D.C. building to wield new 'force'

D.C. building to wield new 'force'

Illustration courtesy of Studios Architecture

Goodbye, unseemly Darth Vader building. Hello, vine-covered, taller, greener structure in its place.

Douglas Development has received unanimous proposed action approval from the Washington, D.C., Zoning Commission to transform the exterior of its hulking, dark office building at 111 Massachusetts Ave. NW, reports the Washington Business Journal. It's often dubbed, even by Douglas Development, the Darth Vader building because its color and shape evoke the "Star Wars" villain.

Douglas filed plans last spring to tear the 33-year-old building down to its frame and add about 20 feet to its height. That would bring it from eight stories and 101 feet up to 10 stories and 130 feet, adding about 95,000 square feet in the process.

The developer, working with Studios Architecture, will seek LEED gold certification for the 325,091-square-foot office building, the paper reports. Environmentally friendly additions will include vine-covered panels on the building's north and south sides, a 12,000-square-foot green roof, street-level plantings and fritted glass that will cut down on bird collisions.

Tenants will have access to a terrace with a retractable awning on the building's roof. There will be public art along New Jersey Avenue NW and Second Street NW.

Douglas also plans to raise ground-floor ceiling heights to 14 feet to add up to 56,000 square feet of retail. It says it has had discussions, but no retail tenants have been signed yet.

A zoning staff report last summer called 111 Massachusetts NW “one of the least attractive structures in the District.”

Douglas acquired the property at H Street, New Jersey Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue and Second Street in 2002 for $62 million. It owns the building under the name “Jemal’s Darth Vader LLC.” However, a name change may be in order after the improvements are made.

Douglas representatives told the commission they want to turn the building from “obsolete to icon” and make it a gateway to the neighborhood, where the massive Capitol Crossing project is underway.

The developer hopes to accomplish that with a much softer look. It plans to conceptually “wrap” the building, then push the wrapping in at key points. That “crinkling” will break up the shape lines of the building and add lateral support, Douglas said. With the fritted glass, some parts of the interior won't be visible.

The vines would be a mix of species that grow in hot and cold weather, a representative from Landscape Architecture Bureau told the commission. The greenery will also help shield building tenants from direct sunlight.

Additionally, Douglas plans electric car charging stations and bicycle parking and will make contributions for a Capital Bikeshare station. It will also contribute $50,000 to Northwest One Public Library and Terrell Recreation Center, which are located at 155 L St. NE.

The commission is expected to give the project final approval Jan. 30 after signage details are worked out.


Topics: Architectural Firms, Associations / Organizations, Building Owners and Managers, Certifications, Construction Firms, Consulting - Green & Sustainable Strategies and Solutions, Engineering Firms, Environmental Firms, Exteriors, Great Commercial Buildings, Green Roofs / Garden Roofs, Healthy & Comfortable Buildings, Office Buildings, Sustainable Communities, Urban Planning and Design, USGBC


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