The June 20 Metro article on congressional efforts to pressure the General Services Administration (GSA) to sell the abandoned West Heating Plant site in Georgetown framed the issue as being about whether the GSA is doing all it can to get the most money for the property [“GSA faces heat on its care, sale of plant”]. The real issue is what impact the sale will have on users of abutting Rock Creek and C&O Canal parkland, on traffic on adjacent K and M streets through Georgetown, and on nearby homeowners.
More than 60 years ago, the federal government seized parkland on 29th Street NW and built a monolithic plant to burn massive amounts of coal in a residential neighborhood. Along the way, federal officials said that if the plant closed, the land should be added to adjacent Rock Creek Park.
The plant has now closed, but the GSA is instead auctioning the site for private development. If this development must happen, the site should at least be zoned by the District to limit development to residential use within the footprint of the heating plant structure and to reserve the site’s existing open yard areas as parkland.
Without such zoning, the winning bidder will be the developer that will recoup its high bid by building the biggest structure it can, preserving no public open space and thus doing the most harm to neighboring parkland, homes and Georgetown traffic. Zoning or other limitations must be put in place before the GSA bidding process begins. Otherwise, the GSA’s disposition of the property will be all about the money, and the result will be a new monstrosity to continue the legacy of the huge coal-burning plant we’ve endured for the past 50 years.
Stephen Crimmins, Washington
The writer is a member of Friends of Georgetown Waterfront Park.