City Paper Widget

Thursday, May 29, 2014

St. Thomas' Parish Presents Revised Church and Residence Design

The leadership of St. Thomas' Parish Episcopal Church (1772 Church Street NW) with their architects rolled out a revised design for its planned expansion at the church on May 27. Representatives of MTFA Architecture and Hickok Cole Architects presented plans for the church and the adjoining apartment building, respectively. The plans had been altered in response to community input the project.

Proposed new design as viewed from 18th Street
About 80 people saw MTFA's James P. Clark and Hickok Cole's Laurence Caudle make presentations of the new design, which promised to reduce the impact of the project design, increase green space, minimize traffic impact, and connect to neighborhood character.

Original church plans had the proposed new church and the multi-story apartment building built all the way out to the property line on all sides of the property at the corner of 18th and Church Streets. The revised plan draws the design back a little, allowing a small stretch of green space in the front and side of the property, and more setback at the tops of both planned buildings.

The 18th Street side of the property will, according to the proposed new design, have green spaces flanking the church's front entrance. The dimensions on each side will be roughly ten feet deep by roughly forty feet wide, split by a walkway into the church. The green areas would be bordered on the property line by low stone walls, made from stone recycled from parts of the present building that will have to be demolished because they are structurally unsound.

The presenters also said that the church building will be drawn back three feet on the Church Street (north) side, and five feet from the abutting a row house on Church Street on the west side of the property.

Increased upper-story setbacks
There will be increases to the upper-story setbacks on both the church building and the residential building.

A topic which seemed to draw attention at the meeting was the proposal for a Montessori school in the new church building. This led to a great deal of discussion of the impact such a school would have on street parking. Neighbors asked if the church had done a traffic study. It had not. The discussion returned repeatedly to this topic, even though representatives of the church said there had been no final decision on establishing a Montessori school and it seemed unlikely the school could accommodate more than 25 students if it became a reality.  

General audience reaction

The reception to the new design was frequently positive.

"You've done very interesting things with the church," said one Church Street resident.

"You guys have done a really great job," said another.

Of course, not everyone was enthusiastic. For example, neighbors seemed concerned about density, as there was no change in the plans to have 50-55 residential units in the proposed apartment building

"I don't see much change," one man said of the new design. "In principle, I think they're the same."

Some of the audience were the same people who attended the meeting mobilizing opponents at the Keegan Theater the previous week -- see SALM blog post of May 27. However, some of the people seemingly most dead-set against the development were absent. Unlike previous meetings, no one suggested that the church abandon the plan entirely.

Next steps

The presenters laid out a timeline for getting approval for the project. There would be no further town meetings. The two parts of the project will move together through the next steps. The plan is to submit the paperwork for the project to the HPRB by June 20. In July, the project will be considered by the Dupont Circle Conservancy. In the same month, the project will be presented to the Zoning, Preservation and Development (ZPD) Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont. If the ZPD approves, it will be presented to the full ANC for a vote at its regular July meeting. The project will then have a HPRB hearing in September.

The slideshow which accompanied the May 27 presentation is available here.

A copy of the flyer "Frequently Asked Questions about St. Thomas' Building Program", distributed at the meeting, is available here.

The complex backstory to this project is explained in part in an SALM blog post of February 28, and in stories from the same time on the blogs Greater Greater Washington and District Source.

(Photo credits: details from the architects' presentation to the meeting)

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