By Deirdre Bannon
Current Staff Writer
If the recent chill in the air has left you daydreaming about winter outings to come, a new venue in town could be just the ticket: Washington Harbour has begun converting its newly renovated fountain into an ice rink — and it could be open for skating by the weekend before Thanksgiving.
The inaugural seasonal switch from fountain to ice rink started last week, and this week workers are measuring, cutting and installing separate layers of foam and plywood subfloor, according to Joshua Lynsen, a spokesperson for the complex. Refrigerated tubing will sit on top of that subfloor and freeze water for the rink’s 3-inch-thick ice surface.
“I’m very enthusiastic about the new skating rink,” said Bob vom Eigen, president of the Friends of Georgetown Waterfront Park group. “In the winter, Washington Harbour is dead, so I think this is a great idea that will bring people to the waterfront.”
“It’s no secret that the commercial spaces on the first floor and the restaurants struggle,” during the winter months, he added. “But ice skaters will presumably have dinner next door [to the rink]. People like watching other people skate when they dine — just like at Rockefeller Center in New York. It’s a great treat to go to those restaurants and watch people skate.”
The rink, located on Washington Harbour’s lower plaza between 3000 and 3050 K St., will stretch beyond the fountain area. At 11,800 square feet — about two-thirds the size of a professional ice hockey rink — the new spot will be larger than the ice at either Rockefeller Center or the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden.
Nancy Miyahira, a director with the Georgetown Business Improvement District, said the new attraction at Washington Harbour, a member entity, will have a positive impact on the neighborhood’s businesses.
“I think they’re shooting for a special experience right down there on the water,” she said. “You’ve got the backdrop of the Kennedy Center, Roosevelt Island and the Key Bridge, so it’s a naturally beautiful environment.
“I know neighborhood businesses such as the hotels are already thinking about building it into their hotel packages as an experiential element of staying in Georgetown,” Miyahira added. “I think it … will be a great new addition to the community.”
The rink will operate seven days a week: from noon to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; noon to 10 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Admission will range from $7 to $9 with discounts for students; skate rental will cost $5.
Holiday events will include a skate with Santa Claus, and the rink can be reserved for private parties. Skating lessons will be offered for those ages 4 and older, at all skill levels.
The rink will be in place through the spring, when it will be converted back to a fountain before D.C.’s cherry trees blossom.
Washington Harbour, including the fountain and ice rink, is owned and operated by a joint venture of Washington-based MRP Realty and the Rockpoint Group.
Washington Harbour suffered a setback in the spring of 2011 when heavy rains caused the Potomac River to rise and flood the commercial complex, after steel floodgates were not completely raised. One restaurant, Farmers & Fishers, remains closed, though it hopes to open this month with a brand-new concept under the name Farmers Fishers Bakers, according to its website.
Thie article appears in the Oct. 17 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.
By BRADY HOLT
Current Staff Writer
A proposed underground parking garage at the old Friendly Estate would be out of character with the surrounding neighborhood, the Old Georgetown Board determined Thursday, vetoing the latest in a series of proposals for the partially renovated site.
Property owners wanted space for a total of 11 cars underground. This would let them consolidate various above-ground parking spaces from across the nearly three-quarter-acre property at 1645 31st St., they told residents at last Monday’s Georgetown advisory neighborhood commission meeting.
Marc Teren, a previous owner of the 1817 estate, also known as the Williams-Addison House, unsuccessfully sought to subdivide the property before beginning a series of controversial renovations six years ago. Two owners later, the work still stands half-finished, frustrating many neighbors.
The latest owners — from Capital City Real Estate, which bought the site for $6.2 million this spring — have promised to restart previously approved construction while also seeking permission to add new amenities.
The underground garage, they said, would make the site more marketable, allowing them to invest in other beautification efforts on the property. They would eliminate a planned above-ground garage and add green space in place of existing surface parking spaces, they said.
The Old Georgetown Board disagreed that the underground garage would be a net positive, said Tom Luebke, secretary of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which includes the Old Georgetown Board. “The impact on the property was just too great,” said Luebke. “[The garage] takes up a substantial part of the rear yard. It prevents the development of mature landscape.”
Beyond that, neighbors had feared that having so much parking would turn the site into an attractive event venue. “If there’s going to be an event where 200 people come, valet park them the way every other house in Georgetown does when something else is going on,” said commissioner Tom Birch.
Project architect Dale Overmyer said the idea was merely to have accommodations for a prospective wealthy homeowner whose family might have many cars, and who would want to park close to the house. When a neighbor asked why the owners couldn’t park on the street like everyone else, Overmyer replied: “Is there anyone here who wants to see less parking in Georgetown?”
Neighbors also raised concerns that existing mature trees would be threatened by an excavation project. Overmyer said the plans call for a new planting program after construction ends.
At one point, Overmyer suggested neighbors would oppose anything the current property owners might put forward, exacting revenge for the site’s troubled history and its current messy conditions. Increasing parking wouldn’t change the situation. “It’s going to be a mess until at least next spring regardless, because of the construction that’s going to be ongoing,” said Overmyer.
Birch said he hopes the property already has enough appeal even without the garage. “I understand your interest in wanting to create a marketable property. It’s a disappointment that a nice house with a big yard doesn’t sell, I guess,” he said.
This article appears in the Oct. 10 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.
By Brady Holt
Current Staff Writer
When is it all right to tear down a 19th-century home in Georgetown, a federally protected historic district? According to the community’s advisory neighborhood commission, the standard is reached when a tree crushes an already dilapidated structure, and rainwater subsequently rots away what remains — and even then it’s a close call.
But the commission voted unanimously to support a raze permit for 3324 Dent Place at its meeting Monday. An engineer for the owner said the small wood-frame home was not salvageable, and immediate neighbors pleaded for speedy action on a building that they said has been an eyesore for years and a downright hazard since September 2011.
In an interview after the meeting, owner Deyi Awadallah said he would act to raze the home within a week of getting the required permits. He still needs approval from the Old Georgetown Board and the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, which could come as early as this month. Awadallah doesn’t yet have specific plans for a replacement home, but he told commissioners it would be similar in size to the existing house.
Commission chair Ron Lewis, whose single-member district includes the property, said he was torn between neighbors’ interests and a reluctance to go along with any plan to raze a historic Georgetown building.
“We rarely get raze permits, as you can imagine,” he said. “Tearing down a house in the Georgetown Historic District is not something we take lightly.”
Lewis said he found that the previous owner of the house had also sought to tear it down — in 1978, long before it fell into disrepair and then into utter shambles. The Old Georgetown Board found at that point that the building had historic merit, he said, and was a rare example of a wood-frame house.
Neighbors said the house had been vacant for at least five years. The longtime previous owner, they said, lived elsewhere. The home is unpainted and even has holes. It was classified as a blighted property in 2011 even before the tree damage, raising its property tax bill to more than $80,000 per year, D.C. records show.
“It’s very frustrating because it looks like a classic case of demolition by neglect,” Lewis said. “Had the tree not fallen, we could have required the owner to restore it.”
But in August 2011, during Hurricane Irene, the tree did fall, crushing most of the home’s second story. A plastic tarp draped across the damage, which is still in place, didn’t keep out more than a year of rainwater; engineer Musaddeque Hossein reported that the structure and floorboards were rotted and that many interior walls had collapsed.
“All of the surfaces inside of that house have standing water in them,” a next-door neighbor said at the meeting. “Calling it a ‘house in disrepair’ is not right — the house has ceased to exist as habitable.”
Furthermore, neighbors said, the house and its backyard pool have attracted infestations of rats, raccoons and mosquitoes, and even break-ins by “dope smokers” and “ghost-seekers.”
“The demolition caused by the tree simply compounded the demolition by neglect in progress … to the extent that we do not believe it would be appropriate to attempt to restore this structure,” the neighborhood commission’s resolution reads.
And to expedite the razing process, commissioners said they didn’t need to first see the full plans for a new structure on the site. They emphasized, though, that its height and footprint should be consistent with the modest scale of the building it’s replacing. Because Georgetown is a historic district, plans for that building will also come before the neighborhood commission and Old Georgetown Board for design review.
Awadallah, of the D.S.A. Properties & Investments firm, bought the property from longtime owner Margaret Cheney this spring for $560,000, records show. He had intended to rehabilitate the house, he said, but the engineer’s assessment convinced him to instead seek the raze permit. Awadallah noted that he has no objection to building a modestly sized replacement.
There were few objections at the commission meeting to the plan to raze the home, but some residents said the gradual decay should have been prevented.
“This thing doesn’t just happen overnight, and now we are just crying over it,” one resident said. “Why didn’t anyone take action sooner?”
“In retrospect, we all should have,” replied Lewis.
This article appears in the Oct. 3 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.