It’s beginning to look like there could be a stampede of rich people who want condos at Georgetown’s West Heating Plant, a development project that is only barely off its marks. At an event that had the vibe of a Georgetown cocktail party and the sound of a sales office, the plans to transform the old federal site into luxe Four Seasons Residences and an adjacent park were presented to the community Tuesday evening at the Four Seasons Hotel. Waiters passed white wine as video screens displayed images of the plans for the building’s exterior and the park.
Richard Levy, the Washington real estate developer who has been instrumental in the project, which could include approximately 60 apartments, didn’t balk when we suggested that a studio would be a minimum $2.5 million, if there are to be studios. Prospective buyers are already lining up. “I’ve had calls,” Levy said.
Also in attendance were Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts executive vice president Chris Hunsberger, down from corporate headquarters in Toronto; Bob Peck, who ran the General Services Administration when Hunsberger and Levy first started pursuing the heating plant; former DC mayor Anthony Williams, who said he is “on the team”; David Adjaye, the project’s architect; and Ignacio Buster, the landscape architect. Also on hand was Nancy Taylor Bubes of Washington Fine Properties, who has handled some of Georgetown’s pricier sales. She joked that she was there because her husband, Alan, “wants me to make sure we get a penthouse.”
But the purpose of the meeting was not to sell apartments. The Tuesday gathering was only one step in many leading to final approval from the DC government, which Levy said could come in June. “But we have submitted to the Old Georgetown Board,” he said. In addition to the community, who speak through the Advisory Neighborhood Commission and the Citizens Association of Georgetown, the OGB is essential.
The overall plan was put together jointly by Levy’s real estate and development company, The Levy Group, a New York developer, coincidentally named The Georgetown Company, and its CEO Adam Flatto, who was also at the presentation.
Besides a peek at the exterior redo, the team revealed Tuesday night that the building is in rotten shape due to age and neglect. Though the plan will keep a required 33 percent of the original structure, the interior will be a gut job. Respecting its historic designation, they also plan to honor the exterior look—it’s size, shape, hues—but with a stylish reinterpretation, allowing for more light on the inside and views. Adjaye said he viewed the challenges as an “opportunity.” He said it’s been “very inspiring” for him, a “passion.” At the heart of his design is the history of the location on the C&O Canal and the fact that the spot is the end point of the Canal before it spills into the Potomac River. “The importance of our site is this hub, this junction, and it cannot be underestimated.”
Those who are fortunate (and rich) enough to snag condos at the completed building will be surrounded by new parkland and will also have their own “glazed” bridge that will take them across the canal to the existing Four Seasons Hotel.
When Kirk Mettam, vice president of Silman Associations, an engineering firm, took the podium to talk about the structural aspects of the building he marveled at the crowd. “It’s rare I get such a distinguished audience to talk about engineering.” But he had a serious message and it appeared aimed at those who might question the need to massively overhaul the structure. He went into detail about their investigation. “We found lots and lots of little cracks” on the outside brick, he said, “extensive cracks. We started to do probes” and found that “water entered the building and started to erode the metal structural elements.” He said the deterioration was “severe” and that “what we found was that by the time you are done trying to save it, you will have taken it down.”
Adjaye brought sample material of the proposed new ceramic “skin” for the building. He said what they plan to use will be customized. He used the word “ribbon” to describe the “extraordinary and unique” look the finished building will have. Adjaye showed photos of the design that had not been previously available. He also showed a lot of historical photos, including the construction of the Heating Plant from 1946 to 1948.
Levy said the next scheduled public presentation is November 4 before the ANC, followed by November 7 before the OGB.