As the architects for the 2001 East Apartment project, we respectfully take issue with Edwin Slipek’s article “Miracle on 21st Street” (Arts & Culture, Aug. 24). This apartment project is located in the Shockoe Valley Historic District, adjacent to the Church Hill Historic District. Thus this site was subject to a host of bureaucratic challenges, including the attainment of both a special-use permit from the city and a certificate of appropriateness from the Commission of Architectural Review.
We attended no fewer than four commission meetings for the project over the course of two years, receiving insightful design comments throughout the process. The Commission of Architectural Review is tasked with ensuring that no structure should create a false historical appearance in a historic district, so care was taken to avoid overt historicist references in the design of the building facades. By the time the project was granted a certificate of appropriateness, several members of the comission expressed their approbation for not only the project, but also for the open-mindedness we had exhibited in responding to various comments and concerns. The project received positive feedback from various neighborhood groups and there was no strong public opposition to the project at any of the public hearings.
It bears noting that the commission had concerns about the height and mass of the building, and that both it and the Richmond Planning Department recommended a setback at the upper floors of the building as a feasible solution. It also bears noting that several of the other projects referenced in the article weren’t subject to the same rigorous constraints, thus permitting an array of design options that were not feasible for our project.
I hope this letter provides your readers with some insight regarding the architectural design and approval process within the Richmond’s historic districts.
Winks Snowa Architects