Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Church Ready to Build Subsidized Housing in Shaw, Tear Down Old Homes


A church in Shaw is closer to knocking down a small swatch of DC history to make way for a public housing project on Rhode Island Avenue. The United House of Prayer for All People, at 601 M St, NW, owns a vacant lot and 4 row houses at 625 Rhode Island Avenue, and plans to demolish the latter in order to build a 4-story, 16-unit subsidized housing project.

According to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, the church has applied for a raze permit, not yet issued, to replace the townhouses and begin construction "within the next couple of months." The homes are not in a historic district, according to DCRA, which means no exemption is needed to raze the property despite their age - which was not available within District government records. The property is adjacent to the vacant lot known as Parcel 42, where protestors staged a demonstration last year criticizing the level of subsidies intended for the lot, complaining that the District, which had planned a subsidized housing project, was not providing enough subsidies and that Washington D.C. had insufficient low-income housing.
The application to demolish the buildings has not yet been approved, though the fact that the land falls outside the historic district means approval is perfunctory and a matter of paperwork. Suzane Reatig Architecture has designed a 32,125 s.f. building comprised of 16 units, eight of which will be affordable to households earning 60%–80% of the AMI, with a mix of two and three-bedroom units, ranging from 1,150 sf. to 2,200 sf. The District government approved a planned unit development (PUD) for the zoning change, with LEED certification. "We're going to have some awnings on the top, that will be an interesting feature. There will be a wedge shaped private garden on the west side that will be a visual amenity" said Megan Mitchell, a project designer at the architecture firm, which has worked with United House of Prayer for All People on previous projects.

The Church was contacted but would not comment on the proposed building or the razing of the townhouses.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hope that the preservation powers-that-be recognize that this is a spectacular opportunity to keep their mouths shut.

The old buildings in question are of extremely limited historic or architectural value and are urbanstically too small for wide Rhode Island Avenue; the new building shows great architectural and urbanistic promise; desperately-needed affordable units will be created; and the developer & architect have a great track record.

If DC is to live up to its aspiration to be a "world city," we must densify. Preservation has a role, certainly -- but let's remember that the preservation statute repeatedly uses the word "significant." It does not use the word "quotidian." These old buildings are quotidian at best, not significant in any way.

Anonymous said...

So, beyond the 8 units that will be affordable housing, am I correct in understanding the rest will go at market rate?

I am a fan of the design and think the building will add a lot to the neighborhood. I admittedly don't know a lot about public housing projects or affordable housing, but my one concern with this project that that it is clustered so closely with the other housing projects in Shaw, which I think has been a huge detriment to all in the neighborhood (including those who live in those projects). Hopefully this will have a net positive effect on the neighborhood.

jmehsc on Mar 2, 2011, 2:37:00 PM said...

Everything is a witness to history, but that doesn't make them historic. These houses are insignificant, and in poor condition. I'm a preservationist in spirit, but saving these houses could prevent attractive redevelopment (I won't hold my breath, though, that the replacement will be anything beautiful).

Anonymous said...

As hideous as those houses are, I would rather them stay than end up with more subsidized housing.

Erin said...

Density is necessary here, 1 block from the Metro, but the new architecture won't be an improvement - a woodframed building for subsidized housing, which, by the way, is in every building in Shaw. If they want to add to density and urbanity they should build something more substantial that will last.

Anonymous said...

Great, dump some more low-income housing in Shaw. It's not like there aren't already 8+ other substantial low-income projects in a 5 block radius of the Shaw metro... oh right, but there are.

Continuing to pile poverty, and all the crime and problems that come with it, along 7th street in Shaw continues an urban planning disaster. One that will continue to hold the area back in terms of growth, development and attracting business.

Put it in Georgetown, Dupont, Capitol Hill, West End... and stop dumping it in Shaw.

Anonymous said...

Another chunk of glass in a fine grained urban street. Agreed about the need for increased scale, but why do office buildings, luxury condos, and low income housing have to be skinned in the same banal glass wall?

Answer: Because the architect has to show how slick and up-to date they are. Forget the clients, who don't want to live in a fish bowl, and will eventually cover those energy depleting walls with curtains. It's not about the architect, it's about the people.

Anonymous said...

Shaw does not need any more affordable housing. Some of the complexes that are there should be rebuilt so that they become part of the neighborhood rather than focus inside the block onto parking lots. They could also be rebuilt denser. The houses being torn down are not significant.

Anonymous said...

Are affordable housing units run by churches as notoriously awful as the ones which I believe are run by the city (the ones just up the street from here)? It seems like they might be offering the units to families less likely to engage in the kind of behavior that leads to crime, etc. Additionally, since half the units will presumably be market rate, this means that there will only be 8 affordable income units added to the neighborhood, in a building that, regardless of whether it is good construction or you really like the style, will help to clean up the streetscape and give the neighborhood a more developed, gentrified vibe. All in all, I think this is a plus (although it is close).

Anonymous said...

Why's everyone ripping on preservationists in this comment section? Their hasent been a word about the need to keep these buildings from any group...

Anonymous said...

Here's a preservationist willing to speak up and say it's a travesty these building will be lost!!...a scenario all too common in the DC when things fall just outside historic districts. To lose these poor houses, which are properly scaled and designed to complement the neighborhood, is truly unfortunate. These structures retain both architectural and historic integrity even though they've experienced change over time. If the boundaries of the National Register historic district were expanded, they most definitely would contribute. The new construction is wholly (holy?) uninspired, will be hastily built with inferior building materials and will be designed without a nod to the context. How much do you wanna bet they’ll claim the new construction is “green?” Statistics show there is no greener building than the one already built. Leave things be…there’s been far too much demolition already in the name of progress and as a result, neighborhoods are irreparably changed and not for the better.

Anonymous said...

The last commentator took the words right out of my mouth. What they will be replaced by is far inferior and will never be worthy of preservation 50 years from now.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the current house are all that nice, but the fact that low income units will fill the space makes me value these tiny homes even more. And good point about the greenest way to build is to keep existing ones. i would rather have old ugly homes then new thunglies in the hood.

Anonymous said...

Project civil engineering by CAS Engineering, www.casengineering.com. Great rehab project of a run-down site in the District.

DaveRoth on Mar 3, 2011, 6:20:00 PM said...

Suzane Reatig should be banned from ever designing another building, particularly in Shaw. The firm's work is awful.

Example No. 1: http://www.reatig.com/7th1713.html

Anonymous said...

Her work looks like she's trying to ape the work of the great modernist masters Gropious and Mies because to do well in architecture school when she came up, everybody had to if they wanted to do well.

This lasted for decades and still holds true for some hardcore ideologues that believe if you're not designing cold sterile boxes, you're a sentimental sap.

Architecture needs to shed this tired old formula and start designing buildings that add rather than diminish the street.

The rule should be if you're so interested in shoving this crap down you're clients throughts, you should be willing to live in it. My guess is the majority of modernists prefer something with a little more style and class.

Anonymous said...

Wow, another United House of Prayer housing block. I think they developed affordable housing on the block north and three or more blocks east side of the Convention Center -- all are the same design; at least the facades are all the same. If these are by Suzane Reatig, we should not expect a building with great urban appeal.

Q-Street said...

More %$&# subsidized housing in the neighborhood. What a joke.

Anonymous said...

Oh stop complaining if the church is willing to do something with neighborhood than let them it would be a lot better than the eyesores that have lingered in the shaw area for years.

 

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