The other day, Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher weighed in on the decision by Georgetown’s ANC and the Old Georgetown Board to reject Apple’s second design for their proposed store at 1229 Wisconsin. Anyone who follows Fisher shouldn’t be surprised that he’s inveighing against the city’s preservationist Mandarins. Unless you’re talking about baseball or radio, Fisher typically has no time for historicism. But does he have a point? Read more:
Fisher starts off with a good point: the building currently on the site is not historic. It was built probably in the 1950’s or 60’s and is not architecturally distinct.
The architecture would probably be called neo-colonial in that it has a palladium window and large forward facing pediment. But while this design is friendly with the period buildings around it, there isn’t anything special about it in its own right. And that’s why the city gave Apple a raze permit. The question is not whether current building is better than what Apple’s proposing; the question is whether Apple’s proposal contributes or detracts from Georgetown’s primary competitive advantage: its sense of historic “place”
From this relatively sound statement, Fisher launches into what can only be called Apple fanboydom. First he suggests that the preservationists are wrong to reject Apple because, hey, look what they did in London:
But in what way does the image above resemble the image at the top of this post? The biggest difference, of course, is that the London store was a case of adaptive reuse, whereas the Georgetown store would be a from-scratch affair. So for Apple or Fisher to use it as an example of their ability to blend in with a neighborhood is disingenuous.
Finally, Fisher seems to indulge in a little old fashion preservationist-bashing.
There are so many ramshackle, unimpressive storefronts along Wisconsin in Old Georgetown that for the two government boards to block Apple’s reasonable proposals seems little more than an adolescent, petty exercise of authority. But that’s how the preservation police get their jollies in Washington. The only things that suffer as a result are the economy and the people who live, work and shop here.
Wait, who’s the one being adolescent and petty? The elected officials trying to preserve Georgetown’s competitive advantage or the newspaperman whining about being denied his shiny baubles?
Are Georgetowners suffering for want of an Apple Store? Is Clarendon and Bethesda just too far? And wasn’t Fisher complaining, like, two weeks ago about how Georgetown has too many chains?
GM spoke with ANC Commissioner (and newly minted chair) Ron Lewis about this issue after last week’s meeting. In response to GM’s lack of interest in having an Apple Store in Georgetown, Commissioner Lewis responded that in fact he’d love to have an Apple Store in Georgetown, it’s just that they aren’t getting the message for some reason. They know what we want, he said, they just aren’t delivering it.
Apple was scheduled to present a third design at the ANC meeting, but pulled it at the last minute. Perhaps come February’s meeting they’ll get the message.