Resisting Red Cross: Neighbors Seek Relief from Plan for Growth
Reath, Viki, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Greeted with open arms around the country when disasters strike, the American Red Cross is getting a distinctly chillier reception from local residents over a massive expansion plan for its office building in Foggy Bottom.
At issue is whether local residents can live with a proposal to add a $42 million, 10-story building at 2025 E St. NW - more than quintupling the Red Cross' office space - and whether the District can afford to turn it down.
"We will suffer with the additional traffic and density of people, not to mention the loss of light in our apartments," said John C. Batham, 74, the president of the West End Citizens Association and a leader of the Foggy Bottom residents fighting the plan.
Red Cross officials, who are to meet with residents to discuss their concerns at a noon hearing today, defend the design as best both for the neighborhood and for their needs. They say the planned influx of 1,200 workers to the expanded site by 2001 will pump badly needed revenues into the District's coffers and the cash registers of local merchants.
The proposal, which does not affect the high-profile Red Cross executive office building at 17th and D Streets NW, involves moving the existing four-story National Capital Chapter building on the E Street site forward and attaching to its rear a 10-story addition for a total of 475,000 square feet.
More than 1,100 workers at the Red Cross facility at Gallows Road and Route 50 in Merrifield would be transferred to the new building. Ninety from the 17th Street executive office building also would move. Red Cross officials hope to sell the 300,000-square-foot Merrifield complex.
Serving as referee in the dispute is the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), which wants to rule on the Red Cross proposal Feb. 6.
The Red Cross built the National Capital Chapter building overlooking the E Street Expressway in 1952. In 1992, it moved its disaster-rescue operations, by far its largest division, to its Merrifield office. Now it's decided to move back.
"They found it was too difficult to communicate when they were so far away," said Phil Feola of the law firm Wilkes, Artis, Hedrick & Lane, which represents the Red Cross.
The Red Cross proposed the shift last year, and NCPC planners have studied the idea since May. The commission deferred a decision after residents opposed the project at a Jan. 9 hearing. The commission set up today's meeting in the hope of finding a compromise acceptable to all parties.
One of the biggest sticking points is the proximity of the new building to several high-rise apartment buildings behind it. …