Dupont Circle has a mix of large buildings, medium ones and smaller rowhouses. If a property owner wants to build something as high as zoning allows, which is lower than some buildings but taller than most, is that “incompatible” with the historic character of the neighborhood? That’s one debate around a proposed project at 18th and Church streets NW.
This corner was once home to a grand gothic church, but it burned down from arson in 1970. The St. Thomas Episcopal parish has been using a secondary building, which had been its parish hall, ever since, but wants to build a new church. St. Thomas solicited bids from developers who could build the residential building and a new church. The winner, CAS Riegler, reached out to neighbors to understand people’s desires around the project. Neighbors who share the alley with the church wanted some open space along the alley. The current parish hall comes right out to the alley, and the neighbors wanted it set back from the alley. It also would mean that if the residential building extends upward, it would not block light from the southwest, which they get in afternoons and evenings.
The architects, from MTFA (for the church) and Hickok Cole (for CAS Riegler) accommodated this. They also reversed a parking ramp so that drivers going in and out of the parking garage would not travel all the way down the alley, and they set back upper floors from the adjacent townhouses.
The church and developer did not, however, accede to requests from some neighbors to significantly shrink the project to about four stories. Neighbors have been organizing to oppose the project.
The Dupont Circle Citizens’ Association passed a resolution asking the city to consider buying the property for a park, but even if it were for sale (and it is not), the recent Play DC Master Plan delineates an area of high need for parkland, and this area isn’t inside it.
David Alpert is founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.