Plans by the Turkish government to demolish a chancery building in the Massachusetts Avenue historic district and construct an office building four times its size have angered many residents in a neighborhood already filled with foreign missions.

Sheridan-Kalorama neighborhood activists said the proposed Turkish chancery building at 2523 Massachusetts Ave. NW would be out of scale with the rest of the enclave of expensive homes and will worsen traffic congestion along the busy Embassy Row corridor, as well as in nearby narrow side streets. Some preservationists said they are also upset that the Turkish government is attempting to raze a building in an area registered by the federal government as a historic district -- the first such attempt since Congress enacted a law in 1982 to make it easier for chanceries to expand and locate in the city.

For the Turks, the matter is simply a case of needing more space than they have in the existing building, a four-story structure with about 7,000 square feet of office space. About 20 employes of the mission's commercial and economic affairs division work in the chancery, which takes up about one-third of the half-acre lot across the street from the Japanese foreign mission complex. A chancery is the office component of a foreign mission.

The Turkish proposal would replace the 58-year-old structure with a three-story "residential-looking" building with more than 28,000 square feet of space -- far larger than any of the other residential buildings in the area. Embassy officials said they would relocate the mission's consular staff, and possibly the military section, to the new building. In all, up to 50 diplomats and their staff members would work in the building.

"We don't want to disrupt anyone," said Necip Eguz, counselor at the embassy. "But we need the space to work. This is our property and we're trying to put a nice building there that will contribute to the neighborhood."

Neighborhood activists vehemently disagree. "It's terrible what they're trying to do to us," said Elizabeth Burton, vice president of a cooperative apartment building two blocks from the Turkish site. Foreign missions "get a plot of land and they want to expand. We don't mind them being there as an embassy or a chancery as long as they realize the limitations of the neighborhood."

The plan is the third proposal made for the site during the past year. The embassy first proposed a much larger structure designed to resemble a Turkish villa, a plan rejected by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board. The Turks then proposed a more institutional-type building, a structure neighborhood activists labeled a "Swedish gymnasium." That plan was also rejected by the District review agency.

In October, the Turks returned with their current plan, for a red-brick structure that "looks like it belongs on the street," according to Russell Weber, architect for the project. The D.C. review board accepted this version, although it retained its earlier position that the existing building should not be demolished. Opponents charged, however, that "the basic plan is still the same," said John Sukenik, an executive council member of the Sheridan-Kalorama Neighborhood Council.

The Turkish proposal has split some residents of the neighborhood, however, including the area's two-member Advisory Neighborhood Commission -- the city's smallest ANC.

ANC representative Harold Washburn opposes the plan because "it violates the integrity of an historic district," he said. But Jean Lindley, the ANC's other member, said the Turks "have been perfectly good neighbors.

"I really can understand how the neighborhood can be upset, but I think the {law} is with the embassy," Lindley said. She added that she also supports the plan because the Turks "are valuable allies to the United States."

Ronald Mlotek, chief counsel of the State Department's Office of Foreign Missions, an agency that has typically supported requests of chanceries wishing to expand or locate within the city, said the State Department is still reviewing the Turkish application.

He added, however, that "the Turks have been extremely forthcoming to us in their country." Asked if that should affect the State Department's recommendation in the case, Mlotek said: "Certainly, if the plan is consistent with {District} zoning and land use laws."

A hearing on the demolition request had been scheduled for next Friday before Diane L. Herndon, the mayor's agent for historic preservation. But last week attorneys for the embassy withdrew the application, contending that the mayor's agent has no authority in chancery cases. Instead, the embassy plans to go directly to a special panel of the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment, which has more members representing the federal government compared with the normal BZA panel, which hears nonembassy cases.

Cynthia Giordano, an attorney for the Sheridan-Kalorama neighborhood group, said the Turks are bypassing the hearing before Herndon and going directly to the board of zoning adjustment because it would "not have been an easy win for them."

Whayne Quin, attorney for the Turks, said the board of zoning adjustment is the proper body to hear the case. A recent Herndon ruling blocking demolition of a building in the Capitol Hill historic district "had nothing to do with" canceling Friday's hearing, Quin said.