ANC 6B Opposes Historic Designation of Folger Addition

ANC 6B Report - July 2019

433

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B voted to oppose an application to include a historic designation of the Hartman-Cox addition to the Folger Shakespeare Library (201 East Capitol St. SE).

The DC Preservation League (DCPL) submitted an application to the DC Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) to designate both the interior and exterior spaces of the addition as a District Historic Landmark.

Discussion on the application concerned the addition, which is at the rear, or south, of the Paul Philippe Cret building, the main marble building completed in 1932 and already a National Historic Site. The Cox addition was built in 1983 on top of a 1958 below-grade office space, and originally contained a reading room and archival storage space.

The landmarks committee of DCPL identifies structures or features that should be preserved and prepares nominations of buildings to submit to HPRB. While building owners are typically informed of the process, they do not have to agree. To be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a building must be 50 years old or more. There are no similar age guidelines for buildings to be designated on the District Register.

Noting the good relationship with and respect that the Folger had for the DC Preservation League, Folger Director Michael Witmore said that Folger opposed the historic application. Witmore said that while the Folger had no plans to demolish the addition, any future expansion that would allow the library to remain in the Cret building would have to take place along the south side of the site, where the addition is located. “Our future as an institution depends on our ability to serve, exhibit and work with this landmark collection in the Paul Cret building,” he said.

The Folger library has prepared a Historic Preservation Application (HPA) for interior renovations to the addition if the nomination is approved. The renovation would include no permanent changes to the interior.

DCPL argued that the addition meets the threshold for historical designation in four areas, including merits of history, architecture and urbanism, artistry as well as being the work of a master. A representative said the addition is notable as it presented a unique design solution to the problem of building over the 1958 space, which was unable to support the weight of an addition by using inverted ‘L’-shaped beams. As well, it is a modernist interpretation of Tudor Revival architecture, a distinct but complementary addition to the Cret building.

Commissioner Jennifer Samolyk (6B01) said she was shocked that the addition would be considered for historic designation, saying that the decision to pursue the application seemed ‘arbitrary’.

ANC 6B voted 7-2 to oppose the nomination, saying that the addition was too young for such a designation and arguing that it does not meet the historic and artistic thresholds for the designation. The letter asked that if HPRB chooses to accept the nomination, it should designate the exterior but not the interior.

DGS Public Space Permits
Commissioner Steve Holtzman (6B05) said that there was no need to discuss the Department of General Services (DGS) application for a Public Space Construction Permit for the installation of a temporary playground on Parcel 1, as the permit had been administratively granted on June 14, although the ANC had not been informed. Construction was slated to begin July 22.

The administrative process precluded public comment on the plans, Holtzman said, although both he and Chair Chander Jayaraman (6B08) said they had received many substantive comments and concerns from the public since the permit details had been released.

DGS also submitted a Public Space Permit Application to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) on July 5 in preparation for construction on the Eastern Market Metro Plaza (EMMP) project.

According to the permit, construction on the plaza project could begin in the first week of December. The permit will be heard by the DDOT Public Space Committee at their meeting August 22.

Commissioners expressed disappointment that the hearing had been scheduled for August, when many constituents and commissioners would be out of town and unable to comment, arguing that the Public Space hearing was the one opportunity for Commissioners and members of the public to comment on EMMP as part of the formal procedure.

ANCs do not meet during the month of August.

Commissioners voted 9-0-0 to send a letter to DDOT Director Jeff Marootian and DDOT Associate Director for the Public Space Regulations Division (PSRD) Matthew Marcou, asking DDOT to defer the hearing on the EMMP Public Space Permit until September in order to facilitate public comment. The letter will also express discontent with the process, asking for an explanation for why the ANC had been excluded from commenting on a formal process.

Letter on Halloween Closure of East Capitol
Commissioner Corey Holman (6B06) presented a letter to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) asking them to investigate the feasibility of closing East Capitol Street the evening of Halloween. The letter is a fact-finding letter, establishing feasibility. Such an idea would require the support of residents, that the closure be viable in terms of cost and safety, and not create unintended traffic complications for the surrounding area. The letter poses questions about feasibility (especially in regard to bus routes and best possible times of closure), safety, impact on pedestrian safety and traffic on surrounding streets, feasibility given current resources, and whether the closure would be subject to car removal as part of the Clean Routes Initiative.

Commissioners debated whether the increased pedestrian safety resulting from such a closure would be negated by increased traffic in the area. Some suggested that increased lighting and police presence might be a more feasible solution. Noting that the letter was an effort to establish the feasibility of such a closure, the commission supported it 8-1-0.

Jessica Sutter Presentation
Ward 6 State Board of Education (SBOE) representative Jessica Sutter updated the commission on board activities. Outlining the role of the Board, she noted that this year it had established working groups to look at teacher retention, enriched education and social studies standards. In addition, a research committee was assigned to gather information to inform the committees and their work.

A former Social Studies teacher, Sutter said she would chair the Social Studies Standards committee. It will re-examine the standards for curriculum, which she said have not been revised since 2006 and lack elements such as cultural competency and civics.

New School Interested in Cesar Chavez HS Site
Sutter said a new school was looking to occupy the former site of Cesar Chavez High School (700 12th St. SE) which left at the end of last year. The Digital Pioneer Academy, a middle school serving grades 6 and 7, wants to relocate from 2220 Branch Ave. SE. The school focuses on computer science at every grade level. The school plans to add a grade 8 class, but currently has no plans to expand to grade 5 or to the higher grades, she said.

Other Matters
The ANC voted to support:

  • A resolution in regard to 5G Cellular Antennae Installation by a vote of 8-1, asking that the DDOT Public Space Committee create a step in the process by which the ANC could intervene if they identify a problematic proposed installation. Currently companies only have to notify the ANC of installations that meet DDOT guidelines, and there is no option for the ANC to protest.
  • A letter asking the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) to delay a status hearing scheduled for August 7 as well as the protest date for the application from District Soul Food (500 Eighth St. SE) until after a mediation hearing scheduled for August 21, ideally for a date after Sept 18. The letter was supported by a vote of 9-0.
  • An application for restaurant liquor license renewal for Bombay Street Food (524 Eighth St. SE), a new restaurant at the former site of Garrison Restaurant, 9-0.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B held the July meeting of the full commission at the Hill Center Tuesday, July 10. On the dais: Jennifer Samolyk (6B01), Gerald Sroufe (6B02, Secretary), Brian Ready (6B03, Parliamentarian), Kirsten Oldenburg (6B04), Steve Holtzman (6B05), Corey Holman (6B06, Treasurer), Kelly Waud (6B07), Chander Jayaraman (6B08, Chair), Kasie Clark (6B09, Vice Chair). Denise Krepp (6B10) was absent due to a work commitment.

There are no ANC meetings in the month of August. The next meeting of ANC 6B will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, September 10 at the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital (921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE). Visit anc6b.org for more info, email 6b@anc.dc.gov or find @ANC6B on Twitter.