It was almost a love fest at the Four Seasons Hotel March 9, when star British architect David Adjaye — lead designer of the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture — presented his renovation plans for the West Heating Plant to Georgetown leaders and neighbors. The abandoned plant, in a prime location on 29th Street NW near the waterfront, has been an eyesore for years.
In the ballroom, packed with some 200 people, oohs and aahs greeted each new slide. The building is being developed into 60 to 70 luxury condominiums by the D.C.-based Levy Group and the New York-based Georgetown Company. The condos will be managed as concierge residences by the Four Seasons, less than a block away.
The design includes a raised public park with a long pond, a loggia, walks, benches and garden plantings. The building’s industrial-style façade — named one of the city’s six most endangered historic properties in 2016 by preservationists — will be maintained but remade, with additional bands of vertical windows. On top, a two-story penthouse with long horizontal windows will be constructed.
“We took the DNA of the building, its history and the environment and tried to be true to that,” explained Adjaye in a lively presentation. There were a few giggles when he called the condos — the purchase price for which are expected to run from around $3 million to around $30 million — “affordable” (relative to London, where Adjaye resides, perhaps).
Lighting of the park and street will be normal and the building will not be illuminated in any particular way, Adjaye explained. “The building redesign itself, however, offers incredible lightness and engagement.”
“This is a just a dream come true, so thank you,” said a neighbor during the period for questions and comments. “I’ve looked down at this old industrial building from my apartment for over 25 years. I just love this whole design,” said another.
The renovation process will take place in two stages: review and approval by community groups, preservation organizations and relevant agencies, including the National Park Service; then demolition of most of the existing plant and construction of the new infrastructure, park and building. “It is only going to happen with a lot of community support,” said former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, a member of the development team.
The renovated building will have exactly the same footprint as the current one. About 60 parking spaces will be provided in a garage under the park.
There was some lighthearted debate over the name. The developers referred to it as the Four Seasons Residences. “It’ll be called the West Heating Plant,” laughed former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Tom Birch, who lives nearby.
A website created for the project is called appropriately enough: WestHeatingPlant.com.