Construction may stall on addition to art gallery

Correction appended

Progress on a building set to be built next door to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, located in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood, may be halted because of problems with the building’s design.

Developer Carr Properties brought a revised concept for the 1700 New York Ave. property to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts last Thursday, but the commission did not approve the plan.

“The general issue had to do with the overall concept,” Thomas Luebke, secretary for the commission, said.

Luebke said the commission is not against the project in general, but said there is concern about the proposed eight-story, 120,000 square-foot office building’s height and other design aspects.

Luebke said the building’s design needed to have a character that was “less aggressive” and “quieter.”

The proposed building is located on an undeveloped lot adjacent to the gallery. The museum and its College of Art and Design announced in December 2010 that it entered into an agreement with Carr Properties to develop the site under a long-term ground lease, according to a news release.

The gallery is privately funded and is D.C.’s largest nonfederal museum of art.

Because of the Shipstead-Luce Act, passed by Congress in 1930, the CFA has the authority to review designs of private construction projects in certain areas of D.C. The act applies to construction facing or adjacent to sites like the White House, which is across the street from the property being developed.

Corcoran Gallery spokeswoman Kristin Guiter said once the project is approved, the Corcoran will sign a ground lease with Carr Properties for constructing a building on the lot.

“The development of the New York Avenue property will assist in securing the long term future of the Corcoran,” the museum’s Director and Chief Executive Fred Bollerer said. Bollerer also noted that funding from the ground release could “support projects essential to the growth of the Gallery and College.”

The architecture firm SmithGroup is designing a “contemporary building to compliment the Beaux-Arts style of the Corcoran’s historic Ernest Flagg-designed building,” according to the news release.

Last November the CFA saw the project’s initial concept proposal but took no action. Luebke wrote in a letter to Carr Properties Nov. 29 that the Commission said the “design would be better if reduced in height by two stories” and recommended “that the new building be treated as part of an urban ensemble, rather than as a singular object,” among other suggestions.

Luebke said Friday that the CFA thought the second proposal was “too sculptural” and there is still concern about the building’s height.

“Presumably [Carr Properties] will revise the design,” Luebke said.

Though the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission planned to discuss the project’s development at a Jan.19 meeting, this was postponed because the project was still under review by the commission

ANC Chair Rebecca Coder told residents that the project “may be there for a while, so we’ll look forward to seeing them [Carr Properties] in the future” at an ANC meeting.

Construction is expected to begin on the LEED-certified building in 2012 and be complete in the spring of 2013 if everything stays on schedule.

This article was updated on Feb. 1, 2011 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that a proposed building was part of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and that Corcoran brought design plans before the Commission of Fine Arts. In fact, the proposed building is being developed by Carr Properties, which brought its concept before the CFA.

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