Georgetown Current

ANC Reaches Agreement with Domino’s

November 16, 2017

By Grace Bird

Current Staff Writer

Plans to open a Domino’s in Glover Park advanced this month when Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3B (Glover Park, Cathedral Heights) conditionally supported the restaurant’s zoning application.

Domino’s has proposed to move into part of the Calvert Center at 2330 Wisconsin Ave. NW, a site that has a land-use designation requiring fast-food or food-delivery establishments to secure special exception approval from the Board of Zoning Adjustment. Domino’s is slated to present to the zoning panel Dec. 20.

The planned Glover Park Domino’s is slated to replace a Georgetown location at 3255 Prospect St. NW, a property now slated for redevelopment. The new Wisconsin Avenue restaurant will include dine-in, carryout and delivery service, and company officials say it will open in late spring.

While some residents expressed dismay that another fast-food establishment might come to Glover Park — 122 residents signed a petition in opposition of the restaurant last month — ANC 3B members said there was little to be done aside from forging an agreement with Domino’s. Chipotle, which operates a few doors from the proposed Domino’s, received a similar zoning exception several years ago.

“We felt we did not have a leg to stand on, making a total opposition, and that we were much better off negotiating our own conditions, working out our own relationship with Domino’s, and taking it from there,” ANC 3B chair Jackie Blumenthal told residents at the commission’s Nov. 2 meeting.

Blumenthal said that Glover Park’s rental rates deter retailers from moving to the neighborhood, resulting in a string of empty storefronts along its Wisconsin Avenue thoroughfare. Small businesses often struggle to stay afloat in Glover Park, Blumenthal said, adding that half of the Calvert Center is still vacant — and its owners are having some difficulty filling it.

“We don’t really think that that space is going to be filled by anything else that’s going to be much better,” Blumenthal said.

ANC 3B offered support based on an agreement with Domino’s with various operating conditions.

According to the agreement, Domino’s will direct its delivery drivers to park in the rear lot until 10:30 p.m., after which drivers will be use the parking spaces in front of the store on Wisconsin Avenue; require drivers to turn off truck engines and refrigeration units during store deliveries to minimize noise levels; keep the garbage area clean and train employees in trash management; install large trash cans outside of the store and empty them three times a day as part of opening, pre-dinner and closing checklists; limit company signs to one in alignment with current signage at on the rear side of the Calvert Center on 37th Street NW; and work to install a mirror at the entrance to the parking lot from 37th Street.

While Blumenthal acknowledged residents’ concerns about late hours of operation — the chain typically stays open until 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends — she conceded that this was its business model and little could be done.

“I feel fairly confident that at least I know we can reach out and get … any problem solved,” Blumenthal said.

This article appears in the Nov. 15 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.


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Heating Plant Receives Landmark Designation

November 9, 2017

By GRACE BIRD

Current Staff Writer

The West Heating Plant is now a historic landmark, presenting a potential obstacle to the site’s long-planned redevelopment into luxury apartments and a public park.

The D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board voted 5-3 in favor of landmark designation last Thursday, reversing its earlier determination that the 1948 heating plant is unworthy of such a status. Members had planned to review the redevelopment plans — which include largely demolishing the vacant industrial building — but pushed deliberations off to Nov. 16 due to time constraints.

Regardless of the plant’s new landmark status, the project team has no current plans to alter designs for the 110-foot, 60-unit luxury apartment house and 1-acre park.

“Obviously we are very disappointed. It was an unprecedented decision by the board,” developer Richard Levy of the Levy Group told The Current. “But it doesn’t change anything.”

Because the heating plant was already a contributing building to the Georgetown Historic District, the planned demolition needed approval by the Mayor’s Agent for Historic Preservation — who can overrule preservation concerns for an overriding public interest — even before the individual landmark designation. Levy said the team will make its case in January.

The latest landmark application was the DC Preservation League’s second attempt at designating the plant, after the preservation board narrowly rejected a previous attempt in 2015. The organization cited the plant’s historical and artistic significance as grounds for its designation. Completed in 1948, the Georgetown plant was built to serve new federal buildings and relieve Southwest’s overworked Central Heating Plant.

“The size and massing gives the building a monumental presence near the Georgetown waterfront,” Rebecca Miller, executive director of the DC Preservation League, said at the Nov. 2 hearing. The West Heating Plant represents a shift from art deco to the “minimalist moderne style,” Miller said, evident in its “smooth wall plains, linear brick corner embellishments and subtle architectural details.”

The Historic Preservation Office backed the landmark designation, opposing redevelopment plans because the current designs do not “achieve meaningful historic preservation,” according to the agency’s report. The staff also raised questions about the proposed 110-foot height, asking whether it was compatible with the Georgetown Historic District.

The proposal has won broad support from the Georgetown community and federal stakeholders. The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts approved the designs in May, while Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E (Georgetown, Burleith), the Citizens Association of Georgetown and the Friends of Georgetown Waterfront Park also support the plans.

Richard Hinds, general counsel for the Georgetown Citizens Association, said the Historic Preservation Review Board “made a mistake” with its designation. “The fact that it’s a landmark adds a certain extra hurdle that the developer has to meet,” Hinds said.

Developers contend that the plant is beyond repair. Joel Silverman, the development’s head of construction, said at the meeting the site “is not a building” but rather an “enclosure for a steam plant.” The only viable wall, Silverman said, is on the west side at 29th Street. More than 80 percent of the structure is not laterally supported, Silverman added, meaning it doesn’t have horizontal slabs.

“It was not designed to do anything other than to simply house steam boilers,” Silverman said. Meanwhile, although the steam boilers protected the building from moisture when they were operating, deterioration has escalated since the plant closed nearly 20 years ago. The site is also infested with harmful chemicals, including mercury, lead, asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyl, he said.

Critics of the current proposal argue that the development team should have recognized the constraints presented by the building’s condition when they purchased the property from the General Services Administration at auction in early 2013.

This article appears in the Nov. 8 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.


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Georgetown Kicks Off New Main Street

November 2, 2017

By Zoe Morgan

Current Correspondent

Georgetown has become the latest neighborhood to join the DC Main Streets program, with a planned focus on attracting and maintaining small businesses along the neighborhood’s Wisconsin Avenue corridor.

The Georgetown Main Street group has received a one-year, $175,000 grant from the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development to revitalize the area on, and directly surrounding, Wisconsin Avenue from the waterfront north to Whitehaven Parkway. The city’s seed money is intended to help get the new nonprofit off the ground and is renewable, however Georgetown Main Street will also need to secure its own additional funding.

“The impetus for starting a Main Street is to support the small businesses that are currently on Wisconsin Avenue,” Georgetown Business Association president Sonya Bernhardt told The Current. “And the reason why we are particularly interested in small businesses is because they provide a unique flavor to a community and they are original.” The business group applied for the city’s grant to start the local Main Street, though the new group will function independently, said Bernhardt, owner and publisher of The Georgetowner.

Bernhardt said that the Main Street group wants to retain the small businesses already present along Wisconsin Avenue and attract more to the corridor’s empty storefronts. In particular, she is interested in bringing new restaurants to Georgetown able to match the award-winning eateries operating in other parts of the city.

“We want to be able to create an environment that’s attractive for small businesses,” Bernhardt said. “And to be able to be a supporting arm, and someone that they can lean on, when they get into a situation, or when they need some help.”

Although Bernhardt said it’s premature to know what specific programs and initiatives the group will pursue, organizers intend for Georgetown Main Street to complement the long-running efforts of the neighborhood’s business improvement district through its focus on small businesses in the Wisconsin corridor — rather than on all commercial enterprises, large and small, throughout Georgetown. Unlike the Georgetown BID, which receives a portion of commercial property taxes to fund large-scale programs, the Main Street will rely on donations and grants for its more targeted initiatives.

There are currently 16 Main Street groups recognized by the District, focused on revitalizing existing commercial areas. The groups are generally led by volunteers overseen by one full-time staff member. Other recently established Main Streets include Lower Georgia Avenue, Kennedy Street/Upper 14th Street and Minnesota Avenue.

Georgetown Main Street needs to have an executive director in place by Dec. 1, and interviews for the position are ongoing, Bernhardt said. Once an executive director is in place, a board of directors will be formed. Bernhardt also plans to work to forge relationships with the Georgetown BID and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E (Georgetown, Burleith). Broadly, the group will work to determine what residents want and what can be done to make Wisconsin Avenue more attractive to businesses.

Georgetown Main Street held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last Wednesday at The Phoenix, a third-generation family-owned boutique at 1514 Wisconsin. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans were among the speakers. “This is a great day for Georgetown,” Evans said at the Oct. 25 event.

The Department of Small and Local Business Development expects the Main Street to raise money independently. Applicants for Main Street grants should be able to match the city funds with money raised from private sources, although there is no minimum required match, the agency says.

“What Main Streets are is really the government putting in the first money,” Bowser said at the event. “And it’s you working hard to secure all of the other programs, and services, and initiatives, and private funding that are really needed to sustain a healthy Main Street.”

This article appears in the Nov. 1 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.


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