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Apple Tries, Tries Again To Open in Georgetown

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By Paul Schwartzman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 5, 2009

The design mavens at Apple have charmed legions of gizmo-happy consumers with their sleek and modern creations.

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But not the arbiters of architectural style in that preserve of history and tradition known as Georgetown.

Three times, Apple has presented plans for its first Washington store. Three times, a panel of architects has suggested a return to the drawing board.

Too much glass, they objected. Windows that are out of scale with the neighboring brick buildings.

And that Apple logo over the entrance? Way too big.

Each time, Apple came back with a drawing that was more contemporary and as full of glass as the first, if not more.

Today, Apple returns for a fourth round with the Old Georgetown Board, as the panel is known, this time with a drawing that is virtually identical to the first. The encounter is so fraught with uncertainty that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's office has offered to give the computer company advice on how to handle the board and asked to see its latest rendering before the meeting.

"I don't want the Old Georgetown Board having to have the perfect design torpedo a very good product," said Neil O. Albert, the deputy mayor for planning and economic development.

If Apple is held up again, Albert added, "we will step in and work with both parties to make sure it gets passed."

Apple's struggles with the board are causing anxiety among Georgetown business leaders who say that the store, with its clublike swirl of lingering patrons, would add a jolt of energy to Wisconsin Avenue. They worry that the company will grow fed up and drop its plans for the property, as it did for a New York City site after preservationists resisted Apple's design.

The loss of Apple, business leaders say, would hurt Georgetown, which has found its role as the city's star shopping attraction challenged by emerging areas in Northwest such as U Street and Seventh Street, corridors that are easier to reach by Metro.

"How many times can you take rejection?" Billy Martin, whose family opened Martin's Tavern on Wisconsin Avenue in 1933, said of Apple. "Georgetown doesn't have the appeal that it used to have, so Georgetown better do what it can do to secure anchor businesses like Apple."


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