Design Review Board approves Carlyle Crescent rooftop

Design Review Board approves Carlyle Crescent rooftop
A detailed drawing of the tower analyzed by staff (photo Design Review Board meeting)

By Kassidy McDonald

At a meeting on July 21, Design Review Board staff reviewed and approved an updated design plan to the proposed project for a 3,114 square foot rooftop addition at 1940 Duke St., Carlyle Block C.

The existing six-story office building, often called the “Carlyle Crescent Building,” takes up one lot with an area of 62,198 square feet, according to the Carlyle Block C Rooftop Amendment on the city’s website. The building is surrounded by other office buildings as well as residential and retail spaces.

When the Carlyle Special Use Permit was first approved in 1990, block-by-block design guidelines established parameters for height, open space, sidewalks and streets within each block approved by the Carlyle/Eisenhower Design Review Board, according to the DRB concept review document.

These block guidelines apply to Carlyle Block C where the office building is located. The proposal is in compliance with all Block C guidelines except the guidelines of height.

Staff opened the DRB meeting by giving a complete overview of the Carlyle project. The applicant had sent the board an email with their revised building renderings from a previous plan on July 19, and staff completed an analysis and presented their findings at the meeting.

“We have the submission that the staff report is on and then we received, along with a letter from the attorney, somewhat of an updated version of it, and I think both of [the design plans] answer some of our concerns and both of them also still don’t answer all of our concerns, so I’m going to walk through both submissions and make our concerns a little clearer,” staff member and board member Thomas Canfield said.

The applicant, I&G Direct Real Estate 25 LP, had proposed a design plan that adds a conference room and lobby area at the penthouse level of the existing office building on the west side facing Dulany Street. They also proposed improvements to the existing exterior penthouse terrace area.

DRB staff was largely concerned about a couple of different aspects of the newly proposed design plan. One concern included the general aesthetic of the building and if the overall design would be affected by the rooftop addition. During the presentation, staff showed two renderings of a previously proposed and an updated proposed design which they said both looked “too utilitarian,” based on their analysis.

Original design submissions also included a heavy overhang and accents that did not match the existing colors of the building, according to staff. The applicant’s design included a terracotta color of which the board expressed their concern.

Modifications to the existing tower/turret structure and the architectural treatment of the proposed addition were also of concern to board members in their analysis.

“All the materials in the turret should be preserved just like you would if it were a historic structure, so our recommendation is to keep everything that is there and insert vision glass in the large openings at roof level and the lower half of the small openings at crown level,” Canfield said.

Staff then continued their overview presentation by showing drawings of the structures they were discussing.

“It is important, given the amount of detail that we need, to get drawings that show all of the pieces,” Canfield said.

Some of the recommendations from the DRB that were detailed in both their analysis presentation and key takeaways section from the DRB concept review document include preserving the remaining portions of the exterior architecture of the turret, filling in turret voids with glass and the use of spandrel glass should be avoided by adjusting ceiling heights, preserving the northernmost turret column and modifying the tangent of the operable glass window-wall.

The real estate applicant, I&G Direct Real Estate 25 LP, was represented by Robert Brant at the meeting. Brant stressed the importance of this particular design meeting and having a proposed timeline that would allow them to start construction on the interior of the building by the end of this year.

“One of the main driving forces of this application is a particular tenant’s interest in this rooftop conference room and space,” Brant said. “This [rooftop conference room] has become a really popular thing in the office market and that’s what we are looking to achieve.”

The DRB and the applicant’s team then had a conversation about the interior turret columns. Within their proposed design plan, the applicant was planning on changing or demolishing these turrets. The DRB expressed their concern that the northernmost turret column should not be modified to preserve the “iconic shape” of the building.

What the DRB said and what seemed to be a common theme during the entirety of
the meeting was that most of their recommendations to the design plan were not so much about the intent of the project, but were more about the general aesthetic and preserving the building’s shape, especially from the pedestrian’s point of view from the street.

Board Member Roger Lewis made sure his opinion about the building’s aesthetic was heard by the applicant.

“Something [needs to] happen so that the geometric independence of that tower is preserved because that’s what has been lost [in the design plan],” Lewis said.

Staff said that there are solutions to the problems they raised that will allow for the preservation of existing structure, and it is now a matter of being worked through and coming up with a “secondary layer of detailing.”

Brant continued to stress the importance of the timeline and how urgently they want to move forward. He expressed that they would be ready to “hit the ground running tomorrow.”

The DRB told Brant that the necessary recommendations need to be made to the design, and then the DRB would review a package that could be circulated as a PDF, so that the applicant’s time concerns are addressed. If revisions are not up to standard, they can bring the proposal back to the DRB at the next regularly scheduled meeting, according to the DRB concept review document.

The DRB voted unanimously to approve the concept submission for the proposed Carlyle Block C rooftop amendment, with Lewis making the motion and Paul seconding.

The DRB also voted to recommend approval of an amendment to the Carlyle Block C Design Guidelines to modify the maximum building height, with Canfield making the motion and Lewis seconding.