Housing Complex

New Third Church Almost Ready For Its Closeup

Not long for this world.

It's been nearly a year since the Third Church of Christ Scientist and their development partners finally got free of a lawsuit over razing the brutalist landmark at 16th and I Street NW. Since then, they've been planning the project that will take its place, and anticipate hitting the Historic Preservation Review Board next month. Drawings aren't yet available, but folks from the JBG-ICG Properties joint venture came before ANC 2B last week, and details are starting to emerge.

From the verbal description, even though the office building will be a sizeable 156,000 square feet, the site sounds relatively verdant. Landscape architect Michael Vergason has designed a 55-foot-wide strip of public space on 16th Street, with mature trees on the building side that will form a canopy with smaller street trees across the sidewalk, as well as a water feature.

The building itself, called 900 16th Street, has been designed in a classical style—to be expected considering the tendencies of its architect, Robert A.M. Stern (and unlike the city's other new church/office building, at 10th and G). It will rise 11 floors, with 150 parking spaces underground*, and feature a restaurant on the corner of 16th and I. The church will be embedded in the office building, but distinguished with a glass atrium on the second and third floors and a retail-style storefront for the bookstore. At 10,000 square feet, it's about the same size, but has a much smaller footprint; the current building has a lot of unusable space. Darrow Kirkpatrick, chair of the church's redevelopment committee, tells me the new auditorium will have room for 400 people, while the current one seats only 125.

The development team will come back before the ANC a couple times over the next month, and after clearing the Historic Preservation Review Board, will submit its planned unit development application to the Zoning Commission early next year. There's no timeline to commence construction, but the team does hope to finish up by early 2015—by which time they'll hopefully also have a tenant.

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* An earlier version contained inaccurate information relayed by a public relations representative for the developers.

  • Brightwood 34

    I see this building Monday - Friday looking it looks more like a jail then a church.. Glad it is being redone.

  • http://blogs.forbes.com/stephensmith/ Stephen Smith

    Are the 300 spaces required by minimums, or are they the developer's choice?

    /too lazy to go code-digging

  • RT

    We need to ensure that 16th Street and I Street has as much retail as possible (basically the entire first floor sans library and church bookstore). 16th Street is lifeless and needs a loottttt of help

  • Thayer-D

    This is great news, and I'm really glad they've hired an architect who might add something to our streetscape other than another monument to their ego.

  • Jim

    I heard that at one point during their search for an architect for this project ICG was in contact with Morphosis, but sadly couldn't get them to call back. Thom Mayne could've done something much more exciting and dynamic than Stern is capable of. It's sad that, despite it's positive impact on the city, DC's bureaucratic oversight is at a point where some preeminent architects won't go anywhere near this city. At least we have Mayne's NOAA building out in Suitland.

  • DCCommish

    It's goning to be office space...a resturant..does anyone know if they pay any property tax on that. One thing for a church where people wroship not to pay taxes. But a resturant is going to pay property tax? Any church that isn't using the property for worship should be taxed at the same rate as a commerical space. It's outragoues if they don't!

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  • Thayer-D

    The question of whether a building should be exciting and dynamic or whether it should help build a greater whole needs further analysis. One always hears the refrain that DC has a stoggy architectural culture, but what kind of buildings generally make up DC's most desirable neighborhoods?
    A cursory analysis reveals that the fabric of Georgetown, DuPont, and Capitol Hill don't rely on novelty, rather it's the subtle play on common themes that defines their character. If every building screamed for attention by striving for dynamism and excitement, I could imagine a cacofonous environment that would alienate people. Why doesn't this basic fact ever seem to inform this perenial question of DC's architectural character?
    That would be a very interesting discussion.

  • Chris Hatch

    I'm curious as to why there will be a larger auditorium. When I attended church there were only a handful of people attending. Will the auditorium be used for other venues than church?

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  • AH

    @Jim - why would the church want Thom Mayne! They would just end up having to repeat the cycle of trying to demolish an ugly and unusable building 20 years down the road.

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