The Ellington

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Location: Washington, D.C.. Historic African American arts/entertainment district of Washington, D.C.

This project is located in a formerly thriving African American arts and music destination in Washington, D.C. In recent decades the district has suffered from urban blight and abandonment after the 1960s riots. Today, public and private entities have partnered to once again revive the neigbhorhood, and a new metro station was recently built adjacent to the site.

The Ellington features the aesthetic of urban conversion, symbolizes the rejuvenation of the U Street Area. Modern detailing is interpretive of historical design elements, including an aluminum cornice at the 6th floor, detailed storefronts, canopies, and signage. A large vertical sign at the corner is reminiscent of old theatre signs that were once a signature of the historic U Street Corridor.

The project is situated on a complicated site having numerous regulatory constraints that made design measures difficult. The site is split between three different zoning districts, two of which were subject to an Arts Overlay District, placing additional constraints on the ground floor design, open space, street wall, and setbacks. The site is also inside the Greater U Street Historic District which was subject to review by the District of Columbia Historic Preservation Review Board. The U Street Cardozo Metro tunnels also slice diagonally across the site 22 feet below ground, restricting parking and requiring an innovative structural solution.

The building is segmented to create the feel of a collection of different buildings, defined with clear lines, large glass panes, and extensive brick. The red-brick corner structure has the look and feel of a converted industrial building and houses unique two-story loft apartments between the 3rd and 4th floors, with exposed duct work, stained concrete flooring, and 20-foot window walls stretching to the ceiling. Flats are on the 2nd floor, some of which are the building's largest offerings, and give residents an overlook of the excitement on U Street. The setback 'penthouse' up top contains 17-foot wide terraces with architectural porticos, allowing residents to entertain while showcasing the monumental views.

Intentions of community revitalization have guided the project's development. This development is one of the first to be built in the neighborhood in decades, and a major aim was to restore U Street's vitality. The rhythm of the district has been revived in the U Street corridor by combining convenience with urban character. The design is a successful example of historically and contextually sensitive mixed-use, transit-oriented development. The neighborhood is filled with examples of urban come-back and the project highlights this renewal via its noticable elegance.

Read more at this project's website.

Lessons learned: Uses back alley for access to below-ground parking garage which keeps the front of building ped-friendly; innovative use of ducts and pipework that allows good vertical transitions between the mixed-uses within the building; particular attention to appropriate signage and entry points is of crucial consideration; sensitive integration into overlapping districts requires respect to scale, design, and materials; incorporating flexibility and mechanical mobility of street level storefront facades important for business growth and accomodation as well as increasing the street to interior flow on site.

Transect Zone(s): T4 general, T5 center.
Status: Complete
Project or Plan's Scale: Block
Features: Bus transit, Live/work, Mixed uses, Rail/fixed guideway transit, Sustainable infrastructure, Transit oriented development.
Land area (in acres): 1
Total built area (in sq. ft.): 211000
Total project cost (in local currency):
Retail area (in sq. ft.): 15000
Office area (in sq. ft.):
Industrial area (in sq. ft.):
Number of hotel units:
Number of residential units (include live/work): 186
Parks & green space (in acres):
Project team designers: Torti Gallas and Partners
Project team developers: Donatelli and Klien

Previous site status: Redevelopment