Archive for the ‘Historic Landmarks’ category

Efforts to Redevelop Hebrew Home Property Still Moving Along

February 10, 2017
The former Hebrew Home and Robeson School site at 1125 Spring Road.

The former Hebrew Home and Robeson School site at 1125 Spring Road.

The District’s efforts to find a developer for the former Hebrew Home for the Aged at 1125 Spring Road are making progress. Two public meetings were held to solicit community input through the OurRFP process, one on April 9, 2016, and a follow up meeting on June 2, 2016. Following these meetings, the RFP was issued July 1, 2016.

The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) received nine proposals from the following development teams in response to the RFP:

  • Borger Management and Spectrum Management
  • Gilbane Development Company and NHT-Enterprise
  • Duball and Bundy Development Corp.
  • Community Preservation and Development Corporation (CPDC) and NVR
  • Telesis Corp.
  • Mission First, UrbanMatters Development and Lock7 Development
  • NHP Foundation, Fivesquares Development, and Warrenton Group
  • Victory Housing and Brinshore Development
  • Bozzuto Homes and The Menkiti Group

The next step in the process will be for DMPED to coordinate with ANCs 1A and 4C, and the community, to review the concepts and garner comments on which proposals are considered most promising. This could happen withing the next few weeks with the ANCs considering formal positions at their March meetings.

Then and Now: Lithuanian Embassy on 16th Street

January 26, 2017

Recently I found a glass magic lantern slide showing the “Norwegian Ligation” located on 16th Street in 1912 (see below). The Norwegian embassy moved to a new building on Massachusetts Avenue in 1931, where it remains today.

1912-norway-lithuania-embassies(Lithuanian Embassy building on 16th Street in 1912)

Anyone familiar with the building will know instantly that the building in the photo is actually two buildings. the northern half is the Lithuanian Embassy, and the southern half was razed and replaced with a tall apartment building in 1965 which is jarringly incompatible with the surrounding architectural character of the area. However, I think it is easy to miss that the Lithuanian embassy building itself has also had an addition — not just in the rear but also on top. In this way, I think the expansion of the 1907 building was accomplished successfully. It is also good to see that Lithuania is a good steward of its building, and undertook a restoration of the limestone and terracotta facades in 2008, which can be seen here.

lithuanian-embassy-2017(View of Lithuanian Embassy and abutting apartment building as it appears today)

Approved Development Site on Park Road on the Market

December 16, 2016

Perspective 2 625 Park Road

I’ve received a heads up from a number of people that the church and parking lot at 625 Park Road is for sale, with an asking price of $8,900,000. The property last sold in July 2013 for $2,100,000 and while there have been no improvements to the property, it does have an approved development plan that is valuable (plans here).

The listing states:

Opportunity for Condo builders -Shovel Ready- Approved 38 units with Plans and Permit. For sale is the assemblage of existing church at 625 Park road to be converted to 12 units and a lot at 633 Park road approved for 26 units. Total of 36K sqft. (11) 1BR/1.5 Baths, (26) 2BR/2.5 baths and (1) 3BR unit.

The former church building on the property was added to the DC Inventory of Historic Sites in June 2014, but that listing does not include the vacant parking lot. The resulting plan and overall concept was approved by both the Board of Zoning Adjustment and the Historic Preservation Review Board. Since that time there has been no progress on the site, which is puzzling. While the historic status of the church initially created a design challenge (already solved), it also created some financial incentives.

The biggest asset for the church structure is that a 20% income tax credit is available for the rehabilitation of historic, income-producing buildings.  This incentive is significant enough that many developers who renovate large apartment buildings will nominate their buildings for historic consideration in order to qualify for the tax credit. In nearby Columbia Heights, Urban Investment Partners (UIP) sought and got landmark status for the apartment building at 1346 Park Road precisely for this reason. Other sources of revenue are available as well, such as a DC Preservation League grant for up to $50,000 that could be used for a bricks-and-mortar project at the church building.

Unfortunately, the site is too small (and too expensive) for it to be incorporated into the effort to redevelop Park Morton — though I’ve long thought it would have been a nice addition to the project with the church functioning as a community meeting room, rental office, and other community uses.

Its also notable that while the site is officially listed on Redfin now, the owner seems to have been willing to sell the property since the beginning of the year as it was one of the sites Mayor Bowser considered for the new short-term family housing to be built across the city so that D.C. General can close, but the site was ultimately not selected for a shelter as it was considered to be too small for that purpose too.

Perspective 1 625 Park Road

Refresh of Petworth’s Chez Billy Hardly Refreshing

December 5, 2016

Back at the end of July 2016, Petworth’s Chez Billy closed to “refresh the decor” and launch a new “concept.” Now, four months since, it appears that we have a clue as to what a refresh of the decor actually means. I was very disappointed to see that the exterior of the building is being painted an interesting shade of green with the covering or removal of the handsome Tudor elements.

former-chez-billy(Transformation of Petworth’s former Chez Billy at 3815 Georgia Avenue, NW)

Personal tastes aside, the transformation of the exterior is particularly disappointing as the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009 (read nomination here) due to the site’s association with Billy Simpson’s House of Seafood and Steaks — which was historically significant for playing a notable role in the social and political culture of the District of Columbia’s African American community. The restaurant was frequented by many notable people in politics and government, and the owner, William W. “Billy” Simpson, was an avid supporter of civil rights and anti-war causes.

When the building was renovated for Chez Billy, the exterior was tastefully restored to be in keeping with the site’s history. Now it appears that all that will remain will be a plaque alerting passers-by that the building  is on the African American Heritage Trail with a brief paragraph of explanation.

The photo below shows what the building looked like before the refresh.

Chez Billy's

Preservation Office’s New Online Application Maps Historic Development and Preservation of DC

November 29, 2016

I thought this was interesting, yesterday the Historic Preservation Office announced the launch of HistoryQuest DC, a GIS-based web map that provides historical data on approximately 127,000 extant buildings in Washington, D.C. The Office of Planning’s Web site provides the following description of the application:

The application, HistoryQuest DC, is an interactive GIS map that provides historical data on approximately 127,000 extant buildings in Washington, D.C.  The map offers several operational layers of information for the user including historic data on individual buildings, links to documentation on properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places, information on historic residential subdivisions, and the identification and boundaries of the L’Enfant Plan, and the city’s Squares, and Wards. The featured layer in the map—the Historical Data on DC Buildings—provides information from a variety of sources on original dates of construction, architects, owners and builders of the city’s historic buildings.

The application also includes a Query tool that allows the user to analyze the historic data within a specified geographic area or city-wide.

This application has evolved out of the DC Historical Building Permits Database project and is still a work-in-progress. Anyone with additional information or knowledge about specific buildings that will enhance, enrich, or correct the map, please use the “Propose Data Change” on the banner at the top of the map, complete and submit the GeoForm.

By using the search box, anyone using the maps can quickly get to basic data on any property, including when a house was built and who the architect and builder were. The various layers also can generate some interesting maps. In addition to historic landmarks, the following maps show some examples of the maps that it generates.

history-quest-1(In looking at the map generally, it is easy to quickly get an idea of how old section of DC are. The older the building, the darker the color.)

history-quest-2(In exploring the various layers, one option is to show existing historic districts.)

history-quest-3(Another interesting feature, many of the original subdivisions have been recorded.)

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

Cavelier

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)

Cavelier

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.


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