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Tudor Place balances preservation and community needs

In the most recent Georgetowner, you may have read an editorial about Tudor Place’s revised site plan to preserve the Landmark House, the collection, archive, and landscape, a statement by the Georgetown Business Association, and a counter from Outerbridge Horsey. As we were not contacted about that editorial, it is time for me to respond on behalf of Tudor Place.

The Georgetown Dish
The Georgetown Dish

First of all, the Preservation Plan was a multi-year effort with landscape historians, historic buildings experts, environmental controls specialists, collections specialists, security and fire detection/suppression specialists. In other words, this is a complicated plan to preserve all the historic resources on the Tudor Place property.

The National Historic Landmark Office in Philadelphia has commended Tudor Place on its planning process and the resulting site plan. The DC Office of Historic Preservation supports the revised site plan. The National Park Services approves the revised site plan.

The opposing neighbors state that they value Tudor Place and profess their support. However, their actions put Tudor Place at risk. They claim to have alternatives to the site plan that are comprehensive, well-considered alternatives. They claim to know what is best for Tudor Place. The fact is that they have offered alternatives which are cost prohibitive, inconsistent with the goals of plan, and would negatively impact the landscape and historic features of the site. We spent many hours and dollars in discussion with a group of opposing residents on 32nd Street, ANC 2E commissioners Charlie Eason and Tom Birch. As a result of these meetings a number of changes were made to the original plan as we sought to compromise Tudor Place’s preservation needs with their demands.

In regards to Mr. Horsey’s statements, I’d like to clarify several points.

1. The site plan does include four discreet building projects: a greenhouse attached to the Mower House; a one story high from the east collections and archive storage structure that is a 25 ft. by 24 ft. addition to the south end of the garage; a gatehouse; and an education building. The fact is, we are only adding 1% to the current lot coverage of 3%. Tudor Place’s lot is 242,224 sq. ft. The alarmist figures that Mr. Horsey states totally misrepresent what will be seen above ground.

2. The opposing 32nd Street neighbors proposed plans that would adversely affect significant historic features of the site and would destroy very significant old growth trees. Their comment was “Well, they are going to die anyway.”

3. One of the alternatives presented by the opposing 32nd Street neighbors loads all the building onto the 1670 31st Street non-easement property. An extremely difficult site on which to build, the cost would be prohibitive and we would need to have redundant mechanical and fire suppression systems on this property as well as in the garage. The structure would completely fill the lot and would have significant negative impact on the neighbors surrounding the north portion of the property. The revised site plan has only one building on the street, the Gatehouse, and all other buildings are 95 ft. or more away from houses on 31st and 32nd Streets.

3. The Old Georgetown Board did ask us to consider other options. Early in our planning process, we did consider very seriously the options they suggested. When we return to the OGB in July we will present why our study of those options indicates they are not feasible or cost effective and would negatively impact the historic property.

4. Because of the easement on the property, the National Park Service must approve the location of any building on the historic site; we can only build on locations they approve.

5. If generating support means telling people what we are actually doing and discussing the substantial negative impact of what has been recommended by the opposing neighbors, then so be it. Why should we not try to generate support?

We have worked long and hard to make this historic site a viable and contributing member of the Georgetown community while ensuring that it survives into the future with all its historic resources protected. Any site plan evolves. We are going back to the ANC, OGB, and, for the first time, to the CFA to hear comments on the revised site plan. Let me make clear, this is a critical point for Tudor Place.

Leslie L. Buhler

Executive Director