Is adaptive reuse the right approach for your project?

As new project sites in urban areas are always at a premium, and many existing DC buildings are designated historic or merely treasured sites, many architects and owners are now opting for adaptive reuse in the District. When working with an existing building, there are many unique challenges, but also many benefits. christopher Senior Associate David Sharon, PE, a Group Leader in our Urban Division, compiled a list of case studies of some of his favorite adaptive reuse projects in DC. The christopher Urban Division is well-versed in adaptive reuse projects and ready to anticipate the challenges of your site before they arise.

DC Police 6th District HQ (5002 Hayes ST NE)

Previous Use: Merritt Middle School

christopher’s Urban Division provided stormwater management and low impact design (LID) services for the conversion of Merritt Middle School into the DC Police 6th District Headquarters. Designs had to meet the requirements of DC Water, the DC Department of Energy and Environment and the DC Department of Transportation.

Providing stormwater management solutions on an already fully developed site can be very challenging. The christopher team utilized a green roof system and LID stormwater facilities around the site property to meet the DOEE’s stringent requirements.

The second challenge  the team encountered was the lack of adequate water services flows and pressures to the property. Working closely with DC Water, christopher engineers designed 300 linear feet of new water main in the public right-of-way up through 49th Street, NE.

This project is an asset to the community in many ways. The property is located in Deanwood, a historic neighborhood in DC with a rich history. The area has been designated as an Opportunity Zone to encourage new business and commercial projects to the area that is lacking many of the amenities that are now common to urban areas. Deanwood is a desirable area to homebuyers because of its affordability and access to public transportation. This new police station headquarters provides added public safety and helps to increase trust of law enforcement to the local residents in this community

Ora Apartments (2144 California Street – Historic District)

Previous Use: Aging apartments

The Ora Apartments involved the comprehensive renovation of an apartment building constructed in 1959, recognized as a historic example of post-war modernism style architecture. The design team brought the building up to current standards while retaining its mid-century modern aesthetic in keeping with the character of the surrounding Sheridan Kalorama Historic District.

Much like the Police District, the Ora had to be designed to meet the requirements of DC Water, DC Department of Energy and Environment and the DC Department of Transportation. As the building occupies most of the site, best management practices (BMPs) had to be incorporated on top of the building.  The christopher team utilized a portion of the roof for a green roof system; this portion of the roof was otherwise unusable for amenities due to mechanical equipment that was housed there.

While a green roof is a great solution, especially on an already developed site, the roof in and of itself did not meet the requirements for the site. To increase the stormwater management quantity, our design allocated space on several of the building’s patios to create room for a long, narrow stormwater planting with lush landscaping. This not only increased the pervious surface area; it also created an inviting green space for users to enjoy while on the patios. The rooftop area was also dually purposed; in addition to the green roof, a recreation space was also created for residents featuring barbeque grilling area with seating and 360 views of DC.

This project brought an influx of fully renovated, modern apartments to the highly desirable and popular area of northwest DC, while retaining the architectural character of the community.

Chapman Stables (57 N Street NW – Historic Building)

Previous Use: Chapman Coal Company Garage and Stable

This project involved the renovation of the Chapman Coal Company Garage and Stable, built between 1906 and 1916 and designated a historic building, into 114 residential condominium units with some street level commercial space.

As with our other two projects, Chapman Stables had to be designed to meet the requirements of DC Water, DC Department of Energy and Environment and the DC Department of Transportation, which can create unique challenges when working with an existing building. For this project, we were tasked with providing stormwater management on a site that is wholly occupied by the existing building, while still retaining the building’s historic façade.

The christopher team was up to the task.  They designed green infrastructure to complement the innovative architectural design. The site features a green roof and a landscaped courtyard that is also used as a SWM bioretention raingarden.

This project is truly unique. Looking at the site from N ST NW, one can see the original brick facade with arched windows and metal cornice. Passersby might not realize that there is a modern condominium complex hidden behind this more than one-hundred year-old front.

Chapman Stables contributes to the surrounding neighborhood by revitalizing an underused commercial site into modern condominiums. The project is located in the diverse and bustling neighborhood of Truxton Circle with a number of schools, restaurants and other neighborhood amenities. Truxton Circle’s central location promotes walking and biking but also has access to public transportation. The christopher urban team is proud to have had a hand in this unique and award-winning adaptive reuse project.

christopher Can Help

When working within the parameters of an existing building, there can be many challenges, but there is also opportunity for creativity and innovation. christopher is proud of our Urban Division’s history of success on adaptive reuse sites. As fewer new sites become available in the District, this is a valuable skill that we bring to your team.

Please contact David Sharon, PE for more information on our adaptive reuse experience or to find out how we can assist you on your next project.