Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Trouble brewing for 14th Street office project?

Back in October, DC Mud reported that the Historic Preservation Review Board gave a thumbs-up to developer Giorgio Furioso's plans to contruct a six story, 55,000 sf office building along 14th Street, in the vacant lot between Posto and the Great Wall restaurant. According to the poposal the building, which will extend across part of the building which houses Posto and the art galleries Curator's Office and Hemphill Fine Arts.

However, at the February ANC2F meeting, Furioso encountered some pushback from residents of Kingman Place, whose homes run behind the proposed site.

As noted in the Dupont Current, Furioso was at the ANC meeting to seek support for several zoning variances that he is requesting. Among them is a request to have cars who wish to park in a 12 unit garage underneath the building enter through an alley entrance. Kingman Place residents appeared to have two complaints about this proposal:

The first issue is that the volume is spaces is too low, and that office tenants ill instead park on nearby residential streets, taking up valuable parking spaces. Due to the daytime residential parking restrictions in place, this does not appear to be a matter of significant concern. After all, one cannot park for more than two hours without an appropriate residential parking permit.

The second issue is that the volume of spaces, and the cars it would attract, is too great, leading to additional congestion in the alley behind the building. I might be inclined to be more sympathetic to this argument if the projected volume of the parking garage was higher--say, 30 or 40 spaces, rather than 12. After all, it can't be ignored that people who purchased homes on Kingman did so knowing that the rear of their property abutted a commercial corridor.

These complaints may be viewed as being in opposition to each other (too many spaces vs. not enough), but I don't necessarily think that they are. Ultimately, I think the resdient's parking concerns can be summed up as being opposed to anything that would bring additional cars to the alley or to their street.

However, what is apparent is that certain residents of Kingman Place aren't particularly amenable to seeing this project built, particularly if it involves adding more of the dreaded "t" word to the neighborhood. (t = traffic) And thus, we find ourselves basically where every proposed project ends up at some point: opposed by a small group of residents who simply don't want to see the project go up, for varying reasons.

The ANC decided to take no action at the February meeting, meaning that action will be postponed until at least the March meeting. There is no requirement in place that the Board of Zoning Adjustment follow the advice of the ANC, but by District law ANC opinions must be given "great weight"--meaning that a vote by the ANC to not support the proposed parking plan could be a potential setback for Furioso's plans.

There's no anticipated groundbreaking date yet for the project, which requires BZA approval before it can go forward.


Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, the Kingman residents can enjoy looking at a gravel parking lot and the defaced side of a building, while the space is currently used as a busy, noisy parking lot all day and late into each night. How would a gorgeous building with underground parking not be a dramatic improvement??
I live across the street from this space, so my view would change too. For the better.

Anonymous said...

Why not object to the building on aesthetic grounds. What an ugly design! It'll be dated in 10 years max. HPRB needs to get over greenlighting these anti-historic buildings over ideological reasons like "it should look of it's time". Every design references some previous building(s), why arbitrarily exclude referencing the historic fabric around you?

Anonymous said...

That would assume that you speak for the masses Anon 7:38AM. But you don't.

Joel said...

If opposing residents wish garage entry to NOT be via the alley, what is their proposed alternative? Curb cut for garage entry from the facade? This building looks rather narrow for its own curb cut (while I'm generally opposed to curb cuts, there may be some instances where a very large building, with a very long facade, could arguably qualify).

I'm not suggesting a workable alternative may not exist, but would be interested in hearing them, perhaps in this comment thread, from the residents in opposition.

Anonymous said...

Speaking for the masses, this building sucks!

Anonymous said...

I love the way the stone facade looks like wall paper with the real glass facade goes up and around it. It's nodding to the masonry buildings around it with out falling into replicating them. Especially fond of how none of the windows line up, so cool!

Critically Urban said...

The building's architecture is good. There is nothing about it that stands out as particularly modern, and it does a good job of meshing with the existing streetscape.

Speaking for the REAL masses, and as someone who is not using an "Anonymous" name at that, this building would be a great addition to the neighborhood, especially considering what it would be replacing.

As for the issue of parking, I think 12 spaces is plenty of parking, and that alleys were made EXACTLY for this purpose. I do not see any argument from the majority that says the alley should not be used by any additional cars. As it is now, many people use these alleys as cut-throughs, even if they don't live there. It is perfectly legal and it is much preferable than to create an unnecessary curb cut on 14th.

Anonymous said...

the only thing wrong with this building is that it's not 3x taller

Anonymous said...

@ Critically Urban,
I took a really close look at this design, and I think your critical eye is spot on. You really do speak for the masses when you say that this architecture is good, by the standards of a modernist projects building. By the standards of the historic fabric around it, it's a bad joke.

Anonymous said...

Giorgio Furioso is a fantastic name

Anonymous said...

There's an existing curb cut on the property from 14th Street. Why not use it to assuage the neighbors' concerns about traffic safety in the narrow alleyway?

Mr. Other Upper NW said...

Anon - re: the curb cut, it's not simply the sidewalk cut that is the issue, but also the square footage that it would take away from the building. According to Furioso, the project ceases to be viable if he loses any space.

Anonymous said...

The neighbors' supposed concern about alley traffic safety is just a canard. They can't come out and say "boo-hoo...our light and view will be restricted" so they claim the more socially palatable issue of safety. Bottom line is they are putting their own self-interests ahead of the neighborhood. A couple of darker backyards is a small price to pay for converting a gravel parking lot into a new building.

Anonymous said...

As an architect that works on urban infill buildings in Washington DC, this a good looking building. Granted the final building design will probably look a bit different by the time it gets built, but really you should take a critical look at the other buildings built in the last 30 years in the city. This is a step forward.

As far as neighborhood complaints, what the general public doesn't understand is that they could build that building almost as shown without any ANC approval or discussion. Generally the requests are minor, and they will not derail the project from happening. Instead they should accept that it will be built, and use their leverage to get something realistic changed. A large building will be built here soon, whether or not they get anything out of it.

Anonymous said...

I see several problems with this discussion:

1) The proposed building could not be built without zoning variances for a much bigger, much taller building than normally allowed, with far fewer parking spaces than normally required. Yes, the Kingman residents purchased their homes knowing that the rear of their properties abut a commercial corridor, but ESPECIALLY BECAUSE the proposed building abuts a residential zone, they have every right to insist that the impact of commercial development on residential neighbors will not be magnified by generous variances.

2)The parking issue with the proposed building is not so much whether or not the parking access is from 14th St or the Kingman alley, it's the variance request for only 12 spaces instead of 40+ parking spaces that zoning regulations require for a building of this size.

3) Those who oppose the building as it is currently proposed are not arguing against development of the site, they are citizens entitled to the protections provided by strict enforcement of existing zoning regulations. Everyone welcomes the continued growth and evolution of the 14th St corridor, but it's a cheap shot to twist and trivialize neighbor's objections to variances for the proposed behemoth by characterizing them as a small self-interested group "who simply don't want to see the project go up, for varying reasons."

Mr. Other Upper NW said...

Anon, I'd say it's a pretty big stretch to claim that "everyone welcomes the continued growth and evolution of the 14th St corridor." I've been to far too many neighborhood meetings where that has not been the view at all. Quite the opposite, actually.

Anonymous said...

@ infill Architect,
If you're standard is the buildings of the last 30 years, that's the problem. The last 30 years have been some of the worst architecturally in all of man's history. The only period arguablly worse is the preceeding 30 years, 1950-1970, when architects practically made war on beauty.

Let's aim a bit higher, shall we?