Update on 443-459 Eye Street

At last night’s ANC6C PZ&E committee meeting we heard a HPA extension request regarding a residential project proposed for 443-459 I Street. The extension request was being made by IBG Partners who is interested in purchasing the land and developing the project that Walnut Street Development had earned approval for in 2006. Despite the HPA paperwork expiring years ago the Historic Preservation agency informed IBG they would allow the group to apply for an extension rather than reset the process if the project would be exactly as approved in 2006.

Known in the past as Eye Street Lofts the development would restore two 1880′s 3-story townhomes, the two story warehouse garage structure, and a former blacksmith shop along the rear alley as these are contributing structures to the Mount Vernon Triangle Historic District. The building currently leased by BicycleSPACE would be razed. As you can see in the picture above the residential towers above the historic properties would be setback off the street. The groundfloor would support retail uses and there are preliminary discussions between IBG and BicycleSPACE about relocating the bike shop to the historic garage.

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Subway Liquor II to get facade makeover

Tierney Plumb of WBJ reports that four historic neighborhoods have organized to take advantage of the D.C. Façade Improvement Program. The Barracks Row Main Street, H Street Main Street, Mt. Vernon Triangle and Shaw Main Street organizations are each helping facilitate grant applications for properties in their local businesses. Notable on the list are popular sushi restaurant Sticky Rice on H Street NE and Subways Liquor II here in the Mount Vernon Triangle.

Property owners will match grant money contributed by the Community Development Block Grant funded through the Department of Housing and Community Development. Improvements may include upgrades to signage, lighting, windows and restoration of other decorative architectural elements. In the case of Subway Liquor I don’t know the full extent of what is planned but do expect the security grating over the windows to come down.

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Update on 924 5th Street

At this month’s ANC6C Planning Zoning & the Environment Committee meeting the owner of 924 5th Street NW outlined his renovation concept. The building is considered a contributing structure to the Mount Vernon Triangle Historic District and changes to the exterior are subjected to the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) for approval.

The owner, who is a SVP at a commercial real estate firm, bought this property at auction in late 2009 and is managing this renovation as his own project under the title of 5K LLC. The renovation is being done on spec to improve a structure that has been vacant for over a decade and is in a decrepit state. The plan calls for demolishing a one story rear wing and erecting a four-story rear addition to the three-story building. The final product will be a 4 story building in which the top floor is setback and not visible from the street.

The improvements to the building are aimed at attracting both retail and office tenants. A few possible configurations are in play in which either the ground floor or the two lower floors could be leased to retail tenants. Depending on the retail outcome either 2 or 3 of the upper floors would be leased as office space. The owner suggested we may one day see a two story restaurant in the building or possibly one retailer on the ground floor and a different retailer on the 2nd floor as this blog suggested in the past. The structure will have roughly 1750 SF per floor with the top floor having less due to the required setback for the addition.

Attendees at the meeting mentioned the thread we had with 55 comments back in late 2009 proposing possible retail options for the site. Pet store and Nail salon continued to be a strong theme. 555 Mass alone is estimated to have around ~100 pet owners. Let’s reignite the brainstorming on retail wishes for the building. Italian restaurant spanning two floors? Pet Store on the ground floor and nail salon on the second floor? What are your ideas?

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Properties of the 600 Block of K Street NW

As mentioned in the posting from earlier today, two HPRB cases regarding the 600 block of K Street NW, will be heard in the near future. The images below outline the properties being considered. If all these properties are landmarked, the development concept from Douglas Jemal would involve relocating the structures to the far east end of the block to be adjacent to one another.

Please share your thoughts in the comments. I clearly believe the Hartig Motor Company building is worth preserving and of ample size to contribute to future retail for the block. I am on the fence about the second set of properties.

Hartig Motor Company, 627 K Street, NW , Case #05-10

601, 607-609, 611, 613 and 617 K Street, NW , Case #05-11

601 K Street NW (previously written about)

607 K Street NW – Executive Auto Detailing

611-613 K Street NW – Akosombo and Styles International

617 K Street NW

There is a delicate balance between preserving enough historic character to create a special place and requiring so much preservation that the economics become more complicated and delay the feasibility of the project. For Case #05-11 I would say at a minimum the non-descript one story garage at 607 K Street NW is not worthy of landmarking.

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HPRB for 600 Block of K Street NW

As Si Kailian posted on the MVSNA blog last week, properties on the 600 block of K Street NW are slated to before the Historic Preservation Review Board in the very near future. These properties are owned by Douglas Development, who in their early concepts for Square 451, is planning that these properties will be landmarked and need to be clustered together.

April 23, 2009
441 4th Street NW, Room 220 South, 10:00 a.m.

The Historic Preservation Review Board will meet on April 23, 2009, to consider permit and concept applications for work affecting historic properties. This meeting may also include a public hearing on nominations to designate historic landmarks or historic districts.

The final agenda for the HPRB meeting will be released on April 17, 2009. The agenda will be emailed to all recipients of this monthly public notice. Staff Reports will be posted on the Historic Preservation Office website at on April 17, 2009.

Historic Landmark and District Nominations

  • Hartig Motor Company, 627 K Street, NW , Case #05-10 (to be heard in May) (Tim Dennee)
  • 601, 607-609, 611, 613 and 617 K Street, NW , Case #05-11 (to be heard in May) (Tim Dennee)

How does this HPRB process work? I assume Tim Dennee will be arguing in favor of the landmark designation. Will Douglas Development or others attend and argue in opposition?

My photos of the properties will be posted later in the day.

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WBJ: F Street’s Past is Prologue

The winter edition of Washington Business Journal‘s OnSite magazine has about the revitalization of the 900 block of F Street called F Street’s Past is Prologue. In it the author doles out grades on architectural merit of Akridge’s Carroll Square versus Douglas Development’s projects across the street (Atlantic Building, The Ventana).

Washington, DC National Union Building

Photo of National Union Building from flickr user army.arch

The print edition has far more photos including one of the old style iron-caged elevator cab inside the National Union Building.

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SE corner of 6th and K NW

In yesterday’s post about the MVT CID newsletters their was a highlight on the 6th and K Auto Market. In the comments Si pointed us to a rendering from MRP that represents their plans for the parcel that includes the Auto Market.

Screen capture of a rendering on

The Auto Market lot is just asphalt, a trailer and a sign that is an icon among D.C. photographers. South of a Auto Market lot, bridging to the Hampton Inn, are three 3 story Victorian row houses.

MRP’s rendering does not incorporate the Victorians and these building are slightly outside the Historic District. These 3 buildings seem more distinguished and better maintained than several of the properties in the historic district like the old Fun Fair Video location. Does anyone know what was leveled to build the Hampton Inn and 555 Mass?

It’s unfortunate that the old buildings possibly worth preserving are so scattered throughout the Triangle. Had there been a nice continuous cluster of interesting old buildings rather than disjointed scattered sites then preservation might yield a better outcome both aesthetically and financially.

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Mount Vernon Square Historic District

Yesterday we posted about Square 450. Any discussion about development in this square should acknowledge it is part of a Historic District.

Matthew Gilmore has compiled maps of historic districts and historic structures throughout DC. We have previously featured his map for the Triangle. Below is Matthew’s map for Mount Vernon Square East.

As you can see, Square 450 falls entirely within the historic district and has some structures designated as historic. I know that a historic district is designed to preserve the continuity of the neighborhood’s historic character. I imagine the rules are even stricter for a historic structure. How will this impact what Douglas Development can build on this square? Will it simply be that the facades need to be kept, ala the 800 block of F Street, or does it run deeper than that?

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Walnut Street Development to sell parcels

Courtesy of DCMud we learn that Walnut Street Development (WSD) is set to sell it’s lots on Eye Street NW. These lots include historic properties which WSD had intended to preserve while building a 12-story complex of apartment and retail called Eye Street Lofts.

“[Developer Jared Jablonka] added that WSD had delayed groundbreaking because they hoped to win the 5th and I site. “We had held off because the announcement of a developer for the adjacent piece of land (5th the and I) was delayed. We wanted to incorporate that site into our project, that was the idea, but then we got the offer to sell the site and it was hard to turn down. We are now under contract.”

WSD’s original $55 million multi-use project would have been a renovation of two 1880′s row houses and other industrial buildings into an approximately 12-story structure with over 15,000 s.f. of community-serving retail space.

WSD’s plans have been in the works since 2005 and have since faced several obstacles because of the historic nature of the buildings on site that include the Central Auto Works garage, a historically-designated structure. Architects HOK Group decided to incorporate the entire garage into the new edifice by piercing columns through the building and creating footings beneath the garage to support the new construction. The development would have also included the two existing row houses as well as a historic blacksmith shop.”

Yellow Door

Current photo of 443 I St from flickr user Kyle Walton

Rendering of the Eye Street Lofts that WSD had planned

I attended both the initial presentation and the ANC 6C special meeting on the 5th and Eye project. During each meeting it was clear that JBG had an agreement for WSD’s parcels. While other projects had deals with other land owners to expand north, JBG seemed to exclusively hold the keys to expanding east on Eye Street. So, I don’t think this news signifies JBG has made a recent breakthrough. I think the climate is basically the same as it’s been for months.

The Donohoe/Holland proposal called The Arts and 5th and Eye has received all the community support. ANC 6C, the Downtown Neighborhood Association, and the residents of 555 Mass have each endorsed the Donohoe/Holland bid. JBG’s proposal also lagged behind the I5 proposal from Potomac Investment in community support. A big reason for this is that every other finalist was specific about the hotel and retail partners their projects they’ve paired with and JBG offered no details.

JBG’s portfolio in the immediate neighborhood does not suggest they develop buildings that actively engage the streetscape. The Hampton Inn, 555 Mass, and the Convention Center lack the sufficient retail elements to generate pedestrian activity and eyes on the streets. Personally I’m disappointed that 555 Mass did not incorporate any first floor retail on 5th Street. The Office of Planning’s (OP) master plan for the Triangle designated 5th Street as our retail corridor. JBG may have had their justifications for disregarding OP’s recommendation but it’s still a large missed opportunity for the community. These new buildings are going to be here for many decades and you only get one chance to build it right…

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The Triangle in Pictures: Say Goodbye to History

I took this photo just a couple of days ago when I made my periodic trip to the Triangle to check the progress of the Dumont (The building I’ll hopefully be moving into sometime this year). I was struck by the beauty of these derelict structures and really moved by the fact that I could see, in their present state, the many years of experience these buildings had. I could almost see the families that at one point lived in there. The kids playing out on the stoop, domestic noises pouring out the open windows. I became incredibly sad when I realized that soon, they’ll be nothing more than meaningless facades. Completely sanitized and devoid of any life whatsoever, much like the fate of many of Penn Quarter’s historical structures.

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