Friday, July 08, 2011

U-Turn for Residential Building on 14th Street


Three residential projects will rise up 7 stories along the 14th Street Corridor between R and U Streets NW in the next two years, but Level 2 Development's project sited for Wallach Place and 14th (1905-1917 14th Street) won't be one of them - at least not yet. The project's architect, Eric Colbert & Associates, went up against the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) - and up against two handfuls of Wallach Place residents - last week at the HPRB's monthly meeting, only to be unanimously denied design approval.

As first reported by U Street Dirt, the HPRB was openly critical of the design and urged Colbert to rethink the building's rhythm, scale and greater context in the U Street Historic District.

The Colbert design presented was a 7-story apartment building, with an approximately 16,000 s.f. site footprint (150' wide x 106' deep). Although materials alternated between brick and metal "to break the building down into smaller pieces" with for 5-story projecting bays along 14th Street, the Board verbalized dissatisfaction with the look and feel, saying it wasn't 14th Street appropriate and ultimately didn't have "that Colbert magic" (apparently preferring the Floridian.)

It seems inevitable that the one-story "bunker" - officially "The Edna Frazier Cromwell Shopping Center" - currently lying low at the site, will not escape demolition. Built in 1986, the center was the first privately financed real estate development on 14th Street after the destruction of the 1968 riots. However, the structure has widely been regarded by the immediate community as an "eyesore." Previously on site was a 5-story brick building (demolished in 1970).

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26 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Condo building looks a hell of a lot better than what is currently there. I don't get it really, there seems to be some selective taste, it looks no worse than any other condo in the area.

Mr. 14th & You on Jul 8, 2011, 6:31:00 PM said...

I'm not sure what the "14th Street feel" is. There's no real remarkable modern architecture on 14th Street. I thought this design was quite mediocre, but not any worse than what has been approved and/or already built.

14th & You said...

I'm not a fan of Colbert's style, but I have a much bigger problem with HPRB's inconsistency. I don't see how the Q14 condos (1401 Q Street) or Union Row (2125 14th Street) are much different in style from the proposed building at 14th and Wallach.

HPRB bases its design approval process for new construction in historical districts on compatibility with neighboring buildings and has defined 12 criteria for compatibility. The lots within a block of this proposed building contain/will contain everything from parking lots to a partially boarded up three-story building to the Utopia project. With which of these should new construction be compatible?

Anonymous said...

I agree. this design doesn't seem to be remarkably different than other, recently approved projects.

Inconsistency is not a good trait for a government entity.

Anonymous said...

I agree the style isn't all that horrible. If they came back with a really edgy, modern design, they'd nix that and say it's too modern. I have spoken with several Wallach residents and many are saying that they feel they are being represented by two strong personalities who are not representing all of the views especially some from the neighbors who are in favor of getting this project going. It seems to be boiling down to a couple who don't want anymore residents living on their block. Their concerns are centered on parking, the fact that the building is going to have many studio sized units, and the fact that it will be taller than two levels. This is a shame that progress is being slowed by a few with opinions that do not represent those in favor of smart growth.

Anonymous said...

I still wonder how a largely irrational and unaccountable group like HPRB continues to have the influence it has. The taking of private property rights, inconsistent rulings, holier than though attitude... It just goes on and on and on.

Who is John Galt?

Craig on Jul 9, 2011, 10:20:00 AM said...

Anonymous @ 935am - Oh really? sounds like fiction to us. We wish we had that kind of influence...

GP said...

anonymous @ 9:35 needs to get his facts straight. There were at least 10 nearby residents at the HPRB meeting who spoke out against the proposed design. Several more sent in comments because they could not attend. That is a high proportion of households for such a small block. Nobody is being "controlled" by two strong personalities. Futhermore, the HPRB voted UNANIMOUSLY to deny the design. Are you suggesting that the HPRB is also being controlled by a couple of strong personalities who aren't even on the board? I highly doubt that they are.

A building will be built there, just not one with this design. Progress is not being slowed. Nobody likes the buildings that are there now. However, they were built with the idea that they would not be permanent, but rather that they would only be there until the neighborhood turned around. This proposed building is being designed to be permanent. What is the harm in taking a little extra time to get it right?

Bob See on Jul 9, 2011, 1:23:00 PM said...

That design is completely uninspired. Even the rendering looks like it was thrown together at the last minute.

Anonymous said...

"Not any worse" than other buildings seems like an awfully low bar. This is a historic district, and that standard is certainly not the one applied to residential property owners. If we're going to ask homeowners to make extraordinary efforts to preserve the historic qualities of the neighborhood, it seems unfair and even cruel to allow large property developers to throw up whatever mediocre design they choose.

LTR said...

The Board talked at length about the more limited ability of a tiny, narrow block like Wallach to absorb a building of the proposed height and mass compared to the long, wide L'Enfant blocks. It seems very reasonable that they should carefully consider each building in its very specific location.

I have no idea who these two strong personalities are supposed to be on Wallach but the concerned residents represented the majority of the block. No one I have spoken with thinks the solution should be a 2-3 story building. People are realistic -- but they will be living with building for decades and they want it not to be one that is out of scale.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous, 935am -- Anyone who believes that two people could control the views of all of Wallach Place does not understand our strong, differentiated individual networks in business, government, and the non-profit world. What's next? Will you call us "poor, uneducated, and easy to command?" We are not easily provoked but tend to form a united front when the interests of true economic development and historic preservation are threatened by people who don't do a proper job of design, development, and delivery of projects that impact us and our neighbors.

Please take the view of the HPRB as seriously as we do. Kind regards and good luck.

Anonymous said...

no one who lives on Wallach Place wants that level 2 turd at the end of the block

14th Street Res said...

I think too many here are jumping to conclusions. Sure, it could look like crap if they use cheap materials on the front, like Colbert did on the Floridian. The facade is mostly glass, which is a very good start, and is a match to every other 14th Street building to go up recently. People should instead work to ensure that the building develops with the right materials and detail.

And as for the little townhouse block, it is next to 14th Street, a major thoroughfare, something residents knew when they bought, they should not have the right to determine a building that will affect us all.

Anonymous said...

@14th Street Res (7/10,7:23am). Wallach Place -- "the little townhouse block" -- understands 14th Street and development better than most. In fact, I'd guess that not one of us would have overpaid for the building site as Level 2 Development and its investors did. We would have known that the economics and logistics of a seven-story building would not work on he end of our block.

14th Street Res said...

Oh now its clear. You understand the economics of development more than the developer. Developers are not omniscient and often screw up, but to say that everyone on your block is qualified to evaluate the feasibility - your arrogance should speak for itself. And by the way its not up to you to determine whether it should be built because of its likely success, that's the developer's gamble.

Anonymous said...

It's very clear from many comments as well as comments from neighbors in the U Street area bars and restaurants that the Wallach residents just don't want density in their little slice of heaven. Proper scale is important and I'm sure that the members of the HPRB will ensure that it's scaled down somewhat on the back end to gradually mix with the residences of Wallach. Once the designers come back with something more pleasing, their goal will be then to demand that it be reduced in size significantly so that they end up with fewer new neighbors. This is a shame on one of the city's major transit corridors.

Craig on Jul 10, 2011, 1:39:00 PM said...

@14th Street Res (Jul 10, 2011 7:23:00 AM): Where do you come up with this nonsense to suggest the block residents 'have the right to determine' what rises from that site? We have a right to express our opinions during the process like everyone else.

Perhaps some opinions should carry more weight in this process, like those who may literally have to live in the shadow of these developments. What exactly is your agenda?

@anonymous (Jul 10, 2011 1:17:00 PM): We'll demand what? You're clueless.

Anonymous said...

14th St Res - FYI, the materials used on the Floridian weren't exactly cheap at all. I know someone who was involved in the project and, despite what one may think of the design of the building, the materials used were good quality and rather expensive.

Anonymous said...

Eric Colbert is the Walmart of "Loft" buildings. It'll bet built fast but won't be inspired. This design unfortunatley lowers the bar further. It's too glassy and grid like. One could easily mistake it for a stout K street office building. But that's what you're going to get when HPRB rejects anything that is too historicist. It's glassy and sleek, and all too often cheap. It's too bad the only history most architects and HPRB like seeing immitated is mid-century modernism. They need to shed their self imposed puritanical modernist blinders and embrace all the historical styles that make 14th street such an architectural bonanza.

Anonymous said...

I think you meant Level 2 Development as shown on the rendering, not L2 Development (which you linked to) which is in California.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the rendering comment. Here is what the rendering should look. This is another 14 Street development.

http://www.archibim.com/images/stories/HIGH_RES_IMAGES/Portfolio_RENDERINGS_EXTERIORS/2.jpg

May be a better presentation would have helped to tell the story of the building.

Anonymous said...

You can't "gradually" scale down a building in the space that exists. The building should be limited to a height of 5 stories, which is the height of the building that was there before it was torn down in 1970. And it should look like an old 5 story apartment building from early 1900's. Why does everything have to be modern looking these days for crissake?

Ken on Jul 11, 2011, 6:32:00 PM said...

Just to be clear, the link from Anon at 12:49 is of the JBG project down the street, not the subject of this story.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who prefers the Floridian to anything has no business saying what should and should not get built.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ Jul 14, 2011 5:45PM ... +1 to you sir. I'm not even sure that bldg is completely sold yet. Horribly ugly design. horrible floor plans. The group that approved that must have been smoking the same thing when the Solea was approved (friggin thing still looks unfinished). The proposed building at 14 & Wallach looks inline with other modern designs on 14th (from Union Row to Columnbia Heights) so I'm not sure how it doesn't fit. If you want historic, go to Georgetown. Otherwise, let's get 14&U going. I'm tired of H Street progressing while 14&U lags b/c of petty bickering.

 

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