About 65 Capitol Hill residents - some of them concerned that their homes might be razed to make way for new Congressional office buildings - met with Architect of the Capitol George White this week to discuss future expansion of the Capitol complex.
"We who live in the area want to know when we're to be taken off tenterhooks," said William Ghann of 427 New Jersey Ave., SE. His home is one of the townhouses in the Capitol Hill Historic District that might be razed to make way for a new House Office Building. Depending on the alternative chosen for the Capitol Hill expansion, an estimated 20 to 90 homes could be demolished.
Four of the alternatives outlined by White to provide more offices space for the House of Representatives call for the acquisition and probable demolition of townhouses along New Jersey Avenue, E Street, D Street, South Capitol Street and Ivy Street, SE. A fifth alternative, however, would leave the residential area intact and use the open courts of the Cannon, Longworth and Rayburn buildings for office space.
Margot Higgins of 106 3rd St. NE, said she has a "friendly feeling" toward that alternative, "but I get the feeling that in the mind of the architect, this alternative is a stepchild."
The architect's report on possible ways to expand said that the adoption of the fifth alternative would result in a "lack of amenity," she said. Higgins countered that this alternative would actually be less destructive to the amenity of the community.
White explained that the disadvantage of this alternative was that it did not provide enough open space. He said that the master plan would be completed in the spring of 1978 and that it would resolve uncertainties about the future of residential blocks. The architect said that community views - along with those of Congress and other governmental institutions - would be taken into consideration in the preparation of the master plan.
The architect's preliminary report outlining possibilities for the master plan noted that of the 17,000 people who work in the Congressional complex, about 67 per cent commute by car. The report urged the "adoption of Congressional policy to increase use of transit and to increase car-pooling . . ."
Tom Alder, co-chairman of the Coalition of Community Organizations (COCO), and ad hoc group of 13 community organizations formed to deal with the issue of Capitol expansion, said that the issue of using so much space for parking was "central to solving other problems."
Alder cited a Congressional parking lot bounded by 1st and Canal Streets and C and D Streets SE. He said it was "wrongheaded to use space so close to the House Office Building for parking" because that site should be the "presumptive choice" for a new building. Since such land is available, said Alder, "there is no reason to take land in the Capitol Hill Historic District."
Although the alternative proposals for House expansion aroused the most controversy at this week's meeting, the architect's preliminary report - a 159-page document entitled "Toward A Master Plan for the United States Capitol, Phase II: The Alternaitves" - also details possible avenues of expansion for other Congressional institutions. Among the possibilities outlined were:
Development of underground space adjacent to the Capitol building for conference and hearing rooms.
Construction of two new Senate office buildings on the squares to the north of the Russell and Dirksen buildings at some time in the future, if needed. This would entail demolition of the Monocle Restaurant.
Possible removal of the Supreme Court to another part of the city and the conversion of the present court building into a judicial museum of a scholarly center related to the Library of Congress. If the court remains on Capitol Hill, the Methodist Building at 100 Maryland Ave. N.E. and the Reserve Officers Association Building at 1 Constitution Ave. N.E. might be acquired for court expansion.
A free shuttle bus system connecting the Union Sation and Capitol South Metro stations with interim stops at Congressional buildings. The shuttle bus system might eventually be replaced by an underground "people mover" system in an existing railroad tunnel.