The Meridian Hill Baptist Church at 3146 16th Street, NW was one of several victims of a five-alarm fire in March of 2008. The inferno, its likeness unseen in the District for three decades prior, originated within the Deauville Apartments located next door to the Church at 3145 16th Street. The fire easily reached the Church, shattering stained-glass windows, and bringing down its roof, as opposed to raising it, as congregations had previously done, since 1916.
Pastor Calvin Cage said the Church did not receive substantial insurance monies in order to cover multimillion dollar damages, and lacking assistance from the District, was forced to pursue a private partnership to redevelop its property on 16th Street.
A partnership with Bozzuto Homes was originally sought to turn the Church into "senior housing or affordable housing," said Cage, adding that these uses were the first priority of the Church. But, it seems need has prevailed, as Bozzuto has hired Martinez + Johnson Architecture, a D.C.-based firm, to design a redevelopment of the Church into condominiums.
Redevelopment of the 14,700-s.f. property, will include preservation of the Church's classical limestone edifice, constructed in 1927 by noted firm Porter & Lockie, around an older brick structure, built in 1916, which succumbed to the blaze.
As relayed by Clark Wagner, Bozzuto's vice president and director of development, the restoration and new-build project is an effort to construct 55 to 60 condos, all one- and two-bedroom units priced in the upper-$200,000 to low-$400,000 range, and will be up for sale, Wagner hopes, next summer.
Of the design, Wagner said "the project is still in the conceptual stage," but the current plan being presented to the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) on Thursday, the 28th, is for a 7-story addition, to the side and back of the Church, with a contemporary look that will "not loom above the Church." The 23,850 s.f. church, Wagner said, has a height that is "equivalent to about five stories."
At least one follow-up trip to the HPRB is likely, as the staff report for the case suggests "the Board approve the demolition of the rear of the building and the general design approach to the additions in concept... and that the design continue to be revised and refined."
The report also explains that the new-construction addition will be "expressed as two additions, a side and a rear, by the use of different treatments of the elevations and by the creation of a 'notch' at their juncture."
Michael Cooke of M+J has presented his designs to the neighborhood ANC (1D) twice, most recently on July 19th, and those designs will not be contested, or approved, by the ANC said Jack McKay, ANC 1D secretary. McKay explained that the ANC will not take a stance at this early stage of the project, as the issue at hand is historic preservation, not zoning variances, which is something the ANC will take a stance on, when the issue arises. McKay said the ANC is most interested in the rear set back and rear access of the property, as well as the spacing to adjacent properties.
Adequate spacing is important to residents in the area, as a four-story residence located at the back of the Church narrowly escaped the inferno, and spacing has proved to be an issue in the renovation of the Mount Pleasant Public Library at 3160 16th Street, also closed for a few days following the fire due to a substantial intake of smoke.
The four-story Deauville Apartment building - saddled with housing complaints and code violations for many years prior to 2007 - was destroyed by the fire that struck before midnight and burned throughout the night. More than 200 residents were displaced, and the skeleton of the Deauville property is currently seeking rebirth as the tenant-owned Monsignor Oscar Romero Apartments.
Though now a lifeless limestone hulk, the Church once housed a 400-member congregation, an Ethiopian community center (upstairs) and a Catholic Charities homeless shelter (basement), before the end came in the form of fire, without brimstone. Cage added that although the Church's congregation is now melded into a sister church in Prince George's County, the goal is to re-establish its D.C. presence in the near future, possibly in Southeast.
article amended 7/27: "rebuild" [of Mount Pleasant Library] changed to "renovation." Although the Library was closed for a few days due to heavy smoke intake, renovation of the library was planned before the fire. And, "John McKay" has been changed to "Jack McKay."
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