Friday, February 1, 2013

HPRB Historic Structure Clemency Outcome

The little brown Naylor Court building at the heart of discussion at the end of the HPRB meeting on January 24th 2013, has lived to fight another day.
The unanimous decision by the board is important for many reasons.

  1. The board recognized that the 20 + year history of abuse and neglect of this property (ironically thoroughly documented by the property owner) was not something to which they could turn a blind eye. The owner was admonished by the chair. 
  2. The board discussion respected the value of the building in the context of the collection of buildings in this historically designated alley (National Register of Historic Places 1990).
  3. The building was recognized as a "contributing building" in the alley which places it in a position of privilege.
  4. The owner was tasked by the board to immediately secure the building so that no further damage occur. (replace roof and shore up the walls) 
  5. The board acknowledged that it was aware of individuals who had the financial and technical resources to keep this building alive.
  6. The HPO acknowledged that the petition to raze the building came on the heels of the city's decision to assess the property as blighted, thereby imposing a heavy tax penalty for neglect.
  7. One member of the board expressed skepticism that the owner was taking the admonishment seriously. 
  8. The letter from ANC-2F opposing the raze permit carried its appropriate "great weight" at the hearing and was well received.
  9. The concept of this building as a "heritage resource" was discussed. It reflects a way of life in the last half of the 20th Century that was common throughout the alleys in Washington - auto repair shops (DC alleys were home to many businesses that served the community. The heterogeneity of the buildings tells this story. One such humble structure in this alley - Sundevich - is now a very popular and successful restaurant. 
  10. An online petition gathered 60 signatures apposing the raze permit with comments. Razing the property buries the evidence of neglect and turns the property into a vacant lot.
  11. Party wall law was briefly discussed along with the implications of "good neighbor responsibility" and refraining from doing harm to the community and neighbors.
  12. At one point in the hearing there was considerable discussion about what actually defined a building if its walls relied on other buildings to define the structure. (18. What is the definition of a building? - Treasury Regulation 1.48-1(e) defines a building as any structure or edifice enclosing a space within its walls, and usually covered by a roof, the purpose of which is, for example, to provide shelter or housing, or to provide working, office, parking, display, or sales space.) 

“1322 9th Street NW, HPA #13-091, permit/raze contributing stable/garage. 
The HPRB: (A) affirmed that the stable/garage at 1322 9th Street NW contributes to the character of the Blagden Alley-Naylor Court Historic District, and (B) recommends to the Mayor’s Agent that the raze application be denied as inconsistent with the purposes of the historic preservation law. Vote 6-0.”

The immediate alley neighborhood community and many outside of it, are very grateful for the unambiguous HPRB decision. The property owner may be counting on the ravages of the winter and the force of further neglect to "finish off" the little building, so the board's decision is but the first step in a long resuscitation. The building MUST be protected and resuscitated now to support the work of the board and so many others!

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