Saturday, April 30, 2011
Historic Preservation Officer for the
Architect of the Capitol
By Beth Herman
On February 28, Mary Oehrlein became the second historic preservation officer in history for the Architect of the Capitol. In her new capacity, she oversees 17 million s.f. of existing buildings within the Capitol jurisdiction in what she calls “a constant state of upgrade,” including the Capitol, Supreme Court, Botanical Gardens and all House and Senate office buildings. Oehrlein joins a legion of 2,600, including skilled tradespeople and artisans, who comprise the behemoth staff.
As founder and president of Mary Oehrlein & Associates in 1984, a D.C.-based firm specializing in historic preservation, Oehrlein executed the restoration of many dozens of Washington and regional landmarks including St. Matthews Cathedral and Peterson House (where Lincoln died). The firm oversaw the exterior restoration of the damaged wing of the Pentagon, the stone conservation of the Washington Monument, and preservation of the historic buildings at Jefferson/Clara Barton residences, Terrell Place Offices and Residences, Lansburgh’s, Gallery Row and National Institutes of Sciences. It also renovated the General Post Office - the first post office of the United States - in its transition to the Hotel Monaco. DCMud checked in with Oehrlein about her new role.
DCMud: The position of historic preservation officer for the AOC wasn’t created until 2006. What precipitated it?
Oehrlein: One of the goals of the AOC is preservation. It’s always been an underlying thought, but until 2006, no one had expressly written about preserving these buildings, along with their landscapes and art, monuments and memorials, paintings, murals and decorative painting, beautiful bronze railings and monumental bronze doors. There’s a great wealth of material, and it wasn’t a stated policy that among the AOC’s missions was to preserve all of this.
DCMud: Mary Oehrlein & Associates is among D.C.’s preeminent historic preservation architecture firms and has been in existence since 1984. What led to your decision to close up shop and accept the position of historic preservation officer for the Architect of the Capitol?
Oehrlein: I haven’t entirely closed my firm, but it all happened very fast. I’d been thinking for some time that I’d like to do something different and not continue to run my own office forever. I’d joked with the person who was in this office previously, Bill Allen (long time architectural historian who’d held the newly-mandated position since 2006). I said, “Bill, I really want your job. I can’t think of anything that would be more fun.” He always told me to wait until he retired.
DCMud: And when did that occur?
Oehrlein: He retired last year, and the job was posted. I wasn’t really looking at that point, but submitted my qualifications by December and it all fell into place. I had to decide what to do with my firm. I love what I do, but some days the management aspects were a lot to handle. It’s time consuming to deal with contracts and proposals and personnel issues and office leases – everything that goes along with running an office. I was ready for a change.
DCMud: How has that change manifested for you?
Oehrlein: This is just ideal. I am working in the best building in the country, doing pretty much what I love to do, which is preservation. My job is to review projects that are happening here and set policy for preservation of the buildings. I identify what’s significant and what needs to be retained and preserved: It’s everything from policy, management and implementation to specific project review and writing specifications for preservations and maintenance.
DCMud: Can you provide some specifics about the day-to-day and long range aspects of your job.
Oehrlein: There’s always a lot going on with these buildings – a lot of projects underway. These include a range of tasks from replacing light fixtures to major mechanical overhauls. Replacing all the plumbing piping in the Capitol is a project that’s in the planning stages now.
DCMud: What are some of the inherent challenges?
Oehrlein: Well, how do we do things without impacting the really decorative finishes, artwork and decorative arts in the building, or the ornamental plaster or marble floors. How are these projects accomplished in the best way possible with a minimal amount of intervention and impact? Those are the big projects, but sometimes it comes down to something as simple as the masonry shop wants to point a building, and they ask about materials and procedures. Issues range from technical to planning.
DCMud: In your few short months in the position, is there anything you’ve observed that you’d like done differently?
Oehrlein: I would like there to be more ongoing maintenance. I’ve always been a proponent of maintaining buildings rather than allowing them to deteriorate, and then having to spend a lot of money to repair and restore them. One of my goals is to increase the focus on basic, good quality cyclical maintenance of all the materials we deal with: historic windows; exterior stone; all the beautiful bronze that’s here; artwork; decorative arts.
DCMud: Is there a particular project on which you are currently working that might raise some eyebrows?
Oehrlein: I’m working on a major project currently in the predesign phase: a total rehabilitation of the Cannon House Office Building. The last major intervention was in 1966, and it involves all new mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. Forty-five years is a long time for systems to continue to operate, and work is slated to begin in another five years in 2016.
DCMud: For your first job working for a construction company that was doing restoration work, before preservation architecture was even practiced, you once said you spent months in the stacks at the Library of Congress researching historic preservation materials and procedures. Those were the days that the public had largely unlimited access to the stacks, which it no longer has. As historic preservation officer, presumably you will once again have access. Had you thought about that?
Oehrlein: (Laughing) I have to say that’s one of the things I thought about when I accepted this position, that wow, I’ll have access to the stacks again.
DCMud: And what about your own firm?
Oehrlein: It’s still functioning and probably will be through the end of the year. I’m at the AOC during the day and working nights and weekends to keep up with things privately. We are also clearing out 30 years’ worth of project files, books, records, drawings and photographs from the firm that need to be disposed of, moved, packed and/or stored. Some of the work is going to the D.C. library, and the Washington Historical Society is taking some of the photographs as we always took them before we started our work.
DCMud: Is there anything we haven’t asked about which readers may be curious?
Oehrlein: Everybody is asking me if they can have a tour of my new offices. I tell them they can, just as soon as I can find my own way around these buildings without getting lost. I also tell former clients they can continue to call me. The advice line is still open!
Please contact Beth at bh@ dcrealestate.com for design story ideas
Friday, April 29, 2011
Luke's Lobster: Ben Conniff of Luke's Lobster dispelled rumors of the company having signed a lease on I Street when in fact they've settled on a space at 622 E Street N.W., a Douglas Development-owned, 700 s.f. space with a menu that mirrors the company's New York City locations, which includes shrimp, lobster and crab rolls. The largest shop yet for the company is scheduled to open this summer. When this writer spoke with Susan Povich of Red Hook Lobster Truck, (also with New York City locations), Povich said her shop and Luke's serve the freshest lobster around: good news for D.C.
Paul: May 2 is the opening date for the 3220 s.f. U.S. flagship bakery housed at 801 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. The bakery chain, the first of which opened in Paris 120 years ago, has also signed a lease at 1078 Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown, which will open in August. Paul has 200 stores in 25 countries.
Post Office Bistro: Rumor has it that the New York restaurant group Chow Down-whose restaurants include Hell's Kitchen, El Centro, VYNL and Therapy-have signed a lease at 1407 T Street to build a casual restaurant with outdoor sidewalk and garden seating.
Chipotle: The Cleveland Park Listserv reports that Chipotle has applied for a special exemption to the Board of Zoning Adjustments to open a store at 3420 Connecticut Avenue N.W., the ANC3C is seeking community response to the application, which is primarily positive in discussion on the site.
Mala Tang: The sibling to the very-delicious Hong Kong Palace and Uncle Liu's Hot Pot will open Mala Tang May 2nd, reports Washington Post's Tim Carman. The high-end, 150-seat, Sichuan restaurant will also feature a street food counter.
Washington, D.C. Retail News
Labels: Alexandria, Erkiletian, Harris Teeter, Rust Orling
The project broke ground in November 2010 at 621 North Payne Street, the former site of a Security Storage Warehouse, two blocks from the Braddock Road Metro. The building which the developer hopes will secure LEED-Silver certification will feature terraces and a landscaped plaza, a business and fitness center, a sliver of retail, and 256 underground parking spaces.
Rust Orling Architecture and Hovnanian conceived the project, to which Erkiletian added 60 units and signed on Lessard Group for support.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Labels: Affordable Housing, APAH, Arlington, Columbia Pike, Hamel Builders
Financed through loans and grants by the Virginia Housing Development Authority and the Arlington Housing Investment Fund, and with Low Income Housing Tax Credits and grants from private foundations, the housing will be available to those making 60% of AMI or less.
Wiencek+Associates and Hamel Builders will transfigure the 111-unit building into a more modern, greener version of itself, with new energy efficiencies and water saving features. Construction is expected to complete in December of 2012. APAH purchased Buchanan Gardens in December of 2009.
Arlington, Virginia real estate development news
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
With a strong affinity for the Chesapeake Bay, father/daughter broadcast journalists and Washington fixtures Patrick and Megan McGrath also share a profound sense of family and community.
Steeped in Wisconsin roots and Midwestern values, when the time came to renovate a 1,336-s.f. post-war rambler on Broadwater Point in Deale, Md., recently retired Fox White House correspondent Patrick and wife Mary Ellen, a retired teacher, factored in fellow Midwesterner Frank Lloyd Wright's sensibilities to their design agenda. And though she embraced her parents’ Midwestern ideals, Washington’s NBC 4 reporter Megan McGrath, first on the scene at the Pentagon disaster on 9/11, revealed more of a penchant for drama and modernism when her own post-war Broadwater Point residence warranted design defibrillation.
In both cases, a relationship with Principal Greg Uekman of Uekman/Architects was one of historical proportion, so to speak, with roots going back more than two decades to a small church project.
“I was designing a nice church in Prince George’s County in 1988,” Uekman said of his days as a young architect. “There were two people on the building committee, the pastor and a gentleman named Tom Melton. After a presentation to the church, Tom pulled me aside to tell me about a little shack he’d bought on the water in Deale and asked me to look at it.” While executing that project, the architect was approached by yet another Deale resident, none other than Patrick McGrath, who’d observed the construction process from across the street.
Nothing for Something
Having paid $80,000 in November, 1978 (they moved in the following April), the McGrath’s had purchased an asbestos-shingled rambler on a ¾ -acre peninsula with views of the Chesapeake Bay and Eastern Shore. According to Mary Ellen, her husband had made a decision to purchase the property site unseen interior-wise, based solely on the view from the yard, having been locked out at the first showing. With the land valued at $50,000 and the house at only $30,000, the condition of the latter was almost indescribable. “They put up a million of them in the ‘40s and ‘50s,” McGrath explained. “It was before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and air conditioning, and this was where Washingtonians went to beat the heat–they were second homes people just threw up.”
Deformities withstanding, the two-bedroom, one bath structure with jalousie porch (“…in the winter, it was mighty cold,” said Mary Ellen) had an ill-sited southeastern exposure laundry room that completely obstructed the occupants’ view of the water from the inside. Raising a young family that included Megan and brother Michael, and battling a protracted WMAR Channel 2 strike in Baltimore (McGrath worked for the station’s Annapolis bureau) that eventually catapulted him from WMAR to Fox’s predecessor in Washington, the young reporter and his wife undertook a moderate, initial renovation – before they met Uekman – one that did not yet involve relocating the laundry room or opening up the structure.
“We knocked off the jalousie porch that ran the length of the house and put in a living room and a kitchen/dining area,” McGrath recalled, with the original kitchen too small to accommodate even a table. With two bedrooms and a bathroom added via an upper half story, or “simply going up with the roofline,” McGrath said, it was completely unappealing aesthetically. “If you looked at the house from the street side, it looked like a waterski ramp,” he quipped.
Where’s the Party?
In the early 1990s, with Patrick McGrath firmly established in D.C.’s rarefied national news culture and his daughter’s wedding reception somewhere on the horizon, a Uekman-directed, two-phased renovation took place. The results, which opened up the home to light and view, included a large master suite on the first floor, a renovated living room which was renamed the family room and the long-awaited relocation of the laundry room to the home’s northwest corner. A 342 s.f. addition, to be called the new living room, in conjunction with a proper entry porch measuring 112 s.f., were designed, in part, with a nod to Frank Lloyd Wright.
“In these pre-‘60s houses, the designs were all about rooms: a room in a room in a room,” Uekman said of the structure, one of about 12 in the close-knit Broadwater Point community he also identified as originally “style-less.” Adding that if these homes weren’t summer escapes, many of Deale’s early residents had been “watermen,” making their living from the water, and the homes were sparse and utilitarian at best. For the McGrath’s, consummate hosts renowned for their annual Preakness party, as well as for facilitating the tight community’s Fourth of July celebrations, annual oyster roasts and other affairs, a prominent space with spectacular views was at the top of their dance card.
“Basically, I wanted to keep the integrity of the house,” Mary Ellen said, noting the original woodwork was pine and most of the floors were oak. “I wanted to make sure there was a blend because it all had to look like it belonged,” she affirmed. “I’m not sure Greg (Uekman) was terribly happy about it, but I wanted pine moldings and trim inside,” she continued, recalling that at one time she’d personally stripped three coats of paint from the former living room’s (now family room’s) pine walls, which Uekman had affectionately monikered the “museum room.” Incorporating beautiful pine moldings and accent pieces, oak floors were refinished and stained, and any new construction in the brand new addition used the same type of oak and stain.
Boasting a 280-degree water view and maximum light achieved by strategic use of glass and a 6-by-5-ft. skylight, the McGrath’s addition has inspired numerous parties, special events and wedding receptions, including Uekman’s own local celebration for friends and colleagues following his Arkansas nuptials. “We thought if Greg needed a special place, this was a very personal one for him,” Mary Ellen said of her offer at the time.
Hey, It’s the Bay!
When daughter Megan married aspiring attorney (and web designer/electric guitarist) Dennis Guard in 1994, the decision to purchase a home on the circle in her parents’ Broadwater Point neighborhood was not in the cards.
“We were living in Crofton, and we’d bought one of the brand new pre-fab kind of townhouses,” Megan said, adding her husband was working full time and attending law school at night. “We were hunkered down, just trying to get through,” she recalled. “We were not looking for a house, needless to say.”
When a charmless, chopped up, otherwise nondescript 1,300 s.f. Broadwater Point creek side home became available in 1998, possibly in worse condition than Megan’s childhood home when originally purchased, the couple nevertheless jumped at the chance to rejoin the nurturing community. “We loved the neighborhood. People really care about one another. Dennis and I courted at my parents’ house (which was down the street). Having grown up on Chesapeake Bay, it was a wonderful experience, something I wanted for my kids,” Megan explained, anticipating the family yet to come. Following a bidding war with another couple and buoyed by the wild discovery of a ramshackle yet fully electrified Tiki bar at water’s edge, built by the previous homeowners, the young couple purchased the home, temporarily subordinating renovation time and costs to a priority investment in their careers.
In 2003, with firstborn Olivia on the way and an eye toward creating their proverbial castle, Uekman was called (“I’ve known him for half my life,” Megan said), noting unlike her parents’ more traditional sense of style, the Guards wanted an ultramodern, open floor plan.
“We want you to push the envelope on the modern,” Megan charged the architect, noting they’d all gotten to know how each other lived and entertained over the years (both the McGrath’s and Guards were known to host up to 75 guests at a time). “He’d definitely had the vision of what (my parents’ house) could become, because it’d been a disaster when they bought it,” Megan recollected. “There was literally a truck up on cinderblocks in the backyard. I thought my parents were ruining my life, moving me from Montgomery County with a community swimming pool to the middle of nowhere.”
Of Sheds and Shindigs
With the “middle of nowhere” soon the only venue on earth for Megan, creating an environment that would embrace and inspire a young family was paramount at that point. To that end, and adhering to the codes and requisites of waterfront building in an environmentally sensitive area with no city services, Uekman said restrictions included “building up an existing house only to half its current size” to eliminate the mini-mansion syndrome. On a good note, according to Uekman, because the county code sanctioned a freestanding accessory building with size not an object, the decision to incorporate a 240 s.f. freestanding home office was made.
Overall, the home’s redesign is based on two sheds, one being the accessory building and the other the original building with a soaring 14-ft. addition. A goal to essentially camouflage the plain façade of the original structure was achieved by closing off its main wall with glass, and a glass door that brings one into the house. Three skylights, glass sheets and mitered, glazed corner glass bring light, vistas and the tenor of the estuary inside (Uekman talked about ospreys and blue herons roaming the property), as well as achieving passive solar gain in winter. In summer, a five-foot overhang on the deck side helps diffuse some of the sun’s light and heat. Natural, clear-stained maple floors permeate the house and decking, with the addition accommodating a necessary master suite when son William, now 5, was born.
“It’s not too fussy, in fact it’s bold and casual,” Uekman said of the design, which he added actually describes Megan herself. “She has great design instincts. She loves color,” he affirmed, noting a yellow fireplace wall and surprise purple partition in the master suite.
Speaking to bold decisions, and with Tiki parties – a result of the discovered Tiki bar – a concrete summer ritual, one annual Guard household event was seemingly doomed by the effects of construction. With the backyard largely eviscerated to accommodate the installation of an upgraded septic system, more than 100 people (including the architect) were scheduled to honor Tiki at the quintessential summer shindig. “You couldn’t move the pile of dirt. You couldn’t hide it. There was absolutely nothing to do with it,” Megan said. As such, a crater was dug at the top to conceal a smoke machine that was set to erupt every 10 minutes. “It was a terrific centerpiece for the party!” she quipped.
Here Today, Here Tomorrow
Dismissing her daily Deale, Md. to D.C. commute, for which she rises at 2:15 a.m., and her husband’s routine commute from Deale to Arlington, Va. as an assistant general counsel with Verizon, Megan explained the couple is wholeheartedly committed to remaining in the storied Broadwater Point community. “The joke is you’re going to have to bury me in the backyard. I’m not going anywhere. It’s definitely our forever house,” she said.
“They like their friends and make sure everybody stays in touch with everybody,” Uekman said of both generations, simultaneously expressing the privilege of being counted among them. “A long time ago they trusted me enough to take a shot at a young architect.”
Photos courtesy Paul Burke and Greg Uekman
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Labels: Your Next Place
By Franklin Schneider
If I won the lottery tomorrow, this is absolutely the house I'd buy. A Tudor-style mansion on an acre of beautifully landscaped gardens, complete with koi pond, swimming pool, and a carriage house. I'd move in thirty or forty of my best friends, have a party that lasted for two years straight, and then sell it for pennies on the dollars when all the money ran out. Then in rehab my counselor Tim would use it as a metaphor for the mess I'd made of my life. ("You took this beautiful, one in a million house and you ruined it. Don't do the same to what's left of your life!")
Damn it, Tim, I didn't mean to drive my Range Rover into the swimming pool, I thought I'd built up enough speed to ramp over it!
Built in 1925, this palatial home sports a three fireplaces, an in-law/au pair suite, a beautifully finished attic, a sitting room for sitting and a family room for family. The living room is massive but intimate, with a dramatic peaked ceiling. The dining room gets beautiful light and looks out onto the grounds, there's a fantastic sunroom, a massive gourmet kitchen that would make most restaurants green with envy, and just a general degree of luxury and sophistication fit for minor royalty, or at least Elton John. The house is also the 2011 DC Designer showhouse; 21 of the area's top designers have collaborated in renovating the spaces, and it shows.
If you're interested, you better act quick; even at $4.9 million, it can't be long before someone snatches it up. I mean, one of these Powerball tickets has to hit sometime, right?
3134 Ellicott St. NW
Washington, DC 20008
6 Bedrooms, 4.5 Baths
Labels: CBRE, CSG Urban Partners, Fort Lincoln, Trammell Crow Companies
Costco is scheduled for an August 2012 opening, with the remainder of retailers to open in March 2013.
The pursuit of retailers at Dakota Crossing has been at least a decade in the making with Costco the lead in committing to the site. The plans had been hindered by two obstacles, the primary one being the controversy that ensued over paving the current wetland that filters waste and prevents flooding; Ft. Lincoln New Town Corp. has responded by creating new wetlands reviewed by the US Army Corp of Engineers, the EPA and DC DOE. The second hurdle had been the delay in inspiring additional retailers to sign on to the location.
The shops at Dakota Crossing are part of an extensive development of the area that had started in the 70's under the city's Urban Renewal Plan. The development includes 1370 residential units, including condos and rentals that were built during the 1980’s and 1990’s; the 127-unit Wesley House senior apartments opened early last summer; and 209 town homes were completed in July 2010 that have sold out at an average listing price of $460,000.
Still in the works are the Villages at Dakota Crossing situated at Ft. Lincoln Drive and 33rd Street N.E., an $80 M, 334 town house and condo project for which the January ground breaking has been delayed, as well as the Ft. Lincoln multi-family development of 352 units on target to break ground in 2012. Townhouse construction on the 54 City Homes at Fort Lincoln started this past January.
Despite Fort Lincoln's stated commitment to the environment regarding the retail project in particular - with cisterns, green roofs, green walls, and other low-impact development measures - dismay over the 2000-plus surface parking spaces has fueled the ire of community groups and residents. On its website Anacostia Riverkeepers wrote, "The developer has proposed ways to mitigate storm water, but. . . [we do not] feel the proposed plan goes far enough. Anacostia Riverkeeper is not opposed to the project per se but believes strongly the proposal should be redesigned to protect the existing wetlands and control stormwater pollution in the Anacostia Watershed."Washington, DC Real Estate Development News
Monday, April 25, 2011
Eastbanc will build a 52-unit, 9-story, low-income building above a new fire station on M Street, and a 10-story residence of up to 180 units above a new library along the 2300 block of L Street. Eastbanc chose New York and Mexico-based TEN Arquitectos as primary designer and WDG Architecture as the architect of record for the two projects.
Eastbanc will present its plans to the ANC tonight at 7pm.
Washington D.C. real estate development news
Saturday, April 23, 2011
In 2009 Keating completed its Clarendon project, now on the Federal Register of Historic Places, and has since been working on its Bethesda sequel. "Now that it's funded, it's just a question of when," said Christopher Gordon, Principal for Kishimoto Gordon Dalaya (KGD), the architect for the project.
Keating initially applied for approval of the mixed-use project at 7001 Arlington Road back in 2007. The project will add a four-story, 105 unit building to the 2.5 acre plot, with 40,000 s.f. of commercial space dedicated to a post office and over 300 parking spaces below the building. Construction had also been thwarted by the USPS, which owns the land, and which had not determined the ultimate use of the facility. But according to Gordon, the USPS has recently decided that the building will become a distribution facility.
Significant design features include retail frontage on Arlington Road and the tapering of the building toward Capital Crescent Trail, "so it wont create a large amount of mass on the trail itself," said Gordon. Design plans will remain as they were approved, said Gordon.
Bethesda, Maryland Real Estate Development News