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Flagship Apple Store for Carnegie Library Receives Key Approval

by Nena Perry-Brown

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A rendering of the renovated Carnegie Library

Last fall, Apple unveiled its plan to transform the Carnegie Library in Mount Vernon Square into a flagship store location, and the plan just received a key approval putting it well on the path to becoming a reality.

This morning, the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) granted approval to Apple and Events DC to restore the exterior and retrofit the interior of the building formerly known as the Central Public Library to create, among other things, retail space for Apple and office and exhibit spaces for the Historical Society of Washington.

Beyer Blinder Belle Architects will helm the renovation process, which will also make minor improvements to the surrounding Mount Vernon Square grounds.

Designed by Ackerman and Ross in a neoclassical style, the library was constructed in 1903 at 801 K Street NW (map) and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969. The exterior, the Beaux Arts interior and the surrounding square all look much as they did when originally built.

Alterations, such as a rooftop addition over the original skylight and the conversion of the grand eastern reading room into a theater, will be reversed as part of the renovations. The north elevation of the building will likely have the most significant change in appearance, as the non-historic stair on that side will be replaced with a more grand, rounded stair. Additionally, a central pillar will be removed to enlarge the entryway, creating a frameless glass entrance below a multi-story transom with an embossed Apple logo.

The exterior will also be affixed with new signage, including 12 exterior banners, including two 6-foot tall vertical banners, one for each retail tenant. Other exterior modifications will largely be to ensure ADA-compliance. For the interior, several non-historic alterations made over the years will be reversed.

The partitions in the library’s stacks will all be removed in order to create a large open space. The original laylights in the Great Hall ceiling will be removed in order to create a retail atrium.

“This new space, which will feature a massive video screen, new wall openings on both levels, and circulation “bridges” connecting the upper floors, will significantly alter the historic layout and character of the interior,” a report from Historic Preservation Office (HPO) stated.

HPRB Chair Marnique Heath summed up much of the consensus around the project, calling it “phenomenal”. “A lot of the work will improve the building and bring it back to its original splendor,” Heath said.

While the board voted to delegate final approval to HPO staff, there are still some signage details that have not yet been resolved and were of some concern.

“If the banners remain the size they are and the number they are, it will be excessive,” Boardmember Joseph Taylor advised. Other signage options for Apple logo placement include a backlit metal panel affixed to the facade of the building.

The vote included a request that the applicant reconsider the quantity and size of signage and “be careful” with the Apple logo.

HPO previously concluded that the preservation benefits of the proposal outweigh the impact of any alterations and recommended HPRB approval. The project will also require approval from the National Capital Planning Commission.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/flagship_apple_store_for_carnegie_library_receives_key_approval/12745

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