Proposals to declare much of Washington's lower Seventh Street and downtown F Street plus adjacent Chinatown as historic districts were denounced by a prominent churchman, a Chinese community leader and two department store executives as public hearings by the D.C. Joint Committee on Landmarks ended yesterday.
Msgr. E. Robert Arthur, pastor of St. Patrick's Catholic Church at 10th and G streets NW, said the declaration would deprive his 192-year-old parish of income it hopes to derive from redeveloping outdated church-owned commercial properties in the 900 block of F Street.
Because establishment of the historic districts would restrict the right of owners to demolish buildings or alter their appearance significantly without special permission, they are viewed by business interests and city officials as a threat to millions of dollars of expected development. Arthur noted, however, that the future of his church and its high school for girls also is at stake.
Opposition also was voiced yesterday by Harrison Lee, vice chairman of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, who said his community wants to invest in "new, contemporary Chinese-style buildings" in the area centering on Seventh and H streets.
Leading the business community's assault on the plans were Edwin K. Hoffman, chairman of Woodward & Lothrop, and Cary Adams, regional vice president of the company that owns Hecht's. Both said the proposals threaten their firms' proposed developments, including a mixed-use building on the block occupied by Woodies' North Building.
Supporters of the historic districts also were heard. Charles Robertson, representing the directors of the Smithsonian's two art galleries located in the former Patent Office near Hecht's, said the store's style and appearance make it compatible with the Patent Office.
Ann Sellin, speaking for the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, contended that Chinatown would be engulfed with parking lots serving the new, nearby Convention Center unless the historic district designation protects the area.
The joint committee took the issues under advisement.