Federal planners have asked the District to postpone giving a public alley behind historic Rhodes Tavern to developer Oliver T. Carr.
The National Capital Planning Commission made the request earlier this month after members realized the City Council has not asked the federal planning agency to approve the alley closing as is customary.
Carr plans to tear down the tavern at 15th and F streets NW, and build a $60 million office complex on most of the city block opposite the U.S. Treasury.
The District has already made one concession to Carr by waiving its 130-foot building height limit to allow a 160-foot -- or 16-story -- building to be put up on the site.
Nelson Rimensnyder, an alternate member of the commission who represents the House District Committee, said "I recall very, very few (alley closings) that have not come before this commission . . . and this particular alley is U.S. property that is being given away to a developer who already has been given height releases."
In February the District government approved demolition of the 180-year-old tavern, the oldest commercial building still standing in downtown Washington.
The Citizens Committee to Save Rhodes Tavern has requested a review of that decision by the D.C. Court of Appeals, and Carr has agreed not to tear down the tavern before Jan. 1. A separate citizens' group is attempting to raise funds to move the tavern to another downtown site.
Joe Grano, cochairman of the citizens' committee, says the 6,790-square-foot alley behind Rhodes Tavern is worth nearly $2 million, and will allow Carr to put an additional 94,000 sqaure feet of office space in his bulding.
"Why can't some of those profits be used to save Rhodes Tavern?" Grano asked. Grano's group contends the city is not required to close alleys, and should extract some concessions from builders when it does.
The NCPC resolution urges the City Council not to approve closing the alley until it reviews applicable laws and determines whether review of such closings by the commission is required.
One District law permits the closing of "unnecessary" alleys, but such closings usually are given public hearings and NCPC review.
Another measure allows but does not require an alley to be closed when owners of adjacent property agree to it. Carr owns or has contracts on all the land in the block bounded by 14th, 15th, F and G streets NW, except for Garfinckel's department store.