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Adams Morgan Plaza Redevelopment Gets Green Light, With Conditions

by Nena Perry-Brown

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The most recent rendering of 1800 Columbia Road NW

Following two hours of discussion and testimony, P.N. Hoffman and Potomac Investment Properties won a big victory on Thursday when the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) voted to approve the recently redesigned plans for the redevelopment of the SunTrust Plaza at 1800 Columbia Road NW (map).

The HPRB approved the design with the board members’ comments included on the record and with the caveat that the Board see the design again as it continues to develop.

This vote follows the earlier advisement of the Historic Preservation Office (HPO), which filed a report last week recommending that the Board find the design compatible with the Washington Heights Historic District and grant its approval.

Anyone who has been following the development closely knows that a coalition of Adams Morgan residents have been vocal in their opposition to the project and any attendant loss of space for the plaza at that intersection; the ANC 1C has voted in accordance with that opposition throughout all stages of the proposal over the past year.

In fact, the ANC 1C submitted a detailed, four-page resolution enumerating specific points of opposition, which the Board asked the developers to respond to directly. As for the plaza and neighborhood assertion that the public has an easement on its use, HPRB chair Gretchen Pfaehler reminded all in attendance that that contention is a legal matter and has no bearing on the Board’s decision.

HPO believes that architect Eric Colbert and Associates and the design team have adjusted the proposal satisfactorily based on the Board’s prior feedback. Some of the Board members agreed, although there was also some consensus around discomfort with some elements of the design.

For example, many members found the height and massing along Columbia Road and at the intersection to be appropriate (or at least, not incompatible); however, there was also disappointment that the design itself did not adequately reflect the importance, centrality, and personality of the site and its surrounding neighborhood.

Boardmember Rauzia Ally mentioned that the design is in fact “so compatible, it almost disappears”, also noting that it was unfortunate that the design was “lackluster”. Meanwhile, Pfaehler would like to see more elements simplified, especially along the penthouse level, in order to highlight the more subtle details of the design.

UrbanTurf will continue to update the progress of this development.

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/hprb_gives_suntrust_plaza_proposal_the_green_light/11831

10 Comments

  1. Jay said at 8:13 pm on Thursday October 27, 2016:

    Yes! Wish they could start work tomorrow. Goodbye plaza!

  1. Nathaniel Martin said at 8:17 pm on Thursday October 27, 2016:

    So the “community” spends months pummeling the character out of the design (with the HPRB giving undue deference to the NIMBYs at every turn), and then an HPRB member complains that the design is “lackluster”? Please. While the historic review process is valuable in many ways, all too often it allows small numbers of people with particular grudges or obsessions to exercise inappropriate, negative influence on designs. The process needs to be updated to reflect the changing needs—and culture—of an increasingly vibrant city. We can and should protect our historic fabric while allowing for new and interesting buildings that add to the already diverse architectural base.

  1. Douglas Johnson said at 9:46 pm on Thursday October 27, 2016:

    Great news for the neighborhood. Progress for Adams Morgan in spite of our terrible ANC.

  1. Terra B said at 12:56 pm on Friday October 28, 2016:

    The corner needs to be refreshed and redeveloped but the plaza needs to stay!  It is part of our community and the most frequented gathering place.  We go to the farmer’s market almost every weekend, Adams Morgan Day every year and are participating in the Apple Festival pie making contest this weekend.  We also bank at Suntrust and are closing our accounts if they don’t start to respect the community.  If the easement is a legal issue, not a historic one, then that is the next step.

  1. Colin said at 2:12 pm on Friday October 28, 2016:

    “It is part of our community and the most frequented gathering place.”

    No, it’s typically desolate and deserted. It’s a blight and needs to go and be put to productive use, such as providing housing. Which this project does. Bravo to the developers. Only shame here is that the design has been made steadily more boring.

  1. skidrowedc@gmail.com said at 2:33 pm on Friday October 28, 2016:

    It seems that Board member Rauzia Ally has noticed what most of the rest of us realized long ago: “Design review” processes drain distinctiveness and energy out of architecture.  Visible and important sites receive the most scrutiny, and thus end up with the lowest-common-denominator buildings.  This is so perverse, and such a tragedy.  Those are the sites where the new landmarks should be! 

    Living in the Adams Morgan area, I’ve been to some of the community review meetings and followed the saga on UrbanTurf and other blogs.  Originally there were exciting, expressive elements.  The overall design was kind of weird and maybe more modern than it should have been, but there was a sense of the urban energy and funkiness that is Adams Morgan.  The plaza, though smaller than the existing one, was much larger than in the design approved yesterday.  The community’s judgment was swift and unforgiving.  Every expressive element was taken as a personal affront, as an insulting effort to change the character of the neighborhood.

    By the time the Historic Board first saw it, the most expressive elements were already gone, but that didn’t stop them from complaining about the few that remained.  So now we’re getting such an innocuous apartment building that the Historic Board couldn’t disapprove except to wish it were less bland.  Which I’m sure they do, to assuage their own culpability in this sad system.

  1. revitalizer said at 3:29 pm on Friday October 28, 2016:

    “It is part of our community and the most frequented gathering place”

    I’m pretty sure that the plaza next to the new hotel being built is more frequented than the Suntrust plaza.

  1. Jay said at 5:37 pm on Friday October 28, 2016:

    Terra B you said. It is used once a week for the farmer’s market and once a year for Adams Morgan Day and that’s it. I live on Biltmore and walk by the plaza every day at different times throughout the day. It is desolate 99.9% of the time. It needs to go. Farmer’s Market can move to the park or any of the other open spaces in Adams Morgan.  What would be nice is if the hotel would be allowed to create a rooftop open space for the neighborhood. But NIMBY said no and it can only be used for private events. What a waste. It’ll have one of the best views in the city but I won’t be able to access it and will have to travel out of my neighborhood to other nice roof decks. Love Perry’s but the views are not as great as what the hotel would have to offer and what other roof top bars/restaurants offer.

  1. Terra B said at 10:56 pm on Friday October 28, 2016:

    Hundreds of people go to the farmers market every Saturday.  We meet neighbors, socialize with the super nice farmers, bakers and green thumbs. We exchange recipes and we pick healthy food with our children.  There is sometimes live music.  Few community gathering spaces are actually this good!  If it is relocated, what is to prevent that space from getting developed in a few years?  This plaza is the most visible in Admo and has historically housed a market and should continue to do so.  But sure build a new building behind it (developer is already getting more density by closing the alley, which should be even more reason they can save the plaza) and enhance it to encourage even more frequent socialization.

  1. DC4Reality said at 11:15 pm on Friday October 28, 2016:

    This online industry blog fails to mention Brianne Nadeau’s letter to Suntrust Bank, forwarning them of problems going forward with this project.  saveourplaza.com

Comments are closed.

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