Will Frager’s Return to Its Former Pennsylvania Avenue Location?
Preservation Law Complicates Effort to Rebuild
by Larry Janezich
It’s been 15 months since Frager’s was destroyed by fire. Customers were hoping for a quick rebuild as Frager’s opened up temporary outlets in three separate Capitol Hill locations. The leased space at 1323 E Street, SE, was subsequently purchased by Frager’s and owner John Weintraub is being closed – mouthed about future plans for the original Frager’s site on Pennsylvania Avenue. Efforts to contact Weintraub for comment on this post were unsuccessful.
However, Capitol Hill Corner has learned that earlier this year, Weintraub was soliciting interest in the redevelopment of the site but it is unclear whether this was to sell the site outright, or as part of some partnership arrangement. The site, just inside the Capitol Hill Historic District, is located on prime real estate, an easy walk to Eastern Market Metro, Barracks Row, and Eastern Market itself. As of yet, no agreement appears to have been reached.
One of the possibilities discussed, according to a source familiar with the meetings , was increasing the height of the building and adding additional floors. Theoretically, there is nothing in the zoning regulations to prevent that, but it would require review by the Historic Preservation Review Board with an opportunity for community input. The building could rise to 50 feet by right, and given the precedent set by the Hine development, potentially even higher. Butterfield House with 28 condos sitting diagonally across the corner from the Frager’s site at 11th and Pennsylvania Avenue is six stories.
Ed. Note: Readers should not assume that a height equivalent to the Hine project is possible for this site. (The height of the Hine project does make more likely additional height of developments on sites along Pennsylvania Avenue to the east.) Restrictions on the visibility of new construction above the historic façade may limit the height of any building on the Frager’s site.
A complicating factor in the rebuilding anything on the site is that historic preservation law appears to require preservation of the existing façade. To that end, Frager’s owner has not yet applied for bracing and stabilization permits for the facades to begin the process of cleaning up the site, but it is unclear why. Such a permit would likely be routinely approved by HPRB. According to one District architect, the case is similar to reconstruction of Eastern Market after its destruction by fire. “It is an expensive proposition which has always made me advise clients that an historic structure is a liability financially speaking…. An historic building is not an investment. It is rather an expense, meant for those who appreciate bringing a structure back to life as a source of pride and satisfaction regardless of the cost. Good work requires generosity.”