The Joint Committee on Landmarks last week rejected plans by the New Samaritan Baptist Church on Capitol Hill to raze two Victorian houses and barred the proposed demolition of the Julius Lansburgh furniture store at 9th and F streets NW.
Both cases are expected to go before Housing and Community Development director Robert Moore, who represents the mayor in preservation matters, for formal hearings next month.
At the hearings, the first to be held under the landmark law that went into effect last spring, the property owners will have to prove that demolition of the landmarks is in the public interest or would cause them unreasonable economic hardship.
Under the proposal by New Samaritan, the church had planned to expand its facilities by razing two houses at 600 and 602 Maryland Ave. NE. The church, built in the 1950s, is adjacent to the house at 602 Maryland Ave. NE.
At a previous hearing held under the city's old landmark law, an architect who is a member of the landmark committee offered to help work out a compromise plan to allow the church to use the houses, instead of razing them, for its expansion.No plan was ever worked out, however.
"These are important buildings," committee member Francis Lethbridge said at the meeting last week. "And the church doesn't have a clear building program...The demolition would have a deleterious effect on Capitol Hill as a whole."
Church members who attended the meeting would not comment on the committee action, and the pastor, the Rev. Robert Harrison, could not be reached for comment.
The owners of Lansburgh's, a Renaissance-style building erected in 1867 as a Masonic Temple, did not make any statement to the committee. But Charles Wilkes, an attorney for the 900 G Street Limited Partnership, which acquired the property in a trade with the YWCA last summer, said in an interview that his client will attempt to prove at the hearing before housing director Moore that razing Lansburgh's would be in the public interest and that denial of the demolition permit would cause economic hardship. He said he did not know what the owners' plans for the site were.
The committee also reviewed preliminary plans for a condominium that would preserve the fronts of three townhouses on Washington Circle. The plans, prepared by architect Guy Martin, resulted fron an agreement reached after a court battle between the Foggy Bottom Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) and a developer, Circle Associates.
Martin's solution involves razing three of the six rowhouses which the ANC wanted to save, and incorporating the fronts of three others into the condominium. The conominium would be the same height as the existing rowhouses around the circle, but would rise in stages to 105 feet behind the rowhouses.
the six rowhouses in question are not landmarks, but the ANC filed an application to make them - and all the other houses on the block - landmarks. A hearing on the landmark question has been set for Aug. 16.
If the buildings are granted landmark status, the committee will give formal consideration to Martin's plan. If the buildings are not given landmark status, the developer would be free to demolish any of the buildings and build a modern highrise.
The committee also approved plans for a two-story rear addition to a house at 138 North Carolina Ave. SE. Although the addition meets zoning requirements, neighbors complained that it would deprive them of light and air. After a previous landmark committee meeting the owners modified their plans, but some neighbors said they still were not satisfied and would continue to try to block the project.