Georgetown Current

Possible Change for K Street/Water Street Would Cut Into Parking Spaces

April 7, 2017

By Mark Lieberman
Current Staff Writer

Tentative plans to remove more than 40 metered parking spaces below the Whitehurst Freeway to accommodate a dedicated bike lane and other traffic enhancements drew mixed reviews from the Georgetown community Monday night. However, all agreed that the current roadway configuration needs improvement along K Street/Water Street NW.

The Georgetown Business Improvement District partnered last year with the D.C. Department of Transportation and Toole Design Group to plan short- and long-term improvements along the neighborhood’s southernmost street, which runs near the Potomac River. The first phase, set for implementation this fall, includes a bike lane between 34th and 30th streets NW, improved and expanded crosswalks, an improved system for tour bus drop-off and a new left-turn lane from K Street westbound onto Wisconsin.

Those improvements — estimated at a price tag in the “low six figures,” according to the business group’s Will Handsfield — could come at a cost to some stakeholders as well. Between 30 and 35 parking spots on Water and K west of Wisconsin would be eliminated, as well as 10 others east of Wisconsin, Department of Transportation planner Benito Perez said at Monday’s meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E (Georgetown, Burleith).

Vehicular traffic flow would not be altered under the current plan, Perez said. But he acknowledged that a loss of parking could exacerbate existing issues on the street, which already offers limited parking for a high-demand area.

Handsfield said he’s working on securing dedicated nighttime and weekend spots in nearby parking garages that could partially offset the loss of metered parking.

ANC 2E voted unanimously to express gratitude for the plans while maintaining that questions about parking remain. Numerous residents praised the plan, saying they think a significant number of motorists who currently clog up K and Water streets searching for parking won’t bother if they know they won’t find it. But several ANC 2E members expressed concern that removing parking will inconvenience residents and visitors while also failing to resolve existing congestion there.

“I think it’s unrealistic to think the drivers are going to stop driving because they can’t find parking,” commissioner Monica Roache said.

Roache acknowledged she doesn’t live in that portion of the neighborhood, and might not be fully aware of the issues there that parking cuts could address. By contrast, ANC 2E’s Lisa Palmer said she receives frequent messages from constituents with photos of pervasive gridlock. One resident saw emergency vehicles blocked by stopped traffic last weekend.

In the meantime, ANC 2E included in its resolution a request for more immediate traffic mitigation measures from the Department of Transportation: traffic control officers and possible timing adjustments on traffic lights on Wisconsin north of K. Commissioner Rick Murphy also described plans to create a subcommittee within ANC 2E that will help address parking issues there and elsewhere in the neighborhood.

A turnaround at Water and 34th streets NW — previously slated for the project’s first phase — has been delayed until 2019, when the Key Bridge reconstruction is complete. Long-term plans for K and Water streets include accommodating the proposed DC Streetcar extension by relocating the bike lane onto a pathway through Georgetown Waterfront Park.

This article appears in the April 5 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

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Hardy Rec Center Set to Host Summertime Children’s Co-op

March 29, 2017

By Mark Lieberman
Current Staff Writer

Last summer, Glover Park resident Young Kim set up a co-op program for 13 local children between 18 months and 4 years old, modeled after a similar D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation offering during the school year. The degree of interest was overwhelming, Kim said.

“After I closed enrollment, I had a continuing stream of families who wanted to find out if there was any space left,” Kim said. “I think it was then when I realized that this was a big problem in the community.”

To address the high demand, Kim has tripled the size of the program in its second year. In addition to a group at last year’s location, Macomb Recreation Center at 3409 Macomb St. NW in Cleveland Park, families have the option of nearly identical programs at two other recreation centers: Hardy, at 4500 Q St. NW in the Palisades/Foxhall area, and Hamilton, at 1340 Hamilton St. NW in 16th Street Heights.

Enrollment is largely booked up, though Kim said there might be room for one or two more children at Hardy, which offers a classroom space approximately three times larger than the other two. The high demand means the co-ops could easily grow again next year, Kim said.

Kim created the program, now nicknamed “Young’uns Summer Cooperative,” in part to keep his daughter Savannah active, and because he was surprised to learn that the city’s Volta Park co-op only runs during the school year.

Each co-op has room for 10 to 13 families — enough that a few absent students each day won’t derail the lessons, but not so many that the children and instructors would be cramped. Parents volunteer to contribute and run sessions throughout the summer, with assistance from paid private instructors. Programming this year will once again mimic the recreation department’s school-year co-op offerings, including crafts, outdoor play, reading, snacks, music and yoga.

One key difference this year is that Kim is planning and managing the programs alone, since his co-leader from last year had other obligations. On top of his full-time job managing his own small business, Kim said he has spent a conservative average of 20 hours per week juggling the challenges of recruitment, parent meetings and other logistics.

“The summer co-op technically isn’t a real organization. It’s just something that started organically with no real infrastructure,” Kim said. “My fear has always been that, because I’m not a real organization and people may not know me, there might be some level of distrust.”

He’s had help in that regard from Vanessa Gerideau, the Recreation Department’s manager of early- and middle-childhood programs. Gerideau sent an initial email blast alerting September-to-May co-op attendees of Kim’s summer plans, and she has been helpful in providing guidance, Kim said.

The two have discussed the possibility of bringing the Young’uns program formally under the umbrella of Gerideau’s agency, but as of now, it remains independent. The Recreation Department does offer similar programs for children over 3 and had hoped to establish a half-day program for children under 3 this summer, but ultimately relying on Kim’s program as a complement proved more financially viable, Gerideau said.

“Partnering with Young and other parent groups to provide summer co-op opportunities takes some of the fiscal responsibility off of the agency, but still provides a way for families with young children to be served,” Gerideau wrote in an email.

The Young’uns program has been a boon to parents like Cathedral Heights resident Ana Ortega, who was one of the early adopters at last year’s summer co-op. Her son Mateo, now 3 years old, has made numerous friends through the school-year and summer programs, including Kim’s daughter Savannah. The summer extension allows that friendship to continue uninterrupted all year, she said.

Mateo particularly enjoys a designated day each week for children to bring and play with their toy cars, Ortega said. Without a summer program, Ortega would struggle to keep her son active.

“It’s too long for a 2-year-old to be three months separated from a routine,” she said.

The program also provides relief to parents with hectic schedules like Thalia Pero, a Georgetown resident whose son will attend the Hardy program this year. She’ll get a three-hour rest each morning this summer, and she expects her son, who attended Macomb last year, will enjoy the co-op once again. “He came home almost every day with something new to tell me,” Pero said.

In the coming weeks, Kim plans to meet with parents, secure supplies and equipment, and finalize permits. Last year he didn’t have the keys to the Macomb Recreation Center in hand until two days before the co-op started, but he’s optimistic that this year will be different. Mostly, he’s glad he has the time and energy to take on this project.

“I set my own hours, so I can get other work done in the available time that I have,” Kim said. “Thankfully my schedule is flexible enough for me to pick up on this kind of challenge.”

This year’s summer program will run from June 19 to Aug. 18 on weekdays: 9 a.m. to noon for ages 2.5 to 4 at Hardy; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for ages 2.5 to 4 at Macomb; and 9 a.m. to noon for ages 18 to 29 months at Hamilton. The six-hour class costs a flat tuition of $1,011 for the summer, and the three-hour class costs $664.

This article appears in the March 29 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

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Prominent Firm Hired for C&O Upgrades

March 23, 2017

By Mark Lieberman
Current Staff Writer

The next phase of a project to revitalize the C&O Canal National Historical Park in Georgetown has reached a key milestone with the selection of a nationally known design firm.

Georgetown Heritage officials announced Thursday that James Corner Field Operations will work to develop new ideas along the first mile of the canal.

Construction is underway on $6.5 million of repairs at the currently drained Locks 3 and 4 between 30th and Thomas Jefferson streets NW, with work expected to wrap up by summer 2018. In the meantime, the Georgetown Business Improvement District’s heritage offshoot is moving forward on plans to establish more vibrant surroundings at the park, coinciding with its ongoing plan to restore the historic canal boat, which shuttered in 2012.

Georgetown Heritage — in collaboration with the National Park Service, the D.C. Office of Planning and other staffers at the business group — narrowed 13 design contenders to five finalists at the end of last year, according to executive director Alison Greenberg.

Though numerous applicants had strong presentations, Greenberg told The Current, James Corner’s firm won out because of demonstrated experience engaging with the community on unique projects like the High Line in New York, the Presidio in San Francisco and the Navy Pier in Chicago. “It was a really hard decision to make,” Greenberg said.

Ideas for the C&O Canal corridor, shown last spring, include flower markets and an outdoor theater. (Photo by: Brian Kapur/Current File Photo) Ideas for the C&O Canal corridor, shown last spring, include flower markets and an outdoor theater.

When asked in an interview Monday why he’s interested in the canal project, Corner quickly replied, “Why wouldn’t you be interested?” He thinks his task is to “reveal and amplify” the site’s existing charms.

“It’s a site that’s already got a lot going for it, and design has to be very intelligent and smart in terms of how it leverages the specialness and the unique peculiarities of the canal itself,” Corner said.

The canal’s stone walls and attractive adjacent buildings appealed to Corner, as did what he calls the “episodic quality” of walking along the canal, with different views and feelings every few feet. “That sequence of experiences is something that is enriching and pleasurable,” he said.

James Corner’s selection is the beginning of an iterative 18-month process that will start with a public meeting on March 29, Greenberg said. Planners hope to solicit community feedback on major concepts, as well as details like the number and height of water fountains and the possibilities for enhancing accessibility. By next summer, around the time the locks will reopen, the community will be able to review a “30 percent schematic” for the park, Greenberg said.

Greenberg hopes Georgetown Heritage’s work will restore some vitality and diversity to an area she remembers fondly from her childhood. She used to accompany her Georgetown lawyer dad to work, walking the canal path and riding “The Georgetown” boat frequently.

“That inspired me very much and is what drew me to this job,” she said. “That, of course, no longer exists.”

Lisa Palmer of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E (Georgetown, Burleith) told The Current she heard intriguing ideas for the site at a recent meeting with the business group. She said plans might include an outdoor theater, flower markets and a service group that would allow people who live and work nearby to care for the canal. Another idea is developing formal play spaces for children, which Palmer believes are much needed in the neighborhood right now.

Palmer said that of all the issues she’ll be covering as a newly elected commissioner, prospects for the C&O Canal excite her most.

“I just think it’s a unique space that hasn’t been tended to in an optimal way thus far, and there’s a real opportunity for community engagement to come up with something that’s going to be beautiful,” she said.

The area has fallen on disrepair in the last decade, to the dismay of some nearby residents like Pamla Moore of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, who said she would relish the opportunity to return to the tranquil experiences by the canal that she recalls.

“Certainly when it was up and doing better, there were things going on that brought you there, just like the waterfront park does now,” Moore said. “It just makes it a very nice place to live.”

Corner hopes his team can maintain the community’s goodwill for the site while transforming it into something new.

“We’re super excited and honored,” Corner said. “And we feel a great sense of responsibility to make sure that we deliver something that is both respectful and innovative at the same time.”

Residents can meet the project design team at the public meeting at 6 p.m. March 29 at the offices of Foley & Lardner in Suite 500 at Washington Harbour, 3000 K St. NW.

This article appears in the March 22 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

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