Monday, November 05, 2012

HPRB Approves Two New Buidings for Blagden Alley

Slowly but surely, Shaw’s Blagden Alley neighborhood is growing. Two new developments proposed by Altus Realty Partners will fill in a couple of empty lots in the historic district and are now one step closer to reality—though a completion date is anyone’s guess.

Building at 1212 9th Street
On Thursday, DC’s Historic Preservation Review Board looked over proposed designs for the buildings by PGN Architects. One, at 1212 9th Street, will be four stories tall and include a small ground floor retail space; the other will sit at 917 M Street, but its longest side will run along the alley. HPRB approved both projects, leaving smaller details to be worked out with the Historic Planning Office staff.

At this point, both developments are in the very early stages, so details like whether the buildings will include condos or apartments, or how many units each will hold, are still up in the air. As for an estimated timeline for next steps, “it’s pure conjecture,” said Charlie Kehler, a principal with Altus. This stage is very much about design.

1212 9th Street, from the south
The four-story building on 9th Street is relatively straightforward. Filling in a vacant lot between Squares Fashions and a string of row houses, the building’s 9th Street façade will be clad in buff brick, with a stepped back central bay and a top floor of glass and aluminum. The ground floor would include shop windows topped by a steel canopy; above would be two floors of residences, plus a penthouse set back by about four feet. Just south of the building runs an alley, which residents would use to access parking.

The HPRB had a few comments about the height of the penthouse and whether the alley would be wide enough to regularly accommodate cars, but the board unanimously approved the design.

Building at 917 M Street
The second building is a bit more complicated. In an effort to complement the decorative Second Empire row houses that lie along M Street just west of 9th Street and just east of the proposed building, the architects gave the development’s M Street façade three vertical sections alternately made of block, glass and brick. Turning the corner, the long side along Blagden Alley uses the same materials—and includes a three-story glass gallery—though with more of a horizontal orientation.

The design incorporates an existing historic one-story garage on the alley. The developers are planning on excavating to create underground parking, and the new building would rest on top of part of the structure.

917 M Street building seen from west
HPRB members expressed some concern that, while the side of the building appears to be sufficiently industrial to fit with the alley’s overall aesthetic, the front is a bit too stark to complement the row houses. “It’s a blank cypher—I’m not sure what you’re trying to capture,” said HPRB member Nancy Metzger. Still, the group approved the design, leaving the developers to work with HPO to iron out any final issues.

Kehler was pleased with the decisions and said Altus is excited about the area. “We love the neighborhood’s identity,” he said. “We think it’s where DC will be focused in the future.”

Washington, D.C., real estate development news


Anonymous said...

A blocky, buff brick facade with punched windows! How tremendously, excitingly innovative! Washington's never seen anything like that before, no sir!

Paul H. said...

Let's hope that the developer continues use of the one-story structure at the back of the M Street building as active commercial space. Blagden Alley is an eclectic (and historically-appropriate) mix of restaurants, gyms, art spaces, and other commercial service activities. It would be a big slap to the historic fabric to have the rear building be either residential or simply building service like a parking garage entrance.

IMGoph on Nov 11, 2012, 2:38:00 PM said...

the design on M Street could certainly use some help. if you're not going to try to replicate the second empire stuff there, then go crazy different. REALLY differentiate it!

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