Historic Preservation Application for Former Medlink Hospital Conversion Comes Before ANCs Developer Not Yet 100 Percent Committed to the Deal
by Larry Janezich
IBG Partner’s propose converting the southern part of the former Medlink Hospital at 7th and Constitution Avenue, NE, to some 140 mostly one bedroom or smaller apartments, depending on market demand. The project will include 80 parking spaces and be conducted under terms of a proposed 75 year lease on the site. The developer has filed a historic preservation application with the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) which must approve changes to historic buildings in the Historic District. That application will come before the two affected ANCs for their consideration this week. The HPRB considers the matter later this month. The Restoration Society – which has the same right to comment on the application as any other DC citizen – gave a qualified endorsement to the application last month. Since the site was rezoned to accommodate residential use in 2006, the conversion can take place as a matter or right with no further consideration by DC Zoning Board.
In two recent community meetings, residents expressed concerns, virtually all of which had more to do with impact of the proposed development on the neighborhood than with historic preservation, and thus outside the purview of the HPRB. These issues included traffic, trash, parking, apartment size, pedestrian safety, and the rights of the building’s controversial owner, Dr. Shin, to exercise any control over the project.
For its part, the developer assured the community that Shin has no say in the project and that every effort would be taken to preserve and protect the adjacent and historic St. Monica/St. James Episcopal Church.
During the January 26 community meeting, representatives of the developer noted that the size of the apartments will depend on a yet-to-be-conducted market study, and that IBG is not yet 100 percent committed to the project. At the end of the forthcoming study period the company will have to commit substantial funding to close on the lease. The first step is to determine what can be done with the site. According to an IBG representative, “You don’t go to the second level (study period) until we get through the first and that will be with the decision of the HPRB after the February 23 hearing. Approval will trigger all sorts of studies which will have to get done before closing with the owner.”
Additional comments by an IBG representative revealed that they will be targeting Station Place employees and that – depending on the demand – the apartments could be larger. Asked why the units will be apartments rather than condos, the developer’s representative cited the 75 year lease as the reason. “During the 75 year lease period, IBG can do anything we want within the law – in 75 years, Dr. Shin’s heirs take over the building.”
Given the lack of controversy on the historic preservation aspects of the development, approval of the application seems to be a foregone conclusion. ANC6C is scheduled to consider and vote on the application on Wednesday night at its February meeting and ANC6A will consider and vote on the application at its monthly meeting on Thursday.