CFA 16/JUN/22-1


50 Massachusetts Avenue, NE
Washington, DC
United States

Federal Railroad Administration
Washington Union Station
Station expansion project -- federal properties and private air-rights development
Review Type
Information presentation
Previous Review


Dear Mr. Valenstein:

In its public meeting of 16 June conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts was pleased to hear an information presentation on updated plans for the renovation and expansion of Washington’s Union Station, along with an associated air-rights project, which illustrated the development of initial planning since its last presentation to the Commission in November 2019.

The Commission members commented on the elegant, coherent presentation; they expressed appreciation for the progress on this ambitious project to solve a complex set of intertwined challenges of planning, programmatic use, structural design, and access. Consistent with the Commission’s previous advice, the new planning effort has been highly responsive in eliminating extensive structured air-rights parking; incorporating a bus terminal within the new development as a bright and dignified convenience for travelers; developing a civic architectural character for the train hall; and strengthening public connections to the H Street viaduct.

In their discussion of the proposal, the Commission members provided the following comments to be addressed as the design is further developed. They raised an overall concern that the new proposal—particularly the train hall, in its formal and gestural strength—may compete with the historic architecture of Union Station itself; they emphasized that the design of the additions should complement the formal character, progression through, and programmatic uses of the historic station. For the central plaza south of H Street, they recommended further developing this important space to strengthen its civic character; they recommended a more coherent, simplified design with a clear spatial progression to the new train hall and the historic station. They noted that the private air-rights development, Burnham Place, will be a large and momentous intervention in the city; they recommended more regularity and less episodic variety in the design of the buildings as the architecture of this new urban fabric is developed.

The Commission looks forward to review of the concept submission for the project; it is anticipated that the scope of work associated with the additions to the station will be reviewed as a federal government project when submitted and the private-sector Burnham Place by referral from the D.C. government under the Shipstead-Luce Act. As always, the staff is available to assist you.


/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA

David Valenstein, Senior Advisor
Federal Railroad Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

cc: Nikolas Dando-Haenisch, Grimshaw
Mark Gilliand, Shalom Baranes Associates
Beverley Swaim-Staley, Union Station Redevelopment Corporation
Daniel Sporik, Amtrak
David Tuchmann, Akridge
Everett Lott, D.C. Department of Transportation
David Maloney, D.C. Historic Preservation Office