Thursday, December 20, 2007

HALRB: Envisioned Buildings West of Glebe "Too Big."

This post was edited lightly after it was first published this morning, just to clarify that the project is still very early in process. --ST

The buildings envisioned for a redeveloped corner on the west side of the N. Glebe Road and N. Pershing Drive intersection were called “horrible,” “fussy,” and “wedding cake” (because of the layered look) by members of the county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board last night. But mainly, the buildings were called too large.

The buildings were so large that Robert Dudka asked if the companies should consider adding a second floor over the buildings on the other side of the street, over the strips that house the Buckingham Florist and the SunTrust bank.

“Is this heresy?” Mr. Dudka asked the other HALRB members, county staff, and the developers, Georgetown Strategic Capital, all sitting at the table.

The general consensus was no, it’s not heresy to add a second storey to these historically protected buildings. The original plan for the buildings was to extend the second floors, already in place above the post office and Cassiana Spa, over the rest of both strips. In a way, adding a second floor would be finishing what had been started 50 years ago.

Members of the HALRB consider a three-dimensional model of the Glebe at Pershing redevelopment. (Click to enlarge the image.)

The idea behind adding a second floor to buildings east of Glebe Road is to alleviate some of the massing and density that caused the west side buildings to balloon.

It was the “massing” (how many units they can put into one lot and how big the buildings can get) and “site management” (how to handle and layout the space they have) that Georgetown Strategic Capital wanted to focus on during the meeting. For them, it was less about the exact details of the building, said Bob Moore, a principal with the firm.

This photo of the three dimensional model looks east along N. Pershing Drive from N. George Mason Drive. (Click to enlarge the image.)

“How do you feel about the massing?” Mr. Dudka asked another board member, Nancy Iacomini.

“I think the massing is too great, the height is too great,” she responded. Earlier she had said that the “horrible” buildings just did not fit with the surrounding architecture.

“You can tell one of these is not like the others,” she said.

The basic plans unveiled last night tear down all the commercial buildings west of Glebe Road—the CVS/Ravi Kabob, the Glebe Market, the El Paso/Popeye’s/Woofs buildings—and replace them with long, four-storey buildings that are set much closer to Pershing Drive than the current buildings.

Street levels would have retail space and parking underneath patios and second floors—portions of one building look a bit like a car port. Both buildings also have parking garages in the basements. The upper floors are apartments. The affordable units would be market rate affordable, which means they would not be high end units, probably renting from $1,000 to $2,000 per month.

Mr. Moore said he was willing to consider transferring some of the density to the buildings across Glebe Road. His company must get a certain number of units in order to make the project economically feasible.

As Mr. Chon, the owner of the Glebe Market will be retiring, that market will not be returning to the renovated space. However, Mr. Moore said the CVS, El Paso, Ravi Kabob, Popeyes, and Woofs Dog Training, will all be returning to the building on the north side of Pershing.

That leaves about 44,000 square feet of retail space on first floor of the building across Pershing. Georgetown Strategic said they have been in touch with Trader Joe’s and Yes! Organic Market, what they called “pocket stores,” to replace the Glebe Market. Members of the HALRB seemed not to love that idea, either, saying that the Glebe Market and Trader Joe’s are not similar enough.

“I think it’s part of the normal process” of discussion and design Mr. Moore said after the meeting. The process is expected to continue through 2008.

This drawing considers the buildings from a pedestrian's point-of-view, on N. Pershing Drive as one approaches the intersection from the east (the Ashton Heights neighborhood). The brown building in the foreground on the left is the current SunTrust bank. (Click to enlarge the image, provided by Georgetown Strategic Capital).

The architect on hand, Scott Matties, called the “horrible” remark “one person’s attitude.”

Both he and Mr. Moore wanted to get the HALRB, staff and community to look at the buildings not from the top down, but from the street level, and evaluate it from that perspective.

“We came tonight with lots of streetscape points-of-view,” Mr. Matties said, adding, that the bird’s eye view, “It’s not how you experience it.”

This view from a sidewalk on Glebe Road looks north toward Ballston. The building in the center of the drawing replaces the current Glebe Market building. (Click to enlarge the image, provided by Georgetown Strategic Capital.)

Related stories…
  • DRC to Consider Glebe/Pershing Redevelopment
  • Company Exploring Glebe/Pershing Redevelopment

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