D.C. Nixes Apple's Plans for Modern Store

Apple wants to raze this brick building in historic Georgetown in Washington, D.C., for a new store.

Credit: Samantha Honl, National Trust for Historic Preservation

UPDATE: Apple's new store was approved on Mar. 5, 2009.

Apple's attempts to open its first store in the District of Columbia have once again been put on hold.

For the third time, the Old Georgetown Board, an advisory commission acting under the authority of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, rejected Apple's proposal for a new store that would replace a building in the city's Georgetown neighborhood that Apple has owned for more than a year. The Dec. 2 rejection comes after similar shut-downs by the Board on Oct. 18, 2007, and Mar. 20, 2008. While the site in question is not itself a historic building, Georgetown, a shopping mecca for tourists and locals, is a National Historic Landmark district notable for its Federal style houses and businesses, and any significant changes to a structure must pass the board's strict review.

 "Georgetown cannot become a collection of interesting, even exceptional, modern designs without losing the character that merited its designation as a National Historic Landmark," says Barbara Zartman, chair of the Historic Preservation and Zoning Committee of the Citizens Association of Georgetown. (Members of the board did not return phone calls from Preservation.)

Sketches of the proposed designs have not been released to the public, but according to Zartman, "The two recent designs proposed by Apple are very sleek, modern concepts, low and horizontal, with lots of glass and open space. There is beautiful design work, which would be welcome additions in other contemporary commercial environments. Apple seems committed to a single-story operation, very much out of style with the structures that define Georgetown's commercial areas."

As for the architect's next move, a spokesperson for San Franciso-based Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, offered no comment. A charette with the Old Georgetown Board and the architects was scheduled a few days after the third rejection, but the meeting was cancelled.


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Submitted by Modernist at: March 18, 2009
Historically, Georgetown used to be dirty factories and low income housing. Places and people change with time, now Georgetown's new residents are NIMBY snobs. To preserve the historic feel the current residents would have be evicted and replaced with working class african-americans, somehow I just don't see that happening. If you want to be frozen in a bubble go to Colonial Williamsburg, a major commerical street is not the place to freeze time and aesthetic taste, this isn't even an old/important building they want to demo. If Apple had some sense they would choose a better location like Dupont or Downtown where they are wanted. I honestly think the small minded and petty naysayers should keep it up until they find their neighborhood businesses are as shallow and superficial as they are.

Submitted by AngelaSerratore at: February 23, 2009
LouDC: I'm sorry for the confusion--I am aware the Ms. Zartman is a member of the Citizens' Association board, and the organization that didn't get back to me was the Old Georgetown Board, under the US Commission of Fine Arts. Hope that clears things up!

Submitted by LouDC at: February 21, 2009
You state that "members of the [Citizens' Association of Georgetown] board did not return phone calls". However, Barbara Zartman IS a member of the board, as am I. I did not receive a phone call.

Submitted by Boomer Preservationist at: February 17, 2009
That Apple wants to put something completely out of character in Old Georgetown is not surprising. After all, its Chif Executive, Steve Jobs, tried to demolish the historic Jackling House in Woodside,California -- a Spanish Colonial Revival jewel designed by George Washington Smith (read about the judge's ruling at http://www.forbes.com/2006/01/04/Apple-Jobs-house-Jackling-court-in_ps_0104soapbox_inl.html). It seems that the company shares the same callous disregard as its founder for the benefits that historic preservation brings to quality of life and "sense of time and place."

Submitted by Jrgts at: February 11, 2009
Renderings of the proposed store are can be seen at infoAppleStore.com, which follows everything about Apple retail stores around the world. http://www.ifoapplestore.com/db/2009/02/03/dc-store-design-nearly-approved/

Submitted by 2dogs&aboy at: February 6, 2009
It is frustrating as staff to a preservation commission to deal with mentalities like this. Businesses want the appeal of a historic district location but they want to thumb their nose at the architectural characteristics and neighborhood attributes that make the area so appealing! Apple has become just another cookie cutter company that appears from this situation to have no regard for the community but only their branding effort. It's disappointing.

Submitted by Errin at: February 5, 2009
The existing building is beautiful and stands out well from the buildings flanking it - ie. it's noticeable. Why can't they do the environmentally-responsible thing (which is supposedly one of their policies) and amend the existing building to their needs? People are smart enough to recognize an Apple store even when it doesn't look like other Apple store designs, and I believe most people would appreciate Apple's efforts to reuse the existing building which goes with the historic district pattern.