Update: The Washington International School is appealing the Historic Preservation Review Board’s denial of approval of the School’s proposed Science+ Project to the Mayor’s Agent for Historic Preservation. The Mayor’s Agent has scheduled a hearing for April 6, 2018. For information about the process, click here.
The Tregaron Conservancy, a 501(c)(3) organization, has been co-steward of the Tregaron Estate, a historic landmark, with the Washington International School (WIS) since February 2006. Previously, the Tregaron Limited Partnership (TLP) owned 14 acres of the 20-acre Estate, and, since 1980, WIS has owned the remaining six acres, including all of the historic buildings.
The TLP had sought to build numerous residential houses on its property but faced strong opposition from the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) and neighbors organized as the Friends of Tregaron (FOT). Negotiations among FOT, WIS, and TLP led to a complex “Tri-Party Agreement” in January 2006, which was contingent upon approval by relevant regulatory bodies. Key elements of that agreement included that:
- TLP would cede ten acres for the creation of the Tregaron Conservancy;
- The new Conservancy would own, rehabilitate, maintain, and operate the Conservancy land in order to preserve and sustain its significance as a historic designed landscape;
- The Conservancy’s twelve-member board of directors would include three WIS representatives;
- WIS would make substantial financial contributions from 2008 to 2017 to support the Conservancy’s mission and contribute an annual fee to cover a portion of the Conservancy’s maintenance costs;
- WIS would be allowed to construct a new soccer field and increase its enrollment at Tregaron by 25 students;
- TLP would cede three acres to WIS as “open space” that could not be developed; and
- TLP would be allowed to develop a limited number of houses on the perimeter, and would make specified contributions to the Conservancy for each lot sold.
For almost a decade, the Tregaron Conservancy and WIS maintained a cooperative relationship. The Conservancy applied contributed resources, along with contributions from the community and grant-making organizations, to rehabilitate the landscape, pond, paths, and stonework on its land, and to promoting broad public use of its grounds. WIS in turn restored the Mansion and other buildings on the Estate and implemented several landscaping projects. The Conservancy permitted the School’s installation of geothermal wells on the Open Space. In consultation with the Conservancy and the Historic Preservation Office, WIS completed a major renovation of the Causeway bridge and installed a new stone staircase from the driveway to the Mansion.
In November 2015, WIS shared its plans with the Conservancy for a new Science+ building, underground parking, and improvements to its six acres. The Conservancy objected to the design based on a range of concerns. The Conservancy invited WIS to develop a new plan that would meet the School’s needs and be compatible with the landmark. This came at a time when the Conservancy faced the reality that, with the scheduled end of the majority of the School’s payments under the original agreement, the cost of maintaining its operations and undertaking landscape capital projects would deplete the Conservancy’s reserves over time.
In April 2017, responding to comments from HPRB members, WIS submitted a new design to HPRB for its Science+ project, with significant reductions in the mass and length, with new materials. The Conservancy saw these changes as positive, and recognized an opportunity to enter into a new agreement with WIS to mutual benefit. Key elements of the agreement are contingent on the project’s success through the regulatory process, as in 2006, including permitting. The terms of the 2017 agreement include:
- An increase in the size of the Conservancy’s board, with a proportional increase in the number of WIS members serving on the board;
- Landscape enhancements by WIS beyond those outlined in the School’s HPRB submission;
- WIS payments for ten years to support the Conservancy’s mission — including a new payment of $50,000 per year through 2027; and
- The Conservancy’s testimony before regulatory groups confirming its view that the School’s revised project is compatible with the landmark.
This agreement, in the judgment of the Tregaron Board, is key to promoting the sustainability of the Conservancy and preserving this natural treasure. The Conservancy looks forward to building on its long-term partnership with WIS to ensure the viability of the Tregaron landmark as home to both a remarkable urban sanctuary and a leading international school.