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.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

A historic preservation dilemma: when a building is demolished but the rare occurrence when the new building is equally attractive

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

In 2014, I wrote about the situation at  3823 Morrison Street NW, where a disinvested but potentially attractive traditional four square house had been purchased by a developer with the intent to demolish.

-- Without remedies there's nothing you can do: historic preservation in DC and Chicago
-- Historic preservation-local history roundup

It was a poignant story because the Chevy Chase neighborhood had rejected the creation of a historic district a few years before.

I went by the site the other day, and I have to admit, the new building--a duplex, to maximize the value of the site--appears to have been well-designed and well-built.

The new building is built to the front of the lot, to maximize building size, so it is a bit out of character from the standpoint of the other houses being set back.  But houses close to the sidewalk are typical of Chevy Chase blocks more generally.

-- "The mansions that are swallowing suburban homes," Bloomberg

The attractiveness of the new building shouldn't be a total shock, because in the Chevy Chase section of Maryland, many of the new houses constructed there in similar teardown situations there have been replaced by attractive buildings done in the Craftsman style--albeit using the Gamble House in Pasadena as an example--huge--rather than the smaller buildings that typify the style in its period of construction in DC.

Generally, except I guess in the highest value locations, even in DC the new buildings constructed in place of historic buildings tend to be uglier and less well built, making the choice to favor retention of "old" buildings over new buildings much easier.

Here, where the new building is at least as attractive as the old building (don't know about the quality of the interior), it's much harder to argue absolutely that the previous building "should have been saved."

Speaking of demolition, more about the situation in Baltimore ("Gov. Hogan announces $700M plan to target urban decay in Baltimore," Baltimore Sun) over the weekend.

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