Through bouts of sun and snow since the July 2013 groundbreaking, construction is now about 35 percent complete on the Monseñor Romero Apartment building, formerly known as the Deauxville Apartments. Once finished this fall, returning residents can expect 63 new affordable apartments ranging from efficiencies to three bedrooms, including handicapped-accessible and visual/hearing impaired units. The 57,000-square-foot building will also include a leasing office, a community space, a computer lab, a shared laundry facility, and support spaces.
Long an eyesore and sad reminder of the March 2008 fire that displaced hundreds of residents, the jobsite has been home to demolition trucks, concrete mixers and specialty workers in recent weeks. With the site gutted, abatement completed and the historical façade shored up for safety, the utility and foundation work is now under way, and vertical construction will begin soon. The north section of the building, built in 1908 (and now gone) will be completely rebuilt to connect seamlessly with the renovated southern twin portion, originally built circa 1920s. The tenant association will pursue Green Communities certification upon completion.
As to be expected, getting the federal government and local preservation groups—namely the National Park Service and the Historical Mount Pleasant neighborhood association—to agree on the design was a significant challenge. Andrew Lewis, senior preservation specialist for the Historical Preservation Office of the D.C. Office of Planning, mediated charrettes and planning sessions until a compromise was reached. Ultimately, the final design meshes the existing look and feel of the neighborhood block with modern building standards.
"The Mount Pleasant community has been very positive, thanking us for our efforts, saying, 'Finally! Someone working on it,'" says Wiencek's project manager Maybell Laluna, Associate AIA. "The owner is aware there is a lot of interest about the new building, and people are already asking about leasing information."