West Heating Plant
Update July 2014
Members of the CAG HP & Z committee visited the West Heating Plant site. View photos from their visit here.
Update November 20, 2013
Both the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) and the Old Georgetown Board (OGB) recognized that demolition of much of the façade of the West Heating Plant is premised on a consulting engineers’ report stating that approximately 25-35 percent of the bricks comprising three sides of the building’s façade are cracked or damaged, and that moisture has seriously corroded the steel frame buttressing this facade. The steel frame is encased by the brick. DC WASA will not allow new floors to be built in the current open-bay building, unless steps are first taken to protect a very large and fragile sewer that runs beneath the building. The Board will be seeking an independent assessment of the engineering report. The Commission on Fine Arts’ review will not occur before its February 2014 meeting at the earliest.
Plans for West Heating Plant at October 22, 2013 Meeting
by Walter Groszyk, Historic Preservation & Zoning Committe
A community meeting on the plans for the former West Heating Plant (WHP) on 29th Street will be held on October 22 from 5:00 until 6:30 pm at the Seasons restaurant at the Four Seasons hotel.
Earlier this year, the Federal government sold the WHP to a development group comprised of Georgetown businessman Richard Levy, the Georgetown Company of New York (the name is coincidental), and the Four Seasons. The development plan proposes to convert the West Heating Plant into Four Seasons Residences: condominiums whose owners can avail themselves of many services offered by the adjacent Four Seasons hotel.
The project architect is David Adjaye of London. Adjaye recently received an International Award from the Royal Institute of British Architects for two District libraries, and is the architect for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The community meeting will feature presentations by Adjaye, and landscape architect Ignacio Bunster – who was the landscape architect for the Georgetown Waterfront Park.
For over fifty years, the West Heating Plant’s boilers burned coal, oil, and natural gas to provided steam heat through a network of tunnels to government buildings in northwest DC. The facility ceased operation in 2000.
Described below are prospective changes to the building and the site as put forth in conceptual presentations made to representatives of CAG, the ANC, and neighborhood associations over the past several months. The development group’s presentation at the community meeting will provide substantially more detail on the proposed changes, and also reflect the iterative process of an evolving design.
The conversion would retain the west façade, which faces 29th Street, and replace most of the north, east, and south facades with a ceramic screen that from a distance would resemble the building’s current appearance. (The north, east, and south facades are mainly visible from Rock Creek and the West End.) The building’s present height and massing are unchanged.
The ceramic screen is a mesh, with the openings allowing light to be transmitted through the screen and air to circulate. Such a screen could potentially trick the eye, much the way the size and density of dots in a halftone newspaper photograph create an illusion. Behind the ceramic screen would be a largely glass curtain wall.
The building’s main entrance would be shifted from the 29th Street façade to a new below grade entry on the south side, accessed by a driveway through a new garage. The garage would be constructed in the old coal yard area of the site, largely hidden from view by being below street grade and behind the stone perimeter wall that surrounds the site.
Atop the garage, a park, accessible by the public, would be built. This new park would encompass most of the current yard area. An asphalt driveway circling the north and east sides of the building would be eliminated, and landscaped. Along Rock Creek, the grass strip that covers braces and buttresses that support flood protection walls would become a landscaped public path, leading from the waterfront to the point where the C&O Canal flows into Rock Creek at the northeast corner of the site.
At this confluence of the C&O Canal and Rock Creek, a new pedestrian bridge would be built. This would link the path along Rock Creek to the north bank of the canal and the start of the towpath. The development group also proposes to build an elevated skybridge, proximate to the 29th Street bridge, connecting the future Four Seasons residences with the hotel. The feasibility of constructing a connecting tunnel under the C&O Canal was studied, but this alternative is impeded by a very large diameter sewer that runs under the property. The development group also would landscape a strip of land between 29th and 30th streets under a Whitehurst Freeway ramp which is presently barren streetscape.
CAG has not taken a position on the development proposal. Given the significance of this project to Georgetown, CAG encourages interested members to attend and participate in the presentation. As space is limited, those wishing to attend should pre-register be e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 202-337-2058.