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, March 07, 2014

DC preservation protest this Saturday and Sunday

This event relates to an issue I've written about before ("Without remedies there's nothing you can do: historic preservation in Chicago and DC") which has to do with the lack of preservation protections in the city outside of areas designated as historic. While DC has many designated historic districts and tends of thousands of buildings are protected, as many as 100,000 buildings that are eligible for designation are not located within designated neighborhoods and therefore have no protection at all.

I wish there had been more notice about the protest.

The house discussed below is pictured on the right and is identical in form to its next door neighbor.  Photo by Mary Rowse.

From the Historic Washington e-list:

Dear fellow preservationists -

The time has come to protest the possible demolition of 3823 Morrison Street, NW in the heart of Chevy Chase DC this Saturday and Sunday from 11 - 3 pm. The property sits half a block from Connecticut Avenue, NW. You may have read that developer Robert Holman purchased the house in November 2013 for $825,000 and wants to tear it down. (See front page story: "Chevy Chase Neighbors Battle Raze Plan").

Various potential buyers have contacted him over and over again and he tries to dissuade each one from buying it. He appears to be unwilling to let buyers who want to save the property inside to evaluate it for themselves. From the outside the house appears to be structurally sound although there are some cracks in the pebble dash exterior.

Please come out Saturday and/or Sunday, March 8 and 9, to stand with members of the community who want to send a message to the developer that throwing a 100-year-old house away is not a sensible solution when it can be restored and put back into productive use.

We have tremendous power as a group of concerned citizens to change the outcome of this story if we protest together in front of the house and down the street at Connecticut Avenue and Morrison Street, NW.

Please meet on the sidewalk in front of the house this Saturday and Sunday, March 8 and 9 from 11 - 3 pm to send a message that we value the neighborhood's architectural resources and the house at 3823 Morrison is emblematic of the dignity and integrity old buildings bring to the Chevy Chase, DC neighborhood and every neighborhood in the city.

Weather will be in the 50's. Bring signs or we can provide them. They could say : "Save 3823 Morrison St", Don't Tear this house down", "Protect Chevy Chase, DC", "Don't Demolish, Restore", "Let buyers inside 3823 Morrison St.", "Demolishing is Environmentally Destructive", etc.

Property owner and developer Robert Holman continues to rebuff those interested in buying the house. It appears he has cut the sewer and electric lines but may have have left the gas and water lines connected. Nearly 100 people have signed a letter asking him not to tear down the house. Various win-win solutions have been suggested.

We must demonstrate to all that this community wants to protect its architectural heritage from developers who seek to maximize the size of buildings on lots. The house at 3823 Morrison Street, NW was built 100 years ago on a 6,300 square foot lot. Developer Robert Holman wants to bulldoze the nearly 3,000 square foot house and build a 5,500 square foot one in its place. He will increase the size and density of what's already there by undoubtedly bringing the new house closer to the front and side yard boundaries. He has written: "The only way to add square footage is in front and the side yard."

Please let us know if you'll be there Saturday and/or Sunday, March 8 and 9 between 11 and 3 pm.

This venerable home has been a fixture in the Chevy Chase, DC community for 100 years and is a defining element in the century-old neighborhood. Bulldozing the house and putting it in a landfill will be environmentally destructive and wasteful. This six-bedroom, three-story house contains highly prized and reusable materials such as 100-year-old bricks and heavy, dense "old-growth" wood.

While it clearly needs repair, 3823 Morrison, and its adjacent twin at 3825 Morrison, represent the kind of architectural gems Chevy Chase, DC is known for and that buyers eagerly seek to purchase. This substantial home deserves to be restored, not torn down and thrown away. Some people look at its neglected appearance and see a “teardown.” But teardowns can be very destructive to a neighborhood when older homes that were compatible with their surroundings are replaced with dramatically larger, out-of-scale structures that project closer to the street and to neighboring properties. Replacing such a prominent house in Chevy Chase, DC with something even larger, will be jarring and will forever alter the character and rhythm of this block.

We must take action immediately to protect what we value today or it will be lost tomorrow. Stable, established, pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods like Chevy Chase, DC are under pressure because they are highly desirable to developers. The infrastructure they need is already in place—sidewalks, tree-lined streets, alleys, transportation systems, stores, schools, libraries, parks and interesting and diverse architecture with porches and uniform setbacks. It is far more advantageous for developers to tie into an older community like this one than to start from scratch somewhere less developed. New construction in a community can be desirable. But not if it significantly alters the environment residents value.

Come out for Chevy Chase DC Saturday and Sunday, 11 - 3 pm at 3823 Morrison Street, NW. Together we will make a difference.

Mary Rowse

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At 6:44 AM, Blogger Faical Rihane said...

Thanks For sharing this post. I have read your Post about DC preservation.
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