GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERTT
It’s too tall, too wide, too close, and it has too much parking. Other than that we totally support public-transit oriented, multi-family building development at Takoma Metro.
That’s what the Takoma Park city council’s letter says to the developers.
The developers are the development firm EYA and WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority).
What’s a subway and bus utility doing building apartments, you might ask?
Making a lot of money, that’s what!
It’s their land – the Takoma Metro station grounds – being sold to build this development.
If you’re new to this issue, here it is in a sentence. Once upon a time Metro needed money so they tried to sell some of the Takoma Metro station grounds to developer EYA to build town homes, but the community got upset and stalled them until the real estate market crashed, but Metro and EYA are trying again, only this time with a building that most of the community thinks is more appropriate and deals with their previous objections.
The original plan for town-homes c. 2007.
Some say that the new plans, as represented by architectural drawings and a few rough schematics, are “conceptual” at this point, so there’s no need to worry about the exact details. There are a number of hearings and approvals to come. The “joint development agreement” between WMATA and EYA has to be approved, possibly in November. Once approved, it has to pass through a January “compact public hearing.” The proposal, whatever form it is in by then, must be approved by the District of Columbia zoning and historic review process.”
That last one is when the site plan, building massing and facade would be considered.
But, the nervous public and council think it is best to get its say in asap.
The letter to WMATA and EYA calls for modifications to the design that would reduce the number of floors from six to four (above ground), reduce the number of resident parking places, move the loading dock and trash container site, push the building back from Eastern Avenue and the adjacent apartment buildings, and make the design “compatible” with the historic district.
“Compatible,” Historic Takoma’s Lorraine Pearsall advised the council, “is a term of art for historic districts.”
The current plan.
We are glad to see that “compatibility does not mean exactly duplicating the existing buildings,” according to the definition in an April 28, 2011 DC Historic Office staff report.
“A new building should be seen as a product of its own time,” it says.
The last thing we want to see
This is a relief, the last thing we want to see is another Takoma Park Community Center, a modern brick box with an ugly roof that’s supposed to evoke Takoma Park’s mansard-roofed “Victorian” architecture – even though there aren’t any buildings of that style within blocks. We don’t want what they proposed for the fated town-homes, either. They were going to stick on some superficial, historically-inspired “elements” – gas lamp-shaped porch lights or something.
We urge the city and activists to push for a completely different design than the BORING one in the architectural drawings.
It is generic. It might as well be in Columbia Heights, Ellsworth Avenue in Silver Spring, Bethesda, or every new suburban development and “main street-style” outdoor mall.
The current plan.
The developer does not understand the community. The people here are creative, out-of-the-ordinary, cutting-edge, bold, visionary, counter-culture, even revolutionary. What would be popular here, and what would attract the sort of people who want to live here – is architecture that makes a bold statement – a “product of it’s own time.”
We don’t want something that blends in, we want something that stands out.
Takoma Park’s founder BF Gilbert (the other Gilbert) put his showcase homes close to the railway to promote his vision of Takoma Park. We should emulate that.
Put something next to Metro that will turn heads. Give the residents something to brag about. “Yeah, I live in THAT place at Takoma Metro.
Don’t give us hum-drum, give us a landmark.
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