Developer Olvier T. Carr Jr. last week told the city he would preserve the historic facade of the Keith-Albee theater buildng in downtown Washington if officials will agree not to block demolition of the equally historic Rhodes Tavern.
Carr, who in a court battle last week won the right to demolish the 68-year-old Beaux Arts-style theater building at 15th and G street NW, offered to incorporate most of the f acade of the landmark into his planned $60 million mall if the city will agree not to prevent demolition of the Rhodes Tavern, the oldest commercial building in the tavern would be demolished unless a non-profit group agrees to move it.
Assistant City Administrator James O. Gibson said in a telephone interview that he thought the city could be "substantively responsive" to the proposal. He said that the aspects of the proposals that required formal review -- such as the issuance of a demolition permit for the landmark Rhodes Tavern -- cannot be completed by the Monday deadline set by Carr for agreement by the city.
According to Gibson, the city has not yet adopted a formal position on the Rhodes Tavern. But he indicated that he would recommend to the mayor that the tavern be sacrificed to save the Albee facade.
Carr's proposal also asks the city to close a public alley in the block bounded by 14th, 15th, F and G streets, where Carr's Garfinckel Square development will be located, and to amend height limitations on 15th Street so that the new buildng may be 130 feet tall.
Carr asked the city to submit prrof by Monday that the city government, the City Council, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the White House, the Commission of Fine Arts, the National Capitol Plannong Commission, and Don't Tear It Down Incs., the local preservation group, would support the Carr proposal.
Betts Abel, a project manager for the Carr company, said in a telephone interview that final plans could not be drawn up until the city responds, particulrly on the questions of the building height and the alley closing. Although Carr, in announcing the project in November 1977, said he would restore the Rhodes Tavern, Abel said that Carr later received indications that preservationists considered the Albee Building and the National Metropolitan Bank Building more important
Karen Gordon, a member of the board of directors of Don't Tear It Down, said in a telephone interview that the group was polling its 14-member board on the Rhodes Tavern question, adding that, "We'll have to weight the options carefully."
The board chairman of the Committee to Preserve Rhodes Tavern and the National Processional Route, called the Carr proposal "a hold-the-land-mark-hostage strategy. I can't imagine that it will work . . . The worst thing that could come out of this would be that it might divide the preservation community," he added.
Joseph Grano, a leader of the Citizens Committee to Save Historic Rhodes Tavern, said that he found it "very unfortunate that people are being put in a position to choose one building over the other."