HPA No. 2006-280 (In re. C&P Warehouse)
- HPA Number: 2006-280
- Case Name: In the Matter of: WB/BFP North Capitol Street, LLC for Partial Demolition of 1111 N. Capitol Street, N.E.
- Building Name: Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company Warehouse and Repair Facility (the "C&P Warehouse")
- Location of Property: 1111 N. Capitol Street, N.E.
- Date of Decision: 12/7/2007
- Type of Case/Type of Permit Sought: Demolition
- Disposition: Granted
- Applicant: WB/BFP North Capitol Street, LLC
Summary of Decision:
WB/BFP North Capitol Street LLC (an affiliate of J Street Development Company) (the " Applicant ") sought approval of a permit for partial demolition of the C&P Warehouse, an individually listed landmark structure on the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites. The permit was being sought in connection with the Applicant's plans to construct a new 12-story office/retail building on the rear of the landmark building, which the Historic Preservation Review Board (the " HPRB ") had approved in concept. However, the HPRB referred the partial demolition application - which it found to be inconsistent with the purposes of the District of Columbia Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act of 1978 (the "*Act*") - to the Mayor's Agent. The Mayor's Agent concluded that the proposed project will provide significant social, cultural, and economic benefits that have a high priority for the community north of Massachusetts Avenue (" NoMa ") and the District of Columbia as a whole. He further found that the proposed project could not move forward unless the rear portions of the existing building were removed. Thus, the Mayor's Agent approved granting the permit on special merit grounds.
Mayor's Agent - Procedural:
The Mayor's Agent stated that the sole issue to be determined was whether the Applicant sustained its burden of proof under the Act that the issuance of the demolition permit was necessary in the public interest in order to construct a project of special merit.
Necessary in the Public Interest:
The Mayor's Agent found that the proposed project could not proceed without the demolition of the rear building, thus such demolition was necessary to construct the project of special merit.
Project of Special Merit - Balancing Test:
- The Mayor's Agent, citing Committee of 100 on the Federal City v. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs , 571 A.2d 195, 200 (D.C. 1990), stated the test for rulings based on special merit, i.e., that the Mayor's Agent must balance the special merit of the proposed project against the historic value of the building/portion of the building to be demolished. In this case, where the Mayor's Agent was basing his special merit decision on grounds of public benefits, the proposed project must be found to provide public benefits sufficient to offset the District's stated policy of protecting, enhancing, and perpetuating the use of properties with historical, cultural, and aesthetic merit.
- The Mayor's Agent concluded that the evidence in the administrative record sufficiently demonstrated that the proposed project is one of special merit by virtue of its numerous social, cultural, economic, and other benefits having a high priority for community services.
Project of Special Merit - Exemplary Architecture:
- Applicant had argued that the project's design constituted a project of exemplary architecture. However, the Mayor's Agent stated, having found that the project's social benefits alone justified granting the application, that it was not necessary for the Mayor's Agent to also address the issue of whether this project is also one that exhibits exemplary architecture.
- Staff of the Historic Preservation Office (David Maloney) took exception to the Applicant's assertion that the project constituted exemplary architecture. Rather, staff testified that such a designation should be limited to extraordinary, world-class projects financed by large institutional applicants.
- The project, designed by local architect Shalom Baranes, would incorporate the portions of the original building to be retained in part by building an open-space atrium around it, thus exposing significant mushroom-capped columns of the original building, using original concrete floor slabs as balconies for the new space, and allowing the occupants to see the relationships between the old and the new, including enhanced access to the roofs of the landmark structure.
Project of Special Merit - Specific Features of Land Planning:
- The Mayor's Agent found that proposed project would further a number of the objectives and policies set forth in the District's Comprehensive Plan and the NoMA Small Area Plan (specifically, goals of the Land Use Mix; Infrastructure and Transportation; Public Realm and Open Space; Identity and Building Design; Existing Neighborhoods; and Environment and Sustainability concepts). He reiterated that consistency with the Comprehensive Plan may provide the basis for a project's special merit, citing_ In the Matter of Calvary Baptist Church_, HPA No. 00-601 (April 20, 2001).
- Specifically, as to Environment and Sustainability concepts, the project would incorporate low-emissions glass for all new windows in the building and a green roof (reducing runoff on the site and the related burden on the neighborhood's storm water management infrastructure). As to Infrastructure and Transportation, the project would be within walking distance of the Metrorail stations at Union Station and New York Avenue. By providing commercial office space in close proximity to public transportation, the proposed development could reduce both traffic congestion and automobile emissions.
Project of Special Merit - Social Benefits having a High Priority for Community Services:
- The Mayor's Agent stated that the project's preservation program for the building represented a significant public benefit to the District. The Applicant intended to retain more than fifty percent of the landmark building (amounting to more than 78,000 square feet of gross floor area), and such portions would be completely restored and rehabilitated. One hundred percent of the original building's street facades would be retained to a depth of one bay along Pierce Street and three to four bays along North Capitol Street, and at least fifty percent of the total building facades would be retained. Although the building structure and its shell were found to be generally sound, the C&P Warehouse's poured concrete facade finishes were cracked and spalled; the preservation program would treat and refinish this concrete, as well as paint the exterior walls to match the original appearance of the building. Additionally, the vehicle garage openings on the main facades of the building, which were closed in 1951, would be reopened and utilized as possible retail storefront.
- The project also included construction of a museum and outreach program. The ground floor would house a 2,000 square foot museum dedicated to the history of the C&P Telephone Company and its role in the District, and this exhibit would continue for 10 years. The museum space would also be made available for use by community groups, which the Mayor's Agent found would further activate the streetscape along North Capitol Street and foster a distinct identity for the NoMA neighborhood. The Applicant would also produce an illustrated brochure on the C&P Telephone Company, featuring the history and background of the company, highlighting its collection of buildings, and discussing its role within the District.
- Both the Special Features of Land Planning and Social Benefits grounds of special merit were supported by the Historic Preservation Office and not opposed by any other party.
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