HPA No. 1986-302, 1986-303, 1986-304, 1986-305, 1986-311, 1986-491 (In re. Central Liquor Store, Fireworks Building, Gayety Theatre)
- HPA Number: 1986-302 - 1986-305; 1986-311; 1986-491
- Case Name: In Re Central Liquor Store
- Location of Property: 500, 502, 504, 506, 508 9th St., NW; 903 E St., NW
- Date of Decision: 12/15/86
- Type of Case/Type of Permit Sought: Demolition
- Disposition: Approved
- Date of Case Summary: 07/06/07
Summary of Decision:
Quadrangle Development Corporation (“Developer”) was the general partner of 9E Associates, the contract purchaser of the subject property then-owned by Central Liquor Store, Inc. (“Owner”). In connection with Developer’s proposed construction on the property, Owner applied for a demolition permit to raze twelve (12) buildings located on the property, including six (6) buildings determined to contribute to the character of the Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site. (Developer took the lead role in advocating for the permit.) The D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board (the “HPRB”) concluded that the structural integrity of the six (6) buildings was “severely compromised,” and that other demolition and construction projects in the area had “destroy[ed] the overall impression of the historic streetscape” in the neighborhood. In place of the buildings sought to be demolished, Developer proposed to construct one 343,000 gross square foot office building, to include 210,000 square feet of office space, 21,000 square feet of retail space, underground parking and 2,400 square feet as a special arts exhibition area. Developer argued that the demolition permit was necessary in the public interest because it would allow the construction of a project of special merit by virtue of the proposed building’s specific features of land planning, exemplary architecture, and positive social and economic benefits. The Mayor’s Agent granted the demolition permit, agreeing that the proposed office building was necessary in the public interest because it was a project of special merit, based on the project’s social benefits having a high priority for community services. Specifically, the proposed building’s inclusion of retail space and an arts exhibition area in the building’s entrance court provided the benefits of economic revitalization to a “deteriorating area.” Developer agreed to provide archival quality photographic documentation of the contributing buildings and to conduct archeological testing of the site.
Mayor’s Agent – Procedural:
• The D.C. Preservation League (the “League”) originally filed as a Party in Opposition to the application, but withdrew its opposition after the plans were amended to include an arts space element. As a condition of agreeing not to oppose the application, the League requested that Developer withdraw its argument that the project was consistent with the purposes of the Act and proceed only on grounds that the project was one of special merit; Developer agreed.
• There was no Advisory Neighborhood Commission position regarding the application.
Project of Special Merit – Social or other Benefits having a High Priority for Community Services:
The Mayor’s Agent determined that Developer’s project was of special merit because it provided social benefits having a high priority for community services, including bringing “viable retail uses to a deteriorating area,” providing a 2,400 square foot arts exhibition area that promotes the concept of a “living downtown,” and revitalizing an economically depressed area. The arts exhibition area, to be located in the first-floor entrance court area of the building, was designed to showcase sculpture and paintings by local artists. This arts space would “help to achieve the desired mixture of uses in the area” and implement the “Arts District” concept described in the Downtown Element of the Comprehensive Plan.
Project of Special Merit – Exemplary Architecture:
Although the Mayor’s Agent did not explicitly determine that the proposed building was a project of special merit based on “exemplary architecture,” the Mayor’s Agent did reference the “highly developed facade” and “the use of fine quality building materials” in explaining the rationale for determining that the project was one of special merit.
Developer’s proposed building included architectural details that make it compatible with the “character” of the Pennsylvania Avenue Historic Site, and the proposed building “will serve as an appropriate backdrop for the existing landmark buildings in the area.”
Developer considered incorporating the front facades of two (2) existing buildings into the proposed building, but the Developer concluded, and the HPRB agreed, that the proposals incorporating such front facades were “impractical [and] unsympathetic to the historic buildings and unsuccessful in terms of design.” Facade incorporation was rejected due to the large disparity in scale between the historic buildings and the proposed new building and the “unusual constraints” posed by the configuration and topography of the site. The facades had also been “altered beyond repair,” and retention of portions of the existing buildings was rejected as an option because of “serious life-safety issues” due to the “lack of integrity and the combustibility of the materials in the basic structures” of the existing buildings.
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