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Raising Capital

Raising Capital

Two new Enrique Norten buildings on city-owned property in the West End neighborhood of Washington, D.C. introduce high-profile design to an area more accustomed to Georgian politesse. The West End Library on L Street and the two-story fire station on M Street have been developed by DC-based Eastbanc. Updated designs reflecting community input were presented to the local Advisory Neighborhood Committee on April 25, showing the two as tall mixed-use buildings with the proposed library slated to accommodate retail space, a coffee shop, a parking lot, and 174 residential units, while the proposed fire station building will have five stories of affordable housing and a squash court.

 

In keeping with Norten’s minimalist aesthetic, both projects utilize energy-efficient glass, and have simple box footprints. The library features bays protruding from the facade and exterior louvers that block heat from entering the building, shaped with the architect’s signature asymmetrical contours. Solar shades, a green roof and wastewater management strategies respond to the community’s demand for sustainability.

Commissioning a world-renowned architect was key for the developer, who specializes in high-end mixed-use projects. According to Eastbanc’s Benjamin Sonnet, the firm approached Norten having seen his renderings for the Brooklyn Public Library for the Performing Arts and his work in New York and Mexico City. “In comparison, it was unlike most things we’ve seen before in the District,” he explained.

   

Norten’s West End project joins Norman Foster’s CityCenterDC, a ten-acre mixed-use development at the former convention center, as one of two new developments in the city by internationally-known architects. “Compared to New York or London, [name brand architecture] hasn’t been key,” remarked Sonnet, observing that DC’s height restrictions can limit creativity, not to mention the city’s prevailing practical streak.

   

Updated plans for the library reflect feedback from 60 community meetings. Though community members originally expressed concern about the height of the library, Mary Mottershead, vice president at Eastbanc, explained that the main change addressed the placement of the bays, in response to immediate neighbors concerned about their distance from the projections. Community members also prioritized public access to the library, and larger condo units to attract long-term residents, rather than nearby, possibly party-prone, Georgetown students.

Eastbanc is no stranger either to the West End or to creative mixed-use, having developed the Ritz-Carlton and 22West, a development that incorporates an Exxon Mobil station into a luxury condominium, just to the east of the library. Both the library and the fire station parcels have been on the firm’s radar for a decade. Citing the neighborhood’s proximity to downtown and Georgetown, Mottershead said, “We envision it as a mixed use area with office buildings and hotels. It’s at a tipping balance that allows it to be a really nice residential area, too.”

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