GSA Plant’s Winning Bidder Proposes Condos, Park

Photo by Bill Petros/Current File Photo
Federal officials opened bidding in January on the Georgetown Heating Plant site, located next to the C&O Canal.
Federal officials opened bidding in January on the Georgetown Heating Plant site, located next to the C&O Canal.

By Katie Pearce
Current Staff Writer

After winning the West Heating Plant in Georgetown with a $19.5 million bid, a development team has plans for an 80-unit luxury condo building with access to Rock Creek Park.

The winning team — the Levy Group of D.C. and the Georgetown Co. of New York City — is partnering with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts for the estimated $100 million-plus redevelopment. The coveted site at 29th and K streets backs to the Four Seasons Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue.

“It feels good after all the work that we’ve done,” Richard Levy, principal of the Levy Group, said in an interview yesterday. “Now we tackle all the different layers — the historic preservation stuff, the zoning stuff.”

“There’s a lot of hurdles down the road before the shovel goes into the ground,” he added.

The U.S. General Services Administration, which owns the 1940s heating plant, listed the property as “surplus” last fall and put it up for auction in January. Five bidders — which so far remain unidentified, aside from the winner — competed for the site.

The auction was originally scheduled to close Feb. 19, but competitive bidding prolonged it.

Levy said his team saw a $19 million bid from another unidentified competitor last Tuesday, then upped its own bid by $500,000 before the close of the day. He said he and his partners felt “there was not a lot more [cost] we could justify given the challenges ahead.”

Then, “all of sudden, bidding closed and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Levy said of his team’s win.

Levy said he didn’t know his competitors’ identities, though he pointed to MRP Realty as one widely cited prospect. Another anticipated competitor, the local EastBanc firm, ultimately decided not to participate in the process, according to a source who spoke to The Current.

Dan Cruz of the General Services Administration said it’s the agency’s policy to not identify the non-winning bidders.

In a news release, the federal agency said it’s now working to close the sale after formally accepting the development team’s offer yesterday. The team — which officially goes by “Georgetown 29K LLC” — has 10 days to provide an additional deposit; then the transfer of the title should happen within 100 days.

Levy said “the best-case scenario” for acquiring building permits would be nine months down the road. After that, there will be an extensive process to remediate the building’s industrial interior, removing asbestos, oil tanks and other elements. “It’s the beginning of a long story,” he said.

He shared a joke a lawyer friend made with him about his team’s win: “Sounds like the dog got the car by the tire.”

According to Levy, developers have a plan in place “that respects the history of the building and allows it to be livable” without expanding on the height or bulk of the six-story, 93,000-square-foot plant.

Design architect David Adjaye and landscape architect Ignacio Bunster are on board for the project.

In a news release yesterday, the team detailed plans for “approximately 80 Four Seasons Private Residences in a LEED-certified building directly across the C&O Canal from the Four Seasons Hotel Washington, D.C.” A park that takes up a significant portion of the area south of the heating plant will “create an important link between Rock Creek Park and the Georgetown waterfront,” the release says.

Many community leaders, including the Georgetown advisory neighborhood commission and Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans, had been vocal about the desire to connect the property to the national parkland.

The building has been largely unused for more than a decade. Until declaring it surplus, the General Services Administration maintained the facility as a backup heating plant, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to maintain it.

Last year, at the direction of the White House, the agency disposed of more than 100 excess properties, according to its release. The Georgetown heating plant was a nationally publicized cornerstone of the effort.

This article appears in the March 13 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.