Historic Zoning Commission
Ft. Sanders NC: Level II
Staff Recommendation for Demolition of non-contributing building; new addition
Staff recommends approval of Certificate 10-D-21-HZ as submitted, subject to the following conditions:
1) Revised placement of condensing unit and associated mechanical equipment, locating the unit on a less-prominent location, or the use of compatible opaque screening and landscaping if relocation of equipment is not possible, with approval by staff;
2) Meeting relevant aspects of City Sign Code, with revisions to be approved by staff;
3) Meeting any conditions of approval identified by Planning Commission in November 2021 Special Use review.
Applicant RequestAdditions; Other: Demolition of existing addition
Demolition of one wing of church complex and new major addition fronting Highland Avenue and S. Seventeenth Street. Church complex is listed as non-contributing to Fort Sanders National Register Historic District.
C.1950, two-story, side-gable brick masonry structure recessed at the southwest corner of the property (fronting S. 17th Street and the alley) proposed for demolition. A surface parking lot currently fronts Highland Avenue on the west side of the church; the parking will be relocated to be recessed behind the new addition and accessible from the alley.
New addition is rectangular in form, with a side-gable roof oriented towards Highland Avenue. Addition measures approximately 61 feet on the Highland Avenue elevation and extends 44 feet long along S. 17th Street. Addition is two-and-one-half-stories tall, with a lower level accessible from the sidewalk on Highland Avenue and a main level accessible via a corner entry along S. 17th Street and the new recessed parking lot. While the new addition measures 18' tall from main level to eave (compared to the existing nave of the church at 22'-6" from main level to eave), the roof peak heights of the addition and the nave are comparable in height. Addition will be connected to the existing building with a flat-roof hyphen. Primary materials include steel wall panels (metal siding) with 16" wide panels and 2" batten caps, a limestone-veneer clad lower level, and aluminum storefront windows and doors.
On the Highland Avenue elevation (north), the rectangular addition features a "basement level" at street level on Highland Avenue. The basement level will be clad in wet-laid limestone veneer with a variegated pattern; the limestone veneer continues to the lowest level of the hyphen. The upper levels are clad in steel wall panels. The addition's lower level is five bays long, with two full-light aluminum storefront doors in the first and final bays and full-light storefront windows in the remaining openings. At the eaves of the upper level are four wall dormers with four full-light aluminum storefront windows and flat roofs. The flat-roof hyphen features an aluminum storefront system. A set of steps extends east-west along the elevation, behind a limestone-veneer-clad wall. The steps and landing serve as a porch and provide access to the main level in the hyphen.
On the S. 17th Street elevation (west), the lower level is clad in limestone veneer. A single-light aluminum storefront window is located on the upper level, extending into the gable field. On the main level, a storefront system of full-height single-light windows wraps around to the rear elevation. A limestone boulder "site wall" to be constructed of existing limestone from the site's retaining wall will serve as a base for a sign. A flat aluminum canopy wraps around the corner entry. Four HVAC condensing units are located on the west elevation, at ground level, adjacent to the Highland Avenue corner.
On the rear (south) elevation of the addition, the main-level storefront system wraps around and includes two pairs of full-light double-doors to provide rear entry to the main level. Four flat-roof wall dormers, featuring single-light aluminum windows, intersect the roof eaves. The hyphen features an aluminum storefront system and paired single-light double doors.
Removal of the rear addition requires a new exterior wall to be constructed on the rear section of the existing building's west elevation. The 22'-6" tall wall will feature steel panel siding to match the addition and one flat-roof wall dormer. Another sign and a pair of single-light storefront doors will be installed in the existing tower.
Signs: 1) on the Highland Avenue elevation, a 4'-4" tall by 16' wide sign is located on the stair access to the hyphen. The non-illuminated steel sign features raised galvanized lettering. 2) On the S. 17th Street elevation, a 4'-4" tall by 16' wide, non-illuminated, steel sign rests on the limestone boulder site wall. 3) on the west elevation, fronting the parking lot, a rectangular steel wall sign is located to the left of the doors.
Landscaping elements: extensive landscape plan, including native and naturalized plants and trees; shown on landscape plan, sheet L1.1.
Site InfoMidcentury, c.1960
Gable-roof church building with an exterior of brick veneer, a brick-clad foundation, and arched windows.
1. 1642 Highland Avenue is listed on the NRHP nomination for the Fort Sanders Historic District under Non-Contributing structures as "405. 1642 Highland Avenue (1960) - three-story brick church, stone trim, Gothic-style stained glass windows." The address, parcel ID, and building are omitted from the 2000 Fort Sanders NC District Designation Report. While the rear massing of the church is 50 years old or older, it is not noted as a contributing building to the Fort Sanders Historic District. Per the design guidelines, demolition of the church's rear massing is appropriate.
2. The Fort Sanders design guidelines focus primarily on residential development in the neighborhood, with minor recommendations for commercial or mixed-use buildings. Specific guidelines for institutional (or specifically, church) buildings are not included in the guidelines. However, the intent of many of the guidelines (height, scale, & massing; roofs, wall materials; windows; parking; landscaping) can be applied to a major new addition to a church building.
3. As a NRHP District, the SOI Standards should also be taken into account. Standard for Rehabilitation #9 recommends that "new additions [...] not destroy historic materials, features, and spatial relationships that characterize the property. The new work will be differentiated from the old and compatible with the historic materials, features, size, scale and proportion, and massing to protect the integrity of the property and its environment."
4. The property is zoned RN-5 and subject to special use approval by the Planning Commission as a religious facility (to be reviewed at November 2021 Planning Commission meeting, 11-E-21-SU). The property received variances for parking, front yard setback, and impervious surface coverage at the May 2021 BZA meeting (5-E-21-VA).
5. The addition is proposed to be placed adjacent to the façade of the existing church building, set approximately 8.9' from the front property line along Highland Avenue and 17.4' from the left side property line along S. 17th Street. The addition's placement will bring visual interest to both streets and connect the existing building with the overall streetscape. It will also relocate the surface parking lot to the rear of the buildings, providing most access and egress from the alley. The new addition will not remove or alter any character-defining features of the existing building. Placement of the addition is appropriate.
HEIGHT, SCALE, & MASSING
6. The proposed addition is approximately the same height as the existing church building, turning the form of the existing church building 90 degrees and orienting it towards Highland Avenue. The addition is slightly smaller than the existing building, though it will present as similar in size from the street. The addition is smaller in size than the existing addition that will be demolished.
7. The overall form of the proposed addition is a simple rectangular massing, with a side-gable roof which transitions smoothly into the walls with no eave overhangs, cornice, or other roof details. The c.1960 church building has a similar massing and roof form. The new addition serves as a contemporary interpretation of the existing building's form.
8. The roof pitch is compatible with the simple gable-roof form of the existing building. The guidelines include "pressed metal" as a "roofing material [...] in keeping with historic development styles."
9. The proposed design uses flat-roof wall dormers to break up the simple rectangular form, extending above the roofline and featuring single-light windows. The applicant draws reference from Queen Anne-style wall dormers, with examples from the neighborhood. The wall dormers add complexity to the massing, and their form and proportions are appropriate for the contemporary design of the addition.
10. The existing church building is built in a modest midcentury interpretation of church architecture, with Gothic Revival-inspired arched windows, a simple gable roof, and brick veneer siding and stone sills with modest Colonial Revival influence. The existing church building's style is not representative of Fort Sanders' high-style church architecture. The proposed addition is sufficiently differentiated from the existing building, and serves as a contemporary interpretation of the simple midcentury style.
11. The addition creates the illusion of a limestone foundation, with a limestone veneer-clad lower level with pedestrian access along Highland Avenue. Limestone retaining walls are a character-defining feature of Fort Sanders. The limestone-clad lower level also serves to break up the overall massing of the addition, creating interest at the pedestrian level. Site design elements include the incorporation of historic limestone wall elements (currently a low-height limestone retaining wall around the parking lot).
12. The main massing will be clad in steel panel siding and roofing, with a "board-and-batten" impression created by 16" wide panels with 2" battens. In many instances in Fort Sanders, metal siding would not be appropriate for the context. The guidelines note that "materials that are not typical in pre-1940 construction should not be used," which the Commission may choose to discuss. The board-and-batten detail serves to visually break up the siding. In the opinion of staff, the metal siding is appropriate for the contemporary style of the proposed addition. Incorporating a section of metal siding and wall dormer on the existing building (where the old addition is removed) will further tie the two buildings together.
13. Windows on the addition include single-light dormer windows and single-light storefront-style windows on the lower level fronting Highland and the corner entry. In many instances in Fort Sanders, single-light metal windows would not be appropriate for the context. However, the existing midcentury building uses somewhat flat, metal-framed arched windows which lack the depth and profile of historic windows. The single-light windows add significant transparency to the lower level along Highland and the upper levels in the dormers.
14. Common recommendations of design review focus on avoiding large swaths of siding with no transparency. The "middle" of the proposed addition is comprised of continuous, metal-sided wall space, with the "voids" or transparency focused on lower and upper levels. However, this pattern is also reflected in the existing façade of the church, where the centrally-located arched windows are the only transparency on the brick-veneer clad wall. The addition's lower-level storefronts and the dormer windows are generally aligned with the existing building's windows. The glass-fronted hyphen and the entry steps and "porch" also break up the massing.
15. The proposed corner entry and flat-roof awning create a strong sense of entry visible from S. 17th Street, and emphasizes transparency on the rear elevation (which will be visible on S. 17th Street). The flat roof awning is compatible with the contemporary style of the design.
16. One minor element of the design is the proposed HVAC condensing unit pad, which would be prominently located at the corner of Highland Avenue and S. 17th Street. The pad and associated mechanical equipment are shown on elevation drawings but not the renderings. While Fort Sanders' guidelines do not focus on mechanical equipment (due to the nature of the NC overlay), other districts' guidelines recommend that mechanical equipment should be located where they are not visible from primary streets, on sides or rear of buildings, and should be screened with shrubbery or fencing. If possible, the condensing unit and associated equipment should be moved to a less prominent location on the building. If not possible, the condensing unit should receive opaque screening and detailed landscaping to reduce the visual effect.
17. In general, the proposed signs are appropriate for the church complex in size, placement, and design. Revisions to the proposed signs may be necessary due to the property's RN-5 zoning (City Sign Code 13.9.D.2.b). As most signs can be reviewed and approved by HZC staff, revisions could be submitted to staff for approval.
18. The proposed landscaping meets and exceeds the Fort Sanders design guidelines for "landscaping, fencing, & retaining walls." If installed and maintained, the landscaping will significantly benefit the neighborhood context, especially as the prominent surface parking lot is removed.