Wednesday, July 07, 2010

JBG's Florida Ave Project Under Review

Unifying the neighborhood is the task at hand for JBG Companies and west coast-based architecture firm Miller Hull Partnership LLC as they continue planning a mixed-use retail and residential development in Shaw on Florida Avenue and 8th Street NW near the U Street Corridor.

The companies presented preliminary plans to the Historic Preservation Review Board Thursday for input on the overall concept and support for moving a historic building and an alley way on the site to make way for two new buildings on the mostly empty lots.

While the board was mostly receptive to the idea for development including moving a historic building, members encouraged developers to make the building relate to the neighborhood. The property falls into the Uptown Destination District Plan, dubbed "DUKE," aimed at creating an arts and entertainment hub in the area of U and 7th streets. The plan identifies the vacant lots as a "gap" in the neighborhood.

“You, the architect and developer, have a responsibility to knit this neighborhood back together,” said board member Graham Davidson who expressed his interest in the project while reminding the developers of the expectation to create more than an iconic building. “There's a big hole in the neighborhood here."

Below: Brian Court of Miller Hull Partnership LLC presents plans for development at Florida Ave. and 8th St.
The proposed concept places two 6-story buildings on Florida Avenue with retail on the ground level and five floors of residential units above. The building facades could be made of concrete, full-height windows and metal panels. Final decisions on building materials have not yet been made, though individuals present at the meeting said JBG proposed a wood-framed building.

In an effort to both increase density and blend with the neighborhood, Brian Court, an associate with Miller Hull, explained that the buildings would decrease in height along 8th Street to transition into the mostly residential part of the neighborhood. The building is intended to have a modern feel while reflecting the overlaying arts district and the established urban community.

The HPRB wasn’t entirely convinced. Board members agreed that the project needed more consideration. Concerns included using building materials that fit well with surrounding buildings, reducing the size of the building as it approaches the smaller residential structures on adjacent properties, and generally making the project fit the community.

Steve Callcott, deputy preservation officer for the Historic Preservation Office who has been working with JBG on the project, said he wasn’t surprised by the board’s reactions to the proposal. Board reviews of projects like this one, he said, open the door for "back-and-forth" discussion and offers a developer some "general guidance and direction."

This development is not the first planned for the lots at Florida Avenue and 8th Street. Banneker Ventures previously planned to develop the site, but controversy surrounding the company's selection for several DC projects ultimately derailed those plans.

Washington D.C. real estate development news


Anonymous said...

I have seen some of Miller Hull's projects in Seattle and they are really well done. The site for this project is not historically sensitive -- it's mainly on Florida Avenue, which is pretty rough and diverse at that stretch. The new building shouldn't have to be all matchy-matchy. I'd like to see a cool, modern building there. Don't let HPRB turn this into the typical, banal DC box!!

Anonymous said...

This is a great site that could really use a great building. I agree with the previous post -- this is not a super historic area. They could build some really interesting architecture here. Too many new buildings in DC just blend in.

Anonymous said...

Piggybacking on the previous two comments, I hope the Board will take into account Miller-Hull's extremely careful detailing. This can allow an otherwise arguably-too-modern building design to work in a historic district. Particularly when the primary history of the site in question is the Metro's construction mowing down the small, unremarkable buildings that were there before.

It would be interesting to see if Miller-Hull's design draws from the dynamic of the Metro tunnel which runs under the site (curving as it transitions from running under 7th Street to running under U Street), making this unseen force a part of the streetscape. This plus the right street-level uses (which apparently are in the plan currently) will knit the neighborhood together more than the Olde Time brick-with-shutters motif that Mr. Davidson seems to favor.

Daniel said...

I live near this site, and I just walked by it on my way home tonight. It strikes me that this is a really dynamic area, and I hope the building takes advantage of that (I haven't seen the design--was that box supposed to link to a video?). Anyway, I'd like to see some good modern design on this site.

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