Too hot for K Street.
Too hot for K Street.

D.C. residents worried that K Street architecture is getting too risqué can breathe a sigh of relief: After rejecting an outside-the-box design for an office building at 2100 K St. NW with an unusual rooftop embellishment, the Zoning Commission has approved a revised proposal for, well, a box.

At the July 31 Commission hearing at which the earlier design was nixed, architect Shalom Baranes grumbled, “When you look at the Washington, D.C., skyline, it’s basically unaddressed. It’s kind of a leftover.” Now the commissioners have chosen to embrace the preservation of that skyline, voting unanimously on Monday to approve an updated design that scraps the embellishment.

But not all of them were happy about it. Commission Vice Chair Marcie Cohen said she thought the July design would have “brought some differentiation” to a monolithic corridor. “I just felt that it would have been a great addition to a very boring street,” she lamented. “I walk down K Street a great deal, and I’m still seeing everything looking alike.”

Chairman Anthony Hood expressed a similar sentiment. “I’m very disappointed,” he said. “I don’t know personally if I agree with you on the proposed design with no embellishment. I kind of liked the embellishment.” He added later, “No embellishment to me looks kind of flat. … You pick and choose your battles, but I think we are doing this site a disservice by not going with what we had.”

The other three commissioners said they liked the new design. Michael Turnbull called it an “elegant building” that “fits in very well with the streetscape.” Peter May, the National Park Service representative whom I profiled in last week’s Washington City Paper cover story, said he was “comfortable” with the revised proposal.

Comfort and consensus, of course, don’t breed innovation, nor does a bias in favor of compatibility with neighboring properties. Instead, they inevitably lead to more of the same. In some people’s minds, that means preservation of what makes D.C. special. In others’, it’s simply “a leftover” or “flat” or “boring.”

h/t Michael Neibauer

2100 K St. NW rendering from Shalom Baranes’ July Zoning Commission presentation