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Decision Summary HPA No. 07-103
- HPA Number
- Building Name
- The O Street Market
- 1400 7th St. NW
- Date of Order
HPA Number: 07-103
Case Name: In Re: Application of O Street Roadside, LLC, for Partial Demolition of 1400 Seventh Street, N.W. (The O Street Market)
Building Name: O Street Market
Location of Property: 1400 Seventh Street, N.W.
Date of Decision: 8/27/2007
Type of Case/Type of Permit Sought: Demolition
Applicant: O Street Roadside, LLC
Date of Case Summary: 6/20/2008
Summary of Decision:
O Street Roadside, LLC (“Applicant”) sought a permit to demolish the west wall of the O Street Market, which is an individually designated landmark listed on the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites. Applicant proposed demolishing the wall as part of its plans for a new mixed-use development on the city block that holds the O Street Market. The remaining walls of the market building would be incorporated into a Giant Brands, Inc., grocery store (the “Giant Store”). Applicant planned to preserve the building’s original east and south façades and use bricks from the demolished west wall for piers inside the building to mark the O Street Market’s merge with the newer Giant Store. Other elements of Applicant’s proposed new mixed-used development included apartment units above the Giant Store, an open courtyard, 7500 square feet of retail space, condominium buildings with units reserved for lower-income senior citizens, ground-level covered parking, a three-level underground parking garage, and possibly a hotel. Furthermore, the plans for the project included reopening 8th Street, N.W. The Mayor’s Agent granted the permit, determining that the proposed demolition was necessary in the public interest in order to construct a project of special merit. The Mayor’s Agent decided that the project had special merit because it would (i) create jobs and foster economic growth, (ii) provide new housing, including homes for lower-income senior citizens; (iii) alleviate the community’s need for parking; (iv) rehabilitate, adapt, and reuse the “historically significant portions” of the O Street Market as encouraged by the District of Columbia; and (v) follow both the 2006 District of Columbia Comprehensive Plan (the “Comprehensive Plan”) and the Convention Center Area Strategic Development Plan (the “Area Plan”). Additionally, the Mayor’s Agent determined that the demolition of the west wall could not be avoided without sacrificing key elements of the development proposal, including the underground parking and loading areas and the Giant Store’s open floor plan.
Mayor’s Agent – Procedural:
• The Mayor’s Agent stated that the recommendations of an Advisory Neighborhood Commission (“ANC”) must be given “great weight” in the Mayor's Agent’s determinations.
• “An applicant for a permit to demolish a building protected under the Act must demonstrate that it has considered all reasonable alternatives to demolition.” See Kalorama Heights Ltd. Partnership v. D.C. Department of Consumer Affairs, 655 A.2d 865, 870 (D.C. 1995).
Consistent with the Purposes of the Act:
The D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board (the “Board”) adopted the staff report and found the demolition to be inconsistent with the purposes of the Historic District Protection Act of 1978, as amended (the “Act”). The Board then recommended a hearing before the Mayor’s Agent “to demonstrate that the proposed project is one of special merit.” Applicant did not raise the issue of consistency with the Act at the hearing. However, the Mayor’s Agent concluded that the project was consistent with the purposes of the Act because it would “retain, enhance, and restore a historic landmark for adaptive reuse.”
Project of Special Merit:
The Mayor’s Agent conducts a two-step evaluation to determine whether the demolition of a historic structure is necessary to construct a project of special merit. First, the special merit of the proposed project must outweigh the historic value of the structure to be removed. Second, the demolition must be necessary to allow the proposed project to proceed. The Mayor’s Agent concluded that Applicant’s proposed demolition satisfied both tests. The new development was necessary in the public interest as a project of special merit, based on its special features of land planning, as well as its social or other benefits having a high priority for community services. Also, Applicant’s proposal could only move forward if the west wall of the existing market was removed.
Necessary in the Public Interest:
The demolition was necessary in the public interest because the project could not be realized otherwise. The Historic Preservation office had considered a number of alternative development plans for the O Street Market and found them “substantially worse” than Applicant’s proposal. Furthermore, the demolition of the west wall could not be avoided without sacrificing the underground parking and loading areas and the Giant Store’s open floor plan—both of which were considered important elements of the proposal’s special merit.
Project of Special Merit – Balancing Test:
The decision explained that “the Mayor’s Agent must balance the special merit of the proposed project against the historic value of the building to be removed. In other words, the Mayor’s Agent must find that the proposed project will provide public benefits sufficient to offset the District’s stated policy of protecting, enhancing, and perpetuating the use of properties with historical, cultural, and aesthetic merit.” 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).
Project of Special Merit – Specific Features of Land Planning:
• The proposal furthers the policies of key planning documents. First, it meets the objectives of the Comprehensive Plan, which calls for elements of housing, historic preservation, urban design, and economic development. Also, the proposal follows the Area Plan, which “specifically calls for the construction of a ‘mixed-use development at the O Street Market block with mixed-income residential on 9th and P Streets and ground-floor retail on 7th and O Streets, and parking below grade.’”
• To avoid the appearance of a massive, superblock-type development, the residential buildings have been individually designed, incorporating a variety of architectural styles, materials, and finishes. According to the Mayor’s Agent’s decision, “the new construction has been designed to respect the historic O Street Market and the surrounding residential properties. The new buildings on the site will generally rise to a height of 70 feet on 9th Street, 90 feet on O, 7th, and P Streets, and 110 feet on 8th Street. Portions of those buildings above a height of approximately 90 feet will be set back as shown on the architectural plans.” Also, Applicant planned to commission local artists to create street-level murals on the construction site.
• The proposal preserved what the Mayor’s Agent called the “historically significant portions” of the building, including the corner tower, the east façade facing 7th Street, and the south façade facing O Street.
• In addition, Applicant’s plans would reopen the 8th Street, N.W., right of way. The street was legally closed in 1977, but the proposal would open it again to traffic. The change would “significantly improve vehicular and pedestrian circulation,” according to testimony offered by Alexander Padro, a representative of Shaw Main Streets (a community group). The Mayor’s Agent added in his decision that the plan would “replace an unattractive surface parking lot with an active streetscape.”
• Another benefit from the project would be the underground parking and loading facilities. Locating these features below grade would “reduce noise and eliminate an eye sore along 9th Street, N.W.,” Padro testified. Furthermore, moving the existing dumpsters would reduce rats and vermin on the street.
Project of Special Merit – Social or Other Benefits Having a High Priority for Community Services:
The Mayor’s Agent stated that Applicant’s proposal offered “a number of social and other benefits having a high priority for community services.” For example, economic growth and employment opportunities would come from the Giant Store and from the retail spaces designated for small local businesses along O and 8th Streets, N.W. The Mayor’s Agent further noted that the proposal would create 600 to 650 new affordable and market-rate housing units in an area that has been targeted for new residential development by the D.C. Office of Planning. Among these units would be 80 homes set aside for senior citizens earning less than 60% of AMI.
Although cost is a factor in determining whether demolition is reasonably necessary, “an applicant is not entitled to a demolition permit simply because it is the least expensive alternative.”
The O Street Market had suffered extensive structural damage. For example, the roof collapsed from heavy snowfall in 2003, and the north wall was demolished to remove the debris. The proposal offered to rehabilitate the building. Specifically, Applicant planned to completely reconstruct the market’s metal truss roof, supporting the roof in part with bricks from the removed west wall.