Landowners opposed to the proposed historic preservation designation for the Cleveland Park neighborhood this week attacked claims by the Cleveland Park Historical Society that the commercial stores on Connecticut Avenue between Macomb and Porter streets NW represent one of the most historic examples of commercial development in the city and the nation.
The historical society and the Advisory Neighborhood Council 3C have applied to the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board to designate a 285-acre section of Northwest Washington as the Cleveland Park Historic District, including the commercial strip along Connecticut Avenue.
Representatives of some of the store owners testified before the preservation board Wednesday, saying they support historic preservation for the residential section of Cleveland Park but oppose that designation for the commercial buildings, because they believe the stores do not meet the test for architectural or historical significance set out in the D.C. Preservation Act.
"I think it can be argued that there isn't one thing that can be found in these buildings on the east side of Connecticut Avenue that can't be found in profusion in every other American city," said W.P. Dinsmore White, an architect hired by Riggs National Bank to testify against the designation. Riggs testified on behalf of two trusts that own several buildings on the east side of Connecticut Avenue.
"An historic district designation would deprive the property owners of the flexibility to maintain their property as viable commercial buildings," White said. "It would lead to physical deterioration rather than to needed revitalization."
Robert Abbo, owner of the Roma Restaurant on Connecticut Avenue, spoke against the proposal on behalf of a number of the storekeepers renting space in the commercial strip, saying that most of the shopkeepers felt that redevelopment of the strip would help by bringing more "foot traffic" to the area.
Abbo said many of the shopkeepers had suffered during the years of the construction of the Metro subway station at Cleveland Park and had been hit with higher property taxes and rents since the station opened, and that now they wanted to reap some of the benefits.
The strongest attack, however, came from the Cafritz Foundation, which owns the Park and Shop shopping center at the intersection of Ordway Street and Connecticut Avenue. Cafritz wants to sell the parcel to a developer with plans to raze the 1930s-vintage shopping center and build offices on the site.
Cafritz presented a team of preservation historians who said the Park and Shop should not be included in the historic district, as it was neither a good example of a suburban shopping center nor one of the city's oldest.
"It is hard for me to see how one can equate high architectural quality with this building," said Anne Adams, one of the historians testifying for Cafritz.
The board is expected to make a decision on Cleveland Park within three months.
Weissberg Corp. of Rosslyn bought two shopping centers in Warrenton, Va., for $14.9 million in January, and now plans to upgrade the facilities to encourage more expensive retailers to locate there for the expanding residential communities in Fauquier County.
The property, at the intersection of Rtes. 17 and 29/211, includes the east and west plazas of the Northern Virginia Shopping Centers and 35 acres of undeveloped land zoned for commercial use. The two plazas have 50 stores and 250,000 square feet of commercial space. Weissberg plans to develop office buildings on the adjacent land.
The seller was the family of the late Dr. Aaron Gerber, who assembled the property over a number of years and built the west plaza in 1960 and the east plaza in 1979. The land represents one-third of the commercially zoned land in Warrenton.
"Our plans for modernization and renovation will make these centers more vital and appealing to the Washington metropolitan area residents who are relocating to areas of Fauquier County," said Weissberg President R. Lide Glenn. "We hope to transplant the success that we have had in Fairfax and Loudoun County shopping centers . . . to this area."
IN THE BUSINESS . . . How profitable was 1985 for the real estate industry? Here's one barometer: The Century 21 system said it set production records last year, with 620,000 closed transactions, $40 billion in gross real estate sales and $1.62 billion in sales commissions. Century 21 says it completes one out of every nine housing transactions in the United States . . . M.D.C. Holding Inc. of Denver has purchased Yeonas Co., a Virginia builder, through the acquisition of Wood Brothers Inc. and named Thomas J. Pellerito as president of Yeonas . . . Construction has started on Grosvenor House, near the Metro station of the same name, said to be the first new high-rise rental apartment building built in Montgomery County in 15 years. The 404-unit building was designed by CHK Architects and Planners and is being developed by the National Housing Partnership and Richard Dubin . . . Wilkes Co. and Madison Property Co. have started construction on a 200-room hotel at H and 5th streets NW. The National Capital Comfort Inn, designed by Eric Colbert and Associates, is expected to be finished next fall . . . Frank J. Martin Jr. of Columbia has been elected president of the Institute of Residential Marketing, the education, development and training organization of the National Association of Home Builders . . . The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. has given $10,000 to the D.C. Private Industry Council, a volunteer business effort to prepare unemployed people for jobs in the private sector, for a three-month program to train unemployed D.C. residents as mortgage loan processors and originators . . . Globe USA Inc. has been named "Builder of the Year" by the Northern Virginia Builders Association . . . Dreyfuss Brothers Inc. is offering a 10 percent rental discount to senior citizens at its Park Place Towers high-rise apartment complex in Bladensburg . . . Consumer Housing Library, an information center for the home buyer, opens today at 8:30 a.m., at 11166 Main St. in Fairfax. Builders are displaying information about their companies, products and communities at the library, but no sales people will be there.
PERSONNEL FILE . . . Three assistant vice presidents at Smithy Braedon -- Linda G. Hollemon, W. Thomas Lock and John L. Sullivan Jr. -- have been promoted to vice president and Mark R. Keller has joined the firm as a vice president . . . Meredith A. Olson has been promoted to senior vice president at Federal Realty Investment Trust . . . Cynthia Feury, 27, has been promoted to president of McLean Mortgage . . . Stephen A. Eckert has been appointed president of Dover Development Corp., the real estate development and acquisition agency of Porten Sullivan Corp.