Saturday, November 27, 2010

St. Matthew's Gets New Architect

At this past Monday's SWNA meeting, Reverend Huber from St. Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church, along with architect Shalom Baranes from Shalom Baranes Associates Architects presented their latest plans for their mixed use project at Delaware Avenue and M Street, which are still in the concept phase, so no renderings are available. Also present were representatives from Trammell Crow, the developer of the project. Some changes have occurred with the new plans, including the siting of the new sanctuary and community center relative to the planned apartment building. In the new plan, the development is in the shape of an "L" - the apartment building will be situated along M Street & extend south along the western border with 240 M Street and the church will be located at the corner of Delaware Avenue & M, in order to preserve what is left of the view shed along Delaware Avenue north to the Capitol dome. Baranes explained that over the years, Delaware Avenue south of M Street was reduced in width and the center line of the street shifted to the east, which altered the view towards the Capitol. In addition, the new design will maintain the courtyard-design aesthetic of Southwest, with buildings interspersed with open space.

There will be a shared open space along Delaware Avenue with a seating area and a shallow pool that will be connected to the fellowship hall of the church. A landscaped buffer will be installed along Delaware Avenue to shield the outdoor space and provide some security. Existing trees will be maintained on three sides - Delaware Avenue, the western border with 240 M Street, and on the south. New landscaping will be planted on M Street.

Such a large open space can be made because the apartment building will be 10-11 stories tall and use 4.3-4.4 of FAR, allowing more open space. The apartment building will be 2-3 stories taller than other buildings on M Street, but Baranes explained that it's good to have structures of varied heights and the building will be brought closer to the street to give the corridor a more urban feel. Other developments along M Street, including future phases of Waterfront Station will have buildings closer to the street as well. The apartment building will be designed as a simple box, similar to other residential buildings in Southwest, with a variety of building materials, playing off of what currently exists in the neighborhood. The main entrance for the apartment building will be located on M Street. Ten percent of the housing is mandated to be affordable housing by inclusionary zoning, but St. Matthew's would like for it to be designated workforce housing (for teachers, police officers, firefighters, etc.) since the neighborhood already has plenty of public housing.

St. Matthew's has partnered with Arena Stage to design the sanctuary as a performance space. When the old church was in existence, the fellowship hall was used almost daily and Reverend Huber referred it to the "town center" for Southwest -the redesigned fellowship hall will aim to serve that purpose once again. A grand entryway for the church will be designed on M Street. In addition, a community center will be located between the church and the apartment building with a separate entrance on M Street. A 501(c) non-profit organization called Transforming Southwest Community Development Corporation will manage the community center. Within the community center will be a coffee shop called Sacred Grounds Cafe: "Coffee with a Purpose." Some features and planned activities for the community center include: free Wi-Fi access, Internet terminals, seniors morning, book club, live performances, community forums, a gallery to support local artists, movie night, preschool program, thrift shop, and a multimedia classroom. Other ideas floated by Pastor Huber is to offer "Dinner at Your Door" for residents of the apartment building, a community outreach center with a social worker, and a Southwest youth & children's choir.

The PUD will be submitted in either January or February 2011. By that time, more details about the design will be fleshed out. Construction is scheduled to begin by the first or second quarter of 2012. The Lutheran Church helped finance the PUD process and most likely will be involved with financing the project. Until construction begins, temporary uses will be encouraged for the vacant site. Previously, the lot has been transformed into a Christmas tree lot during the holidays and last summer, 20 plots were created for gardeners. The Christmas tree lot will return on December 2nd - details about prices to come soon. Other temporary uses are being contemplated for the site, such as a community yard sale, partnering with Arena Stage and the Corcoran for an outdoor arts festival, and a wine festival. St. Matthew's is looking for other ideas for temporary uses for the space. If you have any ideas, feel free to contact Reverend Huber - his email address is: pchuber@hughes.net.

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