A Washington architect who is buying the old Georgetown police station for $757,000 - more than twice what District officials expected - plans to build six luxury townhouses on the site and to divide the Victorian station house into two additional townhouses.
Some of the 18 jail cells in old Police Precinct No. 7, closed by the city in 1976, may become lockable wine cellars in the new townhouses, says Capitol Hill architect Robert A. Bell.
The station house on Volta Place is one of five police stations declared surplus property in the last several years, but it is the only one the City Council has decided to sell. Police precincts 6, 8, 9 and 11 are being leased at low rates to neighborhood, government or nonprofit groups.
Bell, whose renovated buildings on Capitol Hill include a former People's Drug Store facing Lincoln Park, plans to build townhouses costing from $350,000 to $500,000, with four or five bedrooms, three fireplaces and large gardens. The huge, four-story station house itself has lofty 12-foot ceilings, gold-leaf decorations over the lintels and fan windows behind the bars that can be elegantly restored, Bell says.
He hopes to sell the station immediately and custom restore it to the new owners' specifications, before building the new townhouses.
"There's as much space in the station house as the condominium I built on Capitol Hill with nine three-bedroom townhouses in it," Bell said. There is so much space that he proposes to remove part of the rear section of the building. An old brick garage behind the station also may be razed, he said, although he would like to keep it if possible.
The District Paid $9,750 to construct the police station in the early 1980s when city policemen lived there and patrolled the cobbled streets of Georgetown on foot, horse and, later, bicycle. The building and large lot on Volta Place just off Wisconsin Avenue were assessed at $175,000 three years ago. City property officials this summer thought it might bring $270,000 to $300,000. Bell's bid of $757,000 was one of three more than $700,000.
Some of the 11 firm bids submitted to the city - all but one more than $300,000 - would have involved demolishing the old station house, although all bidders apparently planned to build townhouses on the residentially zoned land.
There appears to be a difference of opinion on the number of houses that can be built on the site. Two District officials, including Donal L. Croll, chief of the real estate acquisition division, say they believe the site can be subdivided into only six lots. Bell says city zoning officials have told him it can be subdivided into eight lots without variances that would require special action by the city Zoning Board.
Since the land is within the Georgetown historic district, however, any new construction on the site must be approved by the federal Fine Arts Commission and the District Historic Preservation Office.
A spokesman for the Georgetown Citizens Association said this summer the group favored restoration of the Victorian station house. At least one neighbor, Barbara Donald, of 3221 Volta Place NW, last week said, "Three cheers for anyone who restores it. I'm for townhouses there. I'm not one of those who would like to see the police station reactivated. It was very noisy when the police were here."
The sale of he building, not expected to be completed until next month when Mayor Walter E. Washington signs the deed, will not only bring $757,000 to the city treasury, but the houses, when constructed, also will bring the city a minimum of $40,000 to $60,000 a year in property taxes at present tax rates.
The city declared the station house surplus property after a new district headquarters was opened at Idaho and Wisconsin avenues in 1974, although two officers continued to be stationed at the building until 1976. It also was used briefly as headquarters for the successful police Sting operation.
Bell said last week the police station "is unique and one of the few large tracts of land left in Georgetown . . . It's like buying a chunk of Dunbarton Oaks. There's nothing like it."