The D.C. Zoning Commission has approved plans for a new World Bank office building on property owned by George Washington Univerwity on 19th Street between F and G streets NW. By a 4-0 vote last week, the commission cleared the way for construction of the 400,000-square-foot structure provided that:
The ground floor facing F and G streets for a depth of 30 feet be devoted to community-oriented retail shops;
The number of parking spaces be reduced from 230 to 200 to encourage use of public transit;
The building be occupied only by the the World Bank, by Goeorge Washington University or by offices of foreign governments and international agencies.
The decision, as all zoning commission action, is subject to review by the National Capital Planning Commission.
Charles Diehl, vice president of George Washington University, called the decision a "workable compromise." The university applied two years ago for permission to construct the building as income-producing property.
But Steven Levy, of the Foggy Bottom-West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which led opposition to the project, faulted the decision and said the ANC would consider administrative appeals and legal action.
"The amount of retail space is pitiful, not in the spirit of the original intent that a substantial portion of the ground floor should be used for community-oriented shops and services," said Levy. He said that he disagreed with witnesses for the university who stated that the space could not be rented profitably.
Levy also objected to the zoning commission decision to allow part of the building to be used by foreign governments or international agencies because, in the original application, "the bank justified the building in terms of its own needs." Levy also called the 200 parking spaces allowed by the commission "excessive."
The case was considered under the Planned Unit Development (PUD) process, in which exceptions to zoning regulations are granted in return for certain public benefits. In PUDs, the zoning commission can exercise control over several aspects of a structure, including landscaping plans and building materials.
The university won preliminary approval for the project in October 1977 on condition that:
Two historic houses on the site be moved to another location and that an historic building at the corner of F and 20th streets be retained.
The west side of the building be limited in height and be given an architectural treatment in keeping with the adjacent residential area.
The ground floor be used for shops and services accessible to the public and the upper floor be used only by the World Bank or by the university.
The houses were moved to another university-owned site last summer, and the original building plans were scaled down to meet the commission's requirements.
Bank officials asked the commission to modify its original order to allow the bank to rent out space in the building for five years, after which it would occupy the entire building. The commission agreed to allow foreign governments and international agencies to rent space in the building.
Diehl said that the financial arrangements between the university and the bank were still being worked out and that he did not know when construction would begin.