Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ciao Bella?

Valor Development is moving forward with its current vision to turn the former Italian Embassy at 2700 16th St., NW into a residential complex - known as "Il Palazzo" - and will visit the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) next week for design approval. Valor has submitted design schematics for the preservation of the existing 3-story limestone building and the addition of two towers (5 and 8-stories tall), time will tell if the concepts by Trout Design Studio will sink or swim with the HPRB. Representing Trout Design will be principal Michael Beidler, along with architect Patrick Cook, and a few others from the small, local firm, which declined to divulge details in advance of the upcoming meeting. Following the HPRB trip will be a visit to the Zoning Commission for consolidated PUD and map amendment approval, on September 8th. The property is split-zoned, and Valor seeks to establish a uniform zone for the site (R-5-D), allowing a "shift of density that would otherwise be permitted on the eastern portion... to the western portion" as stated in the pre-hearing submission, lodged with the Zoning Commission in May. The goal of the rezone request is to "focus all additional density and height at the rear of the property." The Office of Planning concluded in April that the proposal for the redevelopment was "not inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan" and waved Valor forward, with stated approval of the project's "special value" including "preservation of a historic resource" and five 2-bedroom affordable units (80% AMI). First conceptualized as a condo redevelopment in 2004 by previous owner Spaulding & Slye, Colliers and Castleton Holdings, HPRB deemed the site a landmark in 2006, just as construction was about to begin, a move which halted the developer's plans. Lender O’Connor North American Property Partners LP foreclosed on the property the following year. Valor Development purchased the site in 2008 for $6.5 million, and had hoped to have construction underway - partnering with Potomac Construction Group - this summer, however, Valor has also hit a few snags along the way. Valor and Trout Design visited the HPRB in November of 2010, then again in January of this year, with a plan to redevelop the property as a "luxury condominium," which has been revised over the past 6 months into 110 to 135 residential units with the majority (56) to be one-bedroom units, and 30 to be 2-bedroom/2-bath. The breakdown of the remaining units is undetermined, but the largest will be a 3 bed/2.5 bath configuration. The residential addition on the western side of the 42,500 s.f. property will now top out at 8 stories (previously 9) and will not rise over 90'; the floor area ratio (FAR) will be 2.8 with 122,428 s.f., with a lot occupancy of 58% allowing for a "considerable amount of landscaping" and a rear yard (80' in depth). The amount of below grade parking is yet to be determined, but will be between 60 and 90 spaces.Phase I will entail the "renovation and conversion of the existing Italian Embassy," including restoration of the landmark's fa├žade, as well as preservation of notable, existing shared spaces within the once dapper host to embassy functions, including the ballroom, library and dining room. The embassy, built in 1925, was designed by New York architecture firm Warren and Wetmore, on land owned by Mary Foote Henderson, who spent part of the family fortune, made from "worthless bonds," on her impassioned goal to transform 16th Street, which included the creation of Meridian Hill Park. Valor could not be reached for comment, however stated in the PUD application an intent to break ground next spring, with construction expected to take 18 months. 

Washington D.C. real estate development news


Anonymous said...

FYI - the former Italian Embassy (2700 16th St) is in the Reed Cooke section of Adams Morgan, not Mount Pleasant.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! What a refreshing change of pace to see an architect and developer strive to harmonize with the original historic structure. Ironically something the Italians of pre-modernist vintage where masters at. Bravo!

Now it's up to the HPRB to keep their "can't mimic the original" paws off this great design.

Good luck!

Bruce on Jul 21, 2011, 9:43:00 AM said...

Valor has my full support. They are great young developers who really respect the communities in which they invest.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, cuz everyone refers to the neighborhood as "Reed Cook". I've lived there before and never even heard of that. Can we round up the neighborhood Nazis and lobotomize the lot?

Anonymous said...

Re: The comment by the second "anonymous" above:

Actually, I think the Italians of pre-modernist vintage were masters at doing new and different things that provided dynamic contrast with earlier buildings. Baroque architecture turned Renaissance architecture on its head, for instance. I, for one, wish that the addition to this building were distinctly modern, and not some fussy, pseudo-historic "reinterpretaion." Bleh.

Anonymous said...

I think you are conflating modern with modernist, but you probably know that. Modernism is as historic as art deco, so your pseudo-historic comment has no basis in facts.

As for the Baroque turning the Rainessance on it's head, wow. There's evolution and then there's revolution. Having the Bauhaus's Gropius forbid the Harvard students from accessing the architectural library was "turning architecture on it's head". Evolving the forms of Classicism fom Roman to Rennaisance to Mannerism to Baroque to Neoclassicism, etc, is evolution. Disgarding all the lessons of history because you're infactuated with technology is just stupid and ironically, un-modern.

By all means you're entitled to like your glass boxes as I do sometimes, but these developers are designing for your average person, who whether you like it or not, tends to prefer harmony. It tends to be preferred in music, literature, food, and almost every art form. Thank god some architects don't by into the sophistry of modernists.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to knock the project, but only in DC would five and eight story buildings be referred to as "towers".

Anonymous said...

I took "Mount Pleasant" from the pre-hearing statement: "The Subject Property is located in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, but is
immediately adjacent to the Columbia Heights and Adams Morgan neighborhoods."

Yet, "Adams Morgan" does seem more appropriate.

IMGoph, you there?

IMGoph on Jul 24, 2011, 2:54:00 PM said...

Kelly: It's the Reed-Cooke section of Adams Morgan.

Mt. Pleasant is the tax neighborhood. Don't ever fall into the trap of using the tax office's neighborhoods. There are a limited number of neighborhoods in their list, and they're just placeholders so they can divide the city up into areas getting assessments.

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