With developers aggressively plotting new projects downtown and in neighborhoods filled with buildings erected 100 years ago or more, it’s a busy time for the D.C. Preservation League, the city’s main advocate for the preservation of historic buildings.
The group’s stances are often controversial. Just days ago Events D.C. and the International Spy Museum ditched plans to dramatically expand the Carnegie Library after the Historic Preservation Review Board, at the urging of the league, did not approve the proposal.
The league typically aims to secure protections for properties that are in the path of the bulldozer, and it annually produces a list of the properties it considers at greatest risk, often due to either demolition or neglect. Here’s the 2014 list, released Wednesday:
Anacostia’s commercial corridor:
The central corridors of Anacostia, Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. and Good Hope Road in Southeast, are among the next frontiers for developers and they are home to 126 buildings dating from 1854 to 1930. Some proposals would demolish buildings along the corridor, others would relocate them.
911 and 913 L Street, NW
They may not look like much but the league is fighting hard to save a series of brick buildings in Shaw along L Street that a developer has purchased. The Marriott Marquis convention center hotel is complete nearby, but new plans call for two additional hotels nearby. The projects would provide further lodging options for visitors to the convention center hotel but alter the make-up of the street.
St. Elizabeths East Agricultural Complex
The D.C. government has big plans for the east campus of the former St. Elizabeths hospital, in Southeast D.C. between the Anacostia and Congress Heights neighborhoods. But in the late 1800s much of the leafy campus was dedicated to farming, including dairy barns, a horse barn and a chicken house. While the District plots redevelopment, the league worries about neglect. But re-using such buildings is often greatly expensive.
The Washington Canoe Club
Located on Water Street along the Potomac River in Georgetown, the Washington Canoe Club dates to the early 1900s and, according to the club’s history, produced a number of Olympians in canoe and kayak events. The club survived a fair number of floods in the past century, but the league cites a number of concerns for the building: “The shingles are in poor condition, the windows and window frames are in need of repair, the roof needs replacement, there are structural issues with the floor, walls, and building frame, and the building systems need repair.” Things are bad enough that the boathouse was declared unsafe by the National Park Service and had to be closed.
West Heating Plant
Also in Georgetown, the West Heating Plant was built in 1948 and sold at auction last year to the Levy Group and Georgetown Co., who planned to turn the property into as many as 80 Four Seasons condominiums. The preservation league is fighting the plan, claiming the redevelopment would sacrifice 65 percent of the building. Meanwhile the property, which has been mostly vacant for more than a decade, remains so.
Debate over what to do with the Carnegie Library, in Mount Vernon Square, began years ago and is going strong. The Spy Museum plans were scuttled after the league called them “an offensive request” that constituted a lack of respect for the building; now the preservationists’ concern is that the building will deteriorate if the city doesn’t put up more money toward preserving it.
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz