Tag Archives: West Heating Plant

ANC Round Up: West Heating Plant Edition

Last night the ANC met for its July session, the last call for the summer. With a “vanilla” agenda, as one commissioner called it, the night held few surprises.

West Heating Plant

GM has covered this multiple times before, but if you’re just catching up, here’s a primer: Way back in the 40s, the federal government took land at the confluence of the C & O Canal and Rock Creek from the National Park Service and built a large heating plant on the property. The plant was used to provide building heat to the federal government’s properties on the west side of downtown (primarily the State department). It burned coal for a heat source.

The plant was converted to natural gas at some point and then about ten years ago it was shut down for good. Since then it has sat unused. GSA is finally in the process of selling the property.

The neighbors of the property are nervous about this. They want the south half of the property returned to its previous use as park land. (And some would like the plant itself torn down, but they acknowledge that that is an unlikely outcome). To do so they initially suggested that GSA could either give the property back to NPS or sell the property with restrictions on the use of the south half of the property. GSA doesn’t want to do that. They just want to sell it as soon as possible for the highest price, and that was even before Congressional Republicans started making political hay over the ten years the property sat unused.

So the neighbor’s attention shifted to the city. The property is currently unzoned. If the Office of Planning zones the south half of the property as parkland, then that’s how it would get used. Fait accompli.

They key is that the zoning would have to be in place before the auction. If it’s not, then some very deep pockets will be emptying large portions of those pockets to purchase the property. Once they have the property, they will spend even more to make sure they receive the most lenient zoning category.

So to prevent this from coming to pass, the Friends of the Georgetown Waterfront Park, CAG (disclosure: GM is CAG’s secretary), and now the ANC have formally asked OP to act fast to zone the property in a way to restore and preserve the public’s access to this historic site. Continue reading

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The Morning Metropolitan

Photo by scratch n sniff.

Good morning Georgetown, here’s the latest:

  • In one of Georgetown’s more bizarre moments in history: a congressional committee met in the West Heating Plant yesterday to complain about GSA not unloading property fast enough.
  • Only one more week to bid adieu to the canal boat. It is going to be destroyed next week.

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The Morning Metropolitan

Photo by Ehpien.

Good morning Georgetown, here’s the latest:

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The Morning Metropolitan

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Good morning Georgetown, here’s the latest:

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Upheaval at GSA Could Benefit Georgetown

On Monday, the Director of the General Services Administration resigned in the wake of a spending scandal that involved clowns, a mentalist, and Vegas. President Obama quickly named her successor: Dan Tangherlini.

Tangherlini should be familiar to District residents. Under Mayor Williams, he had a successful run as head of DDOT. This success led to an appointment as acting head of WMATA. Before WMATA got around to making him the permanent head, Mayor-elect Fenty hired him away as City Administrator. He made the jump to federal service in 2009 when Obama appointed him to a high ranking position in the Treasury Department, where he’s been ever since.

Lydia DePillis has already speculated that this change will be good for DC given Tangherlini’s familiarity with the city and that the GSA manages a portfolio of so many federal properties in DC. And that benefit might be felt quickly and significantly right here in Georgetown. Continue reading

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ANC Round Up: Process Edition

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.

Stay tuned.

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

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ANC Preview: Tonight’s the Night

Tonight the ANC is meeting for the first time in this futuristically sounding year of 2012. While there are a headache-inducing amount of private projects on the agenda, some more interesting items are near the front and worth coming to see if you’re interested.

The first among those issues is the West Heating Plant (seen above). This gigantic property is being surplused by the federal government and will soon be put out for bids. Some Georgetown-based developers, including Richard Levy, are preparing bids and are vying to take the lead with plans to convert the property to high-end condos. But GM has heard some rumors that the staff of the Old Georgetown Board have made it known that condo-conversion would not be acceptable. This doesn’t leave much in the way of economically viable options for the building, absent some mythical and extremely well-endowed museum that wants to use the cavernous space for art (like GM and others have suggested).

The ANC is not likely to take any particular position or approve any motion. It just likes to take the time to announce big projects like this in a public forum for those that don’t read totally awesome and informative websites…

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The Morning Metropolitan

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Good morning Georgetown, here’s the latest:

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The Morning Metropolitan

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Good morning Georgetown, here’s the latest:

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ANC Preview: 7-11 Edition

Photo by Thisisbossi.

Next Tuesday (NOTE THE DAY CHANGE DUE TO HALLOWEEN), ANC2E will meet for its November session. One thing you may not know about ANC meetings if you don’t attend them is that normally the most interesting stuff is right at the beginning. And this month, that rule continues to apply.

This month, in this slot are two developments that have grabbed attention recently: the 7-11 expansion and the West Heating Plant.

GM’s not sure what the ANC is going to have to say about either of the two items. The 7-11 doesn’t sell alcohol and isn’t subject to a voluntary agreement, so it’s not like it needs approval to expand into the P St. It will ultimately need OGB review for whatever signage or awnings they ask for, but that’s probably not what the ANC wants to talk about now. Either way, could be interesting.

As for the West Heating Plant, this is something a bit more in the ANC’s wheelhouse. They probably just want to make the public aware the the GSA is planning to sell it. GM’s heard nothing about any possible bidders, but it’s still early.

Another early treat: DC U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen and two of his AUSAs will speak. Last month: the Mayor. This month: the U.S. Attorney. How can they top this in December?

Among the other items, only one jumps out at GM as being potentially interesting. A new restaurant called M Cafe has applied for a liquor license. They propose to be located at 3236 Prospect St. Here’s what the application says:

Contemporary bistro serving Italian food and cuisine, including salads and desserts.  No Entertainment provided. Sidewalk Cafe with 50 seats. Seating capacity is 120. Total occupancy load is 140.

The outdoor cafe part of the plan sounds like it could be controversial, since Prospect street is one of those battleground streets where bars and neighbors are seemingly always battling each other. Look for round one to start at the meeting. Continue reading

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