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.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Baltimore has better design review requirements (for large projects) than DC

DC has design review provisions in only two instances: (1) locally, if the building/site is in or immediately proximate to a local historic district; or (2) if the building/site is in the Federal interest area or in one of the categories of projects subject to the review of the US Commission of Fine Arts.

I have suggested before that because architectural quality is one of the city's key defining elements we should have some level of design review for the entire city, and especially on key avenues, and in revitalization districts.  (With regard to the latter, Cleveland has what they call a "Business Revitalization District Design Overlay" which calls for design review as an element of coordinating improvement.)

But DC doesn't have such provisions.  Which means that Foulger-Pratt Developers and Wal-mart had no problem with their single use project for the intersection of Georgia and Missouri Avenues in Upper Northwest DC or that Cafritz Enterprises can build a glass fronted apartment building on upper Connecticut Avenue NW--even though it is terribly out of place architecturally, because as a rule, Connecticut Avenue has a goodly number of apartment buildings, mostly of brick and stone, which as an ensemble make for a very attractive and even "stately" quality for the built environment.

Walmart rendering for the store at Georgia and Missouri Avenues NW, Washington DC
Walmart rendering, Georgia Avenue store, DC

Rendering, Cafritz apartment building, 5333 Connecticut Avenue NW
Rendering, Cafritz apartment building, 5333 Connecticut Avenue NW

Kennedy Warren Apartments, 3133 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington DC
Kennedy Warren Apartments, Washington DC

On the other hand, Baltimore has more significant design review requirements which can be triggered when a project is of a certain size, regardless of the building/site location and whether or not it is historically designated.

According to "Proposed Remington Walmart blasted as '1970s approach to high school suburbia'" from the Baltimore Business Journal, Baltimore's Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel continues to decline to move the project forward and recommend approval to the City Planning Department, until the urban design of the project becomes significantly less suburban and more urban and appropriate for the city.

From the UDARP website:
The Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel’s goal is to achieve the highest quality for the planned and built environment of Baltimore City by providing the Planning Commission and the Department of Planning with design review expertise in the areas of urban design, architecture, and landscape design for all proposed master planning efforts and significant development projects. ...

All proposed development projects in Baltimore City that require Department of Planning Site Plan Review also require design review. [emphasis added]
It is this latter provision that is missing in DC's planning, zoning, and building regulations, which I wrote in a letter to the editor that ran in the community newspaper, the Northwest Current, over the summer.  See "More on design review."

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