Today the Historic Preservation Review Board voted unanimously to support the recommendation of preservation office staff, rejecting the historic landmark application
for the Market Deli on the northeast corner of 1st and L streets, SE.
The staff recommendation
seemed to be the primary driver of the board members' votes (with most board members having little comment on the application beyond "I support the staff recommendation"). Its author, Tim Dennee, reiterated its main points in his testimony, saying that while it would have been a good idea to keep the building maintained, the lack of underlying historic merit beyond the building representing the other old structures in the neighborhood that are gone does not allow the Market Deli to rise to the level of a landmark. There was also a lot of discussion about how the neighborhood "context" that would have allowed for a better understanding of the Deli's place in the history of the area is already gone, with so many buildings
having already been demolished.
Testifying in the support of the nomination was ANC 6D07 rep David Garber, who said he ran for the position because "there's such a clear opportunity in this neighborhood to develop something great." He described himself as "100 percent in favor of development in most cases," but feels that the Market Deli represents a "common building type for common people" and that "what's remarkable about the Market Deli is that it's unremarkable." Also testifying was Hayden Wetzel, who said he prepared at the application at Garber's request and who echoed Garber's comments by saying that it's a "sweet and pretty little building" and that the "ordinariness of the building speaks for itself." He said that he formed a task force within the DC Preservation League in 2000 to consider the buildings in the area, but that it didn't result in much interest.
Six people testified in opposition: three residents, Dodd Walker of Akridge (the owners of the building), Michael Stevens of the BID, and a woman hired by Akridge (whose name and affiliation I unfortunately missed) to investigate the building's history. Much of what was said by the residents, Stevens, and Walker were variations on comments made the ANC meeting
and in the Memorandum in Opposition
that was presented to the board with 39 co-signers. With concerns about how an ANC's position is given "great weight," resident Kitty Loyd focused her testimony on the ANC vote a few weeks ago, contending that Garber should have recused himself since he expressed an interest in saving this building before he became commissioner. (Loyd also apparently printed out the JDLand Market Deli comment threads
to give to the board, so you're all famous.) Both Michael Stevens and resident Adam Hall mentioned their feelings that there wasn't enough of a public process followed by Garber in submitting this application, while Hall also said that the building "gives the neighborhood a dangerous feel" because of the neglect.
Stevens also took time to list all the historic buildings in the neighborhood that are still in existence (from the Navy Yard to the Blue Castle to the beaux arts WASA Pumping Plant to the buildings being redeveloped at the Yards
, as well as the private homes and businesses along 3rd, K, L, Potomac, and lower 8th). He also mentioned the 10 to 12 years of planning and analysis (and studies
) by city agencies starting in the late 90s that have gone into the remaking of Near Southeast, back before the demolition of so many properties
--"would this history not have been discovered then?"
There was also a detailed (some might also describe it as "long") presentation from Akridge's historic preservation consultant about the history of the building, which apparently suffered a pretty serious fire in 1921 and appears to have been pretty well gutted at that time. Those who've never seen the interior of the Market Deli might be interested in seeing her presentation, which will be available when HPRB posts the video of the hearing
sometime on Friday.
There were few questions during the hearing from the board members, and, in the end, only chair Catherine Buell seemed anything less than fully supportive of the staff recommendation. She called it a "tough case," and said that she would like to see preservation plans and multiproperty listings done for the area (beyond just the "windshield survey" done by the Office of Planning back around the time of the ballpark). But in the end, saying that she didn't think the building was eligible for landmark status and that the ANC's comments (which are to be given "great weight") didn't really speak to the board's criteria, she called for a vote, and the board voted unanimously.
This was followed by a quick secondary vote on the Deli: the raze permit application for the building was also on the agenda
, in the event that the landmark application was approved. Because it wasn't, the board voted to support the staff recommendation that says the board no longer has jurisdiction over the property, and so the "city's issuance of a raze permit may proceed without further preservation review."
And that would seem to bring this matter to a close. Just after the hearing, Garber tweeted
: "I'm glad there was a chance for discussion on the matter, and I look forward to helping approve new plans to bring vibrancy to the site."