Last year, President Obama put the West Heating Plant, an unused federal building in Georgetown noted for its Art Deco architectural style, on a list of properties to be put up for auction as part of an administration initiative to save $3 billion in building maintenance costs. Upset at the feds’ slow pace, House Republicans plan to hold a public hearing outside the plant at 10am this morning to “focus on the continuing mismanagement by the General Services Administration of unused and underutilized federally owned buildings at the expense of taxpayers,” according to a press release from the office of Congressman Jeff Denham (R-Calif).
The property sits on 29th street near the corner of K street—right next to the Georgetown Suites hotel, making it prime real estate for development. The plant opened in 1948 as a coal-fired heating utility which served a group of federal buildings in Northwest DC. Although the plant hasn’t supplied power to a federal building for 12 years, the property cost the federal government $3.5 million for upkeep in the same ten-year period.
The West Heating Plant was designed in the Art Deco architectural style, which was prominent from the 1920′s until the second world war. The plant is significant, however, in that it is located in here in D.C., an area where more classic, conservative architectural styles dominated in that period.
Although the building rests in a highly valued location and real estate developers are interested in the property, the immediate future of the building is uncertain. The General Services Administration planned to auction the property by the end of this summer, but they pushed back their goal to this fall. Even that target may be optimistic. For one, the plant formerly burned coal, meaning that the area will need to be cleaned up in order to meet environmental standards. That, and, as we all know, the Georgetown neighbors like to take their time approving development projects.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar trotted CNN cameras out to the property last year as a way to spotlight the President’s cost-saving initiatives. Now, it appears House Republicans John Mica (R-Fl) and Jeff Denham intend to do the same thing to highlight the administration’s slow pace. The public hearing, cheekily entitled “Sitting On Our Assets: The Georgetown Heating Plant,” will only call one witness and will likely function as more of a press conference than anything else.
Photo: Mr. T in DC (via Flickr)