Decision Summary HPA No. 12-044
- HPA Number
- Building Name
Engine Company No. 28
- 3522 Connecticut Ave. NW
- Date of Order
HPA Number: 12-044
Case Name: In the Matter of: Engine Company No. 28
Location of Property: 3522 Connecticut Avenue, NW; Square 2068, Lot 809
Date of Decision: April 3, 2012
Type of Case/Type of Permit Sought: Alteration
Subject Matter(s): Alteration; Adaptation for Use; Special Merit – General; Historical District – Contributing Building; Necessary in the Public Interest
Summary of Decision:
The District of Columbia Department of Fire and Emergency Services (the “Applicant”) sought a permit to widen the firehouse doors at Engine Company No. 28 in the Cleveland Park Historic District. The 1916 Beaux Arts Style firehouse had two doorways ten feet wide and ten feet tall; these doors were no longer large enough to allow the safe passage of modern firefighting vehicles.
The Applicants sought a permit to increase the door widths to 12 feet and add security screens on all windows. The HPRB adopted the staff report, which stated that the door-widening and window screens were incompatible with the character of the property and the historic district, although the Mayor’s Agent might allow the alterations if found “necessary in the public interest.” The parties resolved the window screen issue, so the only issue before the Mayor’s Agent was whether the door widening was consistent with the purposes of the Act.
The Mayor’s Agent concluded that issuance of the permit was necessary to allow a project of special merit.
Necessary in the Public Interest:
According to D.C. Code § 6-1108.1(g), when considering a claim of special merit, the substantial rehabilitation or new construction for operational needs of a public safety facility, such as a fire station, constitutes a public interest with significantly higher priority than historic preservation. (This section was added in 2005.)
Special Merit – General:
While D.C. Code § 6-1108.1(g) makes rehabilitation of a firehouse for operational needs a project of special merit per se, the Mayor’s Agent nevertheless must determine whether the proposed rehabilitation seeks to accomplish genuine operational improvements and whether the alteration of its historic features is no greater than necessary.
After describing the changes in modern firefighting equipment, the Applicants’ efforts to locate other workable site that can provide emergency services in the local area, and the infeasibility of having the Applicant adopt smaller European firefighting equipment, the Mayor’s Agent concluded that the extensive architectural plans, appropriated funds, and commitments to use high quality workmanship would ensure the renovation would be carried out promptly and reasonably limit damage to the historic features of the firehouse.
Special Merit – Balancing Test:
The Special Merit balancing test would normally apply in a situation like this, and the Mayor’s Agent would balance the special merits of the proposal against the historic value of the building. In this case, however, the D.C. Code dictates that a rehabilitation of a firehouse has a higher priority than historic preservation.