Monday, July 25, 2011

Reviving the Meridian Hill Baptist Church, as Condominiums


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."


Washington D.C. real estate development news

11 comments:

IMGoph on Jul 26, 2011, 7:39:00 PM said...

this is the first time that i've heard that the mt. pleasant library closed because of smoke damage. i thought it closed because of the planned renovation work.

Anonymous said...

Amen to no affordable housing. Just what the neighborhood DOESN'T need is another housing project!

And by the way, I found the religous references throughout the post really insensitive... Whatever I thought of their development plans, they lost their Church - come on DCMud, let's show some more class!

Anonymous said...

okay, I'm a hippocrite for starting my post off with "amen", but honestly, it was unintentional!

Ken on Jul 26, 2011, 10:47:00 PM said...

religious references? Which ones offended you?

Anonymous said...

Seven additional stories. No way.

Kelly Matlock on Jul 27, 2011, 11:06:00 AM said...

IMGoph,

I amended the paragraph on the Mount Pleasant Public Library, and added a note at the end of the article.

The library took in substantial smoke, however renovation was planned before the fire.

Thanks.

IMGoph on Jul 27, 2011, 11:08:00 AM said...

Kelly: Ah, didn't know about that. Thanks for the additional information!

Jack McKay on Jul 27, 2011, 11:33:00 AM said...

Let me point out that the ANC does not have the power to "approve" anything. All we can do is offer "advice" to District agencies as to whether they should do so. At this point in the Meridian Hill Baptist project, ANC1D is noncommittal, advising the HPRB neither in support of, nor in opposition to, permits.

P.S. It's "Jack", please. "John" was my great-grandfather's name. Not mine. Common mistake.

Jerry A. McCoy on Jul 27, 2011, 12:31:00 PM said...

Martinez + Johnson Architecture will do an amazing job if their renovation of the Georgetown Neighborhood Library, also damaged by fire, is any indication. Too bad the First Baptist Church of Silver Spring wasn't as "enlightened" as this congregation to have come up with a similar project plan instead of demolishing their 1956 church designed by Ronald S. Senseman for ground-up construction of apartments.

Kelly Matlock on Jul 27, 2011, 12:52:00 PM said...

Jack, sincere apologies for incorrectly using "John."

Also, I meant no disrespect to the Baptist Church and its tremendous loss; the Church was in its home at 3146 16th Street for over 80 years. I regret that my vague attempt to be clever was interpreted by some as irreverence.

Anonymous said...

The Deauville is / was on Mt. Pleasant Street, not 16th.

 

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