Decision Summary HPA No. 06-530
- HPA Number
- Building Name
- Lot 823 Square 452 Building
- 627 I St. NW
- Date of Order
Full Text of Order
HPA Number: 06-530
Case Name: In Re: Application of Square 452 Limited Partnership and GA Square 452 Associates, LLC for Demolition of Building at 627 I Street, NW
Location: 627 I Street, NW(Square 452, Lot 823)
Date of Order: 9/7/2007
Type of Permit Sought: Demolition
Square 452 Limited Partnership and GA Square 452 Associates, LLC (collectively, the “Applicant”), sought approval to demolish a building located at 627 I Street, NW, which contributed to the Downtown Historic District, in order to construct a 360,000 square foot commercial office building with ground floor retail (the “Project”). The Project would include, among other things, the dedication of a portion of the retail space for use by community groups, the relocation of two historically-contributing rowhouses to the eastern edge of the site adjacent to five other rowhouses, and the rehabilitation of the façade of the Chinese Community Church at 500 I Street, NW (the “Church”). The Mayor’s Agent granted the request for demolition, concluding that the proposed demolition was “necessary in the public interest in order to construct a project of special merit… on the basis of specific features of land planning and social or other benefits having a high priority for community services.”
Mayor’s Agent – Procedural:
• The Mayor’s Agent indicated that the burden of proof is on the applicant.
• The Mayor’s Agent noted that the affected ANC wrote a letter of “conditional support” for the Project, but did not otherwise mention the ANC’s views (e.g., that they were accorded “great weight”). There were no parties in opposition.
Necessary in the Public Interest:
The Mayor’s Agent concluded that the Applicant’s demolition of the 627 I Street building was necessary in the public interest in order to construct a project of special merit, on the basis of specific features of land planning and social and other benefits having a high priority for community services. Citing § 6-1104(e) of the D.C. Code, the Mayor’s Agent stated that it may authorize the issuance of permits to demolish contributing buildings in historic districts if the issuance of such permits is found to be necessary in the public interest, which means either consistent with the purposes of the Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act of 1978 (as amended, the “Act”) or necessary to allow the construction of a project of special merit. To meet the definition of special merit, a project must have significant benefits to the District of Columbia or the community by virtue of one or more of the following: exemplary architecture, specific features of land planning, or social or other benefits having a high priority for community services. The Mayor’s Agent determined that the Project contributed to specific features of land planning and social or other benefits having a high priority for community services, and therefore was a project of special merit, because it would: “a) strengthen and reinforce the historic fabric and streetscape of I Street, NW; b) accomplish appropriate historic rehabilitation of the Chinese Community Church…; c) help revitalize both the 500 and 600 blocks of I Street with two components of a single project; d) provide discounted rent to Asian retailers; and e) provide community space for Chinatown community groups.” Citing Committee of 100 on the Federal City v. District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, 571 A.2d 195, 200 (D.C. App. 1990), the Mayor’s Agent also conducted a balancing test and considered the availability of reasonable alternatives to demolition. In balancing the historic value of the Project and the building to be demolished, the Mayor’s Agent found that the historic value of the 627 I Street building to be “minimal.” The Mayor’s Agent agreed with the Applicant that there were “no reasonable alternatives to the complete demolition of the 627 I Street building” that would have permitted the Project to be built.
Project of Special Merit – Balancing Test:
The Mayor’s Agent stated that it “must balance the demolition required for the construction of the special merit project against the architectural and historical value of the building that is proposed to be demolished.” Based largely on the Historic Preservation Review Board’s Staff Report and Recommendation, the Mayor’s Agent concluded that the historic value of 627 I Street, NW, was “minimal” due to various alterations throughout the years.
Project of Special Merit – Specific Features of Land Planning:
The Mayor’s Agent found that various aspects of the Project contributed to specific features of land planning. Specifically, it found that the proposed relocation of the rowhouses at 621 and 623 I Street, NW, to be adjacent to the remaining row of historic buildings on the corner of 6th and I Streets helped to reinforce the most viable remaining part of the historic streetscape while allowing assembly of fragmented vacant lots into a reasonable footprint for development. The Mayor’s Agent also found that the Project would help establish a vibrant retail presence, satisfy all zoning requirements of the Downtown Development District, create a more efficient and effective alley system to ease traffic back-ups, and create connections to Chinatown.
Project of Special Merit – Social or other Benefits having a High Priority for Community Services:
The Mayor’s Agent found that various components of the Project contributed to social or other benefits having a high priority for community services. Specifically, the Mayor’s Agent found that the retail development would contribute to the revitalization of the neighborhood and the Downtown Historic District, especially since it would “finish the block” in a single project. Because the Church is in close proximity to the L’Enfant Reservation, its appropriate treatment and rehabilitation serves “important historic preservation goals” that would “identify and reinforce historic boundaries of the Downtown Historic District.” Thus the Mayor’s Agent concluded that the restoration of the brick façade of the Church would contribute to an important building, enhance the historic fabric and streetscape of the I Street corridor, and constitute a “significant benefit to the entire Downtown Historic District.” Local Chinese retailers and retailers serving the Chinatown/Asian community would have the opportunity to lease retail space for a 10% discount. Finally, the Project would provide space to community groups for cultural, educational and community-oriented purposes.
"The Mayor’s Agent is of the opinion that there is a reasonable expectation that the Applicant possesses sufficient financial ability and other expertise to complete the Project."
The rehabilitation of the façade of the Church would further enhance the historic fabric and streetscape of the I Street corridor. (The form stone stucco covering the exterior of the Church is not consistent with the original appearance of the Church, and the Applicant committed $600,000 for the appropriate historic rehabilitation of the Church.)
Historic District – Contributing Building:
The Historic Preservation Review Board Staff found that although the building proposed to be demolished contributed to the Downtown Historic District, “its integrity is diminished” by alterations, including the addition of a third floor.