Last night the ANC met for the first time in 2012. As predicted by GM, the issue of the West Heating Plant dominated the early discussion. But, the rest of the meeting was actually quite interesting too. So let’s to it:
GSA Don’t Care
The ANC invited Tim Sheckler of the General Services Administration to discuss the disposition process of the West Heating Plant. Sheckler started by giving a bit of a history of the building: It was built in the 1940’s to provide steam heat for the federal buildings on the western edge of downtown. It ceased operations about ten years ago and has sat unused since then. Now the federal government wants to get rid of it.
The long and the short of Sheckler’s presentation is that the GSA doesn’t care how this property gets used after it sells it. This is not a typical RFP process you may be familiar with, where the solicitor evaluates the merits of the bids. Once GSA moves to finally sell the property, it is simply a question of who the highest bidder is. The bidding even will be online, like Ebay. Sheckler estimated that this will take place in the late summer into the fall.
The ANC and the community was not particularly pleased with this news. The only real input the public has into the GSA-disposition process is to argue whether or not the GSA should sell the property at all.
The thing is, there is no DC Office of Planning plan for this lot that would detail how it should be used. This lot isn’t even zoned in the first place. So ultimately the public will have some input on how it is used (via OP) and how it looks (via the Old Georgetown Board). But that won’t occur until after a developer has already bought the property, and has a whole lot of money already laid out towards however they want the property to be used and how it will look.
The ANC and the community urged GSA to delay the process until OP could develop a plan and zoning for the property. The idea being that a publicly vetted plan will mean that whatever developer purchases the property will already know what constraints they’ll be operating under.
Sheckler was non-committal. One point GM suggested was that as the process would currently stand, the developers are taking a risk that whatever plans they have don’t get approved by OP or OGB. But if GSA waits for OP’s plan, GSA faces the risk that the plan results in a lower bidding price, particularly if OP zones half the property as parkland. GSA doesn’t really have an incentive to take that risk. They just want to sell the property and be done with it.
The Great Macaroon Battle of 2012
As GM detailed last month, a young couple is planning on opening a new macaroon shop called Macaron Bee on Book Hill. This is what GM had to say last month:
The ANC commissioners expressed some reservations about the idea of selling food out of the front window. They feared the shop eventually turning into a pizza slice restaurant. In the end, the ANC decided to support the request with a (probably unenforceable) condition that the window not be used for any other type of food product.
GM’s prediction is that these sort of windows never work out. People would rather just come in to the store. GM hopes the store thrives and drives more foot traffic to upper Book Hill, but it’ll be because people like the food, not the convenience of sidewalk service.
Not much changed since then except that the two store owners next to the proposed location came out strongly against the plan. Specifically, Maureen Littleton of Littleton Gallery is particularly incensed at the idea of macaroons (or, really, any food) being sold on the street next door. She basically threw every argument she could against it, and GM can’t help but conclude that what she really wants is nothing at all. Continue reading