Restoration Society Calls for HPRB Reconsideration of Hine Project

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.

 

9 Comments

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9 responses to “Restoration Society Calls for HPRB Reconsideration of Hine Project

  1. Marika

    This is very encouraging news. It has been a long struggle to have the bodies that purportedly represent us…. actually represent us! Thank you for keeping us posted on developments, Larry.

  2. Karen Kimball

    Completely agree Marika! Such a relief to read this post. I know it’s not over- this is very encouraging!

  3. DC Spur

    The Capitol Hill Restoration Society is turning itself into a joke. What CHRS is actually proposing is to start over and for nothing to change on that site for another 5-10 years. This isn’t a historic issue, since the Hine building is not historic. And how a 7 story building vs. a 6 story building will somehow decimate the historic character of a neighborhood is absolutely beyond me.

  4. anon

    @DC Spur

    No. CHRS is saying that the concept approval was based on a plan which has changed significantly subsequent to approval and must be reconsidered based on the current proposal, not an obsolete one.

    The Hine site requires extensive rezoning. It’s irrelevant if the building itself is “historic” (although you could argue for its MCM value). Stanton/Eastbanc requires the necessary zoning changes in order to proceed.

    Setbacks can address the height massing (6 or 7 floors), but the desire to build to the very edge of the sidewalk will produce the real canyon effect. Sadly, that will likely not change even in the unlikely event that the height is addressed.

    • CHRS is saying that the concept approval was based on a plan which has changed significantly subsequent to approval and must be reconsidered based on the current proposal, not an obsolete one.

      But the height hasn’t changed since the last round of HPRB approval.

      HPRB approved it then, why should they reconsider now? “Because CHRS didn’t get their way” is not a good enough answer.

      Also – the upper floors are already set back.

      • anon

        the setback leaves a lot to be desired. Look at the LoC setback on 200 blk of Penn for good example of a setback. Of course it also has a big staircase and doesn’t nose up to the curb on 7th like this beast.

  5. loose lips

    The Hines project will be subject to constant NIMBY meddling and then the developers will walk out and the site will sit vacant for years. The ***** and CHRS all want PARKING PARKING PARKING and no new retail, no density or transit-oriented development- only AUTO-oriented development. The elderly CHRS people need to leave DC and move out to the Virginia suburbs- and the boomer car oriented people should stop pushing their suburbia in the city pipe dream. CHRS and the ****** are going to create scarcity thru a lack of density and we will have nothing but a real estate price escalation. These are the same ****** who wanted 8th street s.e to become all residential- according to CHRS plans from the 1990’s. They hate any and every progressive SMART GROWTH development that comes along.

  6. J. jones

    I think that a good point is made that residents must comply with historic requirements and this project seemingly does not – there is a reason for historic requirements in this type of area and should be able to progress without looking like ballston or other areas of the city now with a completely different profile