HPRB Moves the Georgetown Heating Plant Development Forward

by Nena Perry-Brown

HPRB Moves the Georgetown Heating Plant Development Forward: Figure 1
Rendering of the planned redevelopment from 29th Street. This is the only façade the design team is confident can be retained. Click to enlarge.

The Commission of Fine Arts' (CFA) unanimous decision last May to support the conceptual design of the redevelopment of the West Heating Plant in Georgetown seemed to pave the way to eventual approval. Of course, that was until the building was designated a historic landmark six months later.

Now, however, it seems that CFA may have led the development team to get ahead of themselves design-wise, complicating matters going forward as evidenced by yesterday's rollercoaster Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) hearing on the matter.

Georgetown Companies and the Levy Group are teaming up with the Four Seasons in hopes of turning the long-dormant heating plant and adjacent industrial site at 1051-1055 29th Street NW (map) into a 60-unit luxury condo building overlooking a one-acre, elevated public park.

HPRB Moves the Georgetown Heating Plant Development Forward: Figure 2
Previous rendering of planned building from elevated park; version originally approved by the CFA. Click to enlarge.

When presented with a design that largely deferred to the existing plant, the CFA expressed their wish for a “less literal” building and a less "suburban" park, a directive that led architects Sir David Adjaye and Laurie Olin to reconsider the building and park designs.

HPRB Moves the Georgetown Heating Plant Development Forward: Figure 3
Rendering of planned building from elevated park. Click to enlarge.

The resulting design, which garnered the support of the CFA and various Georgetown community organizations, runs afoul of the Office of Planning (OP) and historic preservation directives — especially post-landmark designation.

That tug-of-war between ambitious and inspiring design and the letter of the law was on full display at the HPRB hearing, leading the Board to vote in favor of the conceptual design against OP's recommendation while parsing through some of the finer points of OP's report.

HPRB voted in agreement with the first three points in the report: that permitting demolition would run counter to historic preservation mandates, that the concept doesn't align with the historic preservation standards of the Secretary of the Interior, and that it may be feasible to either repair or reconstruct the brick façade.

However, the Board disagreed that the design is "architecturally unconvincing and does not achieve meaningful historic preservation".

"It speaks to the character of an industrial building in a way that allows for the ideas of the industrial building to still be there, some of the character to remain, but allows for, one, reinterpretation of those ideas, and two, room for this new residential use, which I think is necessary," explained Chair Marnique Heath. "I think the building has to go through a reinterpretation and significant modification to make it appropriate for residential use regardless of how we move forward, so I think some leeway should be given there."

The Board also narrowly voted that the applicant had justified its case for constructing a 110 foot tall building. The existing building is 110 feet high, a height incompatible with the Georgetown Historic District. 

The votes included comments from the Board on what they hope to see in the design moving forward, which, for most, is simply more historic elements preserved in the final project. Some also stated that the layering effect of the design could be somewhat simplified and that the horizontality of the balconies disrupted the verticality of the overall design. Heath also expressed her wish that the Board had also had an opportunity to see and opine on the previous design the CFA had voted on.

The development team has the option of amending the design to return to HPRB, but will likely now apply for a hearing with the Mayor's Agent for Historic Preservation in hopes that it will find the project to be one of "special merit" that would justify demolition. Additional images are below.

HPRB Moves the Georgetown Heating Plant Development Forward: Figure 4
Rendering of north façade. Click to enlarge.
HPRB Moves the Georgetown Heating Plant Development Forward: Figure 5
Rendering of planned building viewed from Rock Creek Park. Click to enlarge.
HPRB Moves the Georgetown Heating Plant Development Forward: Figure 6
Rendering of pergola. Click to enlarge.
HPRB Moves the Georgetown Heating Plant Development Forward: Figure 7
Rendering of new tow path connection. Click to enlarge.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/hprb-approves-the-west-heating-plant-development/13901

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way

See more Northern Virginia »


Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 neighborhoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »