Photo by The Georgetown Dish
The West Heating Plant from the Pennsylvania Avenue Bridge
The West Heating Plant from the Pennsylvania Avenue Bridge

It sits there at 29th and K Streets, overlooking the Whitehurst Freeway, a 1940s reminder of when Georgetown had a busy, smelly, industrial waterfront.  It’s the West Heating Plant that until 10 years ago helped heat and fuel nearby federal buildings. 

 

A plane over Roslyn heads to Reagan National Airport (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) A plane over Roslyn heads to Reagan National Airport

 Although now virtually abandoned, on Tuesday morning it was the site of an unusual off-Capitol Hill congressional hearing at which the Republican leaders of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, led by Reps. John Mica of Florida and Jeff Denham of California, spent the better part of two hours taking the General Services Administration to task, with sarcasm, insult and derision, for not moving fast enough to dispose of this valuable piece of real estate. 

The historic Godey Lime Kilns and Whitehurst Freeway ramp in Rock Creek Park (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) The historic Godey Lime Kilns and Whitehurst Freeway ramp in Rock Creek Park

Citing what they said was a list of 14,000 excess properties, Mica and Denham threatened continuous hearings if GSA didn’t move faster. “We’re going across the nation, we going to help you market these properties,” said Denhem, to the Flavio Peres, the official representing GSA’s Public Buildings Service.  Peres held his ground: “I believe our office can [dispose of these properties] cost-efficiently.”  

Looking northwest from the roof (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Looking northwest from the roof

Mica also noted that he would have preferred Dan Tangherlini, the acting GSA Administrator, to be there for GSA.

Rep. John Mica (Fla), center, makes a point at the hearing inside the West Heating Plant, with Rep. Richard Hanna (NY), left, and Rep. Jeff Denham (CA). (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Rep. John Mica (Fla), center, makes a point at the hearing inside the West Heating Plant, with Rep. Richard Hanna (NY), left, and Rep. Jeff Denham (CA).

But the real marketing came after the hearing.  Mica and Denham led a group to the roof of the building and there, spread out for 3600, was a view like no other -- Georgetown, Rock Creek Parkway, the Potomac, Rosslyn and much of northwest Washington. Nearby, was the C&O Canal, the eastern ramps of the Whitehurst Freeway, Georgetown University, the historic Godey Lime Kilns, the Watergate. 

In the distance, the spires of the Washington Cathedral, the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge and planes aiming for National Airport.  Clearly, these views add immeasurably to the value of this property and are a unique marketing feature.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) at the hearing (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) at the hearing

At least one local official in attendance at the hearing pointed out that it was well known that this property was going on the market.  GSA has been “very aggressive,” said Georgetown Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Bill Starrels, with developers already spending a “lot of money developing plans for the site” and presenting these plans to the public.  If it was a secret, “this was one of the most poorly kept secrets I know of,” he added.

Flavio Peres from GSA was the only witness. (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Flavio Peres from GSA was the only witness.

 

Rep. Denham, on the ledge of the Heating Plant roof, shows how GSA is (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Rep. Denham, on the ledge of the Heating Plant roof, shows how GSA is "sitting on its assets."

0 Comments For This Article

AnonymousFloridian

After sitting on the this commitee for the past 6 years, Mica with his side-kick Denham only now are asking why these buildings are still sitting empty.

Why? Because Mica is up for re-election in a redrawn disttric, in which HE chose to run against a Freshman Congresswoman, for crony political reasons. The fact being that Mica should never have run against the Congresswoman (the newly drawn district consists of 75% of the district she currently represents), but should have run in his own district. But the boys are not fond of strong women, and a state representative has eyes for the seat, so a deal was struck for Mica to run and save the seat for the state representative when he terms out.

The Congresswoman is very conservative, so the earmarking lobbyist Mica is trying to posture and position himself as a fiscal conservative, which is far from the truth. Mica should be working on the Transportation Bill, and stop the campaign rhetoric!

Anonymous

Have they nothing better to do with their time then act as property developers? No wonder nothing gets done on the Hill....especially the House side

Anonymous, Too

Floridian and Anonymous (and Bill Starrells)-

Thank you! What a bunch of pompous, bloviated, self-dealing ninnies. Maybe their constituents (and opponents) would like to know just how these ignorant, grandstanding jerks are misusing their taxpayer-sponsored offices to feather their own nests. And what did Norton have to say?

Anonymous

'Representative' Denham needs to make sure none of constituents is not behind him while sitting on that wall. I am sure they would find a way to encourage him to talk to them, something he has, and continues, to refuse to do. He is certainly not a representative of the people who elected him....well....maybe the people who saw to it that he was elected.....but not the people he is supposed to represent or supposedly elected him. Denham is the typical incumbent the elctorate needs to throw out of the Congress.

Anonymous_DC

To say nothing of these politician's current motivation or historical record; how can one deny that GSA has wasted OUR money?

Bill Starrels say GSA has been "very aggressive" spending "a lot of money developing plans"... and this makes GSA better??

The fact is, GSA has had valuable property sit idle for over a decade, providing real service to taxpayers, and costing taxpayers millions. GSA should be selling this property for as much as possible; GSA (a federal entity) should not be concerned with impacts to the neighborhood and waterfront. Local impact should be dealt with by local government, including paying (if necessary) to ensure their interests are met.

I am certainly in favor of keeping the current access to Rock Creek, and ensuring responsible development, but that should not be the concern of the federal government and federal tax dollars.

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