“there’s a new developer monstrosity happening…call it a shove forward”


“Dear PoPville,

On Argonne Place NW, one of Adams Morgan/Mt. P’s hidden little streets, there’s a new developer monstrosity happening…call it a shove forward. This block has awesome Wardman-style porches, many with beautiful arches. The houses were built in 1920 and designed by Reginald Wycliffe Geare, the architect of the Lincoln Theater, and they are all nearly identical, but with little differences inside and on the porches. That is, until now, when the developer carving the house up into condos is seemingly turning the front porch into a room, blocking off everyone else’s view and light. It’s got this entire block up in arms and very upset, and I wonder if it’s going on in other places around the city. Help!”

Another reader tweets us:

“Visit Argonne Place, mid-block, to see the demolition of a 1920 Reginald W. Geare house. So sad. Not a popup, but an abomination.”


92 Comment

  • I kind of like the idea…might consider it for my own place

  • Where to begin on this ridiculous complaint. Maybe how enclosing a single porch somehow blocks “everyone else’s view and light”? Maybe how one adjustment getting “entire block up in arms and very upset”? Maybe how everything looking the same since 1920 means that no one can touch anything forever? Get over yourself.

    • Maybe also how a street on a map isn’t actually hidden.

    • Okay, you disagree, but you can’t figure out how enclosing a porch ends up blocking the light from neighboring properties? That’s pretty willful confusion.

      A line of porches have air on each side and hence breezes and views. Then, the developer encloses their porch. Now, the neighbors on either side are looking at solid wall, brick or vinyl siding or glass windows. How is that hard to imagine?

      Whether it is a big deal or not, that’s open to debate.

      • Light could be blocked at the immediately adjacent properties. Sure. But to say that it’s blocking light for homes on the entire strip demonstrates that the person is either creepy and wants to see what everyone is doing, or that he/she doesn’t understand how light works.

      • I would normally be the first one to jump all over this complaint, and I see why someone would here based on the wildly exaggerated way the complaint is laid out, but having lived in Mount Pleasant, I get the idea that there is a very purposeful continuity across these porches that is lovely. Cutting that off in the middle of a block would actually change the “feel” of being out on your porch even if you live several houses over.

        That isn’t to say, however, that you have any right to that “feel.” It sucks, but I doubt there is much to be done here.

    • Are you the developer? Seem pretty agitated …

  • Has anyone on the “up in arms” block bothered to ask the workers or developer about the plans for the house before jumping to conclusions and running to PoP?

  • Hey OP, remember what Reggie Geare and his developer friends tore down to build those wardmans?? Nope. The only constant is change!

  • What if one of your friendly neighbors wanted to do the same thing OP?
    Just curious if it would be such an issue in that case

  • Agree with Anonymous, the people who want things to stay exactly the same need to get over themselves. We all share this city.

    In fact, maybe if DC had didn’t have its inane building codes and such powerful NIMBY-minded residents, we could actually have more vertical development which would in fact reduce the incentive for pop-ups and shove-forwards by creating more housing units.

    • Perhaps, but it’s also no coincidence that pretty much all of DC’s most desirable neighborhoods are protected by historic designation.

      • Sure, but maybe not for the reason or by the mechanism you’re assuming. In the more desirable neighborhoods wealthier people with the organizational skills and influence to have their neighborhoods declared historic often do so not only to keep things just as they like it architecturally, but also to raise barriers to entry in order to keep their neighborhood more exclusive. And in so doing, they’re placing the burden of a rapidly expanding population on other, unprotected, neighborhoods.

        • You sir hit the nail on the head.

        • But simply making it harder to get into a neighborhood doesn’t automatically make it more desirable. There has to be something about it that people actually want. You could ban development at Barry Farms. That doesn’t mean people would suddenly want to move there. To put it in microeconomic terms, a shift in the supply curve doesn’t affect the demand curve. It only affects price and quantity demanded.

          • I think the argument is that most people want to live where the rich people live. Because there tend to be nicer things in that neighborhood. Just a thought.

            Dupont Circle isn’t popular because of any other reason.

          • The “nicer things” to which people are attracted often include historic architecture.

          • Precisely, textdoc.

  • Is Argonne Place the same street in Lanier Heights where there’s that crazy wood and steel house that’s set back like 20 feet from the block? That just seems weird. Anyone else see that place?

  • I’d say this falls far short of “demolishing” the house. The complaints are so much more offensive than the renovation itself.

  • Who cares? It’s not your house bro.

  • Funny – it looks like there is already a pop-up on the house next door to the “abomination.”

    • Now that is funny. What you are seeing behind the trees and over the roof tops is not a pop-up but a stairwell for the eight story apartment building on the other side of the alley that runs behind Argonne Place.

  • I walked by this construction this morning and didn’t think it looked bad at all. Presumably there will be glass where the porch was previously open air. Last I checked glass does not block light.

  • In what universe is turning the front porch into a room “new”? I see this on every third block in Petworth, and those jobs look like they were completed decades ago.

    • That’s what I was thinking when I saw this. I actually think it makes sense from a homeowners perspective, particularly with how terrible the mosquitoes are up in our area of Petworth- we can never use the porch anyway.

  • I’m sorry, but if you lived in a nice little historic house, with a nice little sweep of open, arched porches from end to end, and you could wave to your neighbors, etc, you wouldn’t like this either. Frankly, a pop-up might be better — at least it wouldn’t spoil everyone else’s view. And nope, there won’t be glass on the sides…just a lovely brick wall for everyone else to stare at.

    • You’re complaining because you won’t be able to see IN to someone else’s living space? I think we’ve hit a new low in frivolous complaints here.

      • it’s (or was) a porch, not a living space.

        I sympathize to a degree with the block residents — I too would be annoyed by this. But just because it is annoying doesn’t mean it is illegal and doesn’t give you the right to stop it..

        • A porch counts as someone else’s living space. Unless it’s protected by some historic preservation rule, it’s none of yours or anyone else’s business.

          • It is quite possible the porch “living space” is in DC public space, which is a quirk about how far public space extends to the front of buildings in parts of the city. Regardless, enclosing the front porch of a row house can have negative implications for the adjacent properties.

        • Sometimes people recognize that something is perfectly legal, and that they have no right to stop it, and are making no effort to stop it, but just want to vent that they think what’s happening sucks. I think this is probably one of those cases.

          • The “Help!” at the end of the post would seem to contradict your theory. Why would the person be asking for help if he or she didn’t think there was anything to be done?

      • It’s called porch culture. Look it up. You may think it’s frivolous, but to the folks who live in these houses it’s part of what makes living in the city so great.

        • No one needs to look up anything. Enclosing porches, as was pointed out elsewhere, is pretty common here and in other places and just because it offends the precious sensibilities of a few people who like that other people make their private space available for communal neighborhood living doesn’t mean that those spaces have to be made available in perpetuity.
          The bottom line is that it’s not your porch, nor is it OP’s, or “J Barger’s.” The person who eventually buys that unit will be able to decide for him- or herself if an enclosed porch is a good thing or a bad thing.

    • But the funny thing about property rights is that it doesn’t matter whether or not you like it.

      • I don’t see anyone here trying to stop anything, just expressing that they don’t happen to like it. If you don’t care about other people’s opinions, why are you reading and commenting on a blog?

        • Neighbors are beginning to talk about historic designation again. A bad idea ten years ago, an even worse idea now.

        • As pointed out above, the original post is a plea for help. So if no one is trying to stop anything, what exactly is OP looking for help with?

          • Well, if you want to over-interpret the hell out of every single word, the notion that posting “Help!” on a blog will yield legislative action in favor of the OP is quite absurd. I suspect the OP understands that, and is just b!tching about something that sucks. Anyway, given that the mechanism by which the OP can stop this does not exist, what’s it to you, anyway?

          • Not over-interpreting. Just reading — which you apparently failed to do and instead now insist on defending your failure to do so in the face of evidence to the contrary. And your “what’s it to you” point is irrelevant. You stated something as fact (twice, actually) that is not the case. Own up to it and move on.

      • An accurate and lucid comment,

    • Your life must be really hard

      • Indeed. Imagine being denied the God-given right to wave at your neighbors while they’re enjoying some peace and quiet (maybe even some hard-earned privacy from a nosy neighbor, but I digress). I just can’t imagine how some people manage to get by…

    • I completely agree that a pop-up would be preferable. I am against condo conversions, and I think we should address not by blocking popups but by limiting the number of units per building in certain zones. I was telling my representative recently that growing families might prefer to add a room to their house rather than move to a bigger house in the burbs, and his response was that one could bump out or reduce their yard size if they really want to add a room. I think that is a little bit crazy. Honestly, pop-ups have the least impact on neighbors’ quality of life.

  • In Petworth, I can see , greet, and chat with many of my neighbors on my block while sitting on my porch. One of my favorite things about my neighborhood. So, I at least understand the disappointment if this renovation will block her view of her neighbors…

  • I wonder how the OP feels about the Faith mayor house down the block…

  • The community rejected historic designation that would have prevented all these modifications which are happening because the area is not protected by historic preservation. I hope they are happy by their short sightedness.

  • I used to live at the Chalfonte across the street. The street is indeed hidden, with only rare foot traffic. If I were a neighbor along that row, I would be bummed out, because porch culture is a thing. But then I would have to get over it.

    This couldn’t happen on my block in Petworth because all the front porches are in the public right of way.

    • Agreed, Monkeydaddy. In Petworth, I’d actually have to label it as an addition to my house, which would change my lot coverage. (which in my case, would require a variance, as my short lot already causes my house to be in violation).

  • As someone who is in construction and development this picture tells me very little about the developers intentions for the porch, and I think the post is jumping to false conclusions. The plywood that is currently blocking the porch is not done in such a way as to be final construction it is put up temporarily, couple 2″x4″s nailed into the brick columns and some plywood spread between them, actually looking more closely it looks like that the might just be pressure fit so that they didn’t damage the brick with nails, note the 2″x4″ across the top. I am guessing this is for security or they are using the porch to collect construction waste while they do the interior demo. Also check out the fact that the wood porch ceiling is still perfectly intact, as are the windows to the house. Porches are a big seller, odd rooms on the front of a house are not, to integrate a porch to the main living space well one would have to blow out the whole brick wall and place a sizeable steel beam in to support the second story brick above, this is difficult and expensive so not very likely. The second you start renovating a house in DC it becomes a target for crime, mainly opportunistic stuff so the more deterrents you put up the better off you are. I have been broken into three times while renovating my house, the second permits in the window you become at target

    • the most well written post on here…and arguably the most accurate. perhaps the original “poster” should actually (gasp) talk to someone on site and find out what the plans actually are 😉

      • +1. The OP seems to be speculating without a lot of facts. Keefer’s explanation seems very plausible. More plausible than the OP’s.

      • You have no idea whether or not OP had done this but go ahead, throw down your judgmental cloak.

        • The OP used the word “seemingly,” indicating that he or she didn’t know for sure what was happening. And why would any developer use a sheet of _plywood_ that halfway covers the area between the columns to create a permanent partition? It just doesn’t make sense.

  • The porch is being enclosed with brick walls on either end, windows at the front, according to the developer. If you live next door or down the block, you are stuck looking at a bricked wall instead of line of porches and you lose the breeze. If it were your block, you wouldn’t like it either.

  • I find most of these comments appalling. What makes neighborhoods like this desirable is not just proximity to bars and restaurants–its also the historic character. If the developer is indeed enclosing the porch, then the developer is destroying that character with no regard for the rest of the block. If I lived there, I’d be pissed too. I have no idea whether this is allowed, but it shouldn’t be.

    • Yes KenyonDweller on all counts.

    • Well put. One of the things I’ve always liked about D.C. is the historic architecture. It’s a shame that developers are free to destroy that historic character anywhere that hasn’t sought and received a “historic district” designation.

      • Everyone is free to “destroy” the historic character as long as they are not in a historic district. People use developer like it’s a four letter word, but then never admit that owner/occupants are allowed to do and do the same things.

        • Owner-occupants don’t generally have the $$$ to make the kind of character-destroying changes that developers can make.
          Just because people are currently free to do all kinds of things outside of historic districts doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing or that it should stay that way. We really need “conservation districts” — sometimes explained as “historic districts lite” — so that major changes would require review/approval.

    • Agreed – and I’m ever so grateful that I live in a historic district. I would be really unhappy if this was being built right next door.

  • Hmmm, it would seem that if you really had a relationship with your neighbors, you might actually invite them over instead of just waving across the vastness of empty space between houses. Porches get enclosed all over DC, your street isn’t the first.

    My guess is that this is going to be the first of many on your street if it’s done well. Get over yourself people, if you don’t like what’s happening in your neighborhood, you can always sell to the developers and move to a historic district 2 blocks away. Puhleeze.

    • Incorrect. The people you invite over into your house are your friends. The people that you wave to and converse with via the front porch, a couple of houses down in either direction, are your neighbors. Both fill important, welcome, and different roles in urban living, and I would be saddened if the front porch interaction I had with my neighbors was replaced by a brick wall.

  • Here is a thought:
    I’m sure the house had a ‘for sale’ sign in front of it when the current owner bought it. You up in arms neighbors could have all ponied up, bought it yourselves, and then pre-screened any future buyers for appropriate political and ‘other’ beliefs before allowing them to move to your neighborhood.
    Wait, you didn’t do that? Why are you complaining then? I hope they paint it Dallas Cowboys Blue and Silver.

  • It really isn’t bad. People have been enclosing their porches for years. I’m surprised the contractor got it past the Historical Review Board, though.

  • Politicians, buildings, and whores, right? Who cares who built it 100 years ago? Houses are for people – so long as the height limit is in force, get used to people finding ways to get extra living space.

  • saf

    That is truly hideous.

  • I can’t be the only person that finds one of the great things about living in this neighborhood the fact that there is more freedom to do whatever you want with your houses. It appeals both to the side of me that loves living in a city and the side that likes to be left alone. It also makes for some interesting character that you don’t get in other neighborhoods.

    I’m also rather confused here – as another commenter pointed out, this is obviously a temporary construction phase and nobody here actually knows for sure what this is going to look like when it’s done. The vitriol has to be an unguided response to change in general, rather than this specific instance unless anyone actually thinks they are just going to nail up some plywood, make the porch into a dark box and call it a day?

    • See Jennifer B at 5:58 as well as the OP. Multiple people do think that the sides of the porch, at least, are going to be enclosed to become opaque walls. If the plan were for screens or glass, maintaining the open feel and light of the original porch, there would probably be fewer and milder complaints.

  • Is this 1636? It’s being converted to four condos?

    Looks like 1630 is being converted to four condos, too. Neighbors should look at the current permit status and keep an eye on that project. Just sayin!

    • It is just barely possible that everyone involved in this project knows the zoning regulations and construction rules that apply and are implementing them correctly. There are highly skilled professionals in government and the private sector involved in these types of residential developments. I won’t assume the worst based on what I’ve read on this or any other blog.

      • It’s also entirely possible that the builder is adhering to the zoning regulations and the construction rules… but that the neighbors aren’t going to be happy with what the result looks like.

  • I previously lived in Mount Pleasant on what would be considered a very slimilar street to this one. It’s very tree heavy and based on where my street sat, there was very little sunlight that hit the front of the houses during the day and my front room of the house, which would normally be a living room, was not used as such because it was always quite dark. Had my next door neighbor done what is happening above, it would have cut off even more light into my house and I would have been pretty angry about it.

    And others here have mentioned porch culture. I’m not sure that matters as much, but it does exist. And simply sitting out on your porch would be insanely unpleasant if you had a brick wall lining one end of it where there had never been before.

    Whether there is a legal right to do anything or not, I’m not entirely sure why people are so shocked it might be disappointing for the neighbors and might, in fact, diminish the value of their own homes, especially if you’re directly adjacent to this. I agree with others that in a neighborhood like this, I’d rather see a pop-up than this. Or hell, build it off the back of the house where there is far less continuity across homes in Mount Pleasant.

  • Am I the only one that thinks it is odd that public space has only been mentioned once (actually 2x in the same sentence). As a resident of the district who has recently done some construction, I recently became aware of where the property line is (my front door not the front of my porch). Anything past the property line is an easement by the city. If this were a back porch it would be another story, but a front porch usually is public space and therefore subject to some major permitting and DCRA and DOT (which I think is the governing agency for Public Space) involvement. Just closing in the space would be a pretty big violation I would think. I’m sure people here have a better idea but seems as though one could easily check the permit.

    • This has been gone over time and time again on this blog. The whole “your front porch/yard isn’t your own in DC” thing is an urban myth to the extent that it tries to include the whole city. It’s true on many blocks, not on others, depending on how the street was originally planned vs. how it was ultimately built. So unless you’ve seen the DC Surveyor’s map for this block or have seen a plat from someone who lives there, you just don’t know for sure.

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