Friday, April 08, 2011

Eastbanc to Unveil West End Residences

At long last, Georgetown's Eastbanc will unveil its plans for West End library and fire station sites on the 25th of April at a meeting of the ANC. After months of meeting with local community groups to fine-tune plans, Eastbanc intends to roll out its plans more publicly for redevelopment of the two sites.

Eastbanc's proposal is for a 52-unit low-income (max 60% AMI), 90 foot residential building above a new fire station on M Street, and a 10-story residence of up to 180 units above a new library and retail filling the 2300 block of L Street. The developer was selected by the District of Columbia in March of 2010 to redevelop the 4 city-owned sites - 1 at the fire station and 3 contiguous sites between the West End Library and special operations facility at 23rd and L, each a 2 story, deteriorating building subsumed by development and recent population surge. Eastbanc is not releasing its designs until the ANC meeting, but early renderings (at left, above) indicate the projects will be in keeping with the designer's minimalist, contemporary style.

The project is being designed by New York and Mexico-based TEN Arquitectos, (for Taller de Enrique Norten) and will add 10,000 s.f. of ground floor retail to the street.

Enrique Norten, lead designer on the West End project, started TEN Arquitectos in Mexico City in 1986 designing small, modern single-family homes. The firm has now swelled to an international presence, though still with a predominantly Mexican portfolio, and seeks to "straddle the line between Mexican and New York sensibilities," says a spokesman, who says Norton creates for a "very minimalist aesthetic." The architect has received attention for his redesign of federal buildings throughout Mexico as well as several high profile projects in New York City.

Completed projects and proposals bear that out, with designs that encompass simple, angular and monument- style towers with expansive footprints as well as diminutive rectangular buildings in more clustered urban spaces, most of which reject the graph paper effect of even lines and flat facades in favor of broken, asymmetrical contours and surfaces. (see visuals: Harlem Park in NYC above left, James Hotel in Los Angeles, above right, Mercedes House in NYC below 1, Chopo Museum Mexico, below 2, New York library below 3, Reforma in Mexico, below 4)

Sean Stadler, Principal of WDG Architecture which was chosen as the architect of record to execute the designs, says Eastbanc's choice of Norten demonstrates Eastbanc's commitment to "trying to assert good architecture into the community." Says Stadler, "they approach development not just from a dollars and sense position. I think that TEN Arquitectos is thinking with a much more global eye on architecture than DC tends to, and I think that's part of the strategy that Eastbanc has had in the past." Citing Eastbanc's other accomplishments at 22 West and Ritz Carlton Georgetown (a former power plant), Stadler credits Eastbanc with the transformative effect of well executed project. "If you look at the old power plant in Georgetown, its really made it a much more personable place."
To accomplish the LEED - possibly gold - ranking that Stadler says the team is striving for, and which Eastbanc didn't apply for on prior projects, the architect says to expect efficient glass, solar shades, exterior louvers, a green roof, and the latest wastewater management strategies. Noting the "strategy in this project in reducing our carbon footprint," Stadler calls the mostly glass, louvered shell "a much more efficient vehicle to stop heat from entering the building. Its not an eyebrow, but a more European approach, an operable full louver, somewhat like a blind on the exterior." According to Stadler, the exterior blinds block heat before it enters the building, in contrast to interior blinds, but also "visually adds texture and depth to the facade."

Eastbanc's Joe Sternlieb says the April 25th unveiling will be just the end of a years-long roadshow, acclimating the public and seeking input that has honed the design. "We tend to do alot of community meetings before we file...we've had over 60 community meetings so far over last 4 years, and retooled project many times based on community feedback." Sternlieb says he hopes to file the PUD application with the zoning forces in the first week of May, in conformance with milestones dictated by the District government, though he declines to set a timeline for construction, saying only that construction could begin within a year of zoning approval, or late 2012, at best. Only the library-police site is subject to zoning review, with the fire station "within the zoning envelope." LeMay Erickson Willcox Architects, which has expertise in designing fire stations, is helping craft the M Street site.

While the library and fire station will be rebuilt on site, the special-operations unit will be moved elsewhere.

Washington D.C. real estate development news


Anonymous said...

Finally some innovation in DC!!!

Anonymous said...

When you see some of the actual photos of his past projects, rather than the sunny renderings, they look pretty poor and outdated, new as they are.

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for the neighbors who have to live with the sight of this hideous building. I don't think the architect would mind me calling the building ugly, because he is clearly among those modernists who consider beauty an irrelevance or even an enemy. The building's trendy irregular window pattern will render it instantly dated and it will probably be torn down within 30 years. Shouldn't that wastefulness affect its LEED rating?

Anonymous said...

Who are you to say what is outdated and already obsolete? Look at the HUD building dowtown. I'm sure many people said the same thing about that but people' opinions change and sometimes modern architecture does stand the test of time, so shut it.

Anonymous said...

The HUD building is an eyesore

Ace on Apr 8, 2011, 12:45:00 PM said...

Looks awesome. Finally some diversity. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I think having a diverse landscape of architecture is a great thing.

Anonymous said...

Someone has responded to my criticism of this building by (1) citing the HUD building(!) as an example of modernist architecture that stands the test of time and (2) telling me to "shut it." I'm hard pressed to decide which is the weaker of the two arguments, but I'll have to go with number 2.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion about the merits of the totalitarian-looking, humanity-hating HUD building, which the Washington Post recently listed as one of the area's ugliest structures. As for the second argument, critics of modernist vandalism have been "shutting it" for too long.

Tmom said...

I'm with the guy above. While "putting us on the map" may seem to add value, it doesn't help those of us that live here. Architecture that ignores the most important perspective - that of the street-level passerby - does not make for a pleasant city. Getting us recognized internationally does little for me, I'd rather have a beautiful city.

Anonymous said...

Folks, the picture accompanying this article is not the real design. It's just a massing study. They will reveal the actual designs later this month. Judge Eastbanc/Lanier on two of his latest condo projects in DC: 3303 Water Street in Georgetown, and 22 West in the West End (which won the RADA award as the best multi-family development in America, and where the new Rasika West End restaurant is going in). Both those buildings are beautiful, inside and out, and they are both highly successful developments. 22 West is particularly innovative, from an architectural standpoint. That doesn't mean Eastbanc's library and fire house developments will be equally great. They involve a different architectural firm. But Eastbanc/Lanier have a terrific track record in DC in building modern, innovative condo/commercial buildings.

Anonymous said...

DC remains a town that values more traditional architecture. Stylish modernism only goes so far here. A good illustrative example is the Metropole at 15th and P, NW, in which sales lagged, eventually forcing the developer to cede the building.

EastBanc knows its stuff and has had several successful projects in the West End and Georgetown. But they might be pushing their luck with these designs. Only so many buyers prefer the ultramodern trendy look. The appeal of floor-to-ceiling glass curtain walls is severely limiting, as is the lack of balconies.

As these renderings are old, there is hope EastBanc will present new designs that are more amenable to the neighborhood and future condo buyers alike.

1 said...

But sales at the Metropole have lagged (though not terribly) partly because the interior layouts were hand designed by Scott Pannick, and they're terrible, it doesn't have anything to do with the outside of the building, which isn't bad, though added density would have helped there.

Anonymous said...

The metropole (facades) are only about 100% better than this sophmore architecture school crap. Notice how they are all represented as sculpture viewed as the green giant would, rather than a human on the street? Do architects really think city folk give a dung about innovation over beauty? It's like saying, oh, what a great song, or meal, or book, it's sooo inovative!
fashion victim no. 329

Anonymous said...

Re: ^^^

Yes, the facade of the Metropole is generally pleasing, as it's neither faddish nor a plain box. The ultramodern interiors, however, utterly failed to resonate with buyers. It's a cautionary tale and developers need take heed. Even developer Paul Robertson, whose buildings are among the most contemporary in DC (The Beauregard; VISIO), pointed out the appeal of cutting edge stylism is limited.

Here's a excerpt from his DCMud interview, June 22, 2009:

Why the attraction to traditional architecture over say, the glass and steel look that’s so prevalent these days?

"We wanted to follow the look of the exteriors and to offer a more refined sophisticated look. It will be great to offer some classic, upscale finishes in new construction. Currently, almost all new construction has a very “contemporary” aesthetic, but that doesn’t appeal to all buyers."

I'm guessing Paul discovered the market for contemporary, trendy units was more narrow that he initially believed. Scott Pannick, too, learned this but a little too late.

If EastBanc is planning modernistic facades for the forthcoming development on 22nd, surely the interior units will feature contemporary design elements as well. Of course there's nothing inherently wrong with that, but if it goes too far, it may be problematic, particularly in terms of sales at the very high price points found in the West End.

The 22 West structure is a gorgeous example of contemporary architecture. It's stylized to an extent, but is neither flashy nor subdued. This is about as far as one can go in DC in terms of trendiness in design. Isn't it prudent NOT to construct a building that turns people off, that some dismiss as ugly. All the more so for a residential condo building. Some will, of course, quip that innovative designs are exciting or that it's important to have architectural diversity. But when it comes time to plunk down the obligatory 20%, will they be as enthusiastic and will there be enough of them?

Anonymous said...

Er, a mistake in the above.

The site of EastBanc's project is of course the 2300 block of L St., NW, not 22nd St.

Anonymous said...

It's great that they're adding housing over the fire department, but if they want to reserve the housing for a particular group, wouldn't it be nice to reserve it for the city servants (fire fighters and police officers, etc) that work right in the area. To me, that makes a lot more sense. These women and men work their tails off and have to commute from far away.

ES said...

First, the April ANC meeting is on April 13th, not April 25th. Second, Eastbanc is not on the agenda:

Anonymous said...

I love the HUD building. And I think the poster who mentioned it was suggesting that many of the posts are taking his or her personal opinion as a general opinion like Anon 10:46

Anonymous said...

The ANC is holding a special meeting on April 25th at 7:00 PM at the Fairmont Hotel to review EastBanc's West End Library and Fire Station plans. This is the only item on the agenda. Enrique Norten, of T.E.N. Arquitectos is scheduled to make the presentation.

monkeyrotica on Apr 13, 2011, 8:31:00 AM said...

I predict that clean exterior will soon resemble the grungy aluminum facade that was the old Kann's Store that used to be downtown before it burned down.

Thayer-D on Apr 13, 2011, 12:31:00 PM said...

Too true. Reminds me of countless "modernizations" of beautiful main street commercial buildings through out the country.

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