A New York-based real estate company and its D.C.-based architect have deferred plans to redevelop a site in Dupont Circle that contains a landmarked gas station after staff at the District’s Historic Preservation Office determined the proposal was “incompatible” with its context.
In October, Marx Realty and Shalom Baranes Associates released plans to reorient the Embassy Gulf Service Station on site according to one of three options, and to construct a nine-story-plus-penthouse building with 34 residential units and nearly 3,000 square feet of retail at 2200 P St. NW. The property currently houses an in-service Sunoco gas station and sits across from a 10-story building to its east and green space to its west. The plans were to come before D.C.’s Historic Preservation Review Board Thursday—before the development team postponed them.
“The disparity in height between the nine-story new construction and the one-story landmark is stark, discordant, and incompatible, and would result in the gas station being left in shadow,” states a recently filed HPO report, which acknowledges that “the building is in need of rehabilitation.” It adds that “the weight of the new [proposed] tower” would be “pushed uncomfortably close to the landmark” due to a “large open parking lot” to the south of the station. (That lot falls under separate ownership, resting atop an underground garage for nearby condos.)
It’s unclear how long the project will be delayed or how significantly it will change. Last month, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts reviewed and “expressed support for the overall proposal,” per a letter CFA sent the development team. HPO says the “Neoclassical” gas station was built in 1936 with limestone “and styled to appear as a classical temple,” echoing Dupont Circle’s Church of the Pilgrims to its north at 2201 P St. NW.
The development team says it will continue to discuss the proposal with preservation officials with an eye toward the building’s height and the repositioning of the landmarked structure. (The would-be site would do away with the Sunoco gas pumps.) Architect Shalom Baranes admits the team was “more than a little surprised” by the critical HPO report, having thought there was consensus about what to do with the structure.
“I’m not sure I’ve undertaken a historic project here in the District where there hasn’t been opposition,” Baranes says of neighborhood reaction to the proposal, adding that his firm has successfully relocated landmarked buildings like the American Red Cross National Headquarters as a component of development plans. “Ultimately, you have to be very careful about what you do. That’s just the nature of historic preservation.”