UPDATE: GM had the dates wrong. The charette is next Tuesday, October 8th.
Tonight the public will finally get its first glimpse at the plans that the Levy Group/Four Seasons have in store for the West Heating Plant property. The meting tonight will be focused mainly on the public park-elements to the plan. This will be followed up by a wider discussion on the building itself in a couple weeks.
The format of next week’s
tonight’s meeting is a “charette”, which is a fancy French word for “public input meeting”. GM has seen the plans for the park presented at a private meeting, and they seem pretty complete. So he’s not sure what input is being sought, but there’s always room for modification.
The plans call for a public park on the south side of the property (where the gas tanks are now). The park will be somewhat elevated from the perspective of 29th st., and will flow down to Rock Creek on the east side. It will wrap around the east side of the building and connect to the strip of land on the north side of the building. (Interestingly, from the presentation GM viewed, he learned that the site of the building itself used to be a dry dock for the canal boats.)
As for the building itself, there will be a public town meeting on October 22nd at the Four Seasons to discuss those plans. From what GM knows, the plans call for most of the building to be torn down except for the 29th St. facade (what you see above). The building would be rebuilt with a similar, if not identical, massing. This is where the fight will be fought. Many are fine with the building being torn down (there would probably be a long list of people ready to swing the wrecking ball). Friends of the Georgetown Waterfront Park are particularly keen to add the West Heating Plant park to the waterfront park portfolio, and don’t intend to let historical preservation concerns get in the way of that.
On the other side are those that either genuinely like the building, or those that don’t necessarily love the building but believe the preservation philosophy demands preservation all the more because it is unloved.
But the reality with this property is that it will need massive, massive rehabilitation either way. The more economically feasible route is to tear it almost all down (to keep the zoning-breaking height, some part needs to be kept up). A much more expensive route would be to keep all four facades and gut the interior. But that might not make economic sense because the current facades wouldn’t allow particularly attractive condos (not enough windows). Economic infeasibility means nothing gets built.
So, it’s a tough one really. But one way to help solve it is to be educated on the issues. And that education starts tonight.