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First Baptist Church’s 17th & O Streets Lot Finally Getting Developed

By P.L. Wolff

Accompanying images can be viewed in the current issue PDF

After nearly five decades, the First Baptist Church of Washington, DC’s large corner lot at 17th and O Streets, NW that had been used for its parking and nursery school playground was the site of construction ribbon cutting on December 2nd, presided over by the church’s pastor,  Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, along with the principals of the developer, Keener-Squire Properties.

As we originally reported in July 2011, pursuant to a 99-year ground lease, the church has entered into an agreement with Keener-Squire to construct a seven-story rental apartment building on the site. Included will be 92 underground parking spaces, with 56 for the residents and 36 reserved for the church’s use. The project architect is the prominent local firm of Eric Colbert & Associates.

Following the final issuance of the DC Board of Zoning Adjustment’s approval for a height variance for the eastern portion of the site this past spring, the number of rental units was set at 218, of which eight percent will be below market rate in accordance with the District’s affordable housing requirement for new residential projects. Included will be 92 underground parking spaces, 56 of which will be for the residents and 36 for use by the church. 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.

Initially, back in the summer of 2011 when the plans were first revealed, the project was the subject of much vocal controversy by many of its neighbors and others in the community. Ultimately, however, when the design was considered by the Dupont Circle Conservancy at its July 20, 2011 meeting, the building’s design was approved, the decision to do so 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:  To view the original project design plan submitted to HPRB in 2011, visit http://tinyurl.com/4394ox7 and to view the 2011 zoning adjustment application submitted to BZA, visit http://tinyurl.com/3vj4pej.]