Property Address:


6833 4th Street NW

Takoma Park Historic District




Consent Calendar

Meeting Date:

H.P.A. Number:

Staff Reviewer:

September 26, 2013


Anne Brockett




Concept Review

New Construction




McGinty Toppin Enterprises, working with Cunningham Quill Architects proposes to adaptively reuse the long-vacant Takoma Theater in the Takoma Park Historic District for residential use.  Built in 1923, the theater was designed by John Zink in a restrained Classical Revival style, incorporating elements of the Colonial Revival.  The lobby and office block is brown brick with a metal cornice and trim while the auditorium block is red brick with some decorative brick coursing and paneling on the north side elevation. 


The HPRB has previously recommended denial of applications to demolish the building entirely (to make way for a larger office building) and to demolish the auditorium and construct a residential tower behind the lobby and office block.  After holding a public hearing, the Mayor’s Agent denied the raze permit.


Project Description                                  

The current proposal calls for converting the majority of the building to residential use (20 units) and to maintain the commercial use of the first floor of the office block.  Changes to the exterior include an addition on the building’s south side, new window and door openings on the sides and rear of the auditorium, and the addition of two shed dormers that extend the length of the trussed roof.  The front block will be restored and the existing recessed entrance and lobby will continue to serve as the primary access for the building.  As the interior is not landmarked, the interior alterations for inserting new floors within the auditorium space are not subject to historic preservation review. 


The addition at the south side of the office block is designed in a hybrid historic/modern aesthetic.  Measuring 25’ in width and 42’ in depth, addition would be clad in terra cotta panel and brick with a band of windows that mimics the historic building’s façade and a traditional storefront.


The new fenestration on the sides consists of alternating large paired awning windows and smaller punched openings.  At the rear, paired windows would flank a new central door.  Dormers are proposed along both sides of the building, punctuating the sides of the 4-sided roof (which reflects its interior truss structure).  The dormers would be largely glazed and sit back from the edge of the building.  All new windows would be set in substantially from the brick face of the building with metal to wrap the interior surfaces of the openings.


Other alterations include landscaping the public space around the building and restoring the historic roof sign and marquee.




The proposal would restore the theater’s historic façade and compatibly adapt it for modern use.  The project has been developed to be consistent with previous HPO and HPRB recommendations, including limiting demolition, placing the addition in the parking lot, and adding windows in a manner that is sensitive to the building’s design while allowing for occupiable space.  While generally discouraged on visible elevations – particularly on residential buildings – new window openings are not inappropriate here in support of the building’s re-use and through walls that lack architectural distinction.  Although the north elevation does feature some decorative brickwork, the placement of the windows has been specifically designed to respect the existing patterning.  


The applicants should continue to develop the scope of restorative work to the office block in coordination with the HPO, including window and door repair and replacement, cleaning methods, and landscaping to ensure appropriateness for the historic building. 


In response to HPO comments the addition has been lowered in height and set back from both the front and rear walls of the office block.  As the design develops, further refinements to the addition could improve its compatibility with the historic building.  As the proportions and dimensions of the addition are different from the theater, it is suggested that the façade not mimic the design aspects of the historic office block.  An alternative to the unfenestrated brick block at the south end of the addition should be explored, possibly continuing the use of terra cotta with an additional window on each floor.  Replicating a historic storefront with its limestone base on the addition is also not necessary and is somewhat contradictory to the use of a modern facing material such as terra cotta. 


The staff also offers the following comments for further consideration of the side addition as the design develops:


-          Eliminate the vertical limestone break, which introduces a new, unnecessary design element.

-          Consider lowering the height another step on the portion that is currently brick.

-          Add a cornice treatment on the addition.


For the existing building, the staff recommends the following:


-          Reconsider the depth of the new windows on the sides and rear to bring the glazing closer to the building’s surface, which would be a more traditional and compatible window configuration (and prevent water collection on the deep sills).

-          Reuse brick that is removed for new openings to infill windows and doors that are to be closed.

-          Eliminate the proposal for decorative brickwork at the rear, which may necessitate an undue amount of demolition and is incompatible for a rear utilitarian elevation.




The HPO recommends that the Board find the proposed concept compatible with the character of the historic district and consistent with the purposes of the preservation act with consideration of the above suggestions and that the Board delegate final approval to staff.