Secret Service Director John R. Simpson has asked city officials to hold up construction on the second phase of the 12-story Metropolitan Square office complex on the grounds that the building's 157-foot height poses a potentially serious security threat to the White House.
"We respectfully request that construction be delayed on this project until the issues involving the overall security of the White House complex are resolved," Simpson said in letters to Mayor Marion Barry, the City Council and the National Capital Planning Commission.
City Council member John A. Wilson, (D-Ward 2), who sponsored the 1979 bill that allowed an increase in the project's height, said yesterday Barry should withhold a building permit until meeting with the Secret Service. Barry's press secretary Annette Samuels said the mayor is considering the issue.
A Carr company spokesman said yesterday he was not sure whether the Secret Service has communicated with the firm.
In 1979, the Secret Service expressed its fears about the first phase of the office complex being developed by the Oliver T. Carr Co. at 15th and G streets NW overlooking the White House grounds. In October 1979, the City Council, which was not informed of the Secret Service opposition, approved a height increase allowing Carr to build an extra 35 feet above the existing limit at that portion of 15th Street.
"We are not going to get overlooked this time," Secret Service spokesman Robert Snow said yesterday, referring to the 1979 events. With Simpson's letter, the Secret Service included copies of its 1979 letter, which said that studies by its Presidential Protective Division and Uniformed Division determined that the building height posed an "uncontrollable situation from a security standpoint."
The new Secret Service request represents still another problem for the $70 million office complex being developed by Carr on the site of the historic Rhodes Tavern.
Last month, the Fine Arts Commission approved the second-phase design, but asked Barry to withhold building permits until District voters got a chance in November to vote on the preservation of Rhodes Tavern. The nonbinding referendum, if approved, would in effect ask Carr to save the 183-year-old building, which was Washington's original city hall.
The first phase of the project, with an elevation of 148 feet, affords a commanding view over the Treasury Building and onto the north portico of the White House.
When the first-phase building was finished several months ago, the White House stopped the practice of having President Reagan greet at the north entrance heads of state arriving for state dinners.
Because of security concerns, the greetings were moved indoors and only recently were resumed outdoors--with a portable screen blocking the vantage point from the new building. The planned second phase is about nine feet taller than the first, and, unlike the first phase, also allows direct elevator access to the roof, which would overlook the south side of the White House.
Carr officials have said that nearby buildings already afford similar views of the White House.