The Joint Committee on Landmarks last week blocked -- at least temporarily -- a developer's plan to demolish seven buildings on Washington Circle to make way for a highrise condominium.
The committee named as landmarks all the buildings slated for demolition as well as 17 other houses on the block. It did not, however, act on a compromise plan to incorporate three houses into the new development, demolish four others and retain a low building height around the circle. The compromise proposal, worked out by the developer and the Foggy Bottom Advisory Neighborhood Commission after a court battle, will be considered by the committee at a future meeting.
The ANC applied for landmark status for all of Square 38, bounded by Washington Circle, Pennsylvania Avenue, 23d, 24th and L streets NW. The committee gave landmark status to all the buildings on the square except for seven houses on L Street: 2308, 2310, 2312, 2314, 2316, 2318 and 2320.
Architectural historian Candace Reed called the square "a cohesive blending of Victorian styles." One property owner on the square, Audrey Smith, also supported the application. But four other property owners testified against landmark status, claiming that the houses were not distinctive and that similar buildings could be found in various sections of the city.
David Brown, whose house at 2311 Washington Circle is part of the property assembled by the developer for demolition, complained that the landmark designation was "not so much an effort to preserve something as to keep a condominium building out." The ANC commissioners, who filed the application, denied that they knew of the proposed condominium when they applied for landmark status.
Katherine Sullivan, of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, said that her group supported the designation because Washington Circle is the entrance to Georgetown.
"Let's preserve one small facet of what our hometown once was," said Sullivan. "Our heritage is rapidly vanishing before our eyes."
The committee delayed a decision on an application for landmark status for the Demonet building, a Victorian brick structure on the southwest corner of Connecticut Avenue and M Street, which once served as a fashionable ice cream parlor and confectionary shop.
Alison Luchs, speaking on behalf of the Depont Circle Citizens Association, which sponsored the application, called the building "an obstinate survivor from the past, handing on as if to celebrate its centennial in 1980." She praised its ornamental brickwork, now covered by peeling white paint, and called the dome on its corner tower "a scaled-down version of the Florence cathedral dome."
Jacques De Puy, an attorney for the building's owner, Dominic F. Antonelli Jr., presented no testimony at the hearing, claiming that the owner had not been given adequate notice. In an interview, De Puy said that Antonelli owned property on M Street adjacent to the Demonet building, but had no development plans at present. A decision on landmark status for the Demonet building is expected next month