Final plans for the George Washington University World Bank Building at 19th and G streets NW, which were presented last week to the D.C. Zoning Commission, are being criticized by some neighborhood residents and civic group leaders for not providing enough public amenities for residents of the neighborhood.
The university owns the Foggy Bottom site -- an entire city block -- and plans to lease part of the proposed building to the World Bank. Preliminary approval was given by the commission in October 1977 for the university to build a revenue-producing office building on the site provided several conditions were met. These conditions were:
Move two historic houses on the site to another location;
Limit the height of the building on the west side to keep it in character with the residential neighborhood;
Limit the upper floors to use by the World Bank or by the university;
Use the ground floor for shops and services accessible to the public.
By agreeing to those conditions, the university, under the Planned Unit Development (PUD) process, was given preliminary permission to construct a commercial building in a residential zone and to exceed the normal size limits on the building. Before granting final approval in such cases, the Zoning Commission reviews the plans to assure they conform to the preliminary order.
The preliminary order called for the building to be occupied only by the World Bank and the university -- except for the first floor shops. But, James Twining, chief administrative officer of the World Bank, said that his organization, which is building another structure on I Street, initially would utiilize only half the building proposed by the university.
Twining asked the commission's permission to rent the remainder as commercial office space, a proposal that Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Steven Levy said he found "extremely disturbing." Levy suggested that either the building be reduced in size or the bank rent out part of its other building and occupy the entire structure.
Levy and others also objected to the size of the proposed area to be occupied by shops and services, which, they said, accounted for lees than 7 percent of the ground floor. According to the architect's plans, the remainder of the ground floor would be devoted to a lobby, service and storage areas, an atrium and restaurant facilities -- all for the exclusive use of bank employes and official visitors.
"The restaurant and housing which formerly occupied the squapre were effective pedestrian generaltors which kept the area alive at night," said Levy. "The small and undesirable space begrudged these stores will not. The people of our community are not comfortable walking down a deserted commercial street in the evening, which is the situation the applicant appers intent on creating."
City Council member Hilda Mason (Statehood-At Large) urged that the building's atrium be open to the public "to avoid the paradox of the International Monetary Fund Building, which has a marvelous atrium that the public is not allowed to see." The IMF building is located across the street from the proposed World Bank Building.
Levy suggested that the atrium be incorporated into a pedestrian shopping mall.
Vlastimil Koubek, architect of the proposed building, said that the atrium would be closed to the public for security reasons. He pointed out that approximately 5,000 square feet outside the building would be devoted to public use as landscaped walkways and sitting areas.
Norman M. Glasgow, an attorney for the university, said that the total space devoted to public amenities, including an auditorium below the ground floor that would be available for community use, was approximately equivalent to the area of the ground floor.
Another point of controversy was parking. The university proposes to supply underground parking spaces for 229 cars, or approximately one space for every seven employes. But James Clark, assistant director of the D.C. Department of Transportation, asked that this number be reduced by 100. According to Clark, fewer parking spaces would encourage more use of public transportation and car pools.
Despite their objections, community leaders said they were not opposed to the project itself.
"We see this block as an important transition between the downtown commercial area and the residential areas," said Leila Smith of Don't Tear It Down, Inc. "This is a valid project, but changes must be made."
The Zoning Commission is expected to make a decision on the case at its March 8 meeting.