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Old Georgetown Board Considers Dumbarton Oaks Remodel Project

The board met on Wednesday to discuss this project and others.

After reviewing at 1700 Wisconsin Ave., the Old Georgetown Board gave project developers feedback and asked for more input from nearby residents. No vote to approve the plans was taken.

The 1950s-era building, built in the Colonial style, has been purchased by to house its fellows.

Architect Ralph Cunningham, of D.C.-based Cunningham-Quill Architects, presented the remodel plans to the board and said developers planned to hold a meeting with the community on the redesign sometime in the next four weeks, but did not offer a specific date.

Anne Lewis, one of three members of the Old Georgetown Board, called Dumbarton Oaks an asset to the community. She voiced some aesthetic concerns with the redesign plan, which includes a modern addition to the existing structure, and asked if the community had been invited to weigh in, too.

"I'm surprised there aren't more people here," Lewis said.

Dumbarton Oaks is a satellite research library and art collection run by Harvard University. A select group of fellows studies Byzantine culture, Pre-Columbian culture and Landscape and Gardening at the property, located at 1703 32nd St. in Northwest Washington. According to the Dumbarton Oaks website, it was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss in 1920 and bequeathed to the University in 1940.

The redesign plan for 1700 Wisconsin Ave. calls for a "comprehensive modernization," including window replacements, a brand-new geo-thermal heating and cooling system, and 25 residential units to house fellows. A fourth floor would be added to the existing structure, as well as another side addition, and a tall, modern glass window would run up the center of the building. A vertical garden is planned for the west facade.

Tim Dennee, an architectural historian with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office, said the property is "non-contributing," meaning the redesign will not be required to abide by the Historic Preservation Office's guidelines, but he expressed concerns about marrying the modern elements of the plan with the Colonial-style building.

"The building is mostly residential and (the modern elements) give it more of an office feel," Dennee said.

The Old Georgetown Board will meet next on July 7 on the third floor of the Building Museum, 401 F St. NW, Washington.

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