NPR Highlights ambitious MVT preservation efforts

National Public Radio Headquarters (for the time being) sits across K Street from all the construction activity of the AAMC headquarters project. The endeavor of moving five historic structures on the site to make way for excavation has generated a great deal of curiousity and fascination. Robert Siegel and Melissa Block of All Things Considered hosted an informative 8 minute segment (audio | transcript) on the transformative project with sound bytes from Expert House Movers, DC Preservation Society, Douglas Development, architect Shalom Baranes, and Kebrab Tekla – a resident who sold the townhouse he lived in for 25 years to accommodate the site assemblage.

Expert House Movers move MVT buildings on wheels (Doriane Raiman/NPR)

Hat Tip: @pency87

My favorite excerpts from the transcript:

On one building having a history as a former brothel:

BLOCK: And in the middle of the block, there were a couple of faded Grand Dames built with when this was a thriving German immigrant neighborhood; three skinny Victorian-era row houses, and most recently one of them was known to be a brothel.

TYLER ANDERSON: I just told my guys, don’t touch anything.

BLOCK: I found Tyler Anderson outside that narrow three-story house. His company was reinforcing it so it could be moved without falling apart.

ANDERSON: There were saunas and whirlpools and walk-in showers, all on every floor. It was like oh, my God.

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Douglas Development Square 451 Project Update

Paul Millstein of Douglas Development spoke at Tuesday night’s MVSNA meeting to provide details about their imminent projects on the 600 Block of K Street and NY Ave (Squares 450 & 451) as well as the apartment project at 450 K Street.

The discussion did not reveal many new details above and beyond what the City Paper’s recap of this month’s ANC 2C meeting included. The new information I did learn was quickly recapped by Urbanturf yesterday. Rather than write a very similar recap to Urbanturf’s I’ve chosen to focus on images of properties involved in the plans for Square 451.

Rough mockup of proposed plan - click to enlarge

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Preservation Debate: 460 NY Ave NW

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.

L Street frontage of 460 New York Ave NW

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.

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Steuart Motor Company Building

The Hidden Washington DC photo stream on Flickr from Michael Horsley has hundreds of photos from the District circa 1985-1994. Below are several photos from the collection of the Steuart Motor Company Building on the 1000 Block of 6th Street NW.

The site currently is home to a Marc Parc surface parking lot enclosed in chain link fencing and barbed wire. The present day Steuart Investment Company plans to one day build an office building with ground floor retail on this site across the street from City Vista.

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Engine 6

Could the impending arrival of Buddha Bar trigger serious interest in the engine 6 firehouse space across the street at 400 Mass?

Last month I came across a great example of a historic firehouse transformed into a vibrant space. Jack’s Firehouse is a very successful pub and restaurant on Philly’s Fairmount Ave across the street from Eastern State Penitentiary. Much of the original mahogany interior, wood plank floors, and even the brass fire pole remain intact in the old building. The large sweep boat suspended overhead also added a great deal of charm.

What will the future hold for our old Engine company?

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The Passenger Arrives

The Passenger is a new bar in the Warehouse Cafe space, opening this evening. It’s located at 1021 7th Street NW, between New York Ave and L Street, across from the Washington Convention Center.

With The Passenger, brothers Tom and Derek Brown (most recently of Cork and The Gibson, respectively) bring us their own laid back neighborhood bar and lounge. The space features late 19th century hardwood floors and distressed concrete and exposed brick walls, which gives it some character. The most impressive new addition to the decor is an area to the rear of the bar with arched ceilings and mirrored walls designed to look like an antique dining car. Lastly a private space called The Columbia Room (opening date TBD) will be dedicated to as a reservations-only area where Derek Brown will host more intimate gatherings focused on educating patrons in a space he refers to as “a cocktail club and laboratory bar”.

Beers are served in cans and over twenty wines are available by the glass. There will not be a mixed cocktail menu; instead the brothers plan to ask patrons what they like, and mix something up that might appeal to them. And the food menu will include an eclectic offering of items such as Route 11 chips and kimchi hot dogs. I had the opportunity to snag a few photos at a pre-opening event last night. (Apologies for the quality as these were taken on my blackberry).

Owner Derek Brown mixing punch
view down bar

Top: 7th Street entrance; Middle: Owner Derek Brown mixing gin punch; Bottom: a view down the bar

In addition to the bar and lounge, the Civilian Art Projects is moving to 7th Street (into the gallery space on the first floor of 1019 7th Street). The Warehouse Theater will continue in operation, with a new entrance, and a production of Santaland Diaries upcoming in December.

Read more about The Passenger in Tim Carman’s preview and WaPo’s Going Out Guide review by Fritz Hahn. The Prince of Petworth preview features some of the best interior photos of The Passenger on the net at the moment.

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HPRB: You make the call

Which do you find more worthy of preservation? The top image is of “Meads Row” on the 1300 block of H Street NE which the Historic Preservation Review Board recently voted down a motion to preserve. The second image displays some properties under consideration on the 600 Block of K Street NW within the Triangle.

Personally I consider the Meads Row cluster of buildings is more appealing from an architectural and aesthetic perspective.

Image Credit: DCMud

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Franklin School RFO

As discussed by Neil Albert at the April DNA Meeting, it is expected that a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) will soon be issued for the Franklin School. The building had been used as an emergency homeless shelter the last several years until the Mayor ended the program late last fall. I’ve found that there was a Request for Offers (RFO) issued on April 9th for the property to be reused as a Charter School.

Photo from flickr user (army.arch)

History of the building from

Franklin School
13th and K Streets, NW
Constructed in 1869

By 1869 the modern school building was again redefined by Adolf Cluss in his design of the Franklin School on the corner of 13th Street and K Street, Northwest. Franklin was the grandest building of all the schools, meant to house not only all grades at the time, but the offices of the Superintendent (this office created in 1869) and the Board of Trustees (Education), as well. Franklin also housed the first Normal School for white students.

The massive Great Hall at Franklin functioned as a community resource for concerts and other special events. Alexander Graham Bell successfully tested his new invention, the photophone (sound transmitted by light waves), from the rooftop of Franklin School in 1880.

The building’s 19th-century façade – including a bust of Benjamin Franklin – is an eloquent expression of principles of public education in post-Civil America. The exterior of Franklin was restored in 1992 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The interior, however, remains largely as it was when the building was closed decades ago. Stanley Jackson, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, announced on March 10, 2005 that the Franklin School will be re-developed by the District-based Western Development Corp. and Jarvis Corp. as a boutique hotel.(Ed note: Seems the building has been down the RFEI path unsuccessfully before)

The new 25-page 2009 RFO (PDF) can presently be found on the district’s website.

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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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