ANC6C Unanimously Opposes HPA Plan for MGM’s Proposed DC Lobbying HQ on Stanton Park
by Larry Janezich
Last night ANC 6C voted unanimously (6 – 0) to oppose MGM’s Historic Preservation Application (HPA) for modifications to a building on Stanton Park that the company wants to be the home of their 10 person Washington, DC lobby headquarters, at 501 C Street, NE. The vote could delay the project and require MGM to go back to the drawing board if the Historic Preservation Review Board gives the required “great weight” to the ANC opinion.
Last week the Commission’s Planning and Zoning Committee voted to recommend to the full ANC that they oppose the application, citing a number of concerns. (See here: http://bit.ly/2rU1HEe)
On Monday, MGM submitted revised plans to the Historic Preservation Office, with a number of modifications to the design they brought before the Planning and Zoning Committee, in an attempt to address some of the committee’s concerns.
Mark Eckenwiler, chair of the Planning and Zoning Committee told the commission last night that while the committee was generally supportive of the renovations proposed for the building itself, there were still areas of concern. He acknowledged that the revised plans resolved concerns regarding the use of public space for parking.
However, he noted, the committee’s main concerns regarding the additions at the rear of the building had not been modified at all. These included the exterior elevator shaft extending beyond the eaves, the trellis running the length of the large roof top deck on top of the one-story historic structures added to the building, as well as the deck itself. He also cited failure to conserve the façade of the historic structures behind the building and the proposed use of stucco on the exterior of the rear additions.
Though not directly related to historic preservation, Eckenwiler said that concerns of the nearby neighbors regarding the noise from rooftop deck gatherings (fundraisers) had not been addressed.
An MGM senior vice president for government affairs responded, asserting that the building will be used for office space for fewer than 10 people, Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 6 PM. Regarding the noise concerns of Capitol Hill neighbors she said that and MGM intends to be a good neighbor, is very sensitive to noise issues, and that residents could call upon her personally to address any issues. She said MGM would use the deck for “small functions” and would “work with neighbors.” She said that the company’s operations would result in no parking or traffic disruptions – employees who do not live in the neighborhood, will use public transportation or rental parking. Attendees at fundraisers will use Uber or Lyft.
Anne Adams, representing MGM on matters regarding historical architecture, said that it was not possible to put the elevator shaft inside the building because it would disrupt the historical interiors which MGM is trying to preserve. She noted that the elevator made the building ADA accessible and that it will be partly hidden by the trellis running the length of the rooftop deck.
Some of the nearby neighbors rose to express their concerns, including the lack of outreach to the community and the lack of enforceability of activities on the rooftop deck. One neighbor asked what MGM meant by “small gatherings.” An MGM representative replied 20 to 30 people
Commissioner Scott Price guessed that the deck could be as large as 900 square feet and could accommodate a much larger gathering. He worried that if MGM sold the building, the community would be stuck with the potentially bad behavior of a future owner, with no community ability to hold the owner accountable. He cited similar problems which had arisen regarding decks used by the Heritage Foundation and a nearby Georgia State University student housing facility.
After the meeting, Price took the initial steps to create a dialogue between the nearby neighbors and MGM, with the hope of reaching a community agreement regarding MGM operations should a roof deck ever be sanctioned by the city. However, given the unanimous opposition of ANC6C as well as that of the Board of the Capitol Hill Restoration Society, it seems unlikely that the project can go forward under the latest proposed plan. The hearing before the Historic Preservation Board which will decide the matter will take place Thursday, June 22.
Update: June 16, 2017. A Historic Preservation Office staff report made available today, concluded, “The HPO recommends the Board find the concept to be compatible with the Capitol Hill Historic District, and delegate final approval to staff.”