Monument Realty’s proposal to remake an entire cluster of Chinatown on lots from 610-24 Eye and 609-619 H Street, NW was deemed “too aggressive” and too massive to fit “comfortably” within the existing historic neighborhood by the Historic Preservation Review Board (HRPB) Thursday.
Hickok Cole Architects presented their vision for the renovation and alteration of nine contributing buildings, rehabilitation of one 19th century building on H Street and the demolition of a five-story contributing alley warehouse for the construction of a 10-story retail and residential building. The project could bring 80,000 square feet of office space and up to 19,000 square feet of retail space to H and Eye Streets, NW.
During a previous hearing the board raised concerns about the height, massing and impact of the new building on existing alley structures.
“I thought we had addressed our concerns about the project in previous meetings and that you had done very little to address those concerns,” said board member Graham Davidson about his first impression of seeing the latest iteration.
Davidson said after hearing from the architect Thursday it seemed the architect “had not understood” the board’s concerns with the massing of the building. Davidson was not the only one with ongoing concerns.
For several hours members of the Chinatown community offered their take on the project.
Even Paul Millstein, vice president for Douglas Development Corporation, testified in opposition to the project. Douglas owns numerous properties near the project site and is often credited with the reinvention of Chinatown in D.C. Millstein said he was uncomfortable protesting a project and that he did not know of another instance in the company’s history in which it testified against a development proposal.
“We hate this project,” said Millstein.
He said it is “far too large” and “out of context” with the scale of the rest of the neighborhood.
Board member Charles Wilson said he would use the words of one of the neighborhood presenters who said the project “doesn’t fit comfortably in the neighborhood.” Wilson encouraged the architects and developer to “find something that does.”
“I think it’s just the overall context of the proposal and it just may be a little bit too aggressive for the historic fabric of the neighborhood,” said Andrew Aurbach.
Board Chair Gretchen Pfaehler moved to support the staff report and encouraged the team to revisit everything from height, setbacks and mass to the construction over the alleys and alley buildings.
“We do think that there is a development that can happen in that area. We do support additional density and use and enlivenment of that alley way,” said Pfaehler.