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DC Mayor’s Agent Issues Key Decision on 150-Unit Development at the 16th Street Masonic Temple

by Nena Perry-Brown

Proposed building, looking north down 15th Street. Click to enlarge.

More than a year-and-a-half after the proposed apartments at the 16th Street Scottish Rite site survived an attempted challenge, it has withstood another.

Last week, the Mayor's Agent for Historic Preservation issued a ruling granting the subdivision application that will facilitate construction of a 150-unit development behind the Scottish Rite temple at 1733 16th Street NW (map). Developer Perseus TDC is leading the development via a ground lease with the Masons, who own the temple and the subject site and will use the proceeds from the project to fund repairs to the temple. Hickok Cole is the architect.

Proposed building, from 15th and S Streets. Click to enlarge.

The Dupont East Civic Action Association (DECAA), the Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA), and a neighbor across the street from the site attempted to block the subdivision based, in part, on an ongoing appeal over the landmark boundary that argues that the vacant land where the building would stand should be added to the landmarked site.

Office of Planning reports have noted that, prior to the temple being built and into the first half of the 20th century, several rowhouses owned by working-class Black families sat on the now-open land.

Newer rendering of 15th Street elevation. Click to enlarge.

"The current character of the eastern portion of the property — a vacant, open space — is incompatible with the historic district," the Mayor's Agent's opinion explains. "The arguments offered by the opponents to the subdivision are weak." The opinion also explains that, by financing the restoration of the temple, the development would do more to "enhance" the landmark than preserving the space as vacant would.

The Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) granted concept approval for the development and affirmed the existing landmark boundary in November 2018, and HPRB also granted subdivision approval in September 2019.

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/mayors-agent-affirms-subdivision-to-develop-apartments-behind-16th-street-m/17506

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