HPA No. 02-471, 472, 515 (In re. Arena Stage)

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HPA No. 02-471, 472, 515 (In re. Arena Stage)

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  • HPA Number: 02-471, 02-472, 02-515
  • Building Name: Arena Stage
  • Address(es): 1101 6th St. SW
  • Date of Order: 27-Sep-02

Summary:

The Washington Drama Society (Applicant) sought permits for demolition, subdivision, and new construction to build an addition to the landmark Arena Stage based on its need to improve rehearsal and shop space, better soundproof the stage, and provide it with lobby space. Concluding that the proposed addition to the theater was necessary in the public interest as a project of special merit on the basis of exemplary architecture (based on expert findings by the Historic Preservation Review Board and the Commission on Fine Arts), specific features of land planning (preservation of two major historic theater spaces while continuing to support the District's arts and cultural community), the Mayor's Agent ordered the issuance of all necessary permits. He also concluded that the proposed demolitions of secondary support positions "in no way compromise[d] the significant theater spaces honored by landmark status."

Consistent with the Purposes of the Act:

Applicant proposed to add a new theater to the landmark Arena Stage and encapsulate the two historic theaters on the site in a massive glass structure (which would have the effect of showcasing the historic buildings). The Mayor's Agent concluded that the project was consistent with the purposes of the Act since it would "enhance and adapt for reuse the most significant elements of the original buildings."

Demolition:

  • Noting that any removal of historic fabric is a demolition, the Mayor's Agent took the position that "the use of the word 'partial' belies the fact that historic fabric will be destroyed in the process of the requested demolition. As such the word 'partial' should be used sparingly, if at all."
  • The Mayor's Agent found that the Applicant's proposed demolition of the administrative wing, service area, and lobby space of the landmark Arena Stage "in no way compromise[d] the significant theater spaces honored by landmark status." Because he concluded that the project was one of special merit and therefore necessary in the public interest, he ordered issuance of the demolition permit.

Mayor's Agent - Procedural:

  • "[D]etermination by [the Historic Preservation Review Board] on a matter within its expertise [must be] accorded considerable deference." See Committee for Washington's Riverfront Parks v. Thompson , 451 A.2d 1177, 1194 (D.C. App. 1982).
  • The opinions of the Commission on Fine Arts are advisory only, but the Mayor's Agent may use them in his or her decisions. See Don't Tear It Down, Inc. v. D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development , 428 A.2d 369 (D.C. App. 1981)

Necessary in the Public Interest:

The Mayor's Agent concluded that the Applicant's proposed expansion of the landmark Arena Stage, which would include a new addition and a massive glass structure that would encapsulate the two historic theaters on the site, was a project of special merit by virtue of exemplary architecture and specific features of land planning. As a project of special merit, the expansion was deemed to be necessary in the public interest.

Special Merit - Balancing Test:

The D.C. Council envisioned the special merit provision of the Act as a "balancing . . . of a proposed project against the historic value of the existing historic buildings, because only projects that offer significant benefits to the District . . . can readily offset the Council's recited public policy in favor of protecting, enhancing, and perpetuating the use of [historic] properties." See Committee of 100 on the Federal City v. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs , 571 A.2d 195, 200 (D.C. App. 1990). See also Don't Tear It Down, Inc. v. D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development , 428 A.2d 369, 373 (D.C. App. 1981).

Special Merit - Exemplary Architecture:

Based on expert findings by the Historic Preservation Review Board and the Commission on Fine Arts, as well as his own review, the Mayor's Agent concluded that the Applicant's proposed expansion of the landmark Arena Stage, which included a new addition ("an egg-like structure" under continuing study at the time of the hearing) and a transparent glass structure that would encapsulate the two historic theaters on the site, showcasing them through large windows, was a project of special merit by virtue of exemplary architecture. As a project of special merit, the expansion was deemed necessary in the public interest.

Special Merit - Specific Features of Land Planning:

The Mayor's Agent concluded that Applicant's proposed expansion of the landmark Arena Stage, which would include a new addition and a massive glass structure that would encapsulate the two historic theaters on the site, was a project of special merit by virtue of specific features of land planning. He found that the proposal would fulfill several major themes from the District's Comprehensive Plan, including preservation of two major historic theater spaces in a manner that allowed the continued support the District's arts and cultural community and financial support of preservation of historic properties by private means. As a project of special merit, the expansion was deemed necessary in the public interest.

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Title: HPA No. 02-471, 472, 515 (In re. Arena Stage)
Author: Government of the District of Columbia. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Office of Adjudication
Permanent Link: http://hdl.handle.net/10822/761607
Date Created: 2002-09-27
Subject: Consistent with Purposes of the Act; Demolition; Mayor's Agent: D.C. Administrative Procedure Act; Necessary in the Public Interest; Special Merit - Balancing Test; Special Merit - Exemplary Architecture


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