Despite Opposition of Owners, Florida Avenue Market Designated a Historic District

by Nena Perry-Brown

Despite Opposition of Owners, Florida Avenue Market Designated a Historic District: Figure 1

Within a few months of the DC Preservation League (DCPL) filing an application to designate the 74-building “core” within Florida Avenue Market as a historic landmark, the slightly more flexible “historic district” designation has been granted by the Historic Preservation Review Board — despite the show of opposition made by many property owners and other interested parties.

A hearing on the matter Thursday afternoon stretched on for two hours as owners within the market, legal representatives for developer EDENS and others stated that while they acknowledge (and are proud of) the terminal’s historic value, the process has struck them as rushed and exclusionary.

It is the opinion of those who would be most immediately effected by this designation, summarized in a letter submitted by ANC 5D, that all would be in support of the historic preservation of the site on the condition that it not be approved until a set of design guidelines are also agreed upon and presented for a concurrent vote.

The establishment of design guidelines would give owners and prospective developers the opportunity to confer with the Office of Planning (OP) and ultimately provide them with a measure of reassurance and clarity in how the market will continue to function and develop.

Especially of concern to the owners is the sentiment that historic preservation will impede any efforts to add density to their buildings, which is seen as somewhat necessary to ensure their ability to keep their businesses open and operating.

DCPL’s Rebecca Miller and OP staff believe that their outreach efforts were more than sufficient and that delaying a vote would place unrealistic expectations on what will undoubtedly be a prolonged design guideline process. A withdrawal or rejection of the application would have triggered a one-year waiting period before resubmitting.

While some on the HPRB board expressed regret that the owners felt disregarded by the process since the application was filed, none disagreed that the site qualified as a historic district and most were inclined to think it best to allow design guidelines to follow the designation. The vote was ultimately made 5-2 in favor of historic district designation.

The forty-acre complex between Florida and New York Avenues NE had a much more industrial character when its first warehouses were constructed in 1929. Now, it is anchored by the redeveloped Union Market (map) and other area development showed no signs of slowing down up to this point.

The historic district will cover a set of located primarily between Fourth and Fifth Streets, along with some frontage on Morse Street. While both historic districts and historic landmarks have a set of criteria in common, the former encourages the compatibility of future alterations and uses, while the latter also encourages work toward restoration.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/despite_uniform_opposition_of_owners_hprb_oks_union_mkt_historic_district/11862


  1. skidrowedc@gmail.com said at 7:56 pm on Friday November 4, 2016:
    Well, if we didn't already know it, now we know that the word "significant," which recurs frequently in the preservation law, has effectively been replaced by "mediocre." No longer is it necessary for the architecture to be "significant" -- as we see in this case, it can be utterly utilitarian. No longer is it necessary for historic events associated with the site to be "significant" -- as we see in this case, they can be utterly quotidian. That said, the tragedy is that D.C. lacks any other meaningful form of planning controls. Without the historic designation, the market area was on the road to becoming another NoMa or the Ballpark District portion of the Capitol Riverfront, non-neighborhoods whose shoulder-to-shoulder full-zoning-envelope buildings unintentionally promote the stereotype that D.C. has a soulless and transient population. With the designation, it might end up more like The Yards portion of the Capitol Riverfront or Mount Vernon Triangle, where protected smaller buildings break up the big boxes in entirely positive ways, successfully creating neighborhoods in a meaningful sense of the word. So I conclude that, despite the absurd miscarriage of preservation law, it's for the best that the Florida Avenue Market has been designated. Sigh.
  1. SalMcGee said at 4:34 am on Saturday November 5, 2016:
    This is scary. I live in an area target by the preservation industry and my saving grace has always been that I know my neighbors and ANC would mobilize to fight a unilateral designation from the industry and that HPRB would respect the will of property owners. But at this point it's clear property owners hold no sway. Dollars to donuts EHT/CHRS files the Capitol Hill Historic District expansions in the next couple of months. Will KPCA succeed in it's attempt to historic district Rosedale/KP/Carver-Langston? lets try the chevy chase historic district again. All of these are staunchly opposed by property owners, but HPRB just showed that doesn't matter. OP and the Phaler/Metzger/Davidson-les HPRB are a feckless body and only see future job opportunities advising future historic district building permit applications.

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