Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Kalorama Apartment Building Impresses HPRB, On Track for 2012 Groundbreaking

A five-story, nine-unit apartment building planned for a vacant parcel at 2225 California Street, NW in the Sheridan-Kalorama historical district has passed an important hurdle and could break ground before the end of the year.
"HPRB basically approved the concept," confirms Don Malnati, a partner on the project at MMG.  "We're onto geotech testing, stuff like that.  The next step is permit plans; we'd like to have foundation/grade permitting first, so we can maybe start digging before the complete building permit comes through.  It's hard to say, all these processes take anywhere from two to six months.  At any rate, it's a by-right building, and we're within the zoning codes, so at this point it's mostly just technical."

Plans for the project, from MMG and designed by Ralph Cunningham of Cunningham Quill, met with moderate resistance from community members at an HPRB hearing earlier this year, on issues ranging from the design itself to the placement of the proposed building to the impact on a garden on the site. The proposed building "is inspired by the classical vertical proportions and tripartite fa├žade organization prevalent in the neighborhood’s buildings while being contemporary in detailing," with three horizontal bands of different-colored brickwork denoting each story. Plans call for one unit on the ground level, with two units on each of the upper levels, and two penthouse units with access to a rooftop terrace.
The building will sit off-center on the lot, directly on the party wall of the smaller rowhouse, with a 12.5 foot side yard separating the building from the larger apartment building at 2219 California.

Predictably, this caused some consternation from the owners of the rowhouse. Of particular note is a light well on the facing side of the rowhouse which will be completely blocked off by the new building; upon questioning, MMG reps said preserving the well, possibly through the use of glass wall, was "not feasible." Don Hawkins, an architect representing the owners of the rowhouse, made a forceful plea for "any relief at all" from the board, claiming his clients' house lost 40% of its value when the MMG project was announced. He also noted wryly that "they [MMG] have been responsive to every request we've made, except the one for them to go away."

In response, MMG reps noted that zoning required them to pick a side ("You can't just build in the middle") and that, as they saw it, the many windows on the facing side of the apartment building at 2219 took precedence over the more limited exposure of the rowhouse. They also pointed to their extensive cooperation with the neighborhood on the particulars of the project - meetings with the ANC, with the Sheridan-Kalorama Historical Association, an on-site meeting with locals - and even went so far to promise consideration of community suggestions on facade materials.

This was a reccuring theme from even the sharpest critics of the project - the developers, it had to be said, had engaged the community, and this engagement seemed to take the edge off of what could have been a very contentious meeting.

The vacant parcel is home now to a garden, and Jim Pepper, a retired National Park Service employee who lives nearby, made an impassioned pleas on its behalf, calling it "historic" and a necessary element of the neighborhood's aesthetic. But despite his efforts, the board ruled that the project is “not incompatible with the character of its location,” and recommended final approval.

Washington D.C. real estate development news


John on May 9, 2012, 6:10:00 PM said...

Thanks for the updates. Any idea what the price range for the units would be?

Anonymous said...

It's got a split face look. Half being traditional and half being glass. Typical of those architects who just can't bring themselves to design in traditional styles without making a statement.

Anonymous said...

Amazing how much "community" work is necessary to get people to agree to things which are by-right. At least the empowered board looked beyond NIMBYism and approved this exceptionally modest development.

As for the last commenter: Since you write frequently, always harping on anthing that's not 100% retrograde, why don't you just state that as your opinion, instead of assuming that the architect (deep down) agrees with you? So conceited of you, and in most cases (certainly this one) absolutely incorrect. Apparently even your HPRB ally, architectural right-winger Graham Davidson, didn't agree with you this time.

Anonymous said...

All this anonymity is confusing. So, in the interest of “transparency” I will identify myself as Curious in Kalorama .
Can the writer please clarify this: “…architects who just can't bring themselves to design in traditional styles without making a statement…”

In my opinion, architects in DC, are rarely allowed to “make a statement”, hence such a proliferation of mediocrity. Cunnigham Quill is a good firm, better than a few others I observe.

Can the other writer please clarify this: “…architectural right-winger Graham Davidson…”
What is an architectural right-winger? And who might be an example of an architectural left-winger? Just curious.

Anonymous said...

As the writer of the "split face" comment, I'd be happy to elaborate. If you look at the facade, it's litterally two looks broken by a vertical line. To my eye, it looks bad, and having inside knowledge of how the firm in question works, I know of thier troubled mind. The fact that it's not 100% retrograde as you say isn't the issue, most buildings that are 100% any style tend to look boring to my eye, it's more that the composition of this facade is just ugly. To clarify, these are just opinions, so no need to get fired up, we're certainly not talking about illegal wars and such. If people think the firm is a good one, good for them, I just didn't like this design, ok?

As for the "right winger" comment, that comes from the same mind set that describes things as 100% retrograde. Retrograde being defined as "moving backward", becasue if it's not different from your father's solutions, it sucks, regardless of wether it functions well or not. After all, form follows function, right?

Laser Washington DC on May 16, 2012, 5:59:00 AM said...

Thanks for the great post on your blog.

Anonymous said...

Our neighborhood is overwhelmingly against this project. The population density on Calif. St. is already about the highest in the city and this will add to the intolerable traffic situation. This project is being built on a historic garden, populated with plants brought in from the White House by Edith Wilson. Shame on all of you who are involved. Shame on anyone who buys here.

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