Preservation Review Board Approves Height, Massing, Scale of Signature Hine Buildings; Ignores Recommendations of ANC and Community Groups
by Larry Janezich
Despite opposition from ANC6b and community organizations, the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) unanimously approved the height, scale, and massing of the signature proposed Hine Project buildings put forward by Stanton/Eastbanc, declaring the 8th Street Residential Row, 8th and D building, and 7th and Pennsylvania Avenue building compatible with the historic district and surrounding neighborhood. The Board informally recommended minor tweaking, including efforts to minimize the story-and-a-half mechanical room penthouse on the 7th Street Office Building and opening up the entrance to the 7th Street commercial corridor to make it more inviting when viewed from the Metro Plaza.
ANC6B Commissioner Brian Pate presented the statement on behalf of ANC6b, calling for reducing the height of the entrance of the 8th Street residential building, further refinement in the design of the 8th and D Street building, and creatively reducing the height of 7th and Pennsylvania. The strength of his statement was undercut to some extent by the testimony of ANC6B Commissioner Dave Garrison, who urged the Board to “find that no further concessions to the nearby neighbors are needed.” Garrison found the two buildings facing the Eastern Market Metro Plaza “entirely appropriate and historically compatible,” and – in the first time this recommendation has been heard – stated that the entire fronts of the two buildings from 7th to 8th should be retail. The last point has been particularly sensitive to some community groups who want the current residential zoning of the 8th and D Street corner to remain. He went on to say that his remarks also represented the views of Commissioners Oldenburg and Metzger.
The neighborhood groups – EMMCA, Eyes on Hine, The 200 Block of 8th Coalition, and the Capitol Hill Restoration Society – all pushed for greater compatibility with the historic district and reduced density, as in lower height and/or mass. Much has been made of the density aspect of the project – touted by supporters as a city-required given. Even the name “smart growth” trotted out in support of greater density in this project, makes questioning it seem counterintuitive. And yet little has been made of the relevance, let alone the wisdom, of “smart growth” development for a historic district. HPRB Chair Buell struck a cautionary note which might have reflected this point when she said that this building should not be regarded as a precedent.
Stanton/Eastbanc cited support for the project from some individuals and neighborhood groups, including the 7th Street Merchants Association, Barracks Row Main Street, DC Preservation League, former Councilmember Sharon Ambrose, DC Village, and The Coalition for Smarter Growth, among others. Representatives from some of these organizations testified in support of the project. The supporters included a few who represented themselves as merely residents. Much of the testimony from these individuals had little to do with historic preservation aspects of the project, but concerned the perceived benefits the project would bring to the community. The Board showed more lenience than in their previous hearing, where remarks straying from historic preservation subjects were curtailed or cut-off.
The vote represented a victory for Stanton/Eastbanc who faces a rigid timeline in the project’s land disposition agreement. Stanton/Eastbanc will be back before the Board next month with the remaining two portions of the project which have not yet been approved by the Board: the 7th Street residential building and the C Street residential building.
To view the latest designs approved by HPRB today, go to: http://hineschool.com/vision