ANC Swats at Concepts for Heating Plant, Hyde-Addison and Georgetown Theater; Applauds New G.U. Dorms
In one of the most intense, agenda-packed meetings in recent memory, the Georgetown-Burleith Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E voiced concerns, if not flat-out disapproval, about design concepts for the West Heating Plant - Four Seasons Residences, an underground addition for Hyde-Addison Elementary School and the former Georgetown Theater space with a rear addition.
During the Nov. 4 meeting’s police report, Lt. Hedgecock said Halloween was mostly incident-free except for some broken car windows. He indicated police were looking into drag racing along M Street between stop lights late in the night.
In an ironic twist, one of most easily approved items was Georgetown University’s new Northeast Triangle Residence Hall across Reiss Science Building near the wall of Visitation Prep -- as well as the re-purposed Ryan-Mulledy-Gervase Halls within the university’s historic Dahlgren Quadrangle. The old Jesuit residences will be renovated for student use. The Northwest Triangle Hall will house 225 students; Ryan-Mulledy, 160. The total of 385 additional beds meets the Campus Plan’s call for additional on-campus spaces by fall 2015. This solution satisfied students, administrators and Georgetown residents. It is seen as an early result of the university-neighborhood peace accords of last year, already perceived as a model for town-gown conflict nationwide. As the for the Hyde-Addison School (3219 O St., NW) addition with elevated playground and underground meeting rooms and a gymnasium, the design calls for a “landscape solution” that “lifts the lawn,” so to speak, to level the grade from P Street to O Street with a glass wall entrance facing O Street. The $12-million project for the D.C. Public Schools by the Department of General Services was news to many. Some neighbors with adjacent property to the schools expressed frustration at the quickness of such a major project as well as its proximity and noise. Commissioner Jeff Jones asked DGS “to engage neighbors more closely -- and notify neighbors of reports, schedules and plans.”
The huge West Heating Plant (1051 29th St., NW) project, set to become the Four Seasons Residences, was met from some approval from neighbors and groups but disapproval from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the D.C. Preservation League. The ANC itself disapproved, calling for a re-thinking of concept in a five-page response. ANC chair Ron Lewis asked the primary question: “Can this building be saved?” There was concern about increased fenestration and brighter lighting during the night. A proposed bridge over the C&O Canal, connecting the Four Seasons Hotel to the condominiums, appeared to be dead on arrival.
With supporters like former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and Bob Peck, formerly of the General Services Administration, in the audience, the Levy Group and the Georgetown Group gave an overview of the future look of the reconstructed building with new parkland along Rock Creek and K Street for the neighborhood. The engineering assessment by new owner, Georgetown29K, LLC, found the present structure unfit for habitation as well as rehabilitation. It sees the old heating plant as so systemic with cracks -- and rust -- that a waiver should be invoked that allows most of the building to be demolished with the west facade on 29th Street being the anchor from which the new rebuilding flows; the group must show “good cause” for such a waiver of the covenant. Commissioner Bill Starrels took the lead in recommendations that call for the building not to be replace and an independent engineering review.
The former Georgetown Theater (1351 Wisconsin Ave., NW) property, purchased only weeks ago by architect Robert Bell, ran into trouble with neighbors in the backyards near its proposed rear additions. Bell’s designs for the theater are seen by many as a salvation to this tattered section of Wisconsin Avenue. Bell said at the meeting the front facade and its iconic “Georgetown” neon sign would be fixed by July 4. Neighbors on Dumbarton Street and on O Street disagreed with Bell and said the scale of his design for the property would about the property lines too severely and restrict the space for homes facing the center of the block. Others said they had just heard about the project. While liking the design in the general, the ANC expressed concern about scale, mass and height of the project. It also asked that the residents and the developer begin simply to talk.