On Tuesday Matt Yglesias raised objection to the historically protected status of vacant/derelict warehouse in the Mount Vernon Triangle at 460 New York Avenue NW. As you can see in the photo below the windows of the structure have been bricked over.
During the height of the housing bubble the Bozzuto Group planned to develop the site as high rise residential and incorporate the warehouse structure. In the last few years Bozzuto presumably found the complications of the site and the warehouse to be prohibitive to devising a financially viable residential tower. The lot is shallow as it is near the point of a diagonal boulevard and two streets making setbacks and the egress for the parking/loading a large hi-rise needs challenging. Bozzuto lobbied the ANC to support a request for the historical designation to be removed so the building could be demolished (see comments from RobA). Despite the ANC support the Historic Preservation Review Board denied the request.
On the one hand it is difficult to understand the basis for the historic designation of the building. The structure is not particularly distinctive architecture, doesn’t fall within a historic district, and is not clustered alongside other interesting properties (sometimes the collective whole can be more than the sum of the individual parts). On the otherhand the challenges the structure presents for the project Bozzuto wanted to build may mean they should have considered another type of project. Perhaps reuse the building as 3-story retail or a more modest redevelopment as a 5-story residential project sans parking. Yes, that doesn’t maximize the full potential zoning but something has to give.
I haven’t really made up my mind on this particular case but in general I do feel historic preservation is a positive thing in moderation. I believe the integration of the historical housing stock in Penn Quarter and Chinatown redevelopment helps create a sense of place for the neighborhood that other hi-rise districts like Farragut Square and Ballston simply lack.