Decision Summary HPA No. 02-261, 02-266
- HPA Number
- 02-261, 02-266
- Building Name
- Atlantic Building
- Lots 35, 819, 820, 852 and 853 in Square 377 NW
- Date of Order
Applicant sought subdivision approval and approval of a proposed major modification to a previously approved project of special merit (“original project”). A previous Mayor’s Agent had approved the original project, which involved the significant demolition (all but the façades) of four contributing buildings located on F Street within the Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site and the Downtown Historic District. See In re 920 F Street, HPA Nos. 88-490-493, Opinion and Order (May 12, 1989). One of the four buildings was the landmark Atlantic Building, which is separately included on the District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites. The approved original project involved the incorporation of the restored façades of the four otherwise demolished buildings into a new nine-story mixed-use building. The previous Mayor’s Agent held that the approval of the original proposal was necessary to allow the construction of a project of special merit because it offered specific features of land planning and social benefits having a high priority for community services. The proposed modification to the approved project (“modified project”) involved the complete demolition of the non-contributing Lane Bryant building at 932-936 F Street and the restoration and incorporation of three small buildings located at 938-942 F Street, turning the corner at 10th. The modified project contemplated the construction of a ten-story mixed-use building on the property now occupied by the Lane Bryant building, and would incorporate the three small buildings at 938-942 F Street as well as the façades of the four buildings included in the original project. The current Mayor’s Agent approved the modified application subject to the Applicant’s compliance with the requirements of the original project. He held that approval of the subdivision application was consistent with the purposes of the Act, and that the approval of the modified project was necessary to allow the construction of a project of special merit.
The Mayor’s Agent stated that his approval of the modified project was conditional upon the Applicant’s compliance with the original project’s mandatory mitigation program, which included the salvage and reuse of architecturally significant elements of the interior craftsmanship of each building and the establishment of Historic Reconstruction Zones in the new structure. The mitigation program also required the display “of artifacts from the buildings and documentation of the historic character of the buildings in the development of the downtown area in a permanent historic exhibit or museum room off the main lobby.”
• The Mayor’s Agent determined that the exterior skin of the new building, unlike that of the non-conforming Lane Bryant building, would possess a “compatible character sympathetic to the historic façades with a light skeletal frame, compatible colors, and detailing of new brick and cast stone.”
• The Mayor’s Agent held that the proposed massing of the new building, which included graduated setbacks of its upper levels and the mechanical penthouse, would be compatible with the Downtown Historic District because it would “avoid eclipsing the historic streetscape, and [would] establish a strong relationship between the Atlantic Building façade and neighboring façades along F Street, particularly the National Union Building across the east alley.”
• The Mayor’s Agent held that periodic future review of the proposed project’s massing and exterior design by HPRB and its staff would ensure that the new structure would be compatible with the character of the Downtown Historic District.
• The Mayor’s Agent held that the modified project “demonstrates enhanced compatibility with the character of the [Downtown Historic] District in comparison with the Approved Project, on a stand-alone basis.”
Consistent with Purposes of the Act:
• The Mayor’s Agent held that the subdivision of the affected property, subject to the design guidelines presented in the HPRB staff report, was consistent with the purposes of the Act because the subdivision is necessary to the rehabilitation and reuse of the landmark Atlantic Building.
• The Mayor’s Agent determined that the modified project’s consistency with the purposes of the Act was irrelevant because the proposed project was necessary in the public interest by virtue of its special merit.
Mayor’s Agent: Procedural:
Because there is no statutory standard under D.C. Law 2-144 for reviewing modifications to previously approved projects, the Mayor’s Agent determined that “where a previously approved project has been abandoned and sold by the Original Applicant after the permitted demolition has taken place, the Mayor’s Agent is within his authority under the Act to review the merits of any proposed action by a subsequent owner.” Such review applies not only to modified proposals, but also to the completion of approved projects.
Special Merit: Balancing Test:
The Mayor’s Agent must balance the special merit of a proposed project against the historic value of the affected property. See Committee of 100 on the Federal City v. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, 571 A.2d 195, 200 (D.C. 1990). Although the modified project provided an increase in special merit elements as compared with the original project, the Mayor’s Agent determined that the modified project required “no additional demolition of historic fabric.”
Special Merit: Specific Features of Land Planning:
The Mayor’s Agent held that the modified project was a project of special merit because it “furthers a number of the District’s land planning objectives, as set forth in the Comprehensive Plan, especially the Downtown Element, Land Use Element and Preservation and Historic Features Element.” The modified project would provide almost double the amount of preferred uses as the original project, with a total of approximately 43,150 square feet of preferred residential, retail, and arts uses and below-grade parking for 200 vehicles. The project also “provides approximately two-and-one-half times the preferred use requirement set forth in the District of Columbia Zoning Regulations.”
See HPA No. 88-490 through 88-493 for related history concerning this property.