PopUp at 511 Kenyon is Intriguing

511 Kenyon Street, NW.

511 Kenyon Street, NW.

In walking past 511 Kenyon Street, NW, on first glance it appears to be another of the many PopUps that are occurring throughout our rowhouse neighborhoods. Its neither the best nor worst I’ve seen, with the worst one might say of it being that the dormers seem to be just a little too large when compared to the scale of the original part of the house. However, this is not the typical PopUp. Upon inspection, the overall design of the additional floor and rear addition is more creative than most.

The original building was not popped back. Instead, a walkway has been cut through the right side of the basement granting access to the rear yard where a completely new structure has been built. In checking DCRA’s permitting database, everything seems to be in order, but somewhat difficult to follow. If I’m reading them correctly, it appears that the original house has been converted into a two-unit flat. The rear structure also appears that it may be a two-unit flat, which would total four living units upon completion. The rear of the property also has room for two parking spaces.

This will be an interesting project to watch. This project could be trend setting as the rear lots of the neighboring rowhouses are equally deep.

IMG_8570(After walking through a causeway through the original house, the visitor is greeted by this new structure separated from the original house by a small courtyard.)

IMG_8571(A view from the alley, wit the new structure in front, and the original house behind.)

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10 Comments on “PopUp at 511 Kenyon is Intriguing”

  1. Jeff Says:

    Kent, do you know how/what DCRA classified the rear structure? (ie carriage house, garage, accessory building, etc…)

  2. Jim Says:

    Intriguing??? The back unit is an eyesore and destroys the sense of openness fostered by the back yards and alleys of the neighborhood. And as I understand it, the owners\developers used some gray areas (at best) to obtain the required permits and approvals for the rear section. This isn’t intriguing, its ugly and extremely concerning.

  3. Tui Says:

    Jim — that’s your personal, subjective “sense of openness”. Others call it “densification”.

  4. Cliff Says:

    I’m with Jim, developers are hedging the rules and changing the character for everyone on the block. If I lived next door I’d be furious. Residents need to be able to depend on zoning laws for protection of economic, quality of life, and planning reasons. There is plenty of room for densification in the areas that legitimately have the zoning to do so without gray areas. Georgia Avenue for starters, where new buildings are downsized from their maximum occupancy restrictions. It makes no sense.

  5. Bruce Says:

    There was a carriage house structure where this new rear building now stands, it had a much smaller footprint and was obviously not as tall. I’m sad they got away with this. Really destroys those back yards on either side, but this is the era where density is king and taste is not a luxury afforded neighbors.

  6. Jim Says:

    Another comment I might add is that as the alleys are built up the current infrastructure might not be able to support this “densification.” For example, the new apartment building on the corner of Kenyon and Georgia relies on the alley for residents of that building to access parking. Not a big deal if only a few spaces are added, but what if a bunch more units like 511 Kenyon are added? There will be a need for additional infrastructure such as trash receptacles, parking, storm water drainage, gas/water/electric lines, and just space in general for movement that the alleys were never designed to support and may not support. I’m not sure this would be a major issue, but it’s another point to consider with regard to “densification”

  7. Tom Says:

    Love it…..!!

  8. mak Says:

    I highly doubt there was a carriage house behind this property before, a dilapidated shed perhaps.
    It’s an example of inevitable density structuring. It reminds me of a modern “mews”

  9. James Foster Says:

    Ken – My company Arcadia Design Services, designed this project for the owner. Please allow me to clarify some misconceptions.

    1. The project is only 2 units. The existing front structure is a single unit, and the new addition is a single unit. The owner submitted for building permits in 2 phases to expedite the process which may have led to your confusion.
    2. This project is 100% matter-of-right per the zoning code. There were NO gray areas. The project is built out at the allowable zoning for lot coverage, height, etc. I personally presented this to the zoning administrator, we have a zoning determination letter, and all permits were obtained through the standard regulatory process at DCRA. The rear structure is simply “classified” as an addition to the existing building.
    3. The neighbors on both sides signed off on the project. There is absolutely no opposition to this and my client enjoys a very good relationship with all the immediate neighbors.
    4. The owner actually purchased this property from another developer who had obtained permits and commenced construction on a large and more typical rear addition that would have projected directly off the rear of the existing structure at a similar height. This addition would have had 30 foot party walls towering directly over the rear facades of the adjacent houses. The owner with my direction proposed the alternative you see under construction. While one may have an opinion about the character of the neighborhood (a debate I am not here to argue) I suggest that this project is an improvement over what the original developer proposed, and makes an effort to allow the owner to develop the property while offering a solution that at least attempts to respect the context of the block. The open air courtyard maintains light, air and openness,
    5. There was no carriage house structure on this lot. There were some derelict garages across the alley on a separate lot which were razed recently by other parties.
    6. There are 2 parking spaces, twice the number required. This project in my opinion does not add any additional traffic load to the alley. There were essentially 2 spaces in the original configuration.

    Jim – I would welcome the opportunity to discuss directly with you where and who informed you of these supposed gray areas (at best). Ken has my personal contact information. It is of great concern to me to have my good reputation impugned in a public manner. I acknowledge your right to have an opinion, even a negative one. The owner has made a very concerted effort to do good work, we can agree to disagree on the aesthetic merits. However, I am deeply troubled at your implication of impropriety. I’d be very curious to know where you obtained your information.

    Jim Foster
    Arcadia Design Services


  10. […] previously check out 511 Kenyon back in April, where essentially another house was built behind the existing house (which was also popped up). […]


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