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Preservation Review Board’s OK of Design for Stead Park’s Building Opposed by Some

Accompanying images can be viewed on page 1 of the March 2018 issue pdf

By William G. Schulz*

 A proposed renovation of Dupont East’s historic Stead Park Recreation Center that includes a building addition and other new structures cleared probably the biggest hurdle yet when The Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) voted 8 to 0 at its February 28, 2018 meeting to approve the project’s architectural design by Outerbridge Horsey Associates.

Outerbridge Horsey is an HPRB board member and he recused himself from the vote. He also was once a board member of Friends of Stead Park, the nonprofit group piloting the renovation, but no longer holds that position.

Critics of the project, including Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA) President Robin Diener, frequently cite Horsey’s potential conflicts of interest as a reason for wanting to see alternative designs from another architect before the city starts spending money on the construction.

As The InTowner reported in November 2017, the city council has pledged a whopping $10 million toward the project, with groundbreaking scheduled for October 2019 — a year-and-a-half from now. Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans has praised the effort as “an excellent opportunity” to renew and expand what he called “the clubhouse,” but what is promised to be a renovated carriage house with an added multi-use facility to house numerous community group and ANC meetings, arts activities and more.

But critics of the design have not been swayed. The Dupont Circle Conservancy, for example, voted in January not to support the project, stating, “The impact of the proposed canopy and new western addition should be reconsidered in relation to the existing historic structure and the surrounding historic neighborhood.” Further, it was the considered opinion of the Conservancy that the “design as presented lacks cohesion, and seems to overwhelm the existing historic structure.”

“We think the design team can do better,” said nearby resident and park user Daniel Adler. Adler had urged HPRB not to endorse the project ahead of community consultation on design alternatives.

ANC 2B Commissioner Nick DelleDonne notes that DC Public Libraries uses a protocol that includes community consultation on design alternatives from more than one architect.

“That is what is sorely needed [for Stead Park]. An alternate vision from an architect experienced in civic architecture,” Delledonne further said.

DCCA’s Diener says, while she is no longer fighting the project, she continues to believe the design needs to be “tweaked significantly” to maintain the historic nature of the park.

Friends of Stead Park will hold another community meeting about the planned recreation center changes on March 19 at 6:30 pm at Foundry United Methodist Church, 16th and P Streets.

*Associate Editor William G. Schulz, a resident of Dupont Circle since the 1980s, has been a journalist specializing in science and investigative reporting for over 30 years.

 Copyright © 2018 InTowner Publishing Corp. & William G. Schulz. All rights reserved.