Friday, July 17, 2009

Prevent a Pop-up

Well we can make this a test case. Can you kill a pop up without one of those pesky historic district doohickies?
Here's the situation, there is to be a BZA hearing for 1721 4th Street, N.W. It's the blue house that's being worked on that's across the alley from the Fourth Street Cleaners. Anyway, the owner, a nice guy I'm told, has an application #17934, for a variance from the nonconforming structure provisions under subsection 2001.3, to allow a third story addition to an existing flat (two-family dwelling) in the R-4 District. Third story addition, read Pop-up.
Now pop-ups can be cool, or they can be complete pieces of crap. It could be the house near the corner of R & 5th (cool) or the monstrosity on the unit block of P St NE, or the 1/2 done thing on the 300 block of P NW.

TRIVIA- 1721 4th St NW sits on the block that was owned by the Glorius family from the 1880s to the 1900s, which was later sold to Harry Wardman.

** Public Hearing***
Start Time : 7/28/2009 10:00 AM
AGENDA
Case Number : 17934
Case Name : Application of Behzad Hosseinkhani
Case Summary : (Area Variance) pursuant to 11 DCMR 3103.2, for a variance from the nonconforming structure provisions under subsection 2001.3, to allow a third story addition to an existing flat (two-family dwelling) in the R-4 District at premises 1721 4th Street, N.W. (Square 516, Lot 54).
ANC : 5C01
BZA notice

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Historic house in LeDroit


1900blk 3rd St NW
Originally uploaded by In Shaw
Yesterday I wandered over to 3rd Street NW to admire the history. Please note this house, the chain link fence, the history! Some folks know the significance of this house, which currently is a private home from all indications. So please do not harass the occupants. Up until a few days ago I had passed the house on a few occasions without noting its importance. Then one day I was cleaning off my desk at work and there was this brochure for the National Archives' Regional Archives- Southeast Region in Morrow, GA. As objects of interest they had on the brochure national registration cards for notables who at the time probably weren't that notable when they filled out the card. Of the five cards there are the names and then current addresses for Huey Long, Jr., George Herman Ruth, James E. Carter, and Harry Houdini. And also some guy named Ed who lived on 3rd Street.
----
The house was one of several homes occupied by Edward Kennedy Ellington, also known as Duke Ellington. He was 19 when living at the house pictured.

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Historic Preservation & Sex: Never underestimate the power of spite

As reported in the Sunday Washington Post, the owner of a hunting and fishing store in Old Town Alexandria wanted to expand, was told by the city he couldn't, so he rented the space to a shop specializing in lingerie and 'martial aids'. The then owner of the hunting & fishing shop, Michael Zarlenga, according to the Post did work with city historic preservation staff and a staff member of the Alexandria Board of Architectural Review in developing his plans for expansion of the sporting store. When the plans came up for the Board of Architectural Review to review in 2007, they rejected it The Board staff member Zarlenga was working with decided that the changes would cause an "unreasonable loss of [the] historic fabric." The Board chairman said that the changes would have changed the roof structure.
What makes me feel badly for Zarlenga is that he was supposedly working with city staff and taking their advice and the city just strung him along. Any way the city of Alexandria was mean and made him cry. He closed his store, and until this year it was vacant. And this is where the spite comes in....
Zarlenga rented his space to an adult store, and is thinking of selling the property to them. The owners of the adult store have several other locations in NoVa and was able to get into Old Town because unlike other landlords, Zarlenga was willing to rent to them. The city of Alexandria has received complaints about the store's presence. However, in the long run this may be much ado about nothing. The Pleasure Place, a similar establishment, in DC has two locations, both in historic districts. In addition Zarlenga has another Alexandria property, I'm not sure if it is a part of Old Town, that he's leaving derelict and apparently patching up with duct tape. So with the adult store and the vacant property, that seems like spite.
+++++++
For clarification I am not supporting spite, nor supporting stringing people along.

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

iWant

Dear Apple,
Forget Georgetown. The parking is lousy and there is no metro station. When my Mac mini needs a fixin' or whatever, I don't want to bring it on the bus or haul it on my bike. I could, but I don't want to.
When Georgetown rejects you for the umteenth or whenever you're tired of submitting design proposals you know won't fly with the ANC and the Historic Preservation people, come to the land of the Green line. Columbia Heights, U Street, Gallery Place and Penn Quarter would love to have you. Yes, these areas have historic districts, but they also like business. And the thing with Gallery Place, it's still called Chinatown so you'd have to put Chinese characters on your signage. That shouldn't be a problem since a lot of what you have comes from China anyway.
Gallery Place also has a bunch of hipster white earbud pod people walking around with office drones and other people who will buy your stuff. People like tourists from places where there are no Apple stores. People who want to kill time before a game.
So come to the land of the Green line, you'd like it over here.

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

1115 Rhode Island Ave NW

I lived across the street from this spot for nearly a year in the basement of the squat apartment and never really gave it much thought. Then when I went to work at that place that pays me, I kept seeing the address pop up in various documents and really couldn't place it in my head. Well bopping around in databases it popped up with a picture and now I know why I kept seeing the address, it's part of the Historic American Buildings Survey (Survey number HABS DC-470).
Here's my problem. There are over 900 locations in the District of Columbia in this survey. New York City, over 200. New York is bigger, older, and more f'ing populous why does the District have such a concentration of 'historic' buildings? Among the District's buildings on the list are some notable and inarguably truly historic buildings, with an actual role in national history, and then, there are some plain Janes.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Historic Districts- When Citizens Bite Back

Bloomingdale Scott beat me to it, but there is an article in the InTowner about the citizen opposition to the imposition of an historic district on to their neighborhood. I think that it's great that citizens are challenging and questioning the process of historic districting.
DC has a lot of old houses and buildings, which are labeled historic by virtue of their age, which makes a lot of NW DC and Old City DC targets for districting. What neighborhood doesn't have a number of houses and building 50 years old and older?
Regardless of if an HD assignation is actually appropriate or not for a neighborhood, it is good for the residents and property owners to address their concerns at a point where there is some turning back. For those aiming for HD status, it is good to present their arguments and explanations to their neighbors. And for the Historic Preservation Office and the Historic Preservation Review Board, it can't be easy having to deal with a zillion little HDs all over the place with, so this citizen slow down may be for the best.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

When quaintness attacks!: Washington Globes

I say get a ladder and a can of spray paint if you haven't been able to sleep because of the quaint globe street lights that add that historic feel, but pollute the night sky and creeps around your blinds keeping you awake. In today's Post there is an article about "Washington globe" lights and how they impact the quality of life of residents who can't sleep or see less of the night sky because of these street light fixtures.
I tagged this under historic districts because along with brick walks these quaint looking lights follow. And sometimes they don't have to be in historic districts but they are there for the aesthetics. The high powered light bulb isn't historically accurate but there for street safety and though making the street safer by shining a penetrating light, that same light penetrates parts where it is unwelcomed.
When I bike into and back out of Georgetown, I pass by one of these so fashioned globe street lights and have noticed the house side of it blackened with what could be spray paint. In the day, it looks sort of vandalized and ratty, but I gather it does the job to abate the nighttime annoyance. The other side of the street is protected by thick leafy trees, so they don't have this problem.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

When Historic Districts Attack- Fair Housing

From the tissue strewn couch of InShaw:
I'm a bit ill this week so not much commentary on this, except to say this is an update on a Marc Fisher article I blogged about before. Mr. Fisher updates us, saying others have gotten involved with the elderly couple, such as HUD and some pro-bono lawyers, after reading his first article. So give "Human Dignity Also Needs to Be Preserved" a read.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

When Historic Districts Attack- The 4th Amendment

File under WTF?
Thanks Ray for pointing out an article in the Washington Times (as I hardly ever read that paper) of a couple who won a lawsuit against the DC government for a raid on their home, unlawful seizure of papers from said home, regarding perceived Historic Preservation violations.
A little Google search regarding the saga reveals differing opinions on if the couple actually did the HPRB dance correctly, which is not the matter that makes me fearful, it was the police raid of their home that concerns my little libertarian heart. The portion of the 4th amendment the violation in this is "no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
According to the lawsuit [pdf] a March 26, 2003 warrant was issued to search the home of Ms. Elkins and Mr. Robbins, but the warrant didn't say anything about seizing papers or the like. The next day DC's finest and DCRA "officials went throughout the home (including the
bedrooms of sick children home from school), opening drawers, observing, and taking photos."
Seriously, this is just supposed to be about exterior crap, not worthy of a f*ing raid. One of the few things I agree with the pro-Historic District people on is that HDs are about the outside aesthetics of house, and what can be observed from the street, etc, etc. However, this, is something else. Investigate the case for yourself, decide if DC went too far a violated a family's privacy and order.
On the bright side, Ms. Elkins, an artist, has turned her experience into art.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Both sides of the coin

Just bringing to your attention an article in the Sunday Post about historic districts, "Harsh Realities for Those Who Buy Historic".

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Historic districts- more stuff from the Eckington Listserv

The exchange on the yahoo listserv has been quite informative.
First off, let me say that I respect those who support HDs difference of opinion, as I strongly disagree with it. Y'all have your own reasons for support, I have my own for not supporting certain HDs. Second, I believe in the marketplace of ideas, where the different sides present their arguments and evidence and let people judge for themselves. And lastly, let us acknowledge the subjectiveness of several terms that get bandied about in these things like expensive and burdensome. What is fine and not a problem for one person could be hard and disastrous for another.
Scott Roberts provided info about the fight against Brookland HD designation:
"Battle of the Vinyl Windows" by Jeff Horwitz, Washington City Paper, 8/5/05
"Brookland: Historical or Hysterical? Possible Designation Riles Brooklanders" by Elizabeth McGowan DC North August 2005
"Historic District Off the List", DC North September 2005
Mentioned in the articles listed above was Carolyn Steptoe on the side against, who also has added to the Eckington list discussion. She mentioned that HD designation occurs in 3 phases and the process was in phase 3 when she learned of it. It appears the sampling of Brookland residents she queried knew nothing of any of the phases. Her statements also make me wonder about community input and awareness, which can go to the problem of communication, which can be difficult when dealing with different populations regardless of the issue.
A comment via the Bloomingdale listserv (which I'm not on) wandered on reading:
"The Historic Preservation Board may have advise on renovations, windows and doors, etc; however, what they suggest is not always what they will approve. They still have final approval of any and all exterior renovations to a historic dwelling. AND, if you have a door that lets out heat during the winter and A/C in the summer, you cannot just go to Home Depot and buy a door to replace the bad one. You must submit an application, get on the calendar (which usually takes one month or more) and sometimes submit drawings, pictures, and other documents, to help the Board with their decision. Even after all that, they still may not approve your door. So the simple task of changing a defective door, is not so easy anymore. Plus during the review process, your neighbors can attend the review meeting and "have their say" as to whether they like, or don't like what your are doing to your house. If they express a negative opinion, the board can side with your neighbors and you must start again. Thus, the process for you to actually change your door becomes subject to the red-tape of the system. So it could take several months and even years to get your defective door replaced. The same process goes for any change you wish to make I.E. painting the exterior, replacing gutters, anything associated with the exterior. Having this designation is a double-edge sword. It will be good for keeping the architectural fabric of the neighborhood consistent, and will stop the unsightly 3rd floor additions, but will make simple tasks of keeping your home nice looking and efficient harder for everyone."

And this last thought (as this post is getting long) there is an extra consideration one must take in. There are things you can do without a permit from DCRA such as installing window screens and storm windows; repairing exisiting fencing with like materials; painting (whether they mean interior or exterior it is not clear); brick pointing; replacing non-rated windows & doors; replacing roofing, siding and gutter and so on IF you don't live in a historic district (see DCRA Permit Factsheet PDF).

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

InShaw's Historic Preservation Greatest Hits

There is a, er, discussion, going on over on the Eckington Listserv about historic districting. And it was funny re-reading my words as one of my old posts was used as part of the argument against HDs. Although I love history, and I'm truly blessed to work in a history field, I strongly believe that history has its place and it should not always be dominate. I also take issue with a push for HDs motivated by something other than an actual historical narrative that has some meaning and value outside of the place in question. Upper-middle class aesthetics (and a inaccurate view of the past based on romantic notions) to me do not justify the extra complication of an HD on the homeowner or landlord.

Gentrification and Historic Preservation:
Part 1-- Intro
Part 2-- This Old House vs Old House Journal
Part 2a
Part 2B
Part 3-- When it is Right

Why don't we make the whole d@mned District Historic and get it over with- Really what isn't 'historic' or old in this city.

Still Anti-Historic District- Read the comments about the windows.

Rob Goodspeed has a great post on the topic of DC Historic Districts and the Architecture of Gentrification.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Historic Preservation

Richard Layman of Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space, has a posting where the comments exchange got me to thinking about what Historic Preservationist people could do to improve. The topic was attracting younger volunteers but something in the comments about the problem with leadership, made me wonder if what would make the groups appeal to younger volunteers would also make them more attractive to the general public. First, need to state that I'm a bit distrustful of historic preservation groups and historic districting. Not for the sake of being contrarian, but because I see some HP and HD efforts counter to certain values I hold.
So here are some suggestions:

1. Get leadership that inspires and engages the general public. Not just wealthy donors, but the volunteers, all generations, homeowners, renters, regular Joes and such with a vision that speaks to them and their values.

2. Discernment and at least do a better job at publicizing it. Historic preservation groups come off to me like the girls who can't say no. But I do realize that you don't approve everything, and you don't find every old building to be 'historic'. If you publicized what isn't historic a bit better that would calm my fears a bit. Not completely, but it builds confidence that you might be able to determine what is historic and what isn't.

3. More honey and less vinegar. Take a cue from the environmental/ green movement. Knowing that some people will do wrong, trust that most people want to do right and encourage them and their efforts big and small.

4. Show more sensitivity to different income levels, abilities, and aspirations. Some people are DIY people, some people are on fixed incomes, some people need to age in place and some are really into being green and saving the environment. Tax breaks and low interest/subsidized loans are not the same as a grant (learned that in college I did). What options exist for green homeowners who want solar panels, green roofs, compact florescent bulbs in exterior light fixtures and maybe some other early adapter type green tech that isn't really pretty?

5. Be positively proactive. In a neighborhood with townhouses where the average square footage ranges below 1,000 to 1,500, it is possible that families intent on remaining in the District might want to add space. If you've got architects and artists, maybe they can draw up a pattern book of acceptable additions for the various District building styles, for various needs (growing family, aging in place, etc) at various price points. Same for wheelchair ramps, not-so-steep stairs, and wider door entrances. And though it is something that can get dated quickly, provide local locations where items to purchase are and price ranges. Telling me not to use regular cement from Home Depot to patch up a brick wall is useless information. Telling me that I need type 3 cement and I can get it at Fragers on Capitol Hill for around X dollars, helpful. Maybe HP and HD groups do this, if they do publicize it more. Realize what peoples' needs are and address them before the construction/ repairing begins.

These are just suggestions, dismiss at will.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Not with the Historic Districting of Columbia

I have faith that the Invisible Hand will ball up into a fist and smite the creators of the ugly.
Yes, I saw the Washington Post article about ugly tops. Pop up roofs are ugly in suburbia when they plopped on top of bungelows, and they are ugly in the city. It's just ugly all around.
However, I don't believe, that the hammer of historic districting is the solution. Maybe the screwdriver of zoning, is a better tool. And then there is the chisle of legistlation to allow just banning, if not regulating, the use of the hated vinyl siding, like single beers and go cups?
Really, what inch of the District isn't historic? Okay, maybe bits of Ward 8 which were developed in the middle of the 20th century, but what isn't over 50 years old with some sort of from the bottom up people's history?
Instead, I believe the truly ugly will come at a price to the developer and the seller. For one tack off points for curb appeal. Yes, they get to say that they've added a bedroom, more space, what have you, but then they are also competing with other say 3 bedroom, 2,000 sq ft houses that were designed to be those kinds of houses. Secondly, even when the market was hot, I've seen ugly houses just sit. But that's only in my area, maybe ugly sells like hotcakes in Columbia Heights. There are also other things that developers, or others getting a house ready to sell do that are useless, like large decks off bedrooms.
Also, I believe what has been done can, with the will and money, can be undone. True window sizes can be restored, proper turrets returned (unless there is something in the DC building code against them), bricks replaced, siding removed, and better design implemented. We renovate kitchens, transform yards, add things, remove things over the years, as occupants change things. You truly lose something when the thing is completly demolished.
So lets start the petition to ban vinyl siding and regulate extra floor additions to pre-exisiting housing since the goal isn't to preserve some vague history but rather to prevent that which is an abomination in your eyes.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

U.G.L.Y. you ain't got no alibi


Uglyhouse
Originally uploaded by In Shaw
This picture was taken some 3 years back of a house on the 1500 block of 3rd Street, NW. Since this picture was taken and I ranted about it's ugliness in 2004, I have yet to see anybody living in it. Three years and nothing, all that ugly for naught. Of course the house might have other problems.
Confusing windowAnother house that has seemingly sat vacant for years is at the corner of Marion and Q Sts NW. It is not so much ugly as it is confusing. There are two windows, one sitting on top of the other, allowing light into a space, well I'm not sure how that space is to be used. It would make a lovely spot for a spiral staircase, but I'm not sure where one would be going and the reasons for traffic flow in and out are not obvious. Now, it looks like there might have been a door there long time ago, and maybe the house was renovated to look like this but it just don't make no sense.
Check 'n' GoLastly, not a house but a business, is the Check 'n' Go or the rob people of their paycheck with usury fees. Note the top portions where windows have been busted in and out and the masonry (you may need to click on the photo to get to a bigger image). Yes, I know Historic Districts would prevent the remuddling, and make my whites whiter, my brights brighter and reduce crime by 98%. But some of you know how I hate history being prostituted out for reasons other than strong history. Besides, ugly remuddling would be true to the historic slum look because the 'Shaw' identity seems to be more 1960s urban renewal than 1890s Victorian. And what's more true to the story than a check cashing place in a messed up building?
I believe in the invisible hand of the market coming down and smiting those who would make the ugly. They have been punished by their wickedness with properties that bear little fruit. May those who screwed up residential properties wail and nash their teeth and pay the vacant property tax. As for the ugly commercial property, maybe location, location, location may override the ugly when a business is looking for a place to be (and I don't see a long life for the check cashing place), or maybe not.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Three who improved my Sunday

Let's start with Peter. I made a 2nd run over to the Bloomingdale farmer's market to pick up snacks for the weekend painting. While I was there I noticed some guy in front of the Big Bear playing guitar. His back was to the market, facing the R Street entrance of the Bear, but I knew who it was, it was Peter, a neighbor. He and his wife live a block from my house and it was great to see very local talent. The thing that made me feel good was, I asked Peter to play some blues to enhance my shopping experience, he did, and that made me happy.
Right after leaving the market with a bag of cherries, I ran into another neighbor and gave him a house tour. He validated some of my decisions about painting the brick and the new layout which made the place unique. If you count the kitchen that was done several years back, the renovations have been quite customized and geared towards pleasing me and not so much a future buyer. I don't/won't have the stainless steel, granite countertop, oak/maple floor, CAC, bricky exposed brick, standard tub, marble tile set up that has become quite common in many renovations. There is nothing wrong in liking and wanting those things, but they don't reflect me and my desires. I like my counter tops to be forgiving with china and glass. I love my heated floors and I love my radiators. The living rm floors were recycled from what was under the carpet. The tub, a used and now repainted clawfoot, promises me some soaking enjoyment with showering utility. The house has character, now hopefully, the good kind.
Then later that day I met up with a colleague at a mixer (the American Library Association was in town, did you notice?). We were talking, and I mentioned this blog that I'm going to semi-retire and spin off something else that excites me, neighborhood history. Then he and I got to talking about historic districts and preservation and realized we were of the same mind. I can't explain this joy that rushed over me, to encounter someone with a strong academic background in history and a true understanding that not every d*mn thing can be preserved. Then he mentioned that somewhere out there there is some data that recently shows that houses in historic districts do less well in the real estate market because of the restrictions. He also explained the difference between antiquarians and historians.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Body and Spirit

This weekend I got B and IT (and later BL) to join me at the Florida Ave Market (or Capitol City Market). The plan was to hit three or four stores to show them what was there. I forgot my shopping bag, so I didn't buy anything at the places I normally shop. B was in one of his smart-alec moods pointing out what would not appeal to yuppies. No prices on things, no clear lines, etc. He also suggested that if we wanted to save the market the historic preservation people should be brought in. I think I may have actually growled at him.
While the HP people are good at protecting the body, that is the buildings and the structures, I don't think they can preserve the spirit. The market for me is not a collection of warehouse buildings, instead they are a Hodge podge of businesses, a mix of wholesale and retail banded together, the spirit. What they are housed in to me seems fairly irrelevant. The 19th century structures that are there have attached to them squat ugly cinder block, cinder block that seems to distract the eye from the brick.
The spirit is that thing that is when you have these warehouse businesses all together in one place, some providing retail services, selling goods at a low price, in a central DC location. It is my inner libertarian screaming that if the government places some extra burden on the businesses there, be they HP regs or a 'temporary' move or rules to make residential possible, those businesses may fold, leave permanently or pass the expense on to consumers in a way that makes the market less attractive to those consumers.
Even in theological discussions with friends I have trouble defining and describing the spirit. It is a fuzzy thing that I sense and feel. I sense the energy radiating from the people working, pushing handcarts, yelling in a variety of languages. The consumers give off an international, down to business (as the market does service restaurants and other businesses), utilitarian vibe that I feel. And you have the two interacting with each other in a central DC location. If you change the type of business, you screw with the spirit. Change the type of consumers, you change the vibe. Change the location, same thing.
My fear of the city coming in and changing the area is that it will kill the spirit. New businesses would replace the old ones and those new businesses would appeal to a different type of consumer (or a different side of some consumers who do use the market).
At the end of the shopping, at Litteri's we noticed a petition on the counter. So if you'd like, stop in, by a sub or some pasta or wine and sign the petition to preserve the spirit of the market.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

When Historic Preservation Attacks!: Art

Yeah, I'm a stinker. Anywho. Washington Post, this time an article and not just some guy's (admittedly one sided) opinion piece, "'Wall Huggers' Fend off Artists In Annapolis'".
Also there was something else about flower baskets?

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

When Historic Preservation Attacks!: Old people

As reported in the Washington Post.
On one side elderly people, aged 88 & 86.
On the other Historic District, age 19 years protecting house aged 74.
Does medicare cover preservation approved accessiblity options? And doesn't the Americans with Disabilities Act trump historic preservation? As I understand it, residential buildings do not have to comply with ADA but what if the owners want it to be ADA accessible, can it trump historic preservation?

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Modern in Shaw

Okay maybe I've been unfair. So I'd like to try to be a bit more positive. Not all Suzane Reatig projects in Shaw are ugly. Since figuring out how to spell the name correctly and finding the architect firm's site, the firm has done some lovely things in the hood. I also learned historic district- smistoric district, but more of that later.
So. The multi-unit on S Street, across from the Wonderbread, not pretty in my eyes. But you know the row of townhomes near New York Ave, on L, with the colorful doors that look so cute? Suzane Reatig! I know, I found it surprising too! The firm does a little of the same on 5th St and there is supposedly more color in the back.
So the firm can take a townhome and spiff it up a bit.
Now, historic districts. There are a few SR projects within the borders of the Mt. Vernon East Historic District, that's the pink on the map. First thing is the Metropolitan Community Church. Being a traditionalist, my first impressions of MCC was 'oh they've taken a gym and turned it into a church'. Okay, the SR site says different. Another project in the Mt Vernon East area are those lovely glass houses on N Street. I really like the back of them. The front looks very euro-something. The L Street condos previously mentioned also sit in the borders. So modernism can be in an historic district (also noticed a pretty cool Georgetown project too).
The townhomes on the corner of 5th & O look nice, in the pictures. On the ground, a little less so, but the theme of this post is positive about modernism. So there you have it, local Shaw architectural firm, some cute stuff, some not so cute stuff. Some stuff in historic districts, some stuff just sitting across the street from the HD.

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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Still anti-Historic District

Gad, the whole thing makes me not want to continue with my neighborhood research. Actually I just want to shred it all of it and turn it into compost. Start over and do another Old City neighborhood. B. was bright enough to choose a history topic on the other end of town.
The map is of all the historic districts in DC. Except Shaw East which was recently approved as an historic district. So all y'all within the Florida, 7th St, New Jersey, and N St borders got all your window replacements, changes and additions done so they can be grandfathered in. From the looks of the map and when you add Shaw East, the blue/purple takes up a good portion of the Old City 2. How much of the city needs to be in a historic district, especially when there are only 2 staff members to monitor them all.
My reasons for being anti-historic district rest on a couple of things, one being I don't like extra regulation and my house has issues. Some people don't mind it and it is not a big deal. I on the other hand would prefer to avoid homeowner associations, condo/co-op associations and local historic district boards. All those groups have their pluses but I really bristle at being told what I can and cannot do with my property. The second reason is the most important one, my house being a pile of crumbly bricks. You doubt me? Come on over, bring a butter knife, I'll show you can cut through a brick with it. My house, as well as several others on my block suffer from decades (if not a century) of neglect and poor maintenance. There are a huge laundry list of things inside and out that need correcting and to correct them will be a burden, possibly exceeding what I can afford to do on my single person salary. I don't need the extra burden of one more hoop and a 50% increase in cost.
Where'd that 50% come from? Well I wandered over to Home Depot yesterday and asked for a cost comparison between vinyl windows and wood (on the outside) windows. For the dimensions I asked for the vinyl was $178, the wood was $260, that's about (if my math is correct) a 50% markup. That does not include installation and that could vary because they are installed differently. Nor does it include a protective coating for the wood to protect against wood rot. Also wood needs to be repainted every 3-5 years, vinyl stays white. Also talking to some other people who priced their renovations where they voluntarily considered wood windows found the cost to be 2x to 3x the cost of doing the same job with vinyl. Fiberglas doors and steel doors are cheaper than wood too, and less apt to warp and swell, a problem I have with one of my wood doors.
Of course, when asked about higher prices between wood and vinyl the preservationists said that it wasn't much higher. Well they don't have to pay for it.
Is there anything that will sway me? Yes. Knowledge that I might move and a stable home, of which I have neither. I am trying to bring this house back up, with the resources I have, one day at a time. I don't need to be rushed so I have to get everything I want done grandfathered in... Maybe if the windows and the floors weren't crooked, the fence falling down, the porch big enough to not have to step down to open the door, and the other slew of things that need fixing I'd be a bit more open to the idea. Or if I knew that I was going to move, sell the house and reap whatever investment put in, that might warm me to it.
Will it be the end of the world if Truxton, and especially my block becomes part of a historic district? No. I'd just have to put a rush on slapping something on and up. Rules were made to be worked around.
Previous Gentrification and Historic Preservation Posts:
Gentrification and Historic Preservation, pt 1
Gentrification and Historic Preservation, pt 2a: This Old House vs Old House Journal
Gentrification and Historic Preservation pt 2b: This Old House (TOH) vs Old House Journal (OHJ) pt 2b
Gentrification and Historic Preservation, pt 3: When it is right

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Sunday, September 19, 2004

Morgan Street


Notice the stairs

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