Archive for the ‘Architecture’ category

Zoning Commission Hears Park Morton/Bruce Monroe Cases

December 9, 2016
The Zoning Commission heard testimony on the effort to redevelop Park Morton this week, with an outcome likely at the end of January.

The Zoning Commission heard testimony on the effort to redevelop Park Morton this week, with an outcome likely at the end of January.

This week, the Zoning Commission heard testimony on the related Planned Unit Development cases for the Park Morton “Build First” site at the Bruce Monroe site (ZC16-11) and for the existing Park Morton site (ZC16-12). The hearings occurred on  Monday, December 5th and Thursday, December 8th, respectively with hearings on both nights beginning at 6:30 pm and running 4-5+ hours. In addition to the applicant and ANC1A, the Bruce Monroe Park Neighbors and Park Morton Residents Council were granted party status in Case 16-11 and the Park Morton Residents Council was granted party status in Case 16-12.

No votes were taken at either hearing. Testimony for ZC16-11 is closed, and submission for ZC16-12 will close at the end of business on December 12th. Additional details/information requested by the Zoning Commission needs to be filed by January 10th, parties will have until January 18th to respond, and January 30th has been scheduled for the Commission to take action on both cases.

While both cases are discrete, it was well understood that the two cases are closely linked and often times testimony in one case referenced the other. The testimony for both the Bruce Monroe case and the Park Morton case was strongly in favor. While there was no notable opposition to the redevelopment of the site on Morton Street, there was notable testimony in opposition to the development planned for the Bruce Monroe site including the aforementioned Bruce Monroe Park Neighbors which has party status in the case. Those wishing to watch the testimony in both cases can do so. Video for both cases is available (ZC16-11 opening statements and testimony here; closing arguments hereZC16-12 here). Prior to the Commission making a decision on the Bruce Monroe site, they’ve requested that the development team meet with the Bruce Monroe Park Neighbors group and attempt to address their concerns.

Questions from Commissioners were encouraging, and seemed to drill down into details that would improve the project or provide better documentation so that the expected amenities would actually be provided. Perhaps the most important questions along these lines for community members had to do with the creation of the new 1 acre park at the Bruce Monroe site. While there was recognition that the park would be a significant amenity, the park itself is not included in the PUD application. To this end, the Commission has requested that appropriate language be included that documents as much detail as possible about the park such as size, location, and any other decisions that have been made. One Commissioner also suggested that perhaps language could be included that would require that the park be constructed and completed prior to the issuance of a certificate of occupancy for the buildings. There was also a request for more details on which entities would be responsible for creating and maintaining the park. At this time, the thoughts on this are that it would be a shared responsibility between the Department of General Services, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and the developer.

Commissioner May, in particular, drilled down into the architectural details of both applications. Notably, May and other commissioners commented that they would like a different brick used at the Bruce Monroe site, as white brick tends to get dirty quickly and didn’t really relate to the surrounding community. Commissioner Miller suggested that red brick be considered instead. There was also a sense that the rowhouses planned for the Bruce Monroe site could be more architecturally compatible with the neighborhood, and requested that the developer respond to that.

Testimony in opposition to the development at the Bruce Monroe site ranged from requesting that the buildings be shorter, expressing dissatisfaction with the community engagement process, claiming a lack of ANC representation (Commissioners Brown and Nguyen recused themselves due to conflicts of interest), and advocating to use the entire site as a permanent park.

While the long term use of the Bruce Monroe site has been a hot button issue in the community since the Bruce Monroe School was razed in 2010, Zoning Commission Chair Anthony Hood summed it up succinctly. While questioning Buwa Binitie of Dantes Partners early in the evening on Monday, Hood stated:

I believe when Bruce Monroe [school] was torn down, that I think everyone in this city knew that there was some type of development [that] was going to happen there. So that’s no surprise. I’m sure that even the new neighbors, I think when you bought into the neighborhood you knew there was going to be some type of development in the area.

Park View School Cafeteria Replacement Project Moving Forward

November 21, 2016

At a School Improvement Team meeting held on November 2nd (minutes here), it was confirmed that $11.2M has been dedicated to replace and upgrade the cafeteria at the Bruce Monroe @ Park View Elementary School. The project was delayed in part due to a lot of turnover at the Department of General Services, both on the procurement and project management side. As a result, DGS has decided to execute in a more efficient way — Design-Build. This is when the architect and construction company are brought on together, which allows the design, planning, pricing, permitting, and construction to move quicker. The cafeteria kitchen expansion project is expected to increase the dining area for students and cooking space for staff.

At the time of this posting, the RFP had not been issued, but is expected to be issued any day. Interested neighbors can check the  Bruce Monroe @ Park View School Modernization Web page for updates.

NRHP Park View School(The Park View elementary school at 3560 Warder Street, NW)

Inaugural Evelyn Greenberg Preservation Awards Includes Recognition of Historic Hebrew Home Building

August 4, 2016

On June 9, 2016, the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington (JHSGW) presented their inaugural Evelyn Greenberg Preservation Awards — a tribute for Evelyn Greenberg, who was instrumental in re-discovering and saving the historic 1876 Adas Israel synagogue from the wrecker’s ball in 1969. The building is destined to be moved again as a result of the Capitol Crossing project.

Two Greenberg Preservation Awards were presented this year. I received one for my work that resulted in the successful nomination of the buildings at 1125-1131 Spring Road, NW — the former home of the Hebrew Home of the Aged and the JSSA (Jewish Social Service Agency). Both properties are now on the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites and listed on the National Register.

I thought you would enjoy watching the video of the event, and my presentation on the history of the Hebrew Home, which was released yesterday by the JHSGW and view-able below.

Ward 1 Landmarks: The Cavalier — 3500 14th Street, NW

July 22, 2016


This imposing apartment building opened in 1927 as Hilltop Manor, an appropriate name given its topographic position, general prominence, and Renaissance Revival architecture. The building was one of a number of collaborations between architect Harvey H. Warwick and developer Morris Cafritz. It is a visual landmark in Columbia Heights in part because it immediately adjoins the public sidewalk, stands 90 feet tall at the roof peak, and occupies frontage along an entire block. The density of the development illustrates the rapid growth on major suburban thoroughfares in the post-World War I era, largely directed by the streetcar system and a new zoning ordinance. It was among the earliest cooperative apartments in the District of Columbia, a housing phenomenon that arose here in the 1920s, promising to give more control to resident owners and afford a high level of services by spreading costs among them. It was renamed ―The “Cavalier” only two years after opening.

(DC designation June 28, 2007; NR listing July 26, 2007)


In 2009 the Cavalier Apartments were renamed “Hubbard Place” in honor of community leader Leroy Hubbard, whose career was dedicated to rebuilding 14th Street after the civil disorders of 1968. The building is a nine story mid-rise with 230 apartments along with ground floor retail and office spaces. All 230 apartments are rent-assisted units.

Check Out the Ward 1 Heritage Guide, Great Overview of Ward 1 History and Neighborhoods

July 20, 2016

The Historic Preservation Office (HPO) finally has the Ward 1 Heritage Guide available on their Website (click on image below). It’s an interesting overview of Ward 1 history, culture, and neighborhoods. HPO’s Ward Heritage Guides and a fun introduction to what makes each Ward/neighborhood special. While I’ve posted it before, you can also check out the Ward 4 guide here.

Ward 1 Heritage Guide

Park Morton Development Plan for Morton Street and Park Road Offers Mix of Housing Types & Styles

May 24, 2016

The planned replacement and redevelopment of the Park Morton public housing complex centered on the 600 blocks of Morton Street and Park Road will have one of the largest positive impacts on the Park View neighborhood of any of the projects currently in the development pipeline for the community. On May 13th and 16th the Park View Community Partners filed their applications and plans to redevelop Park Morton with the Zoning Commission. In reviewing the application, the overall development plan is to replace the existing 174 public housing units at Park Morton with approximately 456 units of mixed income housing spread across the two sites – 273 units at the Georgia and Irving site and 183 at the existing Park Morton site. The replacement of the public housing units includes a commitment for current Park Morton residents to remain in the community by moving into new units across both sites as they are constructed in phases. My previous post included a brief historic overview of efforts to develop Park Morton over the past decade, and focused primarily on the plans for the “build first” site located at Georgia Avenue and Irving Street, NW. This post will focus on the plans for the existing Park Morton site located at Morton Street and Park Road.

Park Road apartment(Design for new apartment building on Park Road by Torti Gallas Urban, Inc., from zoning application.)

The Park Morton housing complex as it currently exists is a collection of 12 apartment buildings containing 174 apartments. The original effort to build Park Morton dates to the 1950s with the development completed in November 1961. It was among the first affordable housing developments planned and completed by the National Capital Housing Authority for families displaced by urban renewal in Southwest, D.C. Its design represented a new trend in affordable housing – a trend that was moving away from large, many storied developments and toward smaller houses, three-story walkup apartments, and garden apartments. Today, Park Morton is aging and in poor repair, necessitating its replacement.

The plans recently filed with the zoning application show the 12 three-story walkup apartment buildings being replaced with a large apartment building fronting Park Road and a series of 50 townhouse structures that will include both single-family and stacked flat housing. Overall, the development will create 183 new residential units, an increase of nine units over Park Morton’s current capacity. Apartment sizes will be a mix of studio, 1-, 2-, 3-, and 4-bedroom units. 53 units will be replacement units for Park Morton’s current residents, 40 units will be designated as affordable units for households earning up to 60% AMI, with the remainder being available at market rate.

Factors that impacted the plan, resulting in a mix of townhouses and an apartment building, included the sites current zoning (which only allows three story rowhouses by right); a desire to have the resulting development integrate and become one with the surrounding residential community; and the desire to create a street grid that removes the existing Morton Street cul-de-sac to make physical connections to the greater neighborhood. In these regards the redevelopment plan for this section of Park Morton will have a greater impact of the neighborhood’s infrastructure and travel patterns than the Georgia Avenue site. The most significant non-housing improvements will be:

  • Closing the existing Morton Street cul-de-sac;
  • Creating a new public street connecting Park Road with Morton Street;
  • Creating a new public street connecting Morton Street with Warder Street; and,
  • Creating a new public park on Morton Street.

street network(Detail from the zoning application that identifies existing and proposed streets at the Park Morton site.)

As one of four public housing efforts that are part of the New Communities Initiative, the replacement of Park Morton has been approached as a phased development due to the need to build replacement housing units for Park Morton residents before demolishing existing structures. In the case of Park Morton, the phasing breaks down as:

  • Phase 1: The “build first” site at Georgia and Irving (273 units total; including 94 Park Morton replacement units);
  • Phase 2: The new multifamily apartment building on Park Road (126 units total; including 35 Park Morton replacement units); and,
  • Phase 3: the Townhome structures on Morton Street (57 units total; including 18 Park Morton replacement units).

While these are distinct phases, it is possible that parts of Phases 2 and 3 could occur simultaneously.

Phasing(Detail from the zoning application that identifies the areas within the 2nd and 3rd phases of the development.)

Architecturally, the design of the buildings is mixed. The design for the Park Road apartment building derives inspiration for its massing and design from the existing apartment buildings in the neighborhood, and especially from the newer buildings on Georgia Avenue. Conversely, the townhouse buildings have a more traditional aesthetic and take their cues from the historic rowhouses that exist in the surrounding residential neighborhood.

Overall, the plan for redeveloping the current Park Morton site has much merit. The next steps will be for ANC1A to review the case for the zoning relief requested (i.e. higher density, setbacks, etc.) and weigh those requests against the proposed community amenities (new streets, public park, etc.) and see if the end result is in the best interest of the community and the District of Columbia, as a whole.

Rowhouses at Park Morton(Rendering showing new park and townhouses on Morton Street, from zoning application.)

Zoning Cases Filed for Park Morton Development Effort

May 23, 2016

On May 13th and 16th, Park View Community Partners filed two zoning cases with their plans to redevelop the aging Park Morton Housing Complex as a new mixed-income community. These plans focus on two sites in the Park View neighborhood. The first is the existing Park Morton public housing site centered at the 600 block of Morton Street, NW. The second is the former Bruce Monroe School site at Georgia Avenue between Irving and Columbia Road which has served the community as a temporary park since 2010. After delays and uncertainty, the selection of Park View Community Partners as the new Park Morton development team in the fall of 2014, and months of community meetings beginning in the fall of 2015, the efforts to redevelop Park Morton has new life and strong promise.

Perspective from northeast(Rendering of proposed buildings at Georgia Avenue and Irving Street, from Zoning submission by Park View Community Partners.)

According to the zoning cases filed in May, the overall development plan is to replace the existing 174 public housing units at Park Morton with approximately 456 units of mixed income housing spread across the two sites – 273 units at the Georgia and Irving site and 183 at the existing Park Morton site. The replacement of the public housing units includes a commitment for current Park Morton residents to remain in the community by moving into new units across both sites as they are constructed in phases.

Due to the complexity and scale of the development effort – and the filing of two separate zoning cases – this post will focus on the redevelopment of the property at Georgia and Irving Street with a follow up post on the plans for the Park Morton site.

Efforts to redevelop the Park Morton housing community date to 2005, when it was identified as one of four communities that would be rebuilt as part of the New Communities Initiative – a District effort to convert public-housing developments into larger, mixed-income communities. Since then, moving the redevelopment effort forward has had its challenges. The first Park Morton development team – Landex Corporation and its District-based development partner the Warrenton Group – was successful in building The Avenue, which was completed in 2012 and contains 83 affordable housing units including 27 replacement units for Park Morton residents. Yet Landex’s inability to secure additional “build first” development sites resulted in the District terminating their agreement with Landex in early 2014 as the Park Morton developer, leaving the future in limbo.

In two separate meetings I held with Landex Corp. in January and October of 2013, I learned first-hand about the difficulties they were facing in securing property to continue the Park Morton development effort, and the District’s lack of support to assist in solving the problem of identifying development sites. With the change in developers the District also has changed their approach to site selection and identified the former Bruce-Monroe school site as the Park Morton “build first” site after a New Communities Initiative (NCI) review of available parcels near Park Morton in the summer of 2015. NCI’s selection of the temporary park at Georgia and Irving is not surprising. I came to a similar conclusion in November 2013 after my meetings with Landex earlier that year.

Some of the factors that make the Georgia Avenue site an attractive “build-first” site include:

  • The site is already owned by the District;
  • No District agency has expressed an interest in using it;
  • The site is in close proximity to the existing Park Morton site;
  • The site is 77,531 sq. ft., or approximately 1.8 acres, making it one of the largest available sites in the area; and,
  • The Georgia Avenue half of the site is zoned C-2-A (commercial) which allows and encourages higher density. This is unlike the existing Park Morton site which is zoned for three story rowhouse development.

Not surprisingly, the selection of the Georgia Avenue parcel has not been without its critics. Among the concerns expressed during the community engagement process are:

  • The proposed development will be too dense;
  • The proposed development will be too tall;
  • The development will destroy the green space/park/community garden;
  • The development will have a negative impact on traffic; and,
  • The development will have too much affordable housing, especially at the lower end of the range.

After months of community/ANC/Steering Committee meetings and planning workshops, the development plan for the site at Georgia and Irving as submitted to Zoning is planned to contain 273 residential units — 189 apartment units, 76 senior apartment units, and 8 townhouses. Of the 273 units, 94 will be replacement units for Park Morton residents. 108 units will be for moderate income households earning up to 60% AMI leaving 71 units that will be available at market rate. An interesting and unique feature of this plan is that it preserves public space by creating a new, large, and permanent park on the southern half of the site.

Bruce Monroe site plan(Site plan of the development proposed for the former Bruce Monroe school site, from Zoning documents.)

The large apartment building on the northern half of the site is divided into two sections — a larger section the fronts Georgia Avenue and a smaller section that connects to it on the west that will be reserved for seniors. Eight rowhouses will also be constructed at the far west of the parcel.

The plans show the larger of the buildings at 90′ in height, not counting the penthouse structure. This is taller than other recently completed developments on Georgia Avenue but not out of keeping. 32 Thirty Two Apartments (#2 below) was built at 80′ and the new Safeway was built at 85′. Additionally, of the Planned Unit Developments that have already been approved but not broken ground, the PUD for 3212-3216 Georgia (#1 below) has been approved at 87′ and the PUD for the Vue (#3 below) is approved for 90′.

Corridor Massing(Corridor massing illustration from Zoning documents. The buildings in yellow represent those in the Park Morton development.)

The development plan also includes 99 underground parking spaces and 6 on-street parking paces that will be located on a new privately maintained street at the rear of the parcel. The new street will not only allow the garage entrance to be located off of Irving Street, but it will also connect with the alley, providing far more access to residents living there now.

While the overall plan is a good one, there are still details that need to be worked out — the chief of these being the programming of the park space. During the public meetings it was noted that all of the uses that are currently on the site could be accommodated in the new park. As noted when looking at the plan above, the programming of the site has not been finalized. This should not be perceived as suggesting that dedicated uses and programming do not exist, but rather that the locations and configurations for how the park will serve the community is still somewhat flexible and will be further refined as part of the public dialogue and review by the ANCs as they consider the public amenities agreement that is part of the PUD process. Both Advisory Neighborhood Commissions 1A and 1B have standing with the former school site and both have been actively engaged to date. Both ANCs 1A & 1B voted to support the surplus and disposition of the former school site (at their April and May meetings respectively), and will consider the zoning case at a future meeting.

Perspective from southeast(Rendering of the development proposed for the Bruce Monroe site. View from the southeast from Zoning documents.)

Three Maps That Provide Insight Into How Park View Developed

May 12, 2016

I was recently alerted to the following three maps of Park View that were created for the Historic Preservation Office/Office of Planning in 2015. I think they are interesting and help provide some context for how the neighborhood was built out. I hope you find them interesting too.

Map 1: This map shows the age of the neighborhood, with eras represented by different colors (darkest color represents the oldest buildings).ParkView_Years

Map 2: This map shows the top five architects represented in the building permit database.ParkView_Architects

Map 3: This map shows the top five builders represented in the building permit database.ParkView_Developers

Update on Alsco/Linens of the Week Redevelopment on Lamont

April 13, 2016
Perspective of Alsco development from 2014

Perspective of Alsco development from 2014

Its been more than a year since I’ve shared anything about the redevelopment project headed for the old Alsco/Linens of the Week plant planned for Lamont Street (See August 2014 post here).

In reviewing the lists of both permit applications and approved permits between March 21 and April 8, 2016, things appear to finally be moving with this development. The records show the following so far:

  • 3/22/16 — 713 Lamont Street, NW. Permit application (review in progress) for Excavation Sheeting and Shoring (Section C below)
  • 3/23/16 — 713 Lamont Street, NW. Permit application (review in progress) for removal of one approximately 10,000-gallon heating oil underground storage tank (Section C below)
  • 3/30/16 — 735 Lamont Street, NW. Permit application (review in progress) for the conversion of an existing 4 story warehouse/commercial laundry in to a 76 unit apartment building, with one level of below grade utility space. The facade along Lamont Street and the floors and Structural frame of the building will be saved and reused.  The below grade utility space will be cast in place concrete, with the above grade apartment building will be metal stud framing with brick and fiber cement cladding infill on the existing concrete frame — This permit corresponds to Section B in the drawing below.
  • 3/30/16 — 724 Morton Street, NW. Permit issued for the removal of one approximately 10,000-gallon heating oil underground storage tank.
  • 4/7/16 — 785 Lamont Street, NW. Permit application (review in progress) for a new building (8 unit new construction, apartment building, with one level of below grade utility space and parking lot.  The below grade Utility Space will be in cast in place concrete, with the above grade apartment building will be wood framing with brick and fiber cement cladding) — This permit would be for the new construction labeled Section A below.

As a recap, the plan presented in 2014 is to redevelop the existing Lamont street properties in three sections. There is also the vacant lot facing Morton Street. The Lamont Street sections are illustrated below with descriptions following them.

Alsco south elevation

Section “A” is a surface parking lot for Alsco. This area would be developed to have a 3-story, 8-unit building along Lamont Street and include 14 parking spaces at the rear. The building would have a total of 9,600 sq. ft.

Section “B” is the 4-story building constructed in 1925. The plan is to create 76 living units in this building. No parking would be included in this section of the project. Areas would be cut out of the east and west facades to permit light into the new units. This structure would have around 68,784 sq. ft.

Section “C” is — in my opinion — the most interesting part of the development. It would have about 117,886 sq. ft. of space for 139 units. This is the oldest of the buildings, originally erected ca. 1920. The 1-story facade would be retained and restored and the original entrance would be returned to how it looked when the building was first completed providing a prominent entryway. The Lamont Street section would be developed into townhouse-like living units.

More Improvements Headed for Park View School

January 21, 2016
Bruce-Monroe @ Park View Elementary, located on Warder Street.

Bruce-Monroe @ Park View Elementary, located on Warder Street.

A core group of School Improvement Team members met at the Bruce-Monroe @ Park View school last night to begin discussing additional improvements to the school. Among those in attendance were teachers and school administrators, representatives from DCPS and DGS, Councilmember Nadeau, Commissioner Boese, and a few parents. The primary purpose of the meeting was to set expectations for future meetings and to begin the dialogue to determine what improvements should be made.

The school currently has a budget of roughly $5.7 Million  to put towards design and construction. There will also be a River Smart Grant available in 2017, though the amount is not yet known but probably won’t be for more than around one to two hundred thousand dollars.

While a project high on the priority list for the school is a renovated cafeteria and parking lot, it was shared that the money needed for that project would be around $10 Million. To begin the conversation, Patrick Davis of the DC Public Schools shared a list of potential projects with the group (below).


As part of the discussion, it was noted that there is a strong desire to finish the modernization of the school, and that the cafeteria is a high priority. The homework given to DCPS prior to the next SIT meeting is to compile a complete list of projects required to consider the Park View School building as fully modernized, along with cost estimates for those projects. While the SIT currently needs to make a decision for the use of the $5.7M, it is also interested in knowing what funding is needed to finish the modernization. The first phase of modernizing the building was completed in Summer 2012.

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