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Collapsed Building's Proposed Addition Faces Pushback

Georgetown design boards oppose adding a partial third floor to 1424 Wisconsin Ave. NW.

Almost a year ago, 1424 Wisconsin Ave. NW imploded, leaving behind a giant hole and a two-story front brick facade. Several stop work orders and almost a year later, the owner wants to build a partial third-flood addition to the existing structure.

The project architect Robert Stockwell presented information to both the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) and the Old Georgetown Board (OGB) last week, suggesting the structure dates to the 1960s. The significance of that timing is that the building is not a historically contributing structure and therefore different historic review standards would apply.

Though both the ANC and the historic preservation office had questions about the 1960s dating, the OGB staff concurred with Stockwell's finding based on the style of the brick and alterations to the facade from earlier photos. OGB staff members advised the board not to consider the historic status during discussions.

Stockwell proceeded to make the case that since the building is not historic and Wisconsin Avenue has a range of building heights, those factors contributed to an “acceptable context for change.” A partial third-floor addition could work, he argued.

But neither the ANC nor the OGB was swayed.

"Regardless of whether the materials are earlier than 1960 or not, the massing we know is earlier than 1960," said Anne Lewis.

Lewis said the massing of the structure and how it relates to the rest of the street is what OGB was rightfully concerned about.

The massing "gives richness to this block and it’s exactly what makes Georgetown the interesting community that it is," added Lewis.

ANC Commissioner Tom Birch agreed that it would prefer to maintain the "irregular rhythm of the roof line" on Wisconsin Avenue and not have a third edition.

Lewis said she would be "willing to consider" an addition if it were set back enough to be "totally invisible from public space."

In his letter to the OGB, though, Tim Denne of HPO was opposed to allowing any addition to the structure.

Denne wrote he would not want to allow an "apparently avoidable demolition be rewarded with additional size or extra latitude with façade alterations."

He was referencing an issue Patch raised earlier this year: the building owner had a previous Georgetown property collapse during construction. In that case the owner was fined for negligence.

Ultimately, the OGB sent the architect back to the drawing board to develop a proposal for a two-story building, since Stockwell opined that an invisible third-story addition would not be viable for the residential use he had proposed.

Read more about this property:

  • Questions Amidst the Rubble of Wisconsin Avenue
  • Collapsed Building Not a First for Owner

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