The design will be heard before the Old Georgetown Board on Thursday where it will probably be approved. No timetable for construction has been set (they haven’t even knocked down the old building yet, so it probably shouldn’t be expected until early 2010 at the earliest).
Oops. Cue the shiny white pitchforks and tastefully colored torches and follow GM as he performs the post-mortem:
It’s the Damn ANC Right?
Well, apparently not. While the ANC has been raked over the coals for being obsessive preservationists thwarting the public’s right to have an Apple store in Georgetown, today’s events demonstrate that the ANC simply doesn’t have that much pull with the Old Georgetown Board.
Well At Least We Can Blame a Faceless “Georgetown” Right?
Not so fast. The decision to reject Apple’s most recent proposal was that of the Old Georgetown Board, not ANC2E or some other Georgetown-elected official. The Old Georgetown Board consists of three architects appointed by the U.S. Fine Arts Commission. Currently the OGB consists of the following individuals: David Cox, Anne Lewis, and Stephen Vanze.
And guess what? Only one of them actually lives in “Old Georgetown”. Cox lives in Kent (although his architecture firm is located in Georgetown) and Vanze lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland (although he also has a firm located in Georgetown). Anne Lewis (wife of ANC Commissioner Ron Lewis) lives just within the border of “Old Georgetown” at 34th and Reservoir.
Judge their decision as a group of architects hired by a federal commission to preserve an historic district’s architectural integrity. Don’t look at it as the machinations of some vague Georgetown group of NIMBYs.
GM doesn’t have copies of today’s OGB minutes yet so it’s difficult to say what sort of changes Apple will have to make to get approval. But since this design so resembles Apple’s first design, it’s worth noting that the with regards to the first design the Post reported that:
the board considered the windows “a little on the large side,” the members thought the expansive glass storefront would create a “large void in the rhythm” of the neighboring entrances, said Thomas Luebke, secretary to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which oversees the Old Georgetown Board.
The one thing that has remained constant through all of Apple’s wild design changes is that wall of windows along Wisconsin. It would seem then that this is what the OGB is most adamant about and what Apple must finally cave on if they ever hope to open up in Georgetown.
Will the City Rescue Apple?
The Post has reported that Neal O. Albert, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, has promised to “move quickly to convene separate meetings with the Old Georgetown Board and Apple representatives to reach a consensus design.” While Albert has been accused of trying to put his thumb on the scales in favor of pro-development interests in the past, he doesn’t have much leverage over the OGB. Lacking leverage, it’s not clear what sort of magical powers of persuasion he can bring to bear on the situation when OGB member Vanze doesn’t even listen to his own daughter.
Will Apple Decamp for Another Neighborhood?
Right now that seems unlikely. They’ve already dropped $12 million to buy the property and they clearly considered Georgetown their top pick. An Apple spokeswoman stated that Apple is still committed to setting up shop in Georgetown, but as many have pointed out, there are probably better locations in the city for them. More metro-accessible locations like the Penn Quarter or U St. could possibly draw as many if not more customers than Georgetown.
At some point it would seem that Apple would give up on Georgetown and either pick another neighborhood or just stay out of the District for a while. It does not appear, however, that we’ve reached that point yet.
Then again, GM’s not been the best prognosticator recently…