West Heating Plant Plans Made Public

West Heating Plant

 
UPDATE: GM had the dates wrong. The charette is next Tuesday, October 8th.

Next weekTonight 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’stonight’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.

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8 Comments

Filed under Preservation

8 responses to “West Heating Plant Plans Made Public

  1. The Levy Group knew that they couldn’t tear down the walls when they bid on the property, as did the other bidders. To allow them to tear down the walls now would be unfair to the other bidders, and to the Feds who could have gotten more money if the bidders expected to be able to tear down the walls. Usually when Georgetown property owners tell historic preservation officials one thing and then do another it’s under cover of darkness – but now we are actively endorsing this practice?

  2. I agree with Ken here. Either they keep the Art Moderne box, or they tear it down.

  3. I believe the landscape / park charette is October 8, not October 1. (The October 8 charette is not at the Four Seasons.) The community meeting is set for early evening, October 22, at the Four Seasons.

    The landscape /park charette is likely to also cover the creation of new park space outside the West Heating Plant property.

    With respect to the substantial demolition of the south, east, and north facades of the heating plant, and their subsequent reconstruction, public agency review of this proposed demolition will consider the present condition of the bricks that form the exterior walls, and the feasibility of removing the existing window frames without having to tear down the surrounding brick. The window frames are welded to the steel cross bracing that was built to prevent the walls from being blown in by high winds.

  4. I believe the October 22nd community meeting will indicate how much the new West Heating Plant resembles the existing plant. Some may be surprised.

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