Friday, March 16, 2012

HPRB Staff Issues Report Supporting Conceptual Design of JBG Florida Avenue Project

JBG Florida Avenue project site
The staff of the Historic Preservation Review Board issued a report today supporting the preliminary site organization, height, massing, and general architectural direction of the planned JBG project on Florida Avenue, NW, between 7th and 9th Streets.  (Recent project renderings can be viewed here.)  The Board will meet on March 22, 2012, to consider JBG's conceptual design proposal and the staff's recommendations.  Even after the March 22 meeting, further HPRB review will continue, as the staff recommended that JBG "continue working on the designs, materials, and articulation of the proposal and return for further review when appropriate."

Excerpts from the staff report are after the jump, along with a copy of the full report.

Rendering of west building, at Florida Avenue and 8th Street, NW
Staff Report Excerpts
The HPRB staff report describes the project elements as follows:
The project calls for relocating the original main block of 1933-35 9th Street from the center of the 9th Street frontage approximately 50 feet to the southern end of the site, adjacent to a row of two- and three-story historic commercial buildings, where it would be restored for retail use. The north-south alley on the west site would be rerouted to exit on 9th Street (rather than on Florida Avenue), just north of the relocated historic building.

Each of the two new buildings would be organized with a central bar running parallel to Florida Avenue and a secondary wing extending south on 8th Street. The residential entrances would be located across from each other on 8th Street. The buildings would have tall (17’6") ground-level retail spaces, five stories of residential units, and one floor of below-grade parking, achieving a height of 70 feet.

The design of the primary Florida Avenue bar of each building would consist of a slightly recessed first floor to provide greater width to the narrow sidewalk on these blocks, and full-height glass storefronts with an undulating plan. The upper floors would project to the property line, with a slight overhang above the retail bases. The buildings would include large-scale projections and insets to modulate the massing.  The facades would be composed of a concrete frame in-filled with full-height windows and metal panels of varying sizes.  The designs of the two primary bars are intended to be differentiated but complementary to each other.
The residential building entrances would be recessed from the street, accessed by monumental stairs (visible from the street through a glass curtain wall) opening to mid-block courtyards. The secondary bars of the buildings extending south on 9th and 8th Street would step down in size, with lower-scaled storefronts, projections that terminate at the fourth floor, and step downs in height as the building abuts smaller scale historic buildings.
The issue that received the most attention from the HPRB staff was the relocation of the existing buildings at 1933-35 9th Street, NW.  The staff report notes that "relocating an historic building from its original site is not standard preservation practice and is generally discouraged by Federal preservation standards and practices."  However, the staff supported the relcoation, stating the following:

HPO recommends support for relocation of 1933-35 9th Street as a compatible solution. The building currently occupies a central location in a large vacant site which offers few satisfying options for incorporating it into the project without it being overwhelmed or further severed from the row of similar historic commercial buildings. Relocation will retain the building on the same square and street within the historic district, and provide a more appropriate contextual setting adjacent to similarly scaled historic buildings. In this instance, relocation will facilitate both a better preservation and design solution, allowing more open space and separation between the existing building and the new construction, and a more compatible context for the historic building.
HPRB Staff Report (March 16, 2012)
[View the report below or click here to open.]

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