Monday, June 27, 2011

Historic Rowhouse Façades Likely to Remain


A plan by the Third Street Church of God to raze three historic rowhouses at 1232-1236 New Jersey Avenue NW in the Mount Vernon Square Historic District (MVSHD) has been changed. The new plan, after recent consultation with the Historic Preservation Office (HPO), is for the church to retain the sound façades and demolish the decrepit rear, and is detailed in the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB)'s staff report, published Friday, in advance of the upcoming Board meeting this Thursday, June 30th. If the Board grants approval, the HPO will then wave forward the Third Street Church of God's new plan for partial demolition.

The three rowhouses were originally four, however the southernmost one was demolished before the designation of the MVSHD in 1999. All three are flat-front, brick rowhouses built in 1866-1867, and according to the HPRB staff report, are "representative of the speculative housing built on the outskirts of the city in the boom years immediately following the Civil War."

The HPRB staff report, prepared by staff reviewer Brendan Meyer, outlines that "large portions of the three rowhouses are in extremely dilapidated condition... specifically the rear masonry walls and one-story ells are compromised structurally by numerous trees that have taken root in the walls." The staff report, released Friday, states that "[a]fter recent consultation with the HPO, the church has agreed to revise the raze application and now wish [sic] to pursuse a concept approval that would allow them to demolish only portions of the buildings not visible from New Jersey Avenue."

Although the rowhouses have suffered from longstanding exposure to the elements at the rear, resulting in extensive mold, a flourishing termite colony, and "nearly total loss of interior finishes... [and] structural integrity [of the back portions]." The front of the buildings are in "relatively good condition" and show "only typical wear for 150-year-old masonry," explains the staff report.

Because the façades of the rowhouses are salvageable, while the rear is impassable, the HPO is recommending that the Board approves this new, compromised solution to save some of all three historic structures - which front New Jersey Avenue. This new plan would restore the historic face of the property, and retain the "possibility that the current or a future owner may be able to incorporate the historic structures into a future development," as is stated in the staff report.

In the meantime, if the plan is approved and the church follows through with demolition of the back portion of all three rowhouses, the newly created space will be used for 3 to 5 churchgoers to park.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

19 comments:

IMGoph on Jun 27, 2011, 7:09:00 PM said...

so there's going to be a wall in front of parking spots?

wow.

Ace in DC said...

So, for a historic designated structure, demolition is generally not allowed. But completely neglecting a historic building and thus forcing it to fall apart is allowed? The buildings didn't just "dilapidate" (I know - not a real word) themselves. It was a conscious effort on the part of the church to allow it to happen. Unfortunately this scenario happens too frequently. Owners allow historic buildings to fall into complete shambles - then claim it necessary to rip down because it just suddenly became dilapidated. Is there no way to prevent this problem?

Anonymous said...

@IMGoph

At least that parking will look better than the parking ramp at Nats Stadium!

Mike in the Mountain West on Jun 28, 2011, 8:39:00 AM said...

This is such a farce. 3 forgettable, nondescript 150 year old buildings are "historic" merely because they're in a style of the time? Ridiculous. The buildings aren't pretty and have no connection to historic people or events. What a waste. Land in that area is valuable and by keeping around these ugly buildings we lose out on all the things we could have used that space for.

IMGoph on Jun 28, 2011, 8:45:00 AM said...

Mike: The church's initial plan was to tear these down to create a small parking lot. This change means the facades will be saved in order to be integrated into a future development, but the church is still going to get its small parking lot.

Can you elaborate on what else "we could have used that space for?" Because unless you have insider information, I don't see what your complaint is about.

Anonymous said...

Its not clear from the original application estabilishing the Mount Vernon Historic District whether these were considered contributing structures (didn't see them mentioned, so I am guessing not). However, it is absolutely ridiculous to demolish these buildings for parking when the proposed parking is not permitted under the zoning regulations. Hopefully someone at Zoning will pick this cause up and stop it before the nonconforming parking lot adjacent the church is expanded.

Tom Veil on Jun 28, 2011, 9:11:00 AM said...

This is much, much worse than I could have thought possible. It is the worst of both worlds -- we're getting a useless parking lot, preserving a useless facade, and basically preventing anything useful from going up on that site in the near future.

Anonymous said...

Why the church would want to replace these three denigrated buildings with a parking lot for 3-5 spaces is something I don't undertand. This could be a multi-family buidling with parking underneath that the church could use? Or just sell it and have those 3 to 5 cars continue to park on the street. There is plenty of space. The things people do to create ample parking are really ridiculous.

Scott said...

And exactly how much is this going to cost the church to create 3 - 5 parking spaces?? A smart plan would be to sell these properties to a developer and arrange for some reserved underground parking or perhaps even a few housing units for their elderly. Lost opportunities!!

Bryant said...

This seems a little silly. Historic structures can be retrofitted to be just as liveable as a modern-day home without changing their looks. That can even be done using local businesses (like these: http://tinyurl.com/3o6g7w9) which, tangentially, can help the economy by creating jobs and adding some value to the job market.

Jimble on Jun 28, 2011, 11:53:00 AM said...

I moved into an apartment around the corner from this church a few months ago. Based on my experiences living near churches in DC in the past I expected huge parking problems on Sundays because there are so many churches in the neighborhood, but I haven't found that to be the case at all. So I find it very surprising that this church would go to such great lengths for a few parking spaces. I suspect that the real reason for this is to provide gold-plated parking for the pastor and other church officials for a few years while waiting for the value of the land to appreciate to the point where they can make a major killing in the market by selling it off.

Anonymous said...

so, everyone bitches about church-goers parking on sundays. they do something to alleviate that, and people still bitch.

Anonymous said...

"so, everyone bitches about church-goers parking on sundays. they do something to alleviate that, and people still bitch."

Just get rid of the churches altogether. Then everyone will quit bitching.

EW in the 'hood said...

These structures are "old" not "historic." That's part of the problem with this Post and its 6/24post as well. The real problem here is the MVSHB that requires the church to retain a useless facade while around the corner on the 400 block of N Street it permitted demolition and new construction of glass & metal structures that bear no resemblance to the brick homes of this historic neighborhood. There is no consistency in their actions. Do you suppose it comes down to who pays them the most cash under the table?

Why strap any future owner of these properties with restoring and maintaining 150 year old brick and mortar when redeveloping these 3 lots? This is braindead thinking about community redevelopment.

Anonymous said...

I think Jimble got it right; the real reason for this is most likely to provide parking for church officials for a few years while waiting for the value of the land to appreciate. I, for one, am glad that the inevitable multi-family buidling with parking underneath will incorporate the historic/old (take your pic) facades; I think it's an acceptable compromise.

Anonymous said...

The result of too much governmental regulation.

If you buy the land, the land is yours. Simple as that. If there's value in what's on the land, people will treat it as valuable.

This is just nonsense.

westnorth.com on Jul 2, 2011, 3:30:00 PM said...

"Simple as that," huh? Well, good thing I bought the house next door to yours, since I need a new home for my toxic waste rendering facility. Maybe I'll put the outfall right next to the property line. Oh, and to ease my insomnia during the third shift, I also like to indulge in a little chainsaw sculpting. I'm sure you won't mind one bit.

As for the "compromise" here, ouch: the worst of all possible worlds. Maybe one of the faith-based CDCs out there (they wouldn't talk to atheist me) could collaborate with a bunch of churches on air rights parking/housing deals, or maybe someone can make some bank on a park & ride service from MVT/Shaw churches to empty downtown office building lots.

Anonymous said...

I noticed some of the bloggers use the words "we" and "us". You don't own the property! It's amazing how some residents in this city feel they can dictate what property owners should do with their own property. Some of you really need to get out more.

I wish you would use this same energy to petition the law breakers -I mean law makers in this country about more important issues such as State Rights, war , gas prices, education, corporate greed etc.

Let's be real these structures serve little historic purpose. All this is about is a few residents from the historic society with their panties in a bunch because this African American church wishes to tear down a few old buildings - back off and let them live - So what if they profit off of the property this is the American way.

Why don't you delve in your family past I'm sure someone in your family history profited off of a much worse situation.

jw on Oct 14, 2011, 12:09:00 PM said...

your missing the point: this is driven by the fact that vacant blighted buildings are taxes at 10 percent of value every year! Much cheaper to tear down than pay the property taxes.

 

DCmud - The Urban Real Estate Digest of Washington DC Copyright © 2008 Black Brown Pop Template by Ipiet's Blogger Template