MGM Plan for Stanton Park Lobby Shop in Cap Hill Historic District Under Fire – ANC6C Votes Wednesday

MGM plans a lobby shop for this building at 501 C Street NE, facing Stanton Park.  Across the street to the right is Peabody School.

Here’s the current West Elevation of the structure.  The contentious issues are visible from the proposed changes, viewed below.

West Elevation with proposed changes.

This shows the size of the proposed party deck.

ANC6C and CHRS say the side yard – which is actually public space – will be used for parking.

This is the view of the proposed modifications from 5th Street, looking northeast.

MGM Plan for Stanton Park Lobby Shop in Cap Hill Historic District Under Fire – ANC6C Votes Wednesday

By Larry Janezich

The erosion of Capitol Hill residential neighborhoods takes place in large ways – like the use of townhouses on New Jersey Avenue by lobbyists and non-profits for offices, and small – like the incompatible additions to and uses of commercial buildings that have a negative effect on residents.

A case in point concerns the deep-pocketed MGM Corporation which is in the business of films and gambling (National Harbor casinos), which plans to open up a lobby shop at 501 C Street, NE, on the south side of Stanton Park.  The 500 block is zoned C-2a for office use and all the buildings on C Street are used for that purpose.

The currently slightly shabby, but still grand 1876 building on the northwest corner of the block was built as the home of former U.S. Treasury official, Silas C. Clarke.   The large Italianate style building is in the Capitol Hill Historic District and requires approval from the city to alter the property – the owner submits a Historic Preservation Application (HPA) to the Historic Preservation Office (HPO) requesting approval to make changes to the property.  The HPO makes a recommendation to the Historic Preservation Review Board.

MGM plans to restore and renovate the former residence in ways that should delight neighbors as well as those concerned with historic preservation.  But what MGM gives with one hand, it takes away with the other.

The design includes elements that raise the hackles of nearby residents as well as the Capitol Hill Restoration Society and a majority of ANC6C’s Planning and Zoning Committee.   These elements include an exterior elevator tower with glass sided bridges between the tower and the building’s upper floors, an expansive roof top party deck with a pergola behind the building, and parking on public space.  Most of the other businesses on the block have private parking space, and none has a roof deck.

MGM hired the respected architectural historian Anne H. Adams of the powerhouse real estate law firm Goulston & Storrs and prominent historical preservation architect Michael Marshall of Marshall Moya Design to shepherd the project through the city bureaucracy.  Adams submitted Historic Preservation Application on behalf of MGM.

The Capitol Hill Restoration Society (CHRS) met with Adams and Marshall on June 5.  CHRS found that the elevator addition, the roof top deck, and the pergola rendered the project incompatible with the Capitol Hill Historic District.  The Society also noted concerns regarding “the potential noise and function of the roof deck as well as the continued use of the side yard for parking,” (neither directly related to historic preservation though some preservationists are making a case that use of public space is a historic preservation factor) as well as lack of letters of support from nearby residents.  It would surprise if such letters are forthcoming, given the impact on the neighborhood of parking for MGM staff and those attending events at the building.

On Thursday night, the ANC6C’s Planning and Zoning Committee voted 4 – 3 to oppose a motion to support the Historic Preservation Application, without revisions to address the issues of the elevator tower, the party deck, and side yard parking in public space.  The full ANC6C will consider the HPA at its meeting at 7:00pm, Wednesday, June 14, at the Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue, NE.

MGM representatives had until the close of business today, June 12, to submit modifications of the plan.  The Historic Preservation Review Board Hearing on the matter is scheduled for Thursday, June 22, 2017.

The ANC is an advisory body, whose opinion is, by city regulation, given “great weight” by city agencies.  Many in the community who have been involved in trying to preserve the residential character of the Capitol Hill community feel that the MGM proposal crosses a line.   Much will depend on residents’ attendance at public meetings where this is being considered – the ANC6C meeting on Wednesday, and the Historic Preservation Review Board hearing on June 22.


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9 responses to “MGM Plan for Stanton Park Lobby Shop in Cap Hill Historic District Under Fire – ANC6C Votes Wednesday

  1. Steve

    This proposal is not in keeping with the character of the neighborhood, in my opinion.

  2. The side parking alone is a disqualifier. The sad thing is, there’s a decent case to be made for turning the right lane in front of that building into public parking, because that lane dead-ends at the 6th St intersection. A parking lane with a better-designed merge on the 400 block would make pick-up/drop-off at Peabody a lot safer. But that would require a private developer to think about the community’s perspective.

  3. John

    A major part of what makes historic preservation possible is the continued economic viability of a building, so there will likely need to be some compromises in building’s renovation. The building almost certainly requires significant upgrades in areas such as handicap accessibility, hence the exterior elevator shaft. Assuming a more acceptable parking solution is found, then some of the more modern elements on the exterior should be acceptable.

    • kandc

      John–The same design was originally proposed for the Old Naval Hospital–an exterior, glass envelope for the elevator. They managed to work around that and so should these people.

      As to the parking, that is a no brainer. No parking on public space and in this case you know it would spill over on to the sidewalk.

      • John

        The Old Naval Hospital is a not-for-profit entity. Not having to turn over 17 – 35% of your profits to taxes changes the calculus on what makes a building valuable.

  4. stantonpark

    It might be worth pointing out that Peabody School, across the street from 501 C St NE, also routinely utilizes (abuses?) public space for parking cars. There are cars routinely parked next to the front yard of the neighboring property on 5th St.

  5. “Many in the community who have been involved in trying to preserve the residential character of the Capitol Hill community feel that the MGM proposal crosses a line.”
    It’s interesting – because historically, the Hill was less residential in the past than it is now. There were lots of non-residential uses sprinkled through the neighborhood – corner stores, shops, etc. Alleyways had lots of businesses.
    The idea that the Hill was ever a solely residential place isn’t supported by history at all.
    With regard to this particular proposal, it seems odd to talk about a non-residential use. Would the objections to the design of this proposal suddenly be moot if they were for a residence and not an office?

    • Mac

      Completely agree. In fact, we should be looking at ways to bring more non-lobbying small business back to the Hill.

    • muskellunge

      Historically there was a lot of uses that would be unacceptable today. Livery stables? Coal distributors? Leather tanners? Taverns? Gunsmiths? Of course the laws in bygone days permitted such uses. The neighborhood has since evolved; as it has changed, there is no reason to think that the laws would not.

      For the past 50 years or so Capitol Hill has been residential, and the Historical District was devised to protect that character.