Housing Complex

Historic Preservation Board Rejects Big K Plans

01_Cedar Hill Flats-FI-08-28-13

Anacostia residents who were infuriated by plans to erect a six-story development on their main street can breathe a sigh of relief: The historic preservation authorities have sent the project back to the drawing board.

Yesterday, the Historic Preservation Review Board considered the plans for the so-called Big K project on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, within the Anacostia historic district. The plans call for five floors of income-restricted apartments above ground-floor retail.

The HPRB unanimously rejected the plans, a project of Chapman Development in coordination with the Department of Housing and Community Development, for largely the same reasons the community has objected to them. They worry that the scale and look of the project are out of place in low-slung Anacostia. They feel that insufficient care and consideration has gone into the proposal to move two historic, if dilapidated, houses on the site to V Street SE. And so they're asking Chapman and DHCD to try again.

Developer Tim Chapman says he will continue working on the design to try to accommodate the neighbors' and the HPRB's objections. "Our next steps would be that we have heard the community’s concerns, and we’re going to go back and see if we can make the project more conducive to what they’re looking for."

A reworking of the plans would likely involve reducing the scale of the project, perhaps by lopping off a story or two. But incorporating the historic houses into a new development—particularly in a way that satisfies the HPRB—could prove a tremendous challenge, given their setback from the street and single-family form.

DHCD could also theoretically re-bid the project—something neighbors have been calling for, given their criticism of the process that landed Chapman the job. A DHCD spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rendering from PGN Architects

  • NE John

    It will eventually be reworked and be approved - and will have the look of Homer Simpson's car that he designed.

  • David

    This is a growing city, these neighbors have their heads in the sand. More density is what is needed to revitalize Anacostia. And since when is 6 stories a huge building on a busy street like that?

  • Hill Dude

    It's time for a comprehensive reworking of historic preservation law in DC. This is just crazy. A few days ago, the HPRB gave landmark status to some hideous I. M. Pei buildings in SW effectively cutting the size of a useful and interesting development by a third; now, they squash a needed and useful development because it's too big.

    The capriciousness and and fanaticism of the HPRB are, of course, a known quantity and the costs of the delays and foregone projects that they impose just get passed onto homeowners. Still, why the city is not up in arms and screaming for their ouster is an enduring mystery.

  • nivin

    How does adding 5 stories of section 8 houssing to that corner revitalize anything. More density, yes. More "income-restricted" housing no.

  • Philco

    You can have density anywhere. Put the density where you don't have to destroy the two oldest buildings in Anacostia.

  • Bob

    This is a decision that should be applauded, and not just on its merits. It underscores that in our growing city, historic preservation matters not just in affluent areas like Georgetown and Cleveland Park, but also in Anacostia. The HPRB chose to respect the rich history and architectural context of that neighborhood. It's an important affimation that historic preservation matters around our city, no matter income levels or political clout. It means that just because a neigbhborhood is east of the river, historic considerations should not be sacrificed for some party's frenetic pursuit of a buck, no matter how we dress it up with today's buzz words of "density", "vibrancy", "smart growth" and, yes, "buzz." I'm sure that a better, more suitable project will be built on the site.

  • Ward 8’s Baby

    There are several ugly-ass buildings on this block. How does the historic preservation board say this building does not fit the historic character of the neighborhood? Not to mention all the office buildings coming to the lots near the big chair across from the Big K site. This building would fit in well with those. This is why the community can't grow up out of poverty.

  • reading is fundamental

    "How does adding 5 stories of section 8 houssing to that corner revitalize anything"

    It's not "Section 8", it's capped at 60% of the AMI. In this town, that's people who make 70K and under, hardly the type of incomes that qualify for Section 8. SMH.

  • jhuenn

    Did the HPRB call for "incorporating the historic houses into a new development"? I ask, because the staff report was fine with moving them a couple of blocks to a quieter, residential street. It seemed like the planning office's main objection was the size of the building, since there's nothing in the historic district that's over 3 stories, the height seemed overwhelming. The big office buildings are up the street toward Metro, this block of MLK is nothing but parking lots and abandoned buildings.

  • NW Watcher

    "A hard head makes for a soft behind." The blame hear lies with DHCD and Tim Chapman. Both parties had plenty of opportunity to talk with the key stakeholders early and often. Instead they avoided having the conversations thinking they did not need community support.

    Well now Chapman says "Our next steps would be that we have heard the community’s concerns, and we’re going to go back and see if we can make the project more conducive to what they’re looking for."

    C'mon Man!

  • CongressHeights

    Ya'll need to take it easy on these community folks. If you have read past articles you would know that "everyone and their momma" feel that the site should be developed. The difference in opinion is "HOW" it should be developed.

  • Born & Raised Washingtonian

    I work in Anacostia near the proposed site. This area certainly needs some development and improvements. A mixed used living and retail building is a good idea. Make the adjustments and let's get the ball rolling!

  • Mustafa

    The truth of the matter is, is that they want to push poor people out of Anacostia. Anacostia do NOT need anymore development. When they went uptown with there development many Blacks became homeless

  • Whitney

    Anacostia needs MARKET RATE housing. None of the "affordable" crap, which just means low income. No thank you. Yes, back to the drawing board please.

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