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, March 31, 2015

Historic Preservation Tuesday: Grant Circle Historic District nomination, Thursday April 2nd

A couple months back I commented ("Historic Preservation Tuesday: 16 Grant Circle and the landscape of DC's avenues and circles as an element of the city's identity") on the landmark nomination for a house at 16 Grant Circle NW, opining that the building didn't meet the criteria to "sustain" a nomination on its own--individual houses have to rise to a very high level in order to justify designation as individually designated historic landmarks--even though as part of a historic district, the building would be deemed a "contributing structure" and therefore protected.

The nomination resulted from community response to a developer's plans to tear down the house and build six flats in three new rowhouse buildings.

-- Historic Landmark Nomination Staff Report - 16 Grant Circle NW - Case 15-04
-- Historic Landmark Nomination - 16 Grant Circle NW - Case 15-04 

In the meantime, as suggested in my post, residents organized the creation and submission of a landmark nomination for Grant Circle (pictured at left) and the buildings around it, because of their value as "an ensemble," although most of the residential buildings are representative of a type and are not architecturally significant on their own.

The consideration hearing is scheduled for Thursday, April 2nd, and in all likelihood, it will be approved.  The staff report is favorable.

-- Historic District Nomination Staff Report - Proposed Grant Circle HD - Case 15-07
-- Historic District Nomination - Proposed Grant Circle HD - Case 15-07 

Connected by Illinois Avenue, Grant Circle lies southeast of Sherman Circle, in the Upper Northwest neighborhood of Petworth.

Interestingly, it turns out that even though Petworth lies outside of the original L'Enfant City and is located in what was once Washington County, the reason that both Grant and Sherman Circles follow the conventions of urban design laid out by the original L'Enfant Plan is because they were platted during the brief time--1893 to 1898--when developments outside the core were required to follow those urban design conventions, even though construction of houses and other buildings there did not occur until the 20th century.

The firm with the plans to demolish 16 Grant Circle doesn't have a track record of doing new construction that complements and is sympathetic to Washington's pre-1930 rowhouse architecture.

However, with regard to 16 Grant Circle NW, as expected, at the hearing on March 26th, while the Historic Preservation Review Board wasn't happy about voting in favor of the staff report, which stated that the building did not meet the criteria necessary to meet the requirements for landmarking, they did not designate the building.

And the developer is free to move forward on razing the building.  But going forward, presuming that the historic district will be created, the plans for new construction will have to be reviewed by the DC Historic Preservation Office/HPRB, which will also trigger processes for public input that currently do not exist in that area.

Note there is a wrinkle in the law, so that even if the historic district is created with a favorable vote on April 2nd, there is a 30-day period before it takes legal effect, as there are public notice requirements before the vote by the HPRB has the full weight of the law.

Fortunately, the time required for a new raze application to be reviewed generally is longer than 30 days, so none of the other buildings in the proposed historic district would be at risk.

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