The more I’ve written for Greater Greater Washington, the more I’ve realized that I need to write for a different audience here than I do there. At the least, I’d like to be more specific about architectural issues here and write about its intersections with DC and Upper Northwest on Greater Greater Washington.
So, I’ve decided to stop cross-posting articles from GGW other than ones that are themselves pretty specific to discussions of architecture, for example, the Architects on the Height Limit series. However, I will periodically link to the articles I’ve contributed to for readers who don’t read GGW.
When NPR moved its headquarters in April, the music division had little fun with the trip. They called up the band OK Go to make an episode of the Tiny Desk Concert series. The results are pretty cute:
But, being a writer for GGW, I couldn’t help but notice all of the recent construction and development! You get a great look at the variety of the city as they move from Mt. Vernon Square to North Capitol Street.
NPR’s real estate history matches Washington’s economic changes over the past 40 years. When it was founded in 1971, its offices were at 16th & I Streets, next to the brutalist First Church, which was the core of DC’s declining downtown. It’s first purpose-built offices were on M Street in the West End, which lasted until NPR moved to the then-dilapidated Mt. Vernon Square in 1994. Now that downtown real estate prices spread north and east, they’ve relocated to a building in NoMa, designed by DC-based firm Hickock Cole.
Also, the drunk history of DC is hilarious. They desperately need one for Col. L’Enfant’s sad, sad story.
In the intervening years between my departure from DC and the moment that you are reading these words, a number of things have changed in Tenleytown. So it’s worth showing how upper northwest has unfrozen and opened up to a modest amount of growth. Rather than focus on the ongoing political developments, take a look at projects that have finally become buildings.
If you look at a map of the old convention center site, there are six blocks. The southern three are owned by Hines-Archstone and are being designed by Foster + Partners and Shalom Baranes. Buildings there are now well above ground, destined for opening in 2013. A park by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol will eventually enliven New York Avenue and the middle block will probably be a hotel once the market shakes out. The last block, though, has been mysterious for years, appropriately noted in this map with a question mark.
The mystery property is owned by the Gould Property Group, headed by well-bearded parking magnate Kingdon Gould, III. It turns out that the project is much further along in development than I had expected: Gould has hired Pickard Chilton to design a rental office building, named 900 New York Avenue. You can find the plans here. Renderings reveal a gold-colored building with expressed floorplates and lots of glass.
Seems like a bit of retro-eighties work, which is odd since Pickard Chilton are known for their glass. Considering that it’s such a massive building it’s unfortunate PCA chose to not express vertical elements to break up the length of the block. The central atrium, on the other hand, looks like a really great opportunity for social space, while the “urban layer” bottom seems primed to enliven the streets. Putting aside my aesthetic preferences, the project will really add vitality to the area. In particular, the large atrium, shown here in ground plan and rendering, looks promising as a space that engages the pedestrian alley.
It’s interesting that the building cantilevers about five feet out over the sidewalk above the second floor. I wonder if this is meant to open up sidewalk space, or if it is a strange reading of the projections law. More renderings here.
All images courtesy Gould Property Group/Pickard Chilton.
I would prefer a mixed-use development on the site that would include five or six floors of residential housing along with a new Safeway. (Safeway at present, has indicated that it has no interest in building such a development.)
Out of 95 voters, 72 said yes to the question anyway. Then there’s this:
If you expressed a preference for a mixed-use development, would you still oppose Safeway’s current proposal if the result were that Safeway decided against any redevelopment of the current store?
81% of respondents still said yes. But all this poll indicates is that activists overwhelmingly support a Safeway mixed-use project. A self-selected poll is never accurate for representing a general population, as it attracts only the most interested individuals. This survey does not, and never could have represented neighborhood opinion, even more so than the Safeway postcards.
So, I guess my point is that ARD doesn’t represent the silent majority, and they don’t even represent a significant minority. The secretive organization is nothing but sound and fury crippled by ineptitude and a lack of web savvy. I don’t think they represent even a credible opposition – and they certainly don’t support anything on their own. Hopefully, people will see through their bluster and realize that they are done.
Alas, maybe more radical action is needed. MaKrel, who may or may not be my friends at ASR, suggests something more radical:
We could demolish the Safeway and return the land to agricultural production in a cooperatively owned CSA farm. Then we wouldn’t have to eat the GM cr*p that corporate supermarket chains shove down our throats; a good example: http://www.intervalecommunityfarm.com/
God Bless Anarcho-Syndicalism. I’ve taken a screencap of the poll just in case it goes down, after the break.
I’m going to recap some of the analyses I did for Reno Park within the next week or so. After that, I will be getting into a historical analysis of the geography. For now, here is a broad map of historical names no longer used at the site. Names in red were designated organically or based on the farm tracts’ names, while names in blue were attempts to brand new developments.
The Tenleytown area has been a hub of hubbub for the past two weeks, and more is to come. Four long awaited projects made great strides, however, opportunities are still being lost.
First the good news: The Tenleytown Library will break ground today, September 23rd at 10:30 AM, with Mayor Fenty and perhaps some protesters in attendance. The Economic Development office decided to spend $650K-1M to build stronger girders in the rear of the building, to permit future growth above and to the rear of the library. Across Wisconsin, the renovated and restored fields at Fort Reno Park will open on October 3rd. Another contentious site, the three athletic pitches look great. I can’t wait to see people enjoying the park and all its earthly delights again.
Opus Dei revealed more details about their plan for the Yuma Study Center, a residential and educational facility behind St. Ann’s Catholic Church. Going before the HPRB, Moses of the AnacostiaNir Buras presented a handsome traditional home that would stand west of the Covenant of the Bon Secours building. Alvin Holm‘s design for the building is in a humbler strand of Classicism than the grandiose variety that Washington is known for, and that’s really good to see. As you can see, the new building would have nearly identical proportions and mass, but would use a more Chesapeake style and add a porch to indicate a residential character. However, I think the building would be better to stand on its own rather than be a redecorated twin. Still, positive.
I mentioned earlier that I wanted to make an account of the many things Tenleytown residents have opposed over the years. For now, though, I’ll just to highlight one fight in particular, the oldest one that got any news coverage, and one that has some parallels to the current, pointless fight over the Macomb Street Giant.
Most residents and visitors admire the sleek moderne building that now houses a Best Buy and a Container Store. It is a registered landmark, ably capped by a Shalom Baranes-designed condominium. Critics and writers have shown almost nothing but praise for the structure, including Roger Lewis.
But in 1940, when Sears Roebuck first proposed the store, the neighborhood condemned the proposal and tried to stop Sears with all the weapons they had. Letters were written to Eleanor Roosevelt, lawsuits were filed, and many cried out for someone to think of the children. The primary concerns revolved around the Janney School, just as they have with the Library PPP and also in another dispute in 1991 about a homeless shelter.
Tenleytown: The armpit of the area, a former bank parking at 4501 Wisconsin Ave, has sprouted scaffolding. Developed by the Pedas Family, the site will become a one-story, 3,677sf retail site, although the developer has not listed a client. The Pedases are better known for their empire based around the Inner Circle cinema, but also for Circle Parking and Circle Management. Physically, their most distinctive building is the Michael Graves-designed International Finance Corporation building at Washington Circle. Always a good improvement to see an empty lot get filled.
Tenleytown: The Ward 3 Aquatic Center, or the Wilson Pool, as everyone will call it, will have a formal opening, complete with Fenty, on Monday, August Third, at 10:30 AM. The Hughes group have put together an inoffensive structure, but it supposedly boasts the capability for daylighting, natural ventilation, and water-loss mitigation, earning it a LEED Silver certification. The pool has been desperately needed since the shoddily built predecessor started falling apart at a more rapid rate in 2003.
Hawthorne, Palisades, Green Acres?: Opposition to sidewalks continues in the hinterlands of DC, where DDOT has been adding the badly needed infrastructure. This time, it’s over in Palisades, on Chain Bridge Road and University Terrace. Roger Lewis and Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh went on the Kojo Nnamdi show. Lewis shared some interesting history, but it was Cheh that laid down the law, insisting on sidewalks, but also demanding DDOT involve community members more. The two both agreed that the rational need for a network of sidewalks was a no-brainer. Callers disagreed, for some reason, mostly that “they’re not used” and they’ll “ruin the character of the neighborhood.” The panelists offered reasonable responses to the entitled views of opponents.
However, aside from the Cheh-Lewis lovefest, the two missed some important points, such as the dubious wisdom of low-density, limited-network streets in the middle of the city. One of the callers declared that residing in the area seemed like living in the country, but near the city. That’s just swell, but neither addressed whether having such low density a mere 4 miles from the center of town was a good idea. Also, Nnamdi and Lewis both guiltily admitted to driving on University Terrace routinely. Listen to the conversation, it’s worth some down time.