Ever since a development company bought Georgetown’s old West Heating Plant from the federal government, intending to turn it into a Four Seasons Residences and a park, there has been curiosity about the project, mainly what the end product would look like. On Tuesday evening, developer Richard Levy and landscape architect Ignacio Buster provided a glimpse in the form of renderings, and talked about their “vision” for the property. This much can be said: If they get their way, Georgetown’s last large tract of real estate will be transformed.
The session, the first of two to reveal project plans to the public, featured a video address by architect David Adjaye and a verbal walk-through of the park with Buster, who also designed the Georgetown Waterfront Park. Having Buster involved eases the way toward one of Levy’s goals: to have the existing waterfront park connect with the new project. The word “connectivity” was used more than once.
In his video presentation, Adjaye explained that his design for the Art Deco building will take away most of the inside, leaving the facade, which will be enhanced with a new ceramic “skin” technology. In the rendering of the design, the building looked lighter, freer, and more open to the outdoors than in its life as a heating plant.
In place of the old coalyard, Buster showed images of an elevated garden reminiscent of New York’s High Line. At about 10 to 20 feet above ground, it will sit above the parking lot for the Four Seasons Residences. It will have a water feature, what Buster called “a playful fountain,” and access to parts of the C&O Canal that are not now easily accessed. There will be a new bridge and bike path crossing the canal. Both Levy and Buster said they felt it was imperative to have historical references in the project, harking back to Georgetown’s 19th-century role as a port.
The audience comprised mostly community leaders and residents who live near the complex, including the head of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, Pam Moore, and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners Tom Burch and Bill Starrels. One of the first questions asked was who would manage the park. Buster replied that “discussions are underway with NPS [the National Park Service] about managing the park,” which seemed to please the small group gathered in the room.
Adjaye said that “architecture is part of social change” and that he we wants to “bring life” to the building and help the public to “look at it in a new way.” Again and again, references were made to history and public access, and to the relationship of the apartment building and park to Georgetown and Washington as a whole. Buster called it “an amazing gateway from the city to Georgetown.”
Adjaye will attend the next meeting, on October 22 at 5 PM at the Four Seasons Hotel. In addition to the Four Seasons project, he has designed two DC public libraries and the African-American Museum, which is currently under construction on the Mall.