On Wednesday, March 11 at approximately 8:30pm at the Brookings Institution, ANC2B will review modified plans and vote on recommendations to the Historic Preservation Review Board. You can view the latest plans HERE and see our meeting agenda HERE.
Over the past several weeks and months the ANC has worked with members of the community, the church and its development team and our Zoning, Preservation and Development Committee to identify priorities regarding 1772 Church Street and to craft language for a resolution on the St. Thomas project. Below is a brief summary as well as the full text. We remain very open to feedback on the specific language, including how best to clarify our main points and what should be included or not. Please send comments to Commissioner Justine Underhill (email@example.com) or to all of the commissioners (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Summary of the resolution: The ANC recommends that the Historic Preservation Review Board find the proposal compatible if and only if it is redesigned such that (1) the perceived height from the public alley, Church Street, 18th Street, and P Street, does not exceed 59 feet, (2) the design and materiality of the structures are altered to be more compatible with the historic neighborhood, and (3) the project team continues to work proactively with the ANC and neighbors before zoning relief is sought.
DRAFT RESOLUTION FOR COMMENT (UPDATED 3/10/15)
Whereas St. Thomas’ Parish Episcopal Church proposes to build a church at the intersection of 18th and Church Streets, NW, and developer CAS Riegler proposes to build a residential building facing Church Street at 1772 Church Street, NW;
Whereas, ANC 2B values the contributions St. Thomas’ Parish has made to the community;
Whereas, ANC 2B respects St. Thomas’ right to use the land at 1772 Church Street, NW for religious purposes without undue economic burden;
Whereas, 1772 Church Street, NW is included in the Dupont Circle Overlay District, the purpose of which is, among other things, to preserve and enhance the unique low scale, predominately residential and historic character, and independent small retail businesses of Dupont Circle, given the high-density development pressures caused by its proximity to the Central Employment Area and the Dupont Circle Metrorail Station;
Whereas, 1772 Church Street, NW is included in the Dupont Circle Historic District, and as such has protections to assure that alterations of existing structures are compatible with the character of the historic district, and to assure that new construction and subdivision of lots in an historic district are compatible with the character of the historic district;
Whereas the historic district and historic overlay designation supersedes the underlying zoning and may result in a development unable to maximize the height and density allowed by the underlying zoning;
Whereas at the HPRB hearing on October 2, 2014, HPRB members expressed concerns about both the church and residential components of the project as presented; and HPRB remanded the project with recommendations of changes needed to remedy deficiencies before submitting revised plans for its review;
Whereas ANC 2B believes changes made after the October 2, 2014 HPRB meeting do not adequately address concerns raised in the prior review by HPRB, including:
· HPRB’s finding that the residential building’s height, mass, and architectural character should be significantly redesigned to be more residential in character;
· HPRB’s finding that significant further design work was needed to improve the church’s relationship to the historic district;
Whereas the changes since previous concept design has pushed massing towards the public alley rather than re-conceptualizing the design;
Whereas the residential design as presented on March 4th, 2015 at the ANC 2B Zoning, Preservation, and Development Committee meeting would be supportable if the residential component in height or bulk were compatible with the historic character and texture of the Dupont Circle neighborhood and in particular with the 1700 block of Church Street, NW;
Whereas many residents of the Dupont Circle neighborhood have expressed opinions that the designs of the two structures do not relate as well to the street as other buildings in the historic district, lack pedestrian-scale detailing, interfere with sight lines and maintain a horizontal and “boxy” appearance;
Therefore, be it RESOLVED that ANC 2B recommends that the Historic Preservation Review Board find the proposal compatible with the Dupont Circle Historic District if and only if the following is met:
Design and materials
• Alterations are made to the exterior design so that the corrugation of the Church Street buildings’ facades and the rhythm of the Church Street buildings’ roof lines are in scale with the surrounding buildings. In particular, design changes should be made to draw the eye more toward the church component of the project and to reduce the visual impact of the residential component;
• Alterations are made to make the church and residential exterior, materials and design more compatible with the historic character and scale of the neighborhood, representative of the remaining low density residential townhomes and buildings as intended by the letter and the spirit of the Dupont Circle Overlay. ANC 2B finds that the buildings are too angular, too symmetrical and lack architectural character that would enable the buildings to blend into the neighborhood, particularly in relation to Church Street.
• While ANC 2B does believe that a more modern and varied design could be compatible in the neighborhood, the church and residential designs as they stand today need additional architectural features that echo the neighborhood’s features, as illustrated by some of the buildings shown on page A-4 of the March 4, 2015 proposal. In particular, the articulation of the residential bays should be a more dramatic 4-5 feet offset to articulate the bays. The small, dark window panes throughout the residential component do not echo the rhythm of the street. With respect to the church, the horizontal terra cotta panels conflict with the vertical design elements and the campanile is strongly vertical, but is clad in short horizontal pieces, which is visually incongruent.
Massing and impact
• The residential building seen from adjacent at-grade vantage points including the entirety of Church Street, P Street, 18th Street, and the public alley between Church and P Streets be between 40 and 59 feet tall, including mechanicals, and maintain existing setbacks. This should be confirmed by a series of flag tests before substantial construction; ANC 2B understands this requirement may result in the reduction of total square footage of the residential component of the building and we encourage HPRB to limit the massing on the alley side;
• The project team considers a small setback, permanent easement, or other traffic circulation solution on the alley between the parking garage entrance and 18th Street to enhance mobility of alley users, more easily accommodate two-way traffic, and ameliorate congestion caused by the 33 new parking spaces, the purpose of which is to further enable the free circulation of vehicles and pedestrians through the public alley;
• A committee led by ANC 2B—including neighbors, St. Thomas, the project team, and DCCA—continues to engage in proactively addressing zoning and quality-of-life related matters prior to a zoning hearing;
• The project team submits a study of the effects on traffic and congestion, both on the 1700 block of Church Street, NW and in the alley between that block and the 1700 block of P Street, NW, and develops strategies to ameliorate any negative impact prior to a zoning hearing;
• The project team hires a professional arborist and submits plans to the ANC and HPRB that include methods to protect and preserve existing trees to the extent possible and, where not possible, to replace them;
Be it further RESOLVED that ANC 2B supports treating this project as including two separate structures, each of which is subject to the requirements of DC law and policy and each of which should comply with the letter and the spirit of historic preservation, zoning, and zoning overlay provisions.