Historic Preservation Review Sends MGM Lobby Shop Back to the Drawing Board
Decision Marks a Win for ANC6C, CHRS, and Neighbors
By Larry Janezich
Despite the high priced talent hired by MGM’s Federal Lobbying Group to shepherd the plan for the design of their proposed headquarters on Stanton Park through the city bureaucracy, the HPRB sent the design back to the drawing board in a public hearing held on Thursday. (For background, see prior post here: http://bit.ly/2rmb4tV)
Opposition to the plan was led by ANC6C, represented by Mark Eckenwiler, who praised the restoration of the building as a “meritorious project” and said there was much to like in the proposal. However, he said, ANC6C could not support the proposed rear additions and the elevator shaft. He noted that although outside the scope of historic preservation, a serious issue for the ANC was the objections of neighbors who decried the potential for disruption and noise from events (fund raisers) on the 1600 square foot deck atop the one story additions at the rear of the building.
The Capitol Hill Restoration Society, represented by Beth Purcell, agreed that the design has many commendable features but raised concerns about the exterior elevator shaft, the roof top deck and the proposed pergola overlooking 5th Street. Regarding the associated issue of noise and disruption, she said “Lobbyists entertain – not to mention how the deck might be used by a future owner of the building.” Five nearby residents or building owners reinforced that concern with testimony before the Board.
(ANC6C Commissioner Scott Price, in whose single member district the project lies, is facilitating the negotiation of a neighborhood agreement between the neighbors and MGM reps regarding the use of the deck.)
If anything, the HRPB was more critical than either the ANC or CHRS.
After hearing from MGM reps respond to why the proposed design was necessary for the building to work for the owner, four of the board members spoke out against the exterior elevator and the deck. The consensus seemed to be that the elevator should be inside the building, the size of the deck should be reduced and confined to the east side of the roof of the additions, the pergola moved east to the edge of the reduced deck, and access to the west side of the addition’s roof overlooking 5th Street should be prevented by installation of a green roof or by enforceable easement.
Board member Joseph Taylor was particularly critical saying that the HPO staff report which had found the proposal compatible with the Historic District should have ruled it was incompatible because of the outside add-ons. “I can’t support an exterior elevator…the elevator is a big dog, and you can’t just say be smaller.”
Chairperson Heath agreed, and moved that MGM work with HPO staff to address the Board’s concerns and come back next month where the issue will be placed on the consent calendar for action after the Board has an opportunity to review changes to the design. The motion passed unanimously.
In other action, the HPRB gave unanimous approval to PGN Architect’s design for Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s proposal to build five townhouses on church property facing 6th Street, NE. (For prior post on this issue, go here: http://bit.ly/2syUk6a)