A new, scaled-down design for a controversial residential and commercial complex on the Georgetown waterfront was unveiled yesterday, but residents there immediately branded it as an intrusion that would permanently alter the community's character.
The design by architect Arthur Cotton Moore, drafted after the federal Fine Arts Commission rejected another architect's more massive proposal, is centered on two curving buildings that would partially surround an ellipitcal man-made yacht basin and face the Potomac River.
In addition, Moore's $60 million proposal calls for five other residential and commercial buildings and pedestrian pathways between the buildings leading to the yacht basin and a riverfront park.
Moore's design contrasts markedly with the earlier proposal. That had called for construction of one large building that would have stretched for more than 1,200 feet along the now tawdry, industrial shoreline, and left a 160-foot strip along the river for a park. Moore's proposal calls for development on 3.43 acres of the 18.46-acre waterfront tract, compared to 5.9 acres in the earlier design.
The complex would be 60 percent residential and 40 percent commercial, Moore said, with 350 to 400 condominiums starting at about $130,000 for a one-bedroom unit. The development would be built by Georgetown Harbour Associates, a joint venture of the Western Development Corp. and Chessie Resources Inc.
Despite the more limited scope of Moore's design, potent obstacles remain before it could become a reality. The Fine Arts Commission, which advises the city on various design proposals, and many Georgetown residents favor purchase of the land for a park only. While it does not have veto power over the project, the commission's recommendations rarely have been rejected.
D.C. Planning Director James O. Gibson told a congressional hearing on the park proposal Monday that the city government now favors an all-park solution. Last summer he signed an agreement calling for a combination of development and parkland, assuming that the estimated $25 million in federal money needed to buy the land is not available.
The money is still not available and National Park Service Director William C. Whalen testified at the congressional hearing that the Interior Department opposes purchase of the land to be used only as a park.
The land in question, certainly one of the most valuable pieces of property in the country, runs from just west of Key Bridge to Rock Creek, between the Whitehurst Freeway and the Potomac. However, it is now what Gibson calls "an embarrassment to our beautiful city," consisting of a cement plant, debris, and parking lots.
Several Georgetown residents yesterday told a panel of three architects who advise the Fine Arts Commission that Moore's proposal would generate unwanted traffic on Georgetown's already-clogged streets.
Charles L. Poor, president of the Georgetown Citizens Association, described Moore's design a "fascinating and very imaginative, but it would completely alter the character of Georgetown."
Grosvenor Chapman, an architect and former president of the Georgetown citizens' group, complained that the proposal would add 300,000 square feet of retail store space in Georgetown. He said this amounts to a 43 percent increase over the existing 700,000 square feet of street-level store space along Wisoncsin and M streets NW.
"One thing (Georgtown residents) feel would destroy the character would be something that attracts hordes of people," Chapman said. "Why not put this on Buzzard Point? It won't have any impact there.
"We're here to find out whether this is an indigenous building for Georgetown or an intrusion," he said. "I say it's an intrusion."
Moore, smiling at the remark, stepped forward and handed the architects a picture of the existing waterfront and said, "I would like to remind you what's there now."
The architects made few comments about the proposal, although one of them, Theodore Sande, said. "It doesn't convey residential to me. I have echoes of the 1964 World's Fair" in New York City.
The architects' panel will now submit its suggestions on the project to the Fine Arts Commission, which is scheduled to consider the design next Tuesday.