HPO Staff Issues Report Favorable to Hine Developer – Statement Places HPO at Odds with Community Sentiment

HPO Staff Issues Report Favorable to Hine Developer – Statement Places HPO at Odds with Community Sentiment

by Larry Janezich

Friday afternoon, the staff of the Historical Preservation Office (HPO) posted its report and recommendation to the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) on the Hine Project.  The report amounted to a tepid endorsement of the project.  As such it is at odds or with the four community organizations most involved and affected by the development:  EMMCA, Eyes on Hine (EOH), CHRSand a group of 8th Street residents.

The developer, Stanton-Eastbanc, is represented by architect Amy Weinstein and seeks conceptual design approval by the HPRB for the Hine Project.  Weinstein is a former member of the HPRB (a board of that is informed by, but not beholden to, the HPO staff).

The HPO report provided details which have not been obvious to community members trying to analyze the drawings provided by the developer.  For example, the report lists the maximum heights of the buildings as follows:  North Residential Building, 48 feet; 8th Street Residential Building, 35 to 48 feet; 8th and D Corner Building, 63 feet; Pennsylvania Avenue Office Building, 88 feet; and the Plaza Residential Building, 58 feet.

Another detail not heretofore appreciated is that the loading dock accessed from 7th Street will apparently be visible from the street: “the conceptual direction is … to recess the loading dock considerably back from the building face to minimize its visibility.”

The report evaluates the project regarding three critical elements:  the site plan, the general architectural direction, and the overall height and massing.

The report finds the conceptual site plan is consistent with established patterns in the Capitol Hill Historic District.  This finding is at odds with the public statements of the aforementioned community groups as well as the DRAFT ANC6b statement on Hine.

The report finds the overall architectural direction of the project consistent with the Board’s design principles for new construction.  While avoiding superlatives, the staff takes the criticism of community groups head on, saying “the project reinterprets the character of the historic district in creative and often whimsical ways.”

It does recommend the architectural direction of the North residential Building be reconsidered, questioning the whether the central core of the building is an appropriate design model.  As for other components to the project, the report states only that “implying depth and providing shadow to the skin of the 8th and D Corner Building will be particularly important for this design,” and notes that the 7th Street elevation remains too preliminary to comment on.

The report finds that the overall height and massing of the 8th Street residential building is compatible with the surrounding residential blocks.  Although thePennsylvaniaAvenueOfficeBuilding will be the tallest building on the Avenue, that “doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be incompatible with the Historic District …additional height in this location is not inappropriate” provided certain refinements be adopted.  Among these, the report recommends setting the top floor back from the façade plane, eliminating the vertical masonry projection on Pennsylvania Avenue, and scaling down the height of the ground level storefronts.

The report was most critical of the penthouses, urging minimizing of the penthouse levels by moving the amenity spaces inside the building,

Overall, the staff report recommends approval of the general site plan, approval of the general architectural direction, each with further study in the areas noted above.

The report recommends the approval of the height and massing for the various buildings, with further study of the Pennsylvania Avenue Office Building and the penthouses.

It is unclear what weight the HPRB will give to the HPO staff report, and whether and to what extent the views of the various community groups will be considered by the Board when it meets next Thursday.

The webpage with the documents for the April hearing is here: http://planning.dc.gov/DC/Planning/Historic+Preservation/Plans+and+Reports/Project+Reports+and+Actions/HPRB+Reports/HPRB+Meeting+and+Hearings,+April+28,+2011

3 Comments

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3 responses to “HPO Staff Issues Report Favorable to Hine Developer – Statement Places HPO at Odds with Community Sentiment

  1. Maggie Hall

    The design uses “…. creative and often whimsical ways.” It does? Where? Not that I (and I suspect a ton of other people) can see ! A bit (make that a lot) of creativity, with a bit of “whimsical” thrown in, would, after reducing the height, make a lot of us happy…

  2. MC

    “creative and often whimsical ways”?! I agree with Maggie. Where?! This is going to be a disaster. A hunk of taupe stone, steel, and glass that will clash with the rest of the neighborhood and make us all think of Clarendon and Rockville. I’d actually take Jamal’s Chinatown, Gaithersburg’s Kentlands, or Capitol Hill’s Butterfield House architecture over what’s been proposed. I find more whimsy in the Butterfield tile patterns, but even that’s not enough to merit the adjective.

  3. DH

    Why have historic districts at all if you are going to promote “[projects that reinterpret] the character of the historic district in creative and often whimsical ways.”?