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Real Estate Inc. Extra
The executive director of the D.C. Preservation League has set a new tone for historic preservation in the District.
SUBSCRIBER CONTENT: Feb 5, 2016, 6:00am EST
Rebecca Miller’s reaction to one of D.C.’s most-talked-about redevelopment proposals was swift and harsh.
It was October 2013, roughly seven months after developer Richard Levy cast the winning, $19.5 million bid for the West Heating Plant in Georgetown. He and his team said they wanted to tear down all but one wall of the World War II-era building. And they wanted to replace it, to the same 110-foot height, with a luxury Four Seasons condo building with units topping $1,400 per square foot.
That wasn’t supposed to be possible. Before putting the decommissioned industrial plant on the auction block, the General Services Administration placed a protective covenant on it, requiring any future alterations to comply with the Interior Department’s standards for historic sites. That condition was meant to protect the building from precisely the kinds of changes Levy and his team proposed.
Within a month, Miller fired back. Her response: A detailed 45-page application that nominated the site for protective landmark status at both the local and federal levels. It sounds bureaucratic, but that single move tied Levy’s hands for the next 17 months.
Finally, this past April, a divided D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board voted not to support the nomination. So Miller then appealed to the National Register of Historic Places, which has since deemed the building eligible for its federal listing, keeping open the prospect of another battle to come.