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Why Richard Levy thinks he's found a path forward for the West Heating Plant

Daniel J. Sernovitz | 9/11/2017 | Washington Business Journal

The vacant West Heating Plant in Georgetown would be redeveloped under a "bolder" and "less literal" interpretation into high-end, Four Seasons condos under new plans recently unveiled for the World War II-era industrial property.

It's the latest iteration from a development team that includes Georgetown developer Richard Levy and internationally renowned architect David Adjaye. Levy said he is confident this time will be the charm after being prompted to rethink several earlier approaches to remaking the plant, based on feedback from neighborhood and oversight groups.

Under the new plan, while the building's height and mass would stay the same, its outward art deco appearance has been redesigned with a rusted-steel look indicative of the works of artist and sculptor Richard Serra. That vision, attempting to draw upon the building's unique steel I-beam support structures, is based on the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which had supported the project in May but recommended Levy and his team draw a clearer distinction between the parts of the building that would be preserved and those that would be reconstructed.

"The CFA endorsed David's scheme, but with a caveat. When you come back to us, be bolder and less literal in your interpretation of the building. Give less consideration to the old rather than the new," Levy said. "We really feel like we have the best version of this, honoring the West Heating Plant without being trapped by it."

The team made its initial presentation to the advisory neighborhood commission for Georgetown on Sept. 6 and is scheduled to present to the CFA on Sept. 20.

Levy and his team acquired the former heating plant at 1051 29th St. NW for $19.5 million in 2013 through an online auction conducted by the U.S. General Services Administration. The team wants to redevelop the site with between 60 and 70 for-sale, Four Seasons condos. The project is subject to multiple oversight reviews, including from the federal CFA, the District's Historic Preservation Review Board and Old Georgetown Board.

The HPRB previously voted not to grant the building landmark status, but the National Park Service has determined the building is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The D.C. Preservation League recently renominated the building to be a local landmark, a designation that would impose greater restrictions on its future use. The HPRB is slated to take up the nomination in November.

Daniel J. Sernovitz covers commercial real estate, multifamily housing, architecture and construction.

 

 

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