Georgetown 29K wins bid for Georgetown Heating Plant

Developers the Levy Group and the Georgetown Co. have won an auction to acquire the vacant West Heating Plant in Georgetown and plan to develop the property into as many as 80 Four Seasons condominiums.

The General Services Administration, which auctioned the property online, said Tuesday that it had accepted a final bid of $19.5 million for the property. Under the terms of the transaction, the developers have 10 days in which to provide an additional deposit on the property. The sale would then close in the summer.

The heating plant is located on a two-acre plot near the Georgetown waterfront and has been mostly vacant for more than 10 years.

“The Georgetown Heating Plant sale is the latest action in our efforts to get excess federal properties off our books while creating savings for taxpayers,” Dan Tangherlini, GSA acting administrator, said in a statement.

Richard Levy, managing principal of District-based Levy Group, said he had been working in partnership with the Four Seasons for years to try to acquire the property as a place to build high-end condominiums within a stone’s throw of the Four Seasons hotel, which overlooks the plant.

Levy said the Four Seasons was looking to expand its condo offerings in New York, Baltimore and elsewhere as well. “They see it as serving their clientele and there are certain people who own more than one Four Seasons condo,” he said.

Turning a vacant energy plant into “the most desirable condo project in Washington,” as Levy envisions it, will not be easy. The six-story building is filled with pipes, from floor to ceiling. The developers have decided not to build an addition on grassy space next door so it can be turned into a park, an amenity sought by residents.

There also is still no assurance that historic preservation rules will allow windows to be cut into the heating plant, a paramount issue because luxury condo buyers don’t put up big bucks to buy units that have little if any natural light.

Levy acknowledged the challenges. “We are preparing to get as limber as possible to get over those hurdles,” he said. Asked whether he thinks the building’s exterior will be designated in such a way to prevent windows, he said: “Stay tuned.”

There isn’t a lot of room for error. Levy said $19.5 million was about the highest that he and the Georgetown Co. were willing to go.

“We were getting very close to the top,” he said. “We were hoping we could get between 10 and 15 [million]. From a logical perspective we knew that it could go as high as 20.”

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.

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