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Apple's Modern Look Rejected in Georgetown as Store Hits Snag
Release Time: 2009/1/7 16:58:57        From: Alibaba.com        Visits: 178448        Font Size: Large  Middle  Small

By Rochelle Garner

Jan. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc., known for the minimalist designs of its computers, iPods and retail stores, aims to drop that aesthetic in the middle of Washington's Georgetown. The historic district doesn"t want it.

Apple's architects, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, proposed building a store with an all-glass front at street level, topped by a slab of masonry with an Apple logo cut through it. That's not Georgetown's style, a committee appointed by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts said last month when rejecting the plan.

"The design was too much like a billboard,"said Thomas Luebke, secretary of the commission, which reviews designs for Washington's federal historic district. "It wasn"t appropriate."

The store would be the first in the U.S. capital for Apple, which has more than 240 shops in what it calls "desirable, high- traffic locations."Its stores accounted for 19 percent of fiscal 2008 sales and have become a magnet for people to see and touch its products. Apple sold more than 596,000 Macintosh computers through its outlets in the quarter ended in September, more than half to customers who never previously owned one.

The proposed store would be in Georgetown"s commercial center, where national chains Ralph Lauren, Nine West, Bebe and Puma already have shops. Buildings in this historic district were either erected more than 100 years ago, or look like they were.

National Landmark

Founded in 1751 as a port on the Potomac River, Georgetown is now a tree-lined enclave in Washington and home to the area"s wealthy. Georgetown became a federal historic landmark in 1950 and a National Historic Landmark in 1967.

Those designations ensure that any construction project, be it a remodel or a new building, adhere to the styles of the 18th and 19th centuries. Apple wants to tear down a vacant store at 1229 Wisconsin Avenue, built about 25 years ago, near the center of the historic district.

"A lot of stores in Georgetown have managed to incorporate their theme with the historic architecture of the area,"said Nikki Peters, 23, who lives in Washington. "A more modern Apple store would look out of place."

Every store on the block is three stories high with 12-inch (30-centimeter) high signs to show shoppers what"s inside. Only the paint color on their brickwork sets them apart.

Apple's distinctive design isn't compatible with the surroundings, the Old Georgetown Board said last month. The board is made up of a committee of architects appointed by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and makes sure new construction preserves Georgetown's character, said Luebke. The group asked Apple's architects to revise their design.

Apple's architectural firm, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, declined to comment, said Karl Backus, a San Francisco-based principal with the company.

'Sense of Place'

It's not the first time Cupertino, California-based Apple was asked to revamp the design of one of its stores.

Three years ago, a Boston architectural commission reviewing the glass façade that Apple proposed for a local store said the design "didn't have a sense of place"in the nei***orhood.

Apple amended the design and worked with the Boston Redevelopment Authority to make sure the store -- noteworthy for a giant wall of glass -- fit in with the area. The Boston shop opened last year.

The company already has at least five stores in the Maryland and northern Virginia suburbs that surround Washington, said Amy Bessette, an Apple spokeswoman. The Georgetown outlet would be its first within the city limits.

"We are looking forward to bringing the unique Apple retail experience to Georgetown,"Bessette said. "We think customers will love our first location in Washington."

While Apple persuaded Boston to accept three stories of glass, it likely won"t fly in Georgetown, where traditional concepts win over modern minimalism, said Luebke. This was the second design Apple floated before the committee, he said. Both were rejected for being too modern, with too much glass.

"Everyone likes the idea of having Apple in the nei***orhood, and Bohlin is a good design firm,"he said. "We're waiting for the magic combination to come in."

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