As part of the blog's first Restoration Diary feature, I'll be tracking the progress at the Lionel Lofts adaptive reuse restoration project in Washington, DC's Logan Circle neighborhood. This specific development project, in which a timeworn and underutilized three-story main street commercial building (c. 1905) is being transformed by local development duo CAS Riegler into condos and restaurant space, was chosen because of its relatability for communities across the country, and, as fortune and strategy would have it, its close proximity to the National Trust HQ. Almost every historic town and city has buildings like this one, and I am excited to follow the construction process from start to finish.
As you can see, the building isn't exactly a Roman ruin, but neither has it been loved in any real way for a while. Check out the 70s paneling and heavy window-grate security below. Worked for the Lionel Trains / Lock & Key shop that used the space before, but not so much for the chic urban restaurant (to be announced later) moving in.
The building takes up the entire lot from sidewalk to alley. While the front half was the store and display area, the back half was used for storage and garage space, and - while clearly still needing a lot of work - already has the ceiling height and exposed raw elements that will be revealed on the entire first floor soon.
Climb down the ladder-esque stairs to the basement and things get even more raw. As in, finding broken milk bottles from the early 1900s and rat-scurrying-up-to-me-while-taking-photos kind of raw. When the building is complete, the basement level will be an extension of the restaurant space. Do I smell a wine bar?
Upstairs, things take a turn for the even more dirty and rotten. As you can see, nary an original molding exists, and because of extensive water damage, all of the existing walls and joists will be completely replaced. As is the case with many restoration projects, sometimes it takes doing a little selective demolition (pulling up the red carpet, for example) to see what's hidden beneath.
Fortunately, the subjects of these pretty pictures of needy places will soon be replaced with something a little more clean and fresh.
The view out the back will change dramatically with a new addition going almost all the way back to the property line. I'll go over those plans in more detail later, but when the addition rises, this window will no longer exist.
As you can see below, the building will feel much more fresh and alive when the restoration is complete. Because of its location within the Greater 14th Street Historic District, the front exterior and massing were required to be sensitive to the history and aesthetic of the building and neighborhood before being approved for construction.
I'll be following this project closely, and will post blogs with general construction updates as well as pull out more specific aspects of the process and building restoration to highlight. Get excited, people: this raggedy old building is getting a complete makeover, and you'll get to see the before, the after, and everything in between.
Check out the slideshow for more before pictures:
David Garber is the blog editor at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.