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This beautiful Art Deco building is a striking addition to a major urban thoroughfare, terminating a vista at the end of a cross street with a grand, twostory archway that leads into a 5,000 square foot public plaza overlooking an important urban park. The six-story, 271- unit apartment Park Van Ness building, which features ground-floor retail, even sits near a transit stop on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, DC.
The building acknowledges the vista with a view of nature framed by architecture that makes the pedestrian experience more interesting by breaking up the large building into two halves. The street-level view of the park’s magnificent tree canopies, highly visible because of a drop in grade, is a gift to the community.
The archway and plaza added considerable expense—because the building required two elevators—but developer BF Saul and the design team decided the community benefits outweighed the cost.
Connecticut Avenue is a major thoroughfare through Northwest Washington leading downtown, lined by residential buildings and mixed-use districts with stops on the DC Metro’s Red Line. The Van Ness urban node is close to Rock Creek Park—but prior to this building’s construction, Connecticut Avenue in Van Ness had no visual connection to the urban green space.
Options for walking, bicycling, and transit are plentiful—as is on-street parking—and so Park Van Ness includes fewer than one parking space per unit. A courtyard faces the primary thoroughfare.
“CNU recognizes good urban architecture, and this is some of the best that I have seen—it’s a big urban gesture,” says architect and jury member Daniel Solomon.
Neighbor Justin Wood appreciates the contribution to place. “The Art Deco styling of the building feels like it’s been in the neighborhood for a much longer time than a few months. It feels natural mixed in with other older buildings.”
Great care was given to maintain the “art” in the Art Deco language. Numerous custom decorative pre-cast panels throughout the main facade evoke themes from the adjacent park. Additionally, two custom sculptures were commissioned which bookend the archway into the park. Custom paintings, also inspired by the park, are placed throughout the public spaces.
Los Angeles, California
The timeless and artful mass of Plaza La Reina, with its wide steps opening onto the street corner like a gift to the neighborhood looks like it should have been part of Westwood Village from the beginning.
As downtowns and urban neighborhoods thrive across America, city managers outside city centers have begun to ask, “How do we reinvent the suburbs?” Building on that extensive body of knowledge, Parsons Alley, the public-private redevelopment of an
Main Street in Lyons, Nebraska, has suffered like the heart of many small towns across America as shops have closed—losing customers to declining population and replaced by distant big-box stores.