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The Push to Make Florida Avenue Market a Landmark

by Nena Perry-Brown

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Over the past few years, the forty-acre site between Florida and New York Avenues NE has blossomed, from a heavily-industrial district to an increasingly tony destination.

Anchored by the redeveloped Union Market (map), there are several approved planned-unit developments in the pipeline that will soon render the area unrecognizable. So it may come as a surprise to many that the rows of warehouses behind the Market — the Florida Avenue Market Terminal — are up for consideration as a historic landmark.

In July, the DC Preservation League (DCPL) filed an application with the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) to grant the Terminal landmark status, and what could be the decisive hearing is scheduled for two weeks from now.

If the Terminal receives landmark designation, the identified buildings will be largely protected from demolition and their owners would have to receive approval from the Historic Preservation Office to make any alterations. Also, while HPO is not required to furnish design guidelines for the Terminal, the landmarked buildings would serve as a reference point for the character of the immediate area.

On Tuesday evening, the ANC 6C Planning, Zoning, and Economic Committee voted to recommend that the full commission support the application, pending identification of any affected developments in the pipeline. The Terminal is located in ANC 5D, but DCPL’s efforts to reach out to them have seemingly been unsuccessful.

Last night, DCPL representative Rebecca Miller and staff members from the Office of Planning and Historic Preservation Office held a public meeting to explain the merits of the landmark designation and answer questions of the few who were present.

At issue is a 74-building “core” within the Terminal, which was established as a complex in 1929 as part of the closure of the 19th-century Old Center Market at the current site of the National Archives downtown. The city’s Small Area Plan, which was passed by the DC Council in 2009 after roughly two years of study and public engagement, identified the site as “historically significant”.

The buildings that make up the core are primarily located between Fourth and Fifth Streets, with some frontage along Morse Street. Retention of low-to-moderate density in this core is in keeping with zoning, as high-density PUDs are pushed to the periphery along Florida and New York Avenues.

The industrial warehouses in this area follow a uniform building design characterized primarily by two-story classical revival-style concrete and buffed brick structures with single-story loading docks. Since the last historically-significant building was constructed in 1939, most of the buildings have been modified to some extent to suit their tenants’ needs.

A few Market Terminal property owners in the audience last night shared the sentiment that a historic landmark designation would be burdensome. The stakes for current owners are high, especially as they have experienced ballooning tax assessments over the past several years due to the specter of impending development.

As for the developers, the prospect of having to undergo the PUD process to add density to any of the landmarked structures while still conforming to the distinct character of the area may seem impractical. At first glance, none of the already-approved Union Market projects include the 74 identified buildings.

UrbanTurf will monitor the outcome of the hearing, if it happens as scheduled. Miller stated that DCPL has had contact with Douglas Development, Foulger-Pratt and EDENS, and there is a request on the table for the Office of Planning to postpone the hearing.

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/why_is_the_florida_avenue_market_terminal_a_landmark_and_why_now/11648

3 Comments

  1. Fried Green Tomatoes said at 8:05 am on Friday September 9, 2016:

    This is a travesty. Preserve the facades and build tall. The region needs to fit a million more people. Some people see no context.

  1. TBex said at 10:36 pm on Saturday September 10, 2016:

    I agree with Fried Green Tomatoes. I wish these people spent their time and capital on a positive social good instead of the negative one of suppressing housing and escalating its cost for the sake of arbitrary 1920s “history”.

  1. Eponymous said at 11:37 am on Thursday September 15, 2016:

    Agree with previous posters, but don’t have much hope that HPRB or other D.C. government agencies will exercise common sense here. They recently designated an eyesore of a warehouse adjacent to the RI Ave Metro as “historic.” The building will now serve as a self-storage facility, rather than being converted to (desperately needed, metro-accessible) housing.

    I’m sure we will see a similar result here, meaning even more people will be pushed out to the suburbs, traffic will get even worse, and D.C. will continue to lack the density (in most areas) to feel like a real city.

    NIMBYs run this city.

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