November 1, 2007

Draft Master Plan for Department of Homeland Security Consolidation at St. Elizabeths West Campus
(File Number MP211)

The General Services Administration (GSA) submitted a draft Master Plan for converting the West Campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital into the headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security, including the U.S. Coast Guard. The St. Elizabeths West Campus includes more than 70 historic buildings with 750,000 square feet of usable space. St. Elizabeths is significant for its historic landscape features and its collection of Collegiate Gothic, Italianate, and Renaissance Revival architecture.

GSA is examining two different development alternatives, both of which consist of 4.5 million gross square feet of development plus 1.8 million gross square feet of parking.

In its review, the Commission acknowledged that the Draft Master Plan calls for the comprehensive modernization of the infrastructure on the National Historic Landmark campus and for many of the historic buildings to be rehabilitated and occupied, even as some of the historic buildings would be demolished and much of the landscape character would be lost to new construction and an altered campus composition.

The Commission also noted that GSA has determined in its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS, September 28, 2007) that the proposed program in the St. Elizabeths Draft Master Plan would have “major, direct, long-term, adverse impacts” as well as “adverse effects” to the National Historic Landmark campus. These are due primarily to the size and nature of the construction program; the loss of historic buildings and the landscaped setting; altered or obstructed view sheds to, from, and within the campus; increased traffic in the neighborhood; and required modifications to the regional transportation and utility systems that would cause physical alterations to the campus and surrounding areas.

The Commission indicated a preference forseveral features of Alternative 4 over Alternative 3, because the overall scheme has a lesser impact on the historic landscape around the Center Building and the site’s oldest structures. However, additional information on access and site screening (particularly along the west edge of the site) is required to fully evaluate the merits and impacts of each alternative, and to state a final preference for either one. In addition, further details of the proposed alterations to the Center Building for its re-use as office space are needed to fully evaluate Alternative 4.

The Commission required that GSA modify the Master Plan to include one or more alternatives that include a maximum of 2.5 million gross square feet and to mitigate or minimize the major, long-term, adverse impacts of any alternative to the West Campus of St. Elizabeths. The Commission's requirements were organized according to five main themes: view sheds, transportation, community benefits, historic preservation, and environmental sustainability. These requirements are consistent with NCPC’s Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital (Comprehensive Plan), GSA’s mission and goals for this project, as well as the purpose and need identified in the DEIS. The Commission also directed GSA to provide the following additional information before submitting the final Master Plan.
• A detailed analysis of the relationship of the Master Plan to the Federal and District Elements of the Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital.
• A Transportation Management Plan that implements a 1:4 parking ratio and identifies transportation improvement projects needed to serve future population levels and anticipated growth; establishes staffing and operation of transportation demand management programs; and outlines the resources needed to fund the improvements and maintenance expenses.
• Additional View Shed Analysis of the impacts of campus development on views from the site, particularly views within the historic campus and those to the north and west.
• An Historic Preservation Plan and a Cultural Landscape Report that discusses the significance, treatment, and ongoing preservation of the historic buildings and landscape.
• A Discussion of the Anticipated Economic Impacts and Opportunities that the proposed project will have on the community.
• A Summary of Public Access Provisions that outlines how the public would access the Cemetery and the specific times when the public would be permitted to access the Point.
• A Stormwater Management Plan that describes the amount, location, and process in which stormwater would be managed on-site.
• A Tree Removal and Replacement Plan that illustrates which trees would need to be removed and where they would be replaced on-site.
• A Construction Staging Plan that describes the timing, location, and impacts of construction staging areas.

See the Commission Action and Staff Recommendation

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts River Terrace Stairs to the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway Trail
(File Number 5164)

The Commission commented favorably on the concept design for a pair of glass and steel staircases and a pair of glass elevators that will connect the Kennedy Center River Terrace and the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway Trail. The applicant, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), collaborated with the Kennedy Center and the National Park Service on the design. In addition to the staircases and elevators, which extend from the terrace to ground level, the concept design includes a retaining wall along the river side of the Parkway that forms the eastern edge of the plaza; a paved plaza with benches, grass, and cherry trees extending to the river’s edge; and a railing at the river’s edge. The stairs, elevators, and plaza would be illuminated at night. The design does not preclude the establishment of a boat dock in the future, as envisioned in the Commission’s Legacy Plan.

The Commission recommended that, in the next phase of design development, DDOT fully consider the Kennedy Center’s desire for the stairs to be perceived by their patrons as “inviting rather than a challenge.” The Commission also recommended that DDOT consider the requests of the National Park Service to preserve the river vista from the parkway and to reconsider the inclusion of the proposed water feature.

See the Commission Action and Staff Recommendation

Smithsonian Institution’s Patent Office Building F Street Stair Reconstruction, Landscape Plan, Security, and Signs
(File Number 6479)

The Commission reviewed final site and building plans for the Patent Office Building’s reservation landscape, F Street stair reconstruction, security elements, and signs. The Patent Office Building, a National Historic Landmark, houses the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture. The building occupies Reservation 8 in the L’Enfant Plan and is bounded by 7th and 9th Streets, and by F and G Streets, NW.

The Commission commended the Smithsonian Institution for enhancing the Patent Office Building’s façade and reservation, for reconsidering its security requirements in response to previous Commission comments, and removing proposed barriers from public space.

The Commission approved the rehabilitation of the reservation landscape plan; reconstruction of the F Street Stair; and the security elements, which include a new granite wall supporting the historic cast iron fence, two guard booths, and six retractable bollards at the service entrances on the north side of the building.

The Commission noted and approved the completion of a small, permanent exhibit on the history of the building’s architecture and ornamentation, including the installation of a curved segment and urn from one of the historic courtyard’s two original cast iron fountains.

The Commission disapproved fifteen installed and proposed information and program signs, on the sidewalks and attached to the cast iron fence, for the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. The Commission also disapproved the lettering on the building’s exterior at the north and south entrances. Finally, the Commission required the Smithsonian, through Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, to consult with NCPC staff and other review agencies on the installed and proposed signs and lettering and formally submit the proposal to the Commission, as requested at the April 2007 meeting.

See the Commission Action and Staff Recommendation

Consent Calendar: The Commission voted on Consent Calendar items without staff presentations or public testimony.

Delegated Decisions: Projects for which the Commission delegated decision-making authority to the Chairman, Executive Committee, or Executive Director.