Friday, December 17, 2010

Early Randall School Redevelopment Renderings Emerge

If it appears developers of the Randall School redevelopment project melted a stripper's platform shoe and molded it atop a replica of the historic Southeast school, you don't need to get your eyes checked; you're seeing correctly, as such is the earliest published rendering of Telesis's plans. Yes, it's rather gaudy, but don't hyperventilate just yet. Involved architect James Brown of Bing Thom Architects explains that the model was simply a very loose experiment to see how the massing of the structures might play out; but it was mostly "a way of getting people excited about the project," he qualifies. Excited, or scared?

"We're in the very, very early stages," Brown reiterated, it all (the programming and the design) "could change drastically." What is certain is that earlier this year the Corcoran Gallery sold the property and abandoned their plans to expand their College of Art after their partnership with Monument Realty fell apart. The buyers were Miami art collectors and museum founders Mera and Don Rubell, who forked over $6.5 million for the three-acre site, sporting a partnership with local firm Telesis, and grandiose plans to build a high-end hotel, a large residential component, and the first satellite location of their Miami museum.

Now, several months later, with some of the kinks in the original property disposition worked out, the development team is ready to hone in on their development plans. The schematic design process will begin in February, by which time the programming will be more solidified. The basic concept is certain: residential portion, art museum, retail (restaurants, museum shop, boutiques), and some sort of hospitality component, all totaling roughly 500,000 s.f.. What's left to be determined is whether the residential units will be condos or rentals, and exactly what shape the hotel-aspect takes on. The necessary market research is currently under way to aid in these sorts of decisions.

As for massing and the architectural detailing of the buildings, those specifics will come into focus as the Zoning process unravels; Brown says the development team hopes to submit their PUD application in September of next year, with construction drawings firmed up and permits issued by late spring, early summer of 2012. With an expected two year construction process, that puts a delivery somewhere in mid-2014. Brown explained that the development plans as they stand are rather ambitious for the site, forcing designers to push the density of the project towards I Street, with buildings likely cantilevered over the restored Randall School structures. Brown thinks the auditorium space in the old school buildings would be ideal for a restaurant, with "beautiful vaulted ceilings, and a plinth along the sidewalk that has great potential for tables and chairs." A portion of the historic school will likely operate as the lobby to the art museum, which will open out the back into a middle courtyard. The developers will also reestablish Half Street through the site, bringing it half a block in its current direction, and turning it left to connect with First Street. This will allow proper traffic movement through the site, and have the back of the buildings serve as the main entrance.

Given the historic nature and unique character of this project, an abundance of public meetings are sure to accompany all stages of this process. The development team, headed by Marilyn Melkonian President and founder of Telesis Corporation, has already held two preliminary meetings with ANC6D. Luckily, both the Rubels, who overhauled the Capitol Skyline Hotel across the street, and project architect Bing Thom, who designed the highly-regarded and well-received Arena Stage, have an established and positive relationship with the surrounding community. And they will surely need all the good-will they can muster if the final design looks anything like this early edition.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News


Critically Urban on Dec 17, 2010, 11:20:00 AM said...

How is this gaudy or scary? It's in the same line of design as the Arena Stage.

Brooks Butler Hays on Dec 17, 2010, 11:40:00 AM said...

we'll have to agree to disagree critically urban, i am a big fan of the Arena Stage, however this looks like a abhorrent sugar confection structure gone wrong, luckily this is just an uber-preliminary model, and i imagine whatever bing thom comes up when the terms are more concrete and the stakes higher, and when he applies more detail to the model, it will turn out fine, likely to both push the envelope and demonstrate elegant design like the arena stage

Anonymous said...

I dig the design. What's wrong with it? It's a heck of a lot better than the satandard DC box.

sloweyed said...

the only things i can tell from the rendering are that there is a courtyard and it will encase the other buildings.
otherwise it doesn't tell me anything. what exactly are you guys judging?

Anonymous said...

I'm with you, I don't see how you can judge anything based on those renderings. This doesn't make sense to me.

Anonymous said...

Why can't we just let historic buildngs stand on their own? Why do they have to be encapsulated by modernist garbage. I'm sure Mr. Thom would be appalled if some his current work was somehow molested and bastardized by a future architect's idea of "modernizing" it. The existing structures should stand on their own. If they want to add modernist crap, do so as an addition so that it can me removed when it inevitably goes out of style.

Anonymous said...

I think it's intriguing. Remember that this is a preliminary study, which means it shouldn't be taken too literally, but to me it suggests that the architects and developers are thinking boldly, and that's good. I look forward to seeing later iterations!

Anonymous said...

To Mr. Historicist Anonymous: Your prejudice that all modern buildings are crap which will eventually be replaced is ill-advised and incorrect. The reactionaries of the past had the same view of buildings like the Randall School, Victorian neighborhoods, and pretty much everything else when it was new. Time and capitalism, with some tempering by preservationists, do a pretty good job of weeding out the weak buildings. In any case, from the rendering, it looks like the Randall School stays mostly intact, with only the the rear portions enveloped. Moreover, the writeup suggests that minor modifications to the school along the street front will reduce its own urbanistic flaws by revealing more activities enlivening the street. I see considerable sensitivity all around: urban, preservationist, and modern.

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