Tuesday, May 19, 2020

here’s the deal behind the “subdivision/combine three lots” historic review for 1626/1634/1644 North Capitol Street NW

See my Email to Brendan Meyer, DC Historic Preservation Office staff person assigned to the Bloomingdale Historic District -- an issue that was raised at the Monday, 05-18-2020, Bloomingdale Civic Association meeting.


Greetings.  This Email regards the Maedwell Companies Maison Kesh project on North Capitol Street NW in the Bloomingdale Historic District.  This case is currently on the May 2020 HPRB agenda for either 05/28/2020 or 06/04/2020.

There appears to be some confusion why the current “subdivision/combine three lots” for 1626/1634/1644 North Capitol Street NW requires attention from the HPO & HPRB.

Maedwell’s Syga Thomas mentioned during Monday’s [05/18/2020] Bloomingdale Civic Association virtual meeting that passageways were needed between the landmarked firehouse and the building to be constructed next door.  I understand that it is not uncommon for development projects to combine landmarked and non-landmarked buildings and that creating passageways is permissible.  Got it.

Is that was this case is about – just creating needed passageways in the north wall of the firehouse to make the 2nd floor of the firehouse ADA compliant?

Or is there more to it?

I would like to share your response with the community.

Thanks for your feedback, as always!

== Scott ==

See Brendan Meyer’s response:

From: Meyer, Brendan (OP) <brendan.meyer@dc.gov>
Sent: Tuesday, May 19, 2020 5:20 PM
Subject: RE: “subdivision/combine three lots” for 1626/1634/1644 North Capitol Street NW

This case is only necessary because of the technicality of a subdivision to combine lots. It wasn’t part of the concept previously approved for this project and HPO doesn’t have the authority to approve a subdivision of this type.

HPRB has jurisdiction over all subdivisions in the city (not just historic districts). The Preservation law says the HPRB has an interest in making sure lots in historic districts aren’t combined in such a way that they compel new buildings that would be out of scale with the historic district (i.e. why create a big lot just to say you can’t build a big building there).

When combining lots that have existing historic buildings, HPRB wants to see that the existing buildings won’t be substantially demolished. That pertains to the definition of demolition in the HP regs. The structure of a building must be substantially retained if we’re going to preserve it. So the Board wants assurance that the firehouse party walls won’t be totally blitzed; just minimal sized openings. In theory, HPRB wants the firehouse to remain intact if anyone in the future wants to demolish this 2020 project in 2050. In thirty or forty years you’d be able to take off the 2020 stuff and still have an intact firehouse (instead of a firehouse half-missing).

This case is not a major design issue, but a good-practice preservation technicality.

Brendan Meyer • Historic Preservation Specialist
DC Office of Planning
1100 4th Street SW, Suite E650 • Washington, DC 20024

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