Thursday, May 21, 2009

U Street Hotel Update: CSNA Offers Support for Project

At last week's meeting of the Cardozo-Shaw Neighborhood Association, a close vote gave support to JBG Cos. in their pursuance of HPRB approval for a hotel at the corner of 13th and U streets.

By a 19-16 vote, the CSNA voted to issue a letter in support of the project to HPRB. The letter will outline that the CSNA supports the redevelopment of the parcel, that a hotel is a proper use for the site, and that the proposed design is in keeping with the historical character of the neighborhood. The only point on which the CSNA did not support the project was in the issue of density, with the feeling being that the project was too tall and the setbacks not sufficient in keeping with other buildings in the vicinity.

It seems odd that such effort would have to be expended to obtain historic preservation approval for a project on a street that, architecturally speaking, is not very historic. The two biggest buildings on the block--the Ellington and the Reeves Center--have both gone up during the last 15 years, while the adjoining blocks of U Street represent a mish-mash of styles ranging from Victorian rowhouses to wretched storage units. On a personal level, the 14thandyous think that the design of the hotel looks pretty swell, and we are glad to see the CSNA largely get behind the project.

This is simply the first of many hurdles for the project, which next must go through zoning approval--a decision that, based upon some of the comments made at the CSNA meeting, could prove more contentious. Still, for those--like us--who believe that increased density is a logical and important step for the continued redevelopment of U Street, it was an important step nonetheless.


Brandon said...

That is a big building!

IMGoph said...

increased density on top of a metro station is proper and necessary for the growth of the city and the neighborhood! go for it!

Dennis Whittle said...

I too have been thinking about the virtues of greater density (cf your post on London). And in general I support the hotel. However, the height is totally out of control and out of keeping with the buildings in the rest of the neighborhood. I don't live on Wallach Place, but I would be pretty upset if I did, because such a tall building would block much of their sunlight and totally change their sky view. So let's have a hotel that adds density (and interest) to the neighborhood, but let's keep it at a reasonable height.

Thanks for a thoughtful blog.

IMGoph said...

one little problem, dennis. the sun in the northnern hemisphere always comes from the south, not the north. so people south of this hotel (like wallach place) wouldn't have to worry about the hotel casting a shadow on their houses.

Mr. Other Upper NW said...

Thanks for the comments Dennis. However, I don't particularly buy into the notion that the height is disproportionate to the neighborhood. The Reeves Center and the Ellington are two quite sizeable buildings, and are directly across the street. In addition, the "Utopia" project a block away at 14th and U recently received zoning approval for 10 stories. In the case of the hotel, we're talking about a 9 story building here, not 30--and I don't think that 9 stories should be out of the question in a center city commercial corridor. (Interestingly, the proposed hotel site is on the same block that a much larger hotel used to stand, until it was demolished in the 1950s.)

Anecdotally, we were in attendance at the March CSNA meeting where the plans for the hotel were initially unveiled. The height issue was raised at that meeting as well, and in response JBG's architech brought out a scale model of the neighborhood that included the proposed hotel. The neighborhood buildings weren't labeled, and no one was able to identify the hotel until the architect pointed it out--and this was when the proposal was a story taller.

Finally, IMGoph is correct about the sunlight issue. The residents who will be affected the most will be the residents of the Ellington across the street, not those along Wallach.

Anonymous said...

Actually the letter that was approved stated that the hotel was NOT in keeping with the neighborhood historic district based on size, massing and some other attributes.