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Dupont East’s First Baptist Church Parking Lot to be No More; Ground to Break by End of Year for Eric Colbert & Assoc.-Designed Apartment House

After nearly five decades, the large corner lot at 17th and O Streets, NW will soon no longer be used for the church’s parking and nursery school playground. Pursuant to a 99-year ground lease, the church has entered into an agreement with local developer Keener-Squire Properties to construct a nine-story rental apartment building on the site. The project architect is the prominent local firm of Eric Colbert & Associates. (See archictect’s rendering below.)

Depending on how the Board of Zoning Adjustment rules on the application for a height variance for the eastern portion of the site (present zoning allows for 90 feet on the western, 17th Street side), there will be between 185 to 230 rental units of which eight percent will be below market rate in accordance with the District’s affordable housing requirement for new residential projects. The development firm’s Gary Squire has told The InTowner that they will not be providing for the option allowing subsequent conversion to condominium; that this will remain as a rental project only.

Architect’s rendering (Eric Colbert & Assoc., courtesy Keener-Squire Properties) showing building as it will be seen from the northwest corner of 17th Street & Massachusetts Avenue. Across O Street to the left is shown the Richmond apartments and to the right a portion of the Airline Pilots Association building; the Bay State apartments can be seen at the far left of the image.

In addition to the public showing and explanation of the plans that was held outside in the church’s parking lot at 17th and O Streets on Thursday, July 28th, the plans will be presented to the Dupont Circle ANC for consideration at its regular monthly meeting on August 10th  and to the Historic Preservation Board on Thursday, September 22nd.

The Dupont Circle Conservancy, at its July 20th meeting, gave its approval to the building’s design, seemingly influenced by the following assessment provided by the Historic Preservation Office’s Deputy Director, Steve Calcott:

The site isn’t one with a particularly strong historic context for a new building to relate to. While the building is technically being added to the 16th Street church lot, it is a full block away on 17th Street and will read as an entirely separate structure; I don’t think you can even see the site when standing in front of the church. The Airline Pilots’ Association Building to the south is non-contributing to the Mass Ave district and the Richmond Apartments to the north is non-contributing to Dupont Circle HD; the church annex that stands between the church and the new building is compatible with the church but was built in the 1980s, so is also non-contributing. I think the architect has done a good job at trying to make it a pleasant, residential feeling building with its own contemporary character, while at the same time taking a few of its design cues (coloration, vaguely Deco styling) from the Bay State and the Boston House across the street (both of which are contributing to the Mass Ave district).

[Ed. Note, 8/30/11:  To view the project design plan submitted to HPRB, visit and to view the zoning adjustment application submitted to BZA, visit]

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