Historic Georgetown building narrowly wins approval for partial demolition and new third story

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The owner of 1728 Wisconsin Ave. NW hopes to add a third story and a rear addition. (Brian Kapur/The Current/October 2017)

A proposed new third story and rear demolition at 1728 Wisconsin Ave. NW narrowly won approval from the Historic Preservation Review Board last week, after the Old Georgetown Board also backed the project.

The small two-story building was constructed in 1899 as a dwelling, according to a Historic Preservation Office report. In the 1950s, a one-story front addition was built as a shopfront, and the site has most recently housed a P.O. Boxes Etc. store.

The property sold for $900,000 last year to Inle Development. At the time, Inle owner Hashim Hassan told the Washington Business Journal that he was planning a ground-floor restaurant below two residential levels, but he wasn’t available for comment this week.

Although the Historic Preservation Office opposed the plans as requiring too much demolition within the Georgetown Historic District, the preservation board sided with leading community voices in support — notably Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E (Georgetown, Burleith) and the Old Georgetown Board.

“I’m willing to defer to the Old Georgetown Board and the ANC in this case,” preservation board member Brian Crane said before his vote.

The 1899 building at 1728 Wisconsin Ave. NW was originally constructed as a residence. (Brian Kapur/The Current/October 2017)

Tim Dennée, who authored the Historic Preservation Office’s report opposing the plans, had suggested more of the existing structure be retained, such as preserving a rear wall that would be demolished.

“With front and rear additions, a third floor nearly completes the swallowing of the historic building,” his report states. He concluded that the additional floor “is too prominent and that the mansard lends a false history to the building.”

George Gordon, the architect on the project, defended the design. “This is an awkward position to find myself in, and it is more awkward for my client,” Gordon said, apparently referring to the objections.

Preservation board chair Gretchen Pfaehler agreed with the staff report but did not win over a majority of her colleagues.

The design for 1728 Wisconsin went through multiple alterations while moving through the Commission of Fine Arts over three years. At its Sept. 20 meeting, the commission expressed “no objection” to rear and rooftop additions, partial demolition and alterations to the structure.