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Old Italian Embassy Development Project Now Finally Underway After Many Years of Planning

Accompanying images can be viewed in the March 2016 issue PDF

By Anthony L. Harvey

The relatively small double block lots in Adams Morgan bounded by Mozart Place, Columbia Road, and 16th and Fuller Streets, will soon see the beginning of construction of the long-awaited, handsomely designed new luxury apartment building on Mozart and Fuller that incorporates the former Italian Embassy building that fronts on 16th Street next to the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple and is being called Il Palazzo.

An ambitious, adaptive re-use of an historic landmark building, it combines the beautiful Italian Renaissance palazzo-like former embassy facing 16th Street with a contemporary addition behind it on the corner of Mozart and Fuller. The former embassy will retain its original façade together with the half circle drive leading to its formal entrance off 16th Street. The larger, and taller addition will have entrances on Fuller and Mozart together with a garage entrance to two levels of underground parking located on Mozart at the north edge of the new building toward Columbia Road. Together, the combined structures will reportedly accommodate up to 130 high-end rental apartment units.

Joe Muffler, an associate with Mid-Atlantic Development and the community liaison for the project, which is being developed by Mill Creek Residential, appeared before the Adams Morgan ANC at its February meeting to present an informal briefing on the construction schedule; he also displayed a large-scale site plan rendering complete with depictions of colorful plantings.

Construction, he reported, is slated to begin in July, of this year, with completion of construction forecast for January, 2018 and final completion set for July, 2018. Interior demolition of the existing 16th Street embassy building and its 1930s chancellery addition on Fuller Street will take about 90 days, starting next month, lasting three months; the garage structure toward the rear of the double lot will demolished.

Muffler stated his commitment to working closely with the ANC and the community on the specific details of the demolition and new  construction activities and pledging to involve both in the negotiations with the District’s transportation department regarding a traffic plan, the use of public space sidewalks and on-street parking, the routing and scheduling of demolition and construction trucks, and other matters such as noise and debris mitigation.

Further, Muffler also noted that he will be coordinating the Il Palazzo construction scheduling with that of the Scottish Rite Temple’s nine-story, 120-unit residential project planned for construction on the site of its rear surface parking lot adjacent to the north side of the Il Palazzo site when that project begins.

Editor’s Note:This historic former embassy building, with accompanying vintage photographs, was the subject of the March 2006 “Scenes from the Past” feature on page 12 of that issue’s PDF. Also see in that same issue the page 1 lead story, “Former Embassy Designation as Historic Roils Adams Morgan Residents; ANC and Preservation League at Odds With HPRB.” And to view the architect’s original design renderings which were submitted to the HPRB for the required review, click here.