Restoration Society Calls for HPRB Reconsideration of Hine Project
by Larry Janezich
In testimony to be delivered at tomorrow’s hearing before the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB), the Capitol Hill Restoration Society (CHRS) will ask the board to reconsider its earlier concept approval regarding the design, scale, height, and mass of the Hine project’s 7th and Pennsylvania Avenue Office building, the most prominent part of the project and its signature building.
“We consider this element to be completely incompatible with the historic character of Capitol Hill and Pennsylvania Avenue SE,” the CHRS submits, adding, “It is stylistically incongruent with the buildings I connects and highly out of place in the historic district.” And, “We ask HPRB to please reconsider its earlier concept decisions regarding his building’s design, scale height, and mass.”
The statement is a strongly worded submission, making it clear that the CHRS views the 7th St. and Pennsylvania Avenue buildings as too big, too tall and too massive in relation to the scale of the surrounding historic district. The CHRS asks that the seventh floor be dropped and the sixth floor set back at least as far as the seventh is now.
Regarding design of the building, the statements says, “This is not the right design for such a prominent and highly visible location on a primary corner in the heart of the historic district,” and adds that at this prominent location, the building should “shine, rather than loom.”
CHRS also calls for reducing the scale of the 7th Street building, adding its voice to neighborhood concerns regarding a “canyon” effect on that narrow commercial strip.
However, the CHRS finds little to fault in the north building or the 8th Street residential building, both of which have received robust criticism from the surrounding neighborhood.
The statement concludes with a reference to the 2009 Stanton/Eastbanc proposal, a plan which CHRS supported. But as they note in their HPRB testimony, that earlier proposal was six stories on Pennsylvania Avenue, with a sixth story deeply set back on 7th Street and the Pennsylvania Avenue corner. Stanton/Eastbanc’s current plans call for an office building that is six stories with a 7th story set back 20 feet from 7th Street and only 12 feet from Pennsylvania Avenue. Similarly, the plaza building on 7th and C Streets is five stories where it was once four, and it has crept onto 7th Street where it faces two story historic structures directly across the street.
Thursday’s HPRB hearing is to consider Stanton-Eastbanc’s response to concerns raised by the HPRB in its review of the projects design concept last summer. In contrast to the opinion of CHRS and other community organizations, including EMMCA, EOH, and the Hine Project North Neighbors, the Historic Preservation Office Staff Report “recommends that the Review Board find that the revisions improve the compatibility of the conceptual plan,” and urges HPRB approval. If approved, the HPRB would be advancing a design widely held to be incompatible with its neighborhood and without any significant grassroots support from households which are forced to comply with stringent HPRB standards when renovating their own properties.
The hearing is scheduled to begin at 9:00am, in Room 220, 441 4th Street, NW. Indications are that the Hine project won’t come up until after 12:00 noon.