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ANC Comes to a Resolution on Demolition of Georgetown Heating Plant, Design For New Project

by Nena Perry-Brown

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Rendering of modern design option for the West Heating Plant.

ANC 2E voted to pass two caveat-riddled resolutions related to the redevelopment of the long-dormant Georgetown West Heating Plant on Monday night: one to make record of their issues with the redevelopment proposal, and the other to opt out of the forthcoming demolition debate.

A development team of The Four Seasons, the Levy Group, and the Georgetown Companies seeks to erect a 60-70 unit luxury condominium property on the Georgetown West Heating Plant site at 1051-1055 29th Street NW (map). The plant is in a historic district and is considered a contributing structure, although it was denied landmark status by the Historic Preservation Review Board last year.

In December, architect David Adjaye presented two options for the new building’s design to the community: the first an update of the renderings presented two years ago, meant to recall the plant currently on the site; the second, a more ambitious design meant to evoke both the eminence of the vista of monuments along the Potomac River and the warmth of residential Georgetown.

In response to community input, the development team is moving forward with the latter proposal which the Citizens Association of Georgetown stated their support for on Monday night. Similarly, The Friends of Georgetown Waterfront Park furnished a letter of support to demolish the plant and replace it with a park and residences, although they declined to throw their weight behind a specific plan.

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Rendering of modern design option as seen from originally-designed public park.

Although many ANC and community members agree that the plant is an eyesore, a few still have reservations about what should be done going forward. Some believe that Georgetown’s status as a neighborhood of historic character and importance would be undermined by the construction of an obviously modern (and potentially place-less) new development. Others think that a high-quality modern building would be a worthy continuation of Georgetown’s mix of various architectural styles and periods — preferable to an imitation of a historic style.

Ultimately, the ANC approved a resolution which offered their critique of the design with the primary objection that the proposed building’s height and massing is still too large. The majority of ANC commissioners agreed that the new building should more closely adhere to nearby residential and hotel buildings — including the adjacent six-story Four Seasons hotel. This resolution also included other points of contention which the ANC acknowledged that the development team has already addressed to varying extents (e.g. access to nearby bicycling paths, distance from the canal’s edge, etc.).

As for whether to support demolition of the plant, the ANC opted to pass an amended resolution to take no position on the demolition, with the recommendation that the proposal go through all of the proper bureaucratic channels in order to secure a lawful demolition. Two commissioners opposed the resolution on the grounds that the resolution not only reiterated several points which were already belabored during the HPRB landmark-denial process (eg. feasibility of rehabilitating the Plant building, deed covenants, etc.), but also included various issues which may be beyond the ANC’s realm of expertise.

The development team will present its proposal to the Old Georgetown Board on Thursday, another in a lengthy series of presentations and applications to secure the demolition permits and design approval.

Correction: An earlier version of the title and article misstated the nature of the resolutions adopted. Rather than expressing approval for either, the ANC stated their desire that the demolition be determined after all stages in the legal process have been satisfied, and enumerated their issues with the design.

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/the_anc_2e_debates_georgetown_west_heating_plant_project/10827

3 Comments

  1. Nathaniel Martin said at 3:24 pm on Tuesday February 2, 2016:

    How disappointing. Georgetown is poised to lose a distinguished, elegant industrial building and gain what appears to be an incredibly bland box. I’d be open to demolition of the heating plant if it were to be replaced by something truly exceptional. The proposed building, at least as depicted in the rendering, is embarrassingly banal.

  1. skidrowedc@gmail.com said at 5:11 pm on Tuesday February 2, 2016:

    Georgetown is more easily bought off than I realized.  It’s amazing how they have capitulated to the developer and are completely ignoring the illegality of this endeavor.  Usually they are pit bulls for any perceived transgression by anyone!

    I guess it will be up to the federal government to enforce the crystal-clear requirement (in both the RFP and the land disposition contract) that federal preservation standards must be adhered to.  These standards, by the way, do not include demolishing the building because the buyers discover that they paid way too much for it.  It was plainly obvious from the outset that this building is not appropriate for a condominium development.  If they had bid accordingly, they would not be in this mess. 

    Moreover, we might have a developer group proposing new uses that are not only compatible, but (as a result of this compatibility) unique. There could be multiple uses, a la Douglas Development’s Uline Arena redevelopment.  One could imagine an incredible rock-climbing gym, and/or an Eataly (along the lines of the one in Rome, a converted train station), and/or a museum for large-scale art (along the lines of the Tate Modern in London), and/or an incredible top-of-the-world bar/club (like the Hotel Torni has, in Helsinki).  All of these would be so much better than condos for the 1% of the 1%.  And nothing’s to say that we couldn’t have the park, too.

  1. Brett said at 1:58 pm on Wednesday February 3, 2016:

    There’s nothing “distinguished” or “elegant” about a brick and concrete box. We’ve got plenty of them in DC.

    It’s not ideal that it’s being replaced by some unimaginative, generic glass box, but the renderings look better than what’s there now. It will also eliminate that dead zone and add to our tax base.

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