May 4, 2016 at 4:48 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
ANC to vote on Whitman-Walker project
Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center, gay news, Washington Blade

A rendering of the proposed redevelopment of the Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center.

The Logan Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission, ANC 2F, was scheduled to vote Wednesday night on whether to accept a recommendation by one of its committees that Whitman-Walker Health scale back the size of its proposed redevelopment of the site of its Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center at 14th and R St., N.W.

Last week, Whitman-Walker and its partner in the joint venture project, Fivesquares Development, released details for plans to convert the site into a 155,000-square-foot, six-story structure that would include retail shops and restaurants on the ground floor, underground parking, 60,000 square feet of office space, and at least 80 residential apartments.

Whitman-Walker, which would retain majority ownership rights in the project, would use about half of the office space for its community health programs, according to Whitman-Walker spokesperson Shawn Jain. Whitman-Walker would use its share of the revenue generated by the project to sustain and help finance its longstanding mission as a community health center with a special outreach to the LGBT community, Whitman-Walker officials have said.

ANC 2F member Kevin Deeley, who chairs the ANC’s Community Development Committee, told the Washington Blade that after receiving a presentation on April 27 from representatives of Whitman-Walker and Fivesquares Development, the committee adopted a resolution with recommendations that it was to present to the full ANC meeting on May 4.

Deeley said the committee’s resolution supports the overall design concept and endorses the project’s plans for the historic preservation of the Elizabeth Taylor building and a separate building on the site. Whitman-Walker purchased the existing buildings and surrounding land in the early 1990s before the 14th Street, N.W. corridor exploded into the bustling entertainment, retail and upscale residential destination it has become.

“They approved the general concept with a few reservations,” Deeley said of the ANC committee. “They thought the concept was a little too monolithic,” he said, adding that the committee would like the project to be “somewhat less massive” in size.

Since the project was designed to be within the size and height limits mandated by the city’s zoning restrictions for that section of the city, Whitman-Walker and the developer do not need to apply for a zoning variance from the D.C. Board of Zoning.

What they do need is the approval of the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board, which is charged with making sure all new buildings in historic districts, such as the 14th Street district, are designed in a way that they respect and preserve the character of the district “without exactly duplicating” nearby existing buildings, according to a HPRB pamphlet.

Under D.C. law, city agencies must give “great weight” to ANC recommendations, but the agencies, not the ANCs, make the final decision on a proposed project such as Whitman-Walker’s.

Andy Altman, managing partner of Fivesquares Development, who attended the ANC committee meeting on April 27, said he was pleased with the committee’s response to the project.

“I actually thought it was a very positive meeting,” he said. “I thought it was a good discussion. I thought the people were very supportive.”

Altman said his development firm, Whitman-Walker officials and nationally known architect Annabelle Selldorf of New York, who designed the proposed new structure, will take into consideration all comments and suggestions by ANC 2f and the Historic Preservation Review Board, which he said has already been given copies of the plans for the redevelopment project.

“There are modifications that can be made to this design,” Altman said. “I think we’ll wait to get all the comments from the preservation office and the preservation review board and then look at what changes to make at that point,” he said.

“I think the fundamentals of the project in terms of its historic buildings and the way of the architect’s concepts are very, very strong,” Altman said.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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