Last Thursday, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) approved the concept for the redevelopment of the West Heating Plant. While this is not the final hurdle for the project (far from it), it is a major hurdle to clear and the likelihood of the project going forward has increased significantly.
The concept approved by the CFA was actually the one most recently rejected by the Old Georgetown Board (OGB). While it is often considered to have the final word, the OGB is merely a sub-organ of the CFA and can only make recommendations to the senior body. Most of the time those recommendations are rubber stamped (hence the perception), but sometimes they’re not. That’s what happened here.
The approved concept is, in GM’s opinion, the best proposal put forward for the project so far. It’s not the perfect example of adaptive reuse, but given the physical and logistical challenges the building presents, this is, at least, a very good example.
As mentioned above, more hurdles await. For instance, this was only concept approval. Actual design approval must be obtained. Generally once concept approval has been granted, the design approval is much more readily granted.
But even when design approval is granted, there still remains the matter of the raze application. Since the West Heating Plant is a contributing building to a historic district, any raze application may only be granted by the mayor’s agent through a quasi-judicial process.
Daunting as those hurdles may be, they still lie on ground downhill from this most recent victory. It is now much more a question of when, not if, the ribbon will be cut on this gleaming new edifice.