The old Georgetown Incinerator last was used for burning trash 15 years ago, but it again is fueling controversy between Georgetown and the District of Columbia.
With the city renewing its call for bids to redevelop the well-known landmark at 31st and K streets NW, Georgetown residents and businessmen have joined to ask Mayor Marion Barry Jr. to turn down any proposals to develop the abandoned building into a retail or entertainment spot. Instead, they are asking that the incinerator's development be limited to a parking garage.
"The last thing the Georgetown community wants is more entertainment space," said William A. Cochran, chairman of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission of Georgetown.
However, Cochran added, the area desperately needs parking, especially because the 400-car Harbor Parking lot at the end of Wisconsin Avenue soon will be closed to build a park on the waterfront.
The ANC, the Citizens Association of Georgetown and the Business and Professional Association of Georgetown recently passed virtually identical resolutions asking the city to see that the incinerator site "be utilized for the maximum number of parking spaces" possible, "with no other uses except for municipal storage of road salt and public meeting space."
A walking tour of the site is scheduled for today for developers. District officials say they don't know how many will show up, but note that some 500 copies of the District's "Request for Proposals to purchase or to lease Georgetown Incinerator" have been distributed in the past month.
In its request for bids, the city says the incinerator -- a four-story, 1930s, art deco industrial structure with a towering smokestack -- is "functionally obsolete, having high ceilings, pits and part of the floor area occupied by furnaces and boilers."
Nonetheless, Georgetown residents say preliminary studies have shown that the facility could house a four- to six-story parking garage.
The incinerator "is the last possible site for parking" in Georgetown, noted Richard J. Hindin, president of Britches of Georgetown and head of the Georgetown business group. "Without the parking site, Georgetown will face a serious problem, making the economic viability of Georgetown -- as a retailer -- become more and more difficult." With the shortage of public parking lots in upper Georgetown, retailing activity in the area already is declining, he said.
The parking resolution marks a dramatic turnabout for the citizens association, which in the past has steadfastly opposed almost any development of Georgetown. Several years ago, the committee sought to designate the incinerator as a historic landmark. Such a ruling -- still pending before the Historic Preservation Office -- would make it more difficult for developers to use the building because it would bar them from altering the exterior.
"We do not want general development of that site or any site in Georgetown," said Kathleen Graff, president of the Citizens Association.
Nonetheless, she said, the association agreed to accept a parking lot at the incinerator site after it became clear that the planned park on the waterfront was stalled, even though city approval for the park came 18 months ago. Area merchants, concerned that the park would result in a loss of 400 parking spaces, has to date successfully urged the city to hold off developing the park until a new parking site could be found.
According to Graff, Barry promised to heed the association's call for a parking garage should all three Georgetown associations approve similar resolutions.
However, to date, there has been no sign from the mayor that the city will stop its plans to use that site for any other type of development, the three associations say.
"No decision has been made on that yet," said a representative of the D.C. Department of Administrative Services.