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The fight against a sizeable mixed-use development planned for 9th and Monroe Street NE has entered another theater: Historic preservation. ANC 5A has submitted a landmark nomination for Colonel Brooks’ Tavern as well as neighboring houses, which would require plans to substantially change if approved.
Why does the tavern deserve historic status, according to its would-be preservers? The Colonel Brooks’ buildings, constructed in 1915 as a barbershop and cigar shop/residence, are “typical owner-occupied storefronts of the first years of the twentieth century” and “were associated with an Irish American owner whose business catered to Catholic University staff and students throughout their history.” The building at 925 Monroe “represents the lost structure, residential in character, remaining from the residential neighborhood built around the Brookland Train Depot.”
Jim Steigman, a partner in the project and owner of the properties up for landmarking, thinks the whole nomination is an obstructionist hail Mary.
“Interestingly, our property has been around here for a long time, but I don’t think anyone imagined it was an historic property until they decided they were unhappy with our PUD,” Steigman said. “It’s just an effort to derail a project that we really think will take Brookland to the next level as an urban village at the metro station.”
The project will get a preliminary hearing before the Zoning Commission on March 14, and the landmark nomination is scheduled to be heard by the Historic Preservation Review Board on March 24th. Steigman says the development team intends to vigorously oppose the nomination.
“It seems like a pretty naked effort by folks to use the historic preservation laws in a way that they weren’t intended,” he says. “I think that folks who are true preservationists would be offended by this kind of thing.”