Page B1.1 . 28 April 2004                     
ArchitectureWeek - Building Department
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D.C. Chinatown Restoration

by Melissa Cohen, AIA

Every neighborhood undergoes transformations throughout its history. The use of an area and its population may change rapidly, while its buildings and structures remain relatively constant. A growing disparity between old buildings and new presents architectural challenges in preserving the buildings and revitalizing historic districts.

In addition to providing modern amenities, architects must meet current building and life-safety codes. This can be difficult if one goal is to preserve the neighborhood's unique historic character.

But if this effort is successful, it can bring many additional benefits. The economic strength, spirit, and stability of the neighborhood can be bolstered through the support and retention of existing businesses while also attracting new ones, which can lead to an influx of capital and employment opportunities.

Most importantly, revitalization brings people back to live, work, shop, and play, resulting in economic and social benefits that may have been lost. Revitalization of an area promotes entertainment and cultural activities, which are essential in generating an energetic and thriving neighborhood that residents take pride in and are motivated to maintain and help grow.

The restoration of Washington D.C.'s Chinatown District is an example of revitalization through preservation. Many of the buildings in this district had been vacant for years, and no amenities were drawing people to the area.   >>>

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The preservation of Washington D.C.'s Chinatown, by GTM Architects, has contributed to the neighborhood's revitalization.
Photo: Kenneth M. Wyner Photography

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Two historic influences, European and Chinese, are evident in the restoration.
Photo: Kenneth M. Wyner Photography


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