Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

That finger building and other "fingers"

The so called "finger" building on the 1000 block of V Street NWI had a couple blog entries a couple weeks ago on "the finger building" being constructed on the 1000 block of V Street NW. 

-- Civic aloofness and civic f*ck you in architecture
-- The use value vs. the exchange value of place: density, height, and urban design and aesthetics

I think most of the arguments elsewhere--in particular the spirited defense of the building on GGW miss the point that it isn't the height per se that is the issue, but the inadequate mass of that particular height on that particular block.

"She got the ring, I got the finger" a Country Music song, this version by the Ridge Riders  -- in this case, "she" is the builder, who gets the maximum ROI, but the community gets the finger... 

The thread also discussed the design aspects of the building, again, in the context of the existing building stock.  One of the comments on my blog made the point that s/he is withholding judgement on the design until the finished product is revealed.  I made the point that the likelihood of the building being decent is remote, given the various similar execresences constructed elsewhere in the city.

5 story rowhouse added onto, on Wisconsin Avenue in Glover ParkI noticed this one yesterday, up the street from the Safeway on Wisconsin Avenue in Glover Park.  It's a wee bit wider but still significantly taller with different massing, compared to the extant rowhouse buildings on either side.

Then again, it is on a major arterial, in an area likely zoned commercial.

I think it's pretty likely that the building on the 1000 block of V Street NW will end up looking very similar.  This stretch of Wisconsin Avenue isn't in a historic district so there is no design review.

These are the kinds of examples that make me strongly support historic preservation rules and regulations, despite the occasional faults of the proponents.

Note that the very nice entryway sign for Glover Park doesn't highlight ersatz architecture.

Glover Park neighborhood entryway sign, DC

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At 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

in the Capitol Hill historic district I have seen a number of new pop ups that have been allowed during the past few years- it seems as though- if you have the money and a law degree you can do just about anything that you want to do here.

At 12:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this building obviously has substandard woodframe construction- dont worry- in less than 50 years the termites we have here in DC will have torn it down.. I also question how a wooden building can get built like this in DC- I had thought that our building codes had long ago specified masonry and fire resistant materials only??

At 1:48 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

It is cinderblock walls.

I'd be more worried about the foundation, I don't see how it could possibly suppor the extra weight.

At 1:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2. A lot of people don't realize it, but brick veneer has been around a while, and many houses, including "historic" ones have wood frames. I know friends in north section of Capitol Hill that had their walls repointed, and the house was wood frame.

At 4:18 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

anon @1:54 :I'd have to see the house(s). There were many wood framed houses in Greater Capitol Hill. There still are some. Many have been either pardged or covered with brick veneer as you say.

But it's not many compared to the vast numbers of brick houses.

You can tell about the brick if the house sticks out a bit compared to adjoining houses. The last example I saw of this was on the 1100 block of Florida Ave. I think.

At 4:40 PM, Anonymous H St LL said...

I'm really struggling here to understand how you reconcile this call for a design review (essentially of all new construction) with your desire for a denser city and for more affordability, primarily through increased supply.

Seems like such a review will just be another disgusting tool in the NIMBY repertoire.

At 6:16 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I am not against a denser city. But for the most part, I think density needs to be accommodated by intensification in commercial districts and land by Metros.

Not by tearing down extant housing.

Although in some situations I can see it happening and I will roll over. Like on the 200 block of K Street NE north side or the 1000 block of 3rd St. east side (actually that was commercial, same for the site across the street on the 1100 block that this reminds me I want to write about).

I can also see the rebuilding of multiunit rental housing.

2. I am fine with ADUs and rental apartments within extant properties, although it would generate between 10 to 20,000 units I don't know how "mass" that is.

3. The new finger is just ugly. That was the point I was making. It actually is a bit better massing wise (not design wise) compared to the other finger.

So we are talking about two different things.

a. design review generally.

b. additions to extant 2-3 story housing, in particular rowhouses, and also teardowns/buildups.

It is b, on blocks of R-zoned housing, that I am mostly against.

Even so, if you want a subway up Georgia Ave., you'd have to upzone on either side of the street.

... by allowing for multiunit housing at the Metro in Brookland e.g., and maybe some intensification between Monroe and Michigan Ave. between 10th and 12th Street (there is no 11th Street there), the entire rest of the neighborhood could remain unchanged.

The issues are nuanced. And at least with additions to pre-1930 housing, it may be that we disagree, other than on ADUs and rentals. FWIW, I generally have no problem with rear extensions, and even 100% lot coverage in certain rowhouse areas. (Technically the front part of the lot is public space.)

(Good to see a comment from you, I've been wondering if you've been reading.)

At 7:33 AM, Anonymous H St LL said...

Really, the most offensive thing about the Glover Park pop-up (to me) is the curb cut.

You seem awfully confident that the design review folks won't be of the same type of mindset as the CDCs you love to disparage? (I agree that the CDCs have generally been impotent at best, actively harmful at the worst).

I do read about 75% of the posts (I get them in the email digest format).

At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

curb cuts are great for bicyclists I am all for them everywhere

At 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this city desperately needs to liberalize the ADU situation and allow massive new residential and mixed use alleys for people and not just for parking. The HPRB also needs a change in leadership- they need to stop knocking down density and heights of new buildings- we have a housing shortage right now and the elderly old timers in these organizations are stifling progress and DC is going to lose out on newcomers and new taxpayers w/o subsidy burdens - IOWs the newcomers are affluent and have no need for services- we NEED THEM here !!!


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