both sides of several nearby streets, and shuttle bus service can also be provided.

Chair Tsien said she agrees with Mr. Cook on the need for further coordination of the proposed signage on the building’s exterior, intended to provide a graphic expression of the SETLC’s identity.  She commented that the large shed building has a kind of nobility in its simplicity, and she suggested that a simpler facade design, perhaps incorporating simpler signage or graphics, would have more power than the illustrated proposal, which pulls attention in multiple directions. She acknowledged the importance of emphasizing the building’s entrance, proposed with bright yellow accents, but she said whatever colors are used should be coordinated with colors that are important to the design of the existing SETLC facility; the goal should be to tie the new and existing buildings together thematically so they do not appear to be separate, unrelated buildings.  She emphasized her support for the program but said that a quieter graphic treatment would allow each of the design gestures to have more power.

Mr. Luebke summarized that the Commission is supportive of the concept, with comments that primarily concern the Bikeshare location, the clarity of the entrance sequence, providing shade at the pickleball courts, and the articulation of the facades, which are issues that can be addressed as the design is developed.  Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Ms. Delplace, the Commission approved the concept with the comments provided.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 12:19 p.m.

Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA