Last week, the world celebrated the 25th birthday of the Macintosh computer. Just a few blocks from campus on Wisconsin Avenue, however, Apple Inc. is receiving anything but a warm welcome from local authorities.

In 2007, Apple purchased 1229 Wisconsin Ave., the former home of a French Connection UK store, for $13.7 million. Apple planned to house Washington’s first Apple Store on the property. (D.C. consumers must travel to Pentagon City, Va. to find the nearest location.) Apple has since proposed multiple design plans for the site, each of which has been rejected by the Advisory Neighborhood Commission and the Old Georgetown Board – organizations responsible for zoning regulation and building design, among other aspects of local government, in the area. Although Apple has acquired a permit to level the building, the ANC and the Old Georgetown Board have effectively thwarted any development of the property.

The zoning authorities have taken issue with Apple’s designs, which have been deemed incongruous with the aesthetic of historic Georgetown. The most recent mock-up features a glass and stone façade and the obligatory Apple logo. Old Georgetown Board spokesman Tom Luebke said that the designs threatened to turn “the building into a billboard.”

We acknowledge the legitimacy of these concerns. A 1950 federal statute mandates that the Old Georgetown Board “preserve the historic value” of the neighborhood. The charm of Georgetown’s parks, cobblestone streets and preserved architecture should be defended, and we commend the efforts of local authorities to do so. There are few urban communities in the entire country that have preserved their colonial heritages as well as Georgetown has.

But in this case, the arguments against modernization don’t add up. For more than a year, 1229 Wisconsin Ave. has sat dormant – an ugly, boarded-up storefront. We call upon the ANC and the Old Georgetown Board to abandon their objections and allow Apple to proceed.

First of all, Wisconsin Avenue is no Colonial Williamsburg. The structure Apple plans to raze does not appear particularly historic in its current incarnation – in fact, it was built about 25 years ago. Other buildings on Wisconsin Avenue like CVS, Bank of America and Gap are far from historic or quaint, and are physically unattractive to boot; at least the Apple Store’s planned exterior would be easy on the eyes. The standards set by the ANC and the Old Georgetown Board do not reflect the realities of the Wisconsin Avenue aesthetic.

Furthermore, the potential dividends of an Apple Store in Georgetown outweigh any dubious stylistic arguments. The store would almost certainly do good business, even in this struggling economy – not a single Apple Store worldwide has closed for lack of revenue – and would likely give neighboring businesses a boost as well.

The Apple Store’s success has been attributed to its sleek look, iconic product line and, most importantly, dependable in-house service. The capabilities of the Apple Campus Store in the university bookstore are limited compared to full-service Apple Stores; the opening of such a store just a few blocks away from campus would be an added convenience for students and faculty.

Apple has incorporated original architecture into its stores twice in the past – in SoHo in New York City and on London’s Regent Street. The ANC and the Old Georgetown Board seem to be advocating a similar approach here.

But the buildings in New York and in London were both attractive in their original forms and protected from significant modification due to historical value. 1229 Wisconsin Ave. is neither.

The preservation of Georgetown’s historic atmosphere is vitally important and local authorities should do all they can to ensure that historically valuable structures stay in place. But M Street and Wisconsin Avenue are also known as small commercial centers, home to the latest fashions and merchandise. Despite the lightweight objections of the ANC and the Old Georgetown Board, the prospective Apple Store makes perfect sense.

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