Photos by the author.

Last month, a consortium of investors, including the Levy Group and Four Seasons, won the auction to purchase the historic West Heating Plant on 29th Street in Georgetown. The future of the building is now in doubt, but is it worth saving as is?

No formal plans have been presented by the winning group, but you can read between the lines of their few public statements. Most tellingly, a letter from the Zoning Administrator to the group’s lawyer discussed the general proposal to tear down most of the building. The request asked what the zoning implications would be to keep the 29th Street façade but tear down most of the rest of the building.

Some, like myself, think the entire building is worth saving. It’s a striking example of a austere Art Deco style in a city mostly untouched by that style. The front façade, (which the group seems likely to keep anyway) is a muscular and monolithic edifice, that is detailed with a precise yet delicate brickwork borders:


The rest of the building carries on that muscular hulk:


But the problem is, there is simply no way to get natural light into the building as it is currently structured.


Photo from Jones Lang LaSalle.


Yes, there are eight long windows on the north and south sides, but behind each window is a giant steel frame blocking the light. The frames are structural, so they cannot be easily removed.

I have seen some plans (not from the winning group) calling for a giant atrium to bring light in, but that would limit the roof usage and remove a good deal of square footage within the building.

Some simply think people like me are nuts and that the building is an eyesore. The very traits I find appealing can be just as easily seen as looming and oppressive.

What do you think? Should the new owners be forced to save all four façades? Or should they be allowed to tear down most of the building and simply keep the 29th Street side?

Click here for more pictures of the building.

Cross-posted at the Georgetown Metropolitan.