A firm that owns the landmark Julius Lansburgh furniture store has offered to preserve the 60-foot exterior walls of the building at Ninth and F streets NW if the city will allow the owner to gut the interior and construct a 130-foot-high structure within the facades.
The new landmark law, however, may leave the owner no choice but to preserve the 110-year-old building even if city officials do not agree to the plan.
The owner, a partnership controlled by parking lot magante Dominic F. Antonelli, has also asked the city to relocate a public alley and help obtain federal grants to cover the costs of retaining the exterior of the building. Representatives of the owner made the proposals at a public hearing last Friday.
The French Renaissance-style structure, built in 1868 as a Masonic Temple, was acquired last year by the Antonelli partnership in a real estate swap with the YWCA, which plans to build its new headquarters on part of what is now an Antonelli-owned PMI parking lot at Ninth and G streets. The Antonelli partnership also owns approximately 13,000 square feet between the Lansburgh building and the Y property. If the city agrees to move the public alley that separates the Lansburgh building from the rest of the Antonelli property, the owner would be eligible to apply for zoning benefits under the Planned Unit Development (PUD) process.
Provisions of the landmark law that went into effect Saturday require that a new hearing be held.
Kirk White, attorney for the owner, said the firm would seek Zoning Commission permission to put a 130-foot-high structure within the exterior walls of the Lansburgh building.
"The owner is not going to give the property away," White said at the Friday hearing on whether demolition of the building should be delayed. White said the Antonelli partnership was "prepared to cooperate with the city," but only if enough height and bulk could be added to the building to make it a commercially viable structure with shops on the ground floor and offices above.
The alternative, said White, would be for the city to buy the Lansburgh building and the adjacent property at fair maket value since "no commercially viable undertaking is possible in the present building."
Ray Allison, a structural engineer testifying for the owner, said the Lansburgh building could not be rehabilitated as a comercial structure without gutting the interior because it would not meet city safety requirements
James Clay, the Cepartment of Housing and Community Development official who conducted the hearing, later signed an order delaying demolition for 180 days.