In response to the pending demolition of the rowhomes along the 1300 block of South Capitol Street and the unit block of N street to build a 200-unit apartment building, the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly (SWNA) filed an application to designate the structures as historic with the District’s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). According to the application, the six “Coleman & Richards Row” homes on South Capitol Street were built in 1892 and the seven “Banes Row” homes were constructed in 1916. The Coleman & Richards Row homes represent the oldest working-class single-family rowhomes left standing in Southwest. Most of the “obsolete dwellings” in Southwest were demolished during urban renewal, but the area east of Canal Street, south of M Street, and west of South Capitol Street was spared since at the time, most of the buildings were fairly new and in good repair.
This is not the first time in the neighborhood that historic designation was used to halt or slow development. SWNA used the tactic in 2014 when the Southeastern University campus building at 6th and I streets was being demolished in preparation for development into “The Bard,” a mixed-use project with administrative and rehearsal space for the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) and multifamily rental housing. In that case, the neighborhood organization was able to get some concessions from the developer in exchange for withdrawing the historic application. Subsequently, the building was demolished and the site sold to STC. A Planned Unit Development was filed for the site in 2016, but it was withdrawn last summer after a backlash from neighbors over the proposed height and density of the project.
It was used again when UIP and Perseus Realty had plans to build on top of a parking garage at Capitol Park Tower, located at 4th and G streets. In 2012, SWNA filed an application to place Capitol Park Tower on the DC Preservation League’s endangered list. At the same time, an application was filed to designate the building and landscape as historic. After the building and landscaping received historic preservation protection, the developers needed HPRB approval before proceeding with their plans for an addition. Final approval was given in 2016, but construction has yet to begin on the project.
Altus Realty Partners was expected to start construction on the South Capitol Street apartment project later this year with completion in 2019. Since a historic designation application was filed, demolition of the rowhomes and development of the apartment building will not be able to move forward until the HRPB makes a decision or SWNA withdraws their application.