HPA No. 1987-085 (In re. William F. Reed and Kathleen Kaupp Property)
- HPA Number: 1987-85
- Case Name: Unnamed—Pertains to Applicants listed as Stanton Development Corporation, William F. Reed and Kathleen Kaupp, et al., Owners
- Location of Property: 518 C Street N.E., Lot 801, Square 837
- Date of Decision: 11/23/1987
- Type of Case/Type of Permit Sought: Demolition
- Disposition: Approved (subject to conditions)
- Date of Case Summary: 11/26/14
- Issue Area(s): Necessary in the Public Interest, Consistent with the Purposes of the Act, Project of Special Merit – Social or other Benefits having a High Priority for Community Services, Economic Feasibility, Compatibility, Contributing Building
Summary of Decision:
Stanton Development Corporation (the “Applicant”) sought a permit for demolition of a townhouse located at 518 C Street, N.E., designated as a contributing structure in the Capitol Hill Historic District and situated in the C-2-A zoning district, in order to construct a four-story office building with a lobby and garage on the first floor and three floors of office space above. The Applicant claimed that the demolition was necessary to allow construction of a project of special merit, because the proposed new office building was more compatible with the character and scale of the neighborhood and “provides a social and community benefit by increasing the stock of office space in C-2-A zoned districts.” Although the Mayor’s Agent found that the proposed new construction did address a need for office space in the area, she found it unnecessary to rule on whether it constituted a project of special merit. Instead, she accepted the recommendation of the Historic Preservation Review Board (“HPRB”) and held that issuance of the permit was consistent with the purposes of the Historic District Preservation Act of 1978 (the “Act”).
The Mayor’s Agent concluded that the proposed new construction was consistent with the purposes of the Act because it “is particularly compatible with the character of the historic district, firmly anchoring the northeast corner of Stanton Park and lifting the proposed structure to the scale and character of other buildings fronting the open park areas and boulevards.” Acknowledging the concerns of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (“ANC”) 6A and the Stanton Park Neighborhood Association that a demolition permit be tied to new construction, the Mayor’s Agent approved issuance of the demolition permit subject to the conditions that 1) a new construction permit be issued simultaneously and the owner demonstrate the ability to complete the project, and 2) the Applicant provide photographic documentation and conduct archaeological investigations of the site, in consultation with the Historic Preservation Division of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
Mayor’s Agent – Procedural:
- The Mayor’s Agent accepted the recommendations of the HPRB, which based its recommendation for approval of the demolition permit on a finding that the issuance was consistent with the purposes of the Act.
- The Mayor’s Agent considered concerns raised by ANC 6A and the Stanton Park Neighborhood Association that issuance of a demolition permit be tied to a new construction permit.
Necessary in the Public Interest:
The Mayor’s Agent concluded “as a matter of law that the demolition of the building on this site as requested in the application is consistent with the purposes of the act …and is therefore necessary in the public interest.”
Consistent with the Purposes of the Act:
The Mayor’s Agent found that the proposed new construction was consistent with the purposes of the Act because “the existing structure in its present context…is diminished in its contribution to the historic district,” and the proposed new construction “is particularly compatible with the character of the historic district.” Furthermore, the Mayor’s Agent found that the existing townhouse is undistinguished and does not possess the same scale and stature as the majority of buildings that define the perimeter of Stanton Park.
This is an older case and seems to present the rationale that the existing structure was “diminished” and “undistinguished”. Yet the opinion does not mention whether it is a contributing building or not. If it is such, then demolition would hardly be “consistent with the purposes of the Act.” This opinion is hard to align with later decisions of the Mayor’s Agent.
Project of Special Merit – Social or other Benefits having a High Priority for Community Services:
The Applicant based its request for a demolition permit on a claim of “special merit,” stating that the proposed office building would fulfill a community need for more office space. The Applicant claimed that there was a lack of zoned office space in the district, resulting in “widespread illegal use of residential property on Capitol Hill by businesses,” and that pursuant to a new Civil Infractions law, such illegal use would be curtailed, resulting in an increased need for more office space. The Mayor’s Agent found that “the proposed office building does address a documented need for an increased stock of legal office space in C-2-A zoned property in the Capitol Hill Historic District,” but found it unnecessary to rule on whether the proposal constituted a “project of special merit,” because she found that the project was consistent with the purposes of the Act.
The Mayor’s Agent found that the Applicant fully considered alternative proposals before proposing demolition – including placing the core of the existing structure in other sections of the building in order to retain it – but found the alternatives economically infeasible. Placement of the core in other sections of the townhouse would result in the number of parking spaces falling below the zoning requirement for the proposed office site and the garage entrance being too close to a busy intersection.
The Mayor’s Agent credited the expert testimony of project architect Amy Weinstein and found that “the proposed new construction is architecturally compatible with and designed to match the scale and character of the neighborhood without detracting from or overwhelming existing buildings.” The proposed new office site, which received conceptual design approval from the HPRB, provides for a three-story red brick structure with a fourth story clad in charcoal gray slate.
The Mayor’s Agent found that the existing structure is “diminished in its contribution to the historic district.” The existing structure is a two-story brick townhouse, unattached on one side, and bordered on the other side by a commercial brick building already recommended by the HPRB for demolition. The existing townhouse is “undistinguished singly” and is also similar to 2,000 to 4,000 other townhouses in the Capitol Hill Historic District.
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United States Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit (1999-12-17)
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District of Columbia. Court of Appeals (1995-11-17)