Blackened walls, peeling beams and a labyrinth of decrepit pipes set the backdrop for a congressional subcommittee hearing Tuesday at the West Heating Plant, in Georgetown, where members of the House berated federal officials for allowing the plant to sit nearly vacant since 2000.
The 2.08-acre property is considered one of the most valuable undeveloped sites in Georgetown despite the zoning, historic preservation and environmental approvals required for its development.
Flavio Peres, an official with the GSA’s Public Buildings Service, testified that the plant was on the market and would be sold through an online auction this fall.
He said that during the past 12 years it had been used as a backup plant and a place to store fuel and spare parts.
But Reps. John L. Mica (R-Fla.) and Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) were not convinced that adequate effort was being made, particularly given the estimated $3.5 million cost of maintaining the building during the past decade. The building has not been added to a list of 14,000 excess federal properties. Mica asked why spare parts weren’t moved out of the building until recently if the GSA had been trying to sell it.
“It took us 10 years to move out the spare parts?” Mica said.
Peres said that the agency was working to sell the property and had already hosted developers for tours. He said the agency also planned to hire a private consulting firm to help with the sale.
But Mica wasn’t swayed. He asked Peres when the for-sale sign on the side of the building had been posted. The answer: Monday afternoon. “It just doesn’t seem like anyone is minding the store,” Mica said.
Denham said the subcommittee would consider hearings on site at federally owned vacant properties across the country until the GSA began more actively disposing of them. “The job is not getting done,” Denham said.