35 Comment

  • The sad, ugly cityscapes pictured here are the reason that I’ve become obsessed with envisioning what DC would look like without the building height restriction and if had a limited number 40 to 50-story buildings clustered around Metro stations and other high-density locations. It would really bring more “city” scale to DC and anchor neighborhoods in an architectural sense, especially if the building required set backs every 15 to keep the sky above the street some openness. So many benefits – more pedestrian traffic, increased tax base, more demand and support for street-level retail, and more.

    • Speak for yourself. Adams Morgan is pretty great as it is.

      • +1 I would be devastated if Adams Morgan even started looking like NOMA, let alone like Courthouse.

        • Except that isn’t what Tom was suggesting. He’s suggesting you keep the original streetscape and add density in pockets and in setbacks to preserve the feel. DC actually does a pretty good job of that throughout the city, especially downtown. NOMA is a terrible example because that was built from the ground up out of nothing but warehouses. It was never going to look like anything but what it is because there was nothing there to begin with.

          • “especially downtown” – this is only a relatively recent trend; much of the old architecture downtown was razed in favor of bland mono-blocks as doing so is far cheaper than incorporating the old not the new.

          • “…the old INTO the new”

      • I like the neighborhood a lot too, but because of that, there’s a big demand to live there. With restrictive zoning and the height act, that means supply is constrained and rents continue to rise.

        If you own your home good for you, but for renters, it adds to their payment every month to keep DC neighborhoods like Adams Morgan mostly at 3-5 stories.

    • There are certain neighborhoods where it makes sense to lift the height restriction– Navy Yard, downtown, etc. Places that already feel more city-ish (that’s planning speak). But Adams Morgan? Last year it was named one of America’s Great Neighborhoods by the American Planning Association. It’s like a cast-iron skillet: years of flavor baked into the fabric of the neighborhood. Plus, it’s not a neighborhood built around a metro station, so I’m not sure it fits your description of a denser neighborhood “clustered” around a metro station. JBG is trying to do what you suggest over at Woodley Park (i.e., the closest metro to Adams Morgan). It’s like going to Chicago and building 40 story buildings around Wrigley field and the surrounding neighborhoods.

      • Except that’s not at all the case at Woodley Park. JBG is replacing an existing eye-sore of a hotel with something that’s far better thought-out. It’s not like the new buildings are going to replace existing single family homes.

    • I’m not opposed to skyscrapers in DC, but the way you’re suggesting it would work is obviously silly. If you want ugly cityscapes with unanchored neighborhoods, poor pedestrian traffic and poor support for street-level retail you need look no further than the Rossyln metro stop. Would Adams Morgan be better if it looked like Rosslyn? The mind boggles.

      • Lol – Rosslyn’s in Arlington, VA. That’s the biggest of a few reasons it’s behind the curve in developing into a dynamic neighborhood.

        • Duh, the whole point is that Arlington is terrible. Arlington sucks because it thoughtlessly followed Tom’s approach. The parts of Virginia across the river from DC aren’t automatically awful by dint of being in Virginia. Alexandria, which didn’t thoughtlessly crap out skyscrapers is a great area, for example. Alexandria has indisputably better architecture, more pedestrian traffic, more demand and support for street level retail. Arlington took Tom’s approach and ended up awful because of it.

          • i dunno. i think you can distinguish rosslyn (which doesn’t have much residential) from other areas down this stretch of arlington. i haven’t been there in a while, but last time i was, the area from courthouse down to ballston were dense, full of retail options, and had a decent amount of foot traffic. it’s not dc, but it’s not bad in and of itself.

    • Ashy Oldlady

      Rosslyn and Crystal City sound like they might hold the answers to all your prayers.

    • I think it’s a little weird to refer to what is obviously a very residential, pedestrian neighborhood as a “sad ugly cityscape”, especially one with cool converted rowhouses and old preserved buildings like Adams Morgan. If you want to complain about the DC cityscape at least focus it on, like, L’Enfant Plaza or someplace that actually could and should look different with lifted height restrictions.

      • Lifting height restriction in L’Enfant is not going to do anything to bring more density for housing to DC really. Also, Adams Morgan and the cityscape being referenced here and in that photo is actually commercial, not residential.

        I like the cityscape of AdMo. But I also do not think what is being suggested is that you tear the rowhouses along 18th Street and Calvert down and replace them with big square apartment buildings.

  • Truthfully, and I look at this new skyline multiple times every day, but the hotel is hardly noticeable. Maybe that’s because I look at it all the time, but the hand-wringing about it’s impact on the sight lines doesn’t seem to have come to pass.

    While I wouldn’t say this a “sad ugly cityscape” I think it does show that you can build up and not detract from what’s already there.

  • The people want density

    • Ashy Oldlady

      There’s a 390-foot, 35-story skyscraper just across the river in Rosslyn sitting completely empty. Sounds like it would be perfect for the people.

      • Too bad it is a commercial office building and not a residential tower and zoned as such.

        Also, I prefer DC doesn’t incentivize people to live in Virginia as having a solid income tax base in DC is pretty important.

  • Any word yet on what’s happening with the proposed development at the Sun Trust?

    • Any word yet on what’s happening with the proposed development at the Payless Shoe lots?

    • PNHoffman (SunTrust) is going back to the HPRB soon. I’m fairly confident that will go through with relatively little delay despite the typical NIMBY opposition. That’s because there’s no PUD or zoning change required and PN Hoffman has deep pockets and lots of experience navigating the local bureaucracy.
      .
      Despite having an agreement in place with the local ANC and the project being by right, I’m not as confident about the development on Columbia road getting off the ground anytime soon simply because the developers ability to line up financing and the delays in getting started don’t inspire much confidence.

  • The additional structure does not damage the feeling of the neighborhood at all, in my view, because it is layered behind the iconic row-houses of the neighborhood. The lobby of the hotel preserves a building of historic significance that has a clear sense of time and place, which is part of what makes the neighborhood feel special. I realize that not everybody is wild about change (I have the ANC meeting scars to prove it), but thoughtful layering of new architectural styles seems like a much more productive, inclusive, and realistic way forward than trying to maintain a time capsule around a neighborhood that is in danger of becoming out of reach for anyone but the wealthiest, and out of touch with the city whose character it purports to represent.

  • You din’t turn the camera around and show the other view … every time I drive up 18th St to Calvert St, I surprised again by the fact that the Adamo blocks out the view of the sky I used to have there. When I first moved to DC from NYC, I loved that I could see sky everywhere I went. Now with the infill of buildings all over, there are pockets of sky for viewing going away… you can guess how I feel about height restrictions!

    • Try tilting your head up a few degrees 🙂

    • you can’t see the sky over a four-story building and wish you had the old view back of the decrepit gas station and a parking lot full of broken down jalopies? I guess this post has done a nice job showing how you can go too far in either direction — going too far in believing that skyscrapers are a panacea and going too far believing that all change is bad. It’s no wonder that good urban design is hard when cities are full of people at both nonsensical extremes.

      • Thank you! I don’t understand how anyone could be upset that a small-ish apartment building replaced a gas station at that location.

  • I’m very excited about this hotel. Based off of everything I have seen/read about it I think they are doing an excellent job of incorporating the unique character of AdMo into their plans. This will be a HUGE addition to the neighborhood and I really believe everyone will benefit from it.
    I know in 2016 there has been a changing of the guards with some of the old haunts but to be honest, I think this will improve the neighborhood. As of now, it appears as if there will be a nice mix of new/old established places. There have been some great new additions the past few years and I think most of them fit in really well. While the plans for the SunTrust might not be the most exciting I think it will also be a nice boost. That little corner right now is basically a hangout for homeless dudes and the building/corner itself is really an eyesore. Anything will be an improvement.
    New development on Columbia Road will be the next step. I’m glad some of those old shady stores are going away- that street has tons of potential.

    • Also– unrelated but kind of related. I wonder if DC will get a “SoHo House” in the near future. I have heard from some people who are decent enough sources that say it’s a matter of time before DC gets one. As of now I believe they are only in Miami, LA, Chicago, NYC – I could be wrong tho- might be more. I feel like a SOHO House in this hotel would actually be the perfect fit- Adams Morgan is the perfect neighborhood for it. I know there are plans for a big rooftop bar/terrace/restaurant- SoHo House could be kinda money there- would have a great view looking back down on AdMo’s funky/eclectic skyline. On the hand, I guess I wouldn’t want that bar to be exclusive.
      Just curious to see where a SoHo House would go in DC. Also someone who works for SLS Hotels in their development department is apparently targeting DC as well. Once again, not sure where that would go. Exciting though.

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