Preservation Review Board Approves Height, Massing, Scale of Signature Hine Buildings; Ignores Recommendations of ANC and Community Groups

No Show of Hands Necessary as HPRB Casts Voice Vote in Favor of Hine Buildings

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

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Preservation Review Board Approves Height, Massing, Scale of Signature Hine Buildings; Ignores Recommendations of ANC and Community Groups

  1. Kathleen

    And Alex B? Don’t keep us waiting too long…

  2. This strikes me as a very reasonable decision from the HPRB. The height and massing of the buildings in question is both compatible with the urban traditions of Washington DC and of Capitol Hill. Concentrating height and mass along the widest open spaces that face the site (Pennsylvania Ave and the Eastern Market Metro square/plaza) is entirely appropriate.

    More broadly, additional density in such close proximity to a site directly on top of a Metro station is indeed a smart decision both for the neighborhood and the city.

  3. Gerry Connolly

    You are so right, Adam Block. It certainly does fit right in. There are so many other 9 story office buildings within 8 blocks of the capitol, that this unobtrusive wee addition to the Capitol Hill skyline will hardly be noticed. Why do we bother? The Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) cares little about history or preservation. And by the way, we certainly need more density at 8th and Pennsylvania Ave SE. It will surely be safer having all these empty offices durning the evening hours

  4. Geoff Ferrell

    Adam B is “so right”. (and) the proposal will bring many more residents – not just office workers – to that currently near dead site.
    There is much more to making a healthy, sustainable city than a straightforward test of ‘was it already there’.
    And there is much more to “compatibility” that sameness – as you may notice when you consider the relation of your head and torso…

  5. Eric

    I’m surprised, not by the HPRB decision (well maybe a little,) rather that they went against the CHRS and that Garrison, Metzgar, et al went against them (CHRS.) I’ve always accused them of all being in bed together. I am pleasantly surprised to see that’s not always the case.

    As far as the building goes, I’d love to see something that blends in with the neighborhood, but what exactly is that? There is a mish-mash of building designs all around that area. Anything is better than the ugly building that’s there surrounded by blacktop. I just hope Stanton/Eastbanc doesn’t “screw it up.”