Judging Renovated Buildings – NCBA Estates (2801 14th St, NW)

NCBA Estates (retirement home) is located at 14th and Harvard St, NW. What do you think of the reno – thumbs up or down?

Below is the google street view of how it used to look:

42 Comment

  • looks like those balconies lost a bunch of light and views for an cosmetic overhaul?

    • Allison

      I think they did two good things with the balcony partitions– they added privacy so tenants aren’t basically sharing balconies, and they also made it safer for the resident senior citizens by making sturdier, higher rails.

  • It’s still hideous.

  • It’s much better, but they should have put in retail spaces along the street level. Very few of those subsidized-housing buildings in that area have ground floor retail, which would help enliven the street and better connect the U Street and Columbia Heights 14th Street retail districts.

    • I agree, it is a big improvement over the previous brown monolith. Ground floor retail is an excellent idea as well, but I think it can be difficult for developers of affordable housing to get funding for retail spaces via tax credits.

  • Thumbs way the hell down. It’s incredibly ugly. The only positive thing I can say is that it’s less brown now.

  • Seriously? They could have saved a ton of money (and kept their views) if they just slapped some white paint onto the existing structure. And a few more cans of red paint for the lower portion. And get some CL folks to paint. Total cost= $400 vs who knows how much money they wasted on this terrible idea.

  • What are the bunker like buildings on the bottom of the complex?

  • Word on the street is that they had to do major internal renovations (to fix structural deterioration, exterminate bedbugs, etc.) so they gutted each apartment, and put in new hardwood floors, bathrooms and kitchens in each unit. I think the cosmetic stuff on the outside was just an afterthought.

    • Sad day when working class people pay me $700-800 for a room when nonworking welfare people can not only get rent, plus a place renovated by the gov’t. All you middle class worker bee drones, you are being played.
      Don’t you feel at least a tinge of anger seeing the takers of the world living right next to you while paying nothing?

      • tonyr

        A “tinge of anger”? Not really, but then I’m more of a lover than a fighter. But seriously, would you feel happier if a building full of seniors was turned out on the street? Unless NCBA really is the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (or one of the other options thrown up by Google), in which case I’m right with you.

      • No, I don’t feel angry at all. The renovation was probably not luxury-apartment level, it just got each unit to the baseline standard of habitability. I can’t imagine what the building was like before – BB, mold, water damage, fire hazards – so I don’t mind my tax dollars going towards fixing those problems for the elderly residents.

      • Preach. Those low-income seniors are living large! Next thing you know they’ll be riding their tricked out rascals in my bike lane!

      • Allison

        I’m glad to contribute for the elderly to have a nice place to live.

  • On the one hand, almost anything is an improvement, and I am glad to see the city investing in public housing. But man, this is an architectural abomination. I mean, you can’t even really see how bad this is from the photos — the worst part is all the various colors, just looks like a hideous pastiche left over from the 70’s. If they had made the additions a single color, rather than ten different shades of beige and red, that alone would have been far better. Also, the new additions and the old brick look really odd together. At a minimum, they need to paint over that brick. A case of trying to do way too much rather than opt for something simple and, you know, mildly attractive. Reminds me of the worst architectural abomination of our time, Xanadu at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.

  • Horrible, awful, depressing and an affront to all humans. I live around the corner and pass it often. It was grim and bleak before, but somehow acceptable for – well – old, grim public housing. But it does anger me that renovations make it look even grimmer and 100 times uglier. Bunker – fallout shelter – there is nothing remotely good about this and the architects ought to be drawn and quartered. Seriously, if I were an old welfare person living here, I would throw myself off the roof in protest.

    • Allison

      Haha I pass it every day too and I don’t think it’s that bad!

      • Pass it every day. What a shameful waste. Could have been so much better. The residents…and all of us deserve better.

      • I see it every day, too, and I think it’s a big improvement. And I don’t think it was done purely for cosmetic purposes – there also seemed to be other work (HVAC, maybe?) going on.

  • I think it looks like they went halfway there, it could’ve been much nicer. But instead it looks like they just nailed those more modern looking facades to the old brick building.

  • lipstick on a pig

  • My cousin’s grandmother use to live in this building back in the early 80’s, before she was killed in an auto accident. The building is for low income senior citizens, not people on welfare. Some of you must realize, everyone poor in D.C. isn’t on welfare. They work clean white folks homes and other domestic type work. This is what my cousin’s grandmother did. She was a retired Domestic worker. Everyone cannot be college educated, an Attorney, Lobbyist, or Physician. I am now over 50 and expect to retire in the near future. With the high cost of high rents in D.C., I might have to consider moving to a senior citizen building. I prefer this oppose to living in a building with loud noise and unruly children running and playing in the hallways. It’s the holidays people and we should show kindness to people that’s less fortunate or on your income or soical level. However, I am talking about working poor people, not people on welfare looking for a free handout. After all, they are still human beings. Please remember, you can loose that six figure income and end up homeless. Never think you are better than others because the people you might meet going to the top will be the same people when you fall to the bottom.

    • Compelling story, valid perspective, but totally irrelevant. No one, especially the poor, should have to live in horrible ugliness. The Harvard street entrance looks like the entrance to a prison or concentration camp. Wrong and offensive on every level.

      • Well that’s just your opinion. The residents there might like it just fine, and Charles’ point which you might have missed is that many of them are probably just happy to have a comfortable place to live, on a meager income in the twilight of their lives.

        • “That’s just your opinion” is neither a logical nor an effective response. The comfort of anyone’s cousin’s twilight grandmother inside the building is irrelevant to the ugliness of the new exterior. In fact they may have been better served if more funding went to interior features and less to making the place look like a prison.

  • The building looks ‘nicer’ from the outside but I have a slightly different question for the readers to comment upon. How much did this rehab cost and where did the $$ come from to do the work? By doing this rehab was money diverted from more important ventures such as building more housing in DC? What was the cost per unit here and who got the big bucks we know were likely paid out in ‘developer fees’? Any ideas?

    • I don’t think it had any local DC dollars. It was refinanced with bonds and tax credits. They had plans for something more elaborate, but made do with what they had.

  • Better… but it’s all relative.

  • Love it! Years from now, folks will be praising today’s clean modern lines as classic, and berating whatever designers and architects of the day are doing 🙂 I do hope they took the opportunity to improve insulation, energy efficiency, etc. Looks like there may be some passive heating cooling benefits from the overhangs, extensions, which I’m sure the residents will appreciate.

  • It’s a marginal improvement.

    Oh, and I just got my first “you are posting comments too quickly” warning from the upgraded Web site. I thought that “feature” was going away.

  • The city seems to be on a reno kick when it comes to low-income places. They’re redoing the Gibson Plaza apartments in Shaw and the public housing on W Street in Ledroit.

    I’ve been curious for a long time about the somewhat grand-looking building on Rhode Island catty corner from the Shaw Library. It’s a senior living place but it always seems nearly empty. What up wit dat?

  • It’s still hideous. What’s up with those ugly red square panels across the ground floor? It looks like that equally hideous building on the Howard campus at Georgia and Girard.

  • You can put a top-hat on a turd, but it’s still a turd.

    This is like putting racing stripes on a 1987 Ford Escort.

  • Its an improvment, but architecturally not a huge fan of the redesign. Simpler lines, and perhaps, one bold design move would have made it more elegant. (“Less is more”). From an urban design standpoint it is also a disappointment. I agree, street level retail would have been the way to go. Perhaps there is still opportunity on the remaining public housing facilities, to cut out the bars and blank walls and add retail that will help enliven this 14th street stretch down to U St. I would walk a lot more to CoHi from U St, if wasn’t such a lackluster street experience. Overall though, I am glad they did something! Bravo for that.

  • I thought the new white “balcony wings” (or whatever you want to call them) were added to help fix a structural problem. Not sure where I heard that though. I live a few houses away from the thing and have had many of the same feelings expressed in the other comments, both good and bad. But I must say that the people who live there, at least those I’ve met on the street, are wonderfully pleasant and polite and deserving of a nice place to live, imho.
    As for the aesthetics – Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The people who chose this design surely have a lot more at stake than anyone commenting on here does. I assume they did the best they could given the amount they had to spend and the requirements for stabilizing the building, or whatever the requirements actually were.

    All in all, I’m happy to have all this investment flood onto my little block. There are two more major renovations/additions on the Girard side of the the 1300 block that extend the buildings to the alley.

    If you want a laugh, take a stroll up the alley between Harvard and Girard (access is on the Harvard St side) and look at the back of Dorothy Brazile’s house which is now sandwiched between the two new renovations. It was a sore thumb. Now it just looks ridiculous.

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