Thursday, March 31, 2016

GGW: "Eckington is wrestling with whether to be a historic district"

Click on the link to read the entire Greater Greater Washington blog post and to see the included images -- and to read the long list of comments.

Eckington is wrestling with whether to be a historic district

by Edward Russell   •   March 31, 2016

Eckington is the latest DC neighborhood to explore historic status. Residents' debate over the subject has centered on their ability to make changes to their property, like adding solar panels and build additions, and the impact such a move would have on affordability.

The effort is being led by the Eckington Civic Association (ECA), which has engaged QED Associates to establish the neighborhood's historic character and organized three "town halls," two of which were held earlier this year with the third scheduled for May 9.

"The two things that come up are pop-ups and other projects that are not within historical keeping of the neighbourhood," said Randy Nolan, president of the civic association, when asked why they are looking at historic preservation for the neighborhood.

He is quick to note that the topic is nuanced and that the ECA has not taken an official position on historic designation, except to follow its membership's desire that the topic be explored and considered.

The ECA began the effort after neighboring Bloomingdale began looking at historic designation, with the association's board approving the study and town halls in the middle of 2015, said Nolan.

Below is a comment not posted at GGW, but rather at the Historic Washington list at Yahoogroups, by Historic Washington listserv moderator Mary Rowse:

Sent: Friday, April 1, 2016 11:03 AM
Subject: [HistoricWashington] Re: Query - Eckington historic preservation meeting

Here's a report that appeared Thursday on the effort to consider historic designation in Eckington.  The article is a bit slanted against it and the comments at the end reflect the usual ignorance about the benefits of designation, why an area deserves the status, the cost of being in a historic district and whether new construction is permitted.  See a quote from the author below:

"But one would probably not characterize Eckington as all that unique on first glance. It is certainly one of DC's many beautiful older neighborhoods, but it does not stand out in the same way some of the city's better-known historic districts in Capital Hill and Georgetown do."

I suspect the only reason those neighborhoods "stand out" to the author is precisely because they're designated.  There's a cache to protected areas that he doesn't articulate.  Residents have a different sense of well-being in historic districts than those who live in unprotected areas who worry about what's coming down the pike next. The author sees no irony in admiring Capitol Hill and Georgetown Historic Districts, but not appreciating the same qualities in Eckington.  I've found it fairly typical of people who are on the fence about preservation, to take their communities for granted. 

It would really help streamline the designation process and give everyone the same information, if HPO would produce a comprehensive publication making the case for neighborhood historic districts across the city.  The booklet could offer information and rebut common misconceptions about historic designation.  Chevy Chase produced a good publication in 2006, with the help of Traceries. 

I wrote something in 2008 that could be useful as well: 

Mary Rowse

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