Friday, August 31, 2012

107-Year-Old Cleveland Park Home Dodges Bullet

Cathedral Heights, Washington DC - real estate developers to save historic home
A 107-year-old home in Cleveland Park has received a last minute pardon from razing, after the property was sold to a new owner and plans to develop the site for the moment shelved.
Historic home on Wisconsin Avenue spared, Washington DC development
"The raze application and the concept proposal have been withdrawn," confirms Steve Callcott, Deputy Preservation Officer at Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). "We received notification from their attorney that the property has been sold to a different owner."

The saga of the marginalized home at 3211 Wisconsin Avenue was set to come to an abrupt end, as the last owners had sought permission to raze the house to make way for a six-story apartment building.

Previous developers at Hastings Development had proposed a wholesale relocation of the house, from its Wisconsin Avenue location in Cleveland Park to a vacant lot at 3118 Quebec Place NW.  A 2008 report from Hastings Development described the sad case of a home that had "lost its setting" and was "pressed between multifamily apartment buildings."  Pictures illustrating this point depicted a forlorn two story house dwarfed on each side by looming monoliths and fronted by a hectic thoroughfare.  Encroachment was gradual; to the south, an eight-story apartment building was constructed in 1958, and to the north, a (most unsightly) seven-story building went up in the Eighties.  In contrast, 3211 was a modest, two-story frame house, set back from the street with a small front yard.  

Hastings Development, Washington DC

But the HPRB rejected this proposal, later saying that the "new location and context was inappropriate for the building," despite the fact that its initial report found the Quebec Place lot "would provide a more visually compatible context of similarly sized and scaled single family houses."  An HPRB report noted that the house was "deteriorating and vacant" and was "in need of substantial repair" as well as missing the original porches. Additionally, there was speculation that the original builder and architect of record, a Treasury Department bookkeeper named Donald Macleod (he built the house for his sister Euphemia), had simply copied the plans for the house out of a builder's manual or pattern book, theoretically reducing the house's value as a historical artifact.

Following the denial of the relocation request, developers changed gears and planned to raze the house and build a six-story apartment building much like the surrounding ones - that is, until the property changed hands at the last minute.  So what's next for the once-endangered house?

"We have no applications pending [regarding 3211 Wisconsin]," says Callcott.  "We're not exactly sure what's going to happen to it."

Washington D.C. real estate development news


Anonymous said...

Sounds like this deal collapsing was big net loss for the city. We are potentially losing out on much needed housing on a principal corridor. The (vacant) house was going to be moved to a more appropriate location and is nothing special to begin with.

Anonymous said...

Tear it down! It's old, out of context, and historically insignificant. I'm sure that there will be idiots who say that they should have never built the towers around it in the first place. Frankly, I think they should tear down all of the remaining single family houses in D.C. There's no reason upper NW shouldn't be chock-a-block wih high density housing. Onward and upward!

Anonymous said...

2:41 you might want to move to China they whole hardheartedly embrace your living atheistic!

Skidrowe said...

A wholesale teardown of single-family houses in DC isn't realistic, nor is it a good idea. One strength of our city (relative to, say, New York) is that there are attractive single-family neighborhoods (even small quasi-country estates, in fact!) close to downtown and entertainment areas.

That said, this particular case seems exceptionally strong--what detached home buyer would want a house on traffic-choked Wisconsin Avenue, anyway?

Moreover, in general planning terms, DC could profit from a little less protectiveness of low-density areas located close to downtown and/or Metro stations. Some of those neighborhoods are sufficiently historic to qualify for historic protections. But many are not, and some of these could densify considerably to the benefit of the city.

Anonymous said...

I am an ardent, but realistic historic preservation advocate and this is one of those cases that gives historic preservation a bad name. We should be focused on the large unprotected swaths of DC like Brookland and Chevy Chase DC, not isolated remmants like this lonely house.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that you ignore the 3 story building IMMEDIATELY to the house's North. it almost envelopes the house. Nothing to say about that one?

Is this house unique or in some way an ideal example of its kind? It seems this location is exactly where we need more residential density. Less than a block back off Wisc are many single-family homes of this type.

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