CAS Riegler is Dupont church St. Thomas’ chosen developer partner for a new church structure and residential project on the site of the arson-destroyed historic church at 1772 Church St., NW.
The project concept as proposed by the church in a recent request for proposals (RFP) would include a new church structure with a worship space, offices, classroom spaces for adult education and Montessori program, and below grade parking. The RFP also envisioned a new six or seven-story residential building with an maximum of 58 units as allowed under the site’s zoning.
The by-right development would take place on the church’s 15,610 square foot property on Church Street and church would sell two lots totaling 1,700 square feet on P Street to the developer.
The historic church dated to 1894 was the victim of arson in 1970, leaving behind the current structure, a 1920s church hall, that has served as a community and worship space since. But Ryan Winfield, a historic preservationist and chair of the building committee for the church, said the current structure can no longer meet the needs of the parish–it lacks basic amenities like an elevator for disabled parishioners and classroom space for Sunday school.
About 60 people, neighbors and parishioners, came to a meeting Wednesday evening to learn about the proposal and to hear from the church and developers directly.
Those in attendance offered a range of responses to the church’s plans: from resignation and a request for decent design, to questioning why the church can’t just leave the neighborhood and merge with another parish, to one man’s accusation that promises of transparency and community involvement were “bull$*&%”.
The church has been in a long planning process with MTFA Architects that resulted in the current design program. CAS Riegler will bring on Hickock Cole architects to help design the residential portion and the work with MTFA to make sure the two buildings compliment one another.
Several community members expressed frustration that the church would have such detailed plans and go through an RFP process for those plans without first speaking with neighbors.
Rev. Dr. Nancy Lee Jose explained that part of the issue is the intricacies of being Episcopalian. She said the church’s property is not that of the individual parish, but instead of the diocese and that any plans for the property have to go through rigorous review for both concept and financial sustainability. Jose said they needed to get the approval from their bishop before they could proceed with any actual planning that would involve the community’s input.
The church has been through the planning process on several occasions previously only to have to cancel plans for a new church because of financing.
“We have been determined not to fail this time,” said Bob Moluf, chair of the communications team and member of the building committee for St. Thomas’ parish.
Developer Kevin Riegler repeatedly told those gathered that his team has only been on the job for about 11 days and that there are no detailed plans for the residential project precisely because they wanted to seek public input. Riegler said he was not sure how many units they would ultimately build and that the number would depend on the design and the demands of the market.
Riegler told residents the plan is a relatively low-scale development, not a “block-filling City Center.” He said they do not plan to apply for any variances from the allowable zoning and will provide the required parking below grade.
Riegler said he hoped to involve the community in the planning process, possibly holding charrettes to help with the design. He said he would come back to the community in a few weeks with some initial plans to get the conversation about design going.
“This church provides a lot of wonderful amenities,” said ANC Commissioner Leo Dwyer, pointing to it hosting help groups, a voting location and the dignity church among others.
“We want to hear your input,” said Jose. “We do want to be good partners.”
See the full RFP: StThomasRFPFinal. See renderings of the church’s vision here.