Monday, November 26, 2012

Demolition and Preservation at Former Chinese Embassy

Drive by the former embassy of the People’s Republic of China on Connecticut Avenue and you’ll see an interesting sight: a building façade propped up by an elaborate set of braces, next to another building undergoing wholesale demolition.
Much demolition has already occurred. But the facade is being preserved as part of the Sheridan-Kalorama Historic District, and will be incorporated into a new building on the site that’s been designed by Esocoff and Associates.

While the embassy proper decamped for Van Ness Street in 2009, the new Connecticut Avenue building will serve as the embassy’s residential and consular building, containing 136 mostly two-bedroom apartments for diplomatic staff, and some office space.

The original embassy was actually composed of two distinct but connected buildings. The more historic structure at 2310 Connecticut Avenue was built in the 1920s, and its façade is the one that’s being salvaged. The other structure, at 2300 Connecticut, was the hulking, largely unadorned building that most observers remember as the Chinese Embassy. It started out in the late 1940's as a hotel, but was turned into an embassy after Nixon’s visit to China in 1972.

Now, most of the latter building is being reduced to rubble. “I think one of the reasons we had unanimous community support was that removing a building that unappealing was a mitzvah—a good deed,” explained Philip Esocoff, adding that demolition of the newer building should be complete by the end of 2012.

But the older building has a different, more delicate story.  Braces have been utilized to preserve the two outside walls and strengthen them against wind while the building’s interior is removed. “We will cut away at the wall behind it, but we’ll have to do it carefully, by hand,” said Esocoff. “That’s a particular kind of process, saving a front wall: you don’t want to rip the building down inside because it might pull something off.”

Esocoff rendering of the new building's facade
Esocoff said the workers—part of Clark Construction team, unlike the previous Chinese construction crew in Cleveland Park —are salvaging some of the old bricks and ornamental metal balcony railings, which will be incorporated into the new structure. Though it will include an interior courtyard, the new building will fill in some of the empty space that lay above the old edifice's lobby and will therefore be largely the same size as the original set of buildings.

“I think it’ll be a very well-constructed building, a little higher quality than we might do on a standard apartment house because they plan on being there forever. It’ll be institutional grade,” said Escoff. “And this will really improve the vista as you come down from the bridge.”

Groundbreaking will occur after the first of the year, with the first step being an excavation of the property’s lower levels to include a parking garage.

Washington, D.C. real estate development news


IMGoph on Nov 26, 2012, 9:46:00 AM said...

FYI - the map icon at the top doesn't actually link to a map of the site.

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