Precedent Should Disarm Fear of Development (But Probably Won’t)

Survey of Historic School Buildings in Georgetown: The Fillmore School

At last week’s ANC meeting, the commission discussed the possibility of the development of the grounds of the Fillmore School, which is being sold by George Washington University right now. The general tone of the meeting, as reported by the Current, was one dismissive of much development of the property at all. Georgetown has some experience in the development of school parcels, and that experience should assuage the fears. But it probably won’t.

You could walk around the 1200 block of 27th and 28th streets a hundred times and never realize that the homes are less than 15 years old. They were built as part of the development of the Phillips School on Olive. There are 14 townhouses, specifically, that were constructed to mimic the variety of late-19th century homes that dominate the area. While it may be an anathema to the dominant historical preservation theory to build this way, in practice it’s seamless:

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These properties came at the expense of “open space”, but they certainly contribute to consistent and pleasant streetscape of 28th St. now. Plus, they now are homes to 14 families (or singles), residences that have contributed probably hundreds of thousands of dollars to the District’s tax revenues.

The development of the Wormley Row property had similar results:

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Will these successful projects assuage the fears of the neighbors? Probably not. People don’t like new construction on previously unbuilt land, even when that land is currently just a giant parking lot.

Saving the tot lot is a worthy goal, but insisting on the least intensive use of the land is not merited, particularly when the justification is either a vague “open space” plea or parking. If these pleas were influential when Georgetown was first built, there’d be no neighborhood worth protecting in the first place.


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2 responses to “Precedent Should Disarm Fear of Development (But Probably Won’t)

  1. George Washington University (GWU) is one of the largest land/property owners in NW DC. It would be prudent for ANC2E and the Burleith Citizens Assciation) to talk with neighboring ANCs and Citizens’ Associations (e.g., Foxhall, Dupont Circle, Foggy Bottom) who have faced the sale and/or purchase and development of property by GWU. Learning their strategies and tactics for working w/GWU my be useful for working with the university and potential buyers/developers. Coalitions should also be considered.
    Ellie Budic

  2. Pingback: S & R Foundation Snaps Up Fillmore School | The Georgetown Metropolitan

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