By Elizabeth Wiener
Current Staff Writer
The battle over Katharine Graham’s former mansion is down to two combatants. But neither Mark Ein, prominent venture capitalist and owner of the Washington Kastles, nor Calvin Cafritz, the prolific local developer who lives next door, is backing down.
Ein and Cafritz, both accompanied by land-use attorneys and dueling architectural historians, appeared before the Old Georgetown Board last Thursday, where board members took no action but offered various suggested changes.
At the hearing, Ein presented revised plans for an addition and parking garage at the landmarked house at 2920 R St., built in 1864 and also known as the Beall-Washington house. The revisions — tucking the garage underground behind the house, and shrinking a planned eastern addition from three to two stories, with a mansard roof to mask its size — appeared to satisfy most neighbors, several of whom submitted letters of support. But not Cafritz, who lives in a twin house directly to the east.
Cafritz told the board he still objects to the alterations to “one of most iconic” homes in Georgetown. The large addition will give the house “a lopsided look,” he said, and would be better placed on the south side.
Cafritz also had questions about the cumulative impact, if Ein also builds a pool and pool house on the property — “How large, where located, how it will affect trees that now form a magnificent grove?” He focused as well on the size of the garage and access by a narrow ramp wrapping around the house. “How many cars, is there a turn-around?” Cafritz asked, as opposed to forcing drivers to back up into the street.
Ein, however, emphasized the many compromises he made after consulting with neighbors and the board’s staff. His original plan, for two detached garages in front of the historic house and a three-story addition, caused quite a stir when presented in July. But the scaled-down proposal won over most skeptics.
“It’s a terrific solution — keeps it as a grand house, but also makes it a family house,” said Victoria Rixey of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, a vigorous defender of the neighborhood’s historic district.
Ein explained the rationale for the project. He and his wife, Sally, hope to have children someday, he said, and need to expand the 7,000-square-foot mansion to create a usable family home. “It will make it a house we can live in for decades,” he said, promising to sign a covenant ensuring single-family use in perpetuity.
Board members, all local architects who had soundly rebuffed the original proposal, still had doubts.
“In a community where lots of people have to park on the street and walk a long way home, is there really need for a garage?” asked member Alan Brangman. He noted that a carriage house on the property could be converted to hold cars.
Ein’s architect, Outerbridge Horsey, protested. “The carriage house is so far away. You don’t want to walk down there in snow and rain.”
Board chair Stephen Muse said he was “willing to entertain” the sunken garage idea, but also questioned the rationale. “The way it’s always worked, you drive up a great graveled drive” in front of the house.
Board member Richard Williams also questioned the size and scale of the east addition. “I believe the family room could be done well as a garden element, distinct from the house, and not necessarily have a gym underneath it,” he said.
Another contested point was the planned demolition of a 1914 kitchen addition designed by famed local architect Waddy Wood, which Ein would sacrifice in favor of the family room and bedrooms for his future offspring.
The D.C. Historic Preservation Office has opined that such demolition could be found acceptable under city preservation law, since the kitchen addition does not make up a “significant” portion of the entire historic house.
But, Muse said, “l’m personally opposed to total demolition of the kitchen. It’s an important historic element, and there are ways to keep at least the front.”
Here, both Ein and his architect protested. “We’re trying to take your feedback. Bur from our point of view, this has to work,” said the homeowner. “This was a staff kitchen. To make it work, we’d have to widen it.”
“It’s a service kitchen, not part of a family house,” Horsey said.
In the end, the board took no action on the revised proposal but asked Ein and his team to come back after reflecting on its suggestions.
“I’m not sure this is something we win and you lose. We’re trying to make it better,” Muse said. “I know you wanted concept approval today. We’re not gonna give it. Come back next month.”
This article appears in the Sept. 10 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.
By Graham Vyse
Current Staff Writer
In a nod to residents concerned about noise and parking scarcity near their homes, the Georgetown advisory neighborhood commission voted last week to protest liquor license applications from After Peacock Room and the planned Yakitori restaurant.
After Peacock Room, a tearoom/coffeehouse at 2622 P St., plans to shift into serving lunch and dinner. Yakitori, at 1515 Wisconsin Ave., is a new Japanese restaurant set to open next year in the space where John Rosselli Antiques currently sits. The D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board is scheduled to hear both cases this month.
After Peacock Room plans to open six days a week with its new offerings — Tuesday through Sunday, from noon until 10 p.m. That schedule would be a change from its current hours, which are noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. In addition, the restaurant is seeking to open a 16-seat seat outdoor patio, although no alcohol would be allowed outside. Inside, individual customers would be limited to three glasses of wine or three bottles of beer.
Commissioner Tom Birch noted that there are currently no businesses with liquor licenses on the block that includes After Peacock Room. He said several neighbors are concerned about the prospect of sound carrying from the patio.
Birch said he could relate to their worries. “I have a small back patio with neighbors on either side,” he said. “When anyone is in their rear yard, I hear them. Silence is a very rare commodity.”
Karen Cruse of the Citizens Association of Georgetown agreed. “The patio is a non-starter,” she said.
The other major issue raised about the After Peacock Room application was the impact it could have on parking. By adding more meals and drinks, the commissioners and residents agreed that the establishment would begin to attract patrons likely to linger in the area longer than those coming for just coffee or tea.
“Where are these patrons going to park and for how long?” one resident asked. “There just isn’t any public parking lot anywhere near there.”
Community members were also concerned about how the opening of Yakitori would affect the relatively quiet character of a section of the neighborhood several blocks north of busy M Street. The fear is that with more restaurants, even those that don’t serve alcohol, the area could feel more like the bustling corridors of Adams Morgan and U Street.
But representatives of the planned Japanese teriyaki restaurant are looking to reach an agreement with the neighbors. They have said they will not have outdoor space, live music or a DJ. Their establishment would be open until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until midnight during the weekend. They are also promising high-quality food offerings, with a chef from the acclaimed Sushi-Ko restaurant on board to run the kitchen.
The commission’s protests mean that the two establishments will have to either agree to concessions with the community in a settlement agreement or must persuade the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board that they won’t harm the community.
This article appears in the Sept. 3 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.
By Katie Pearce
Current Staff Writer
Entrepreneur Steve Mugati is backing away from original plans to use 1513 Wisconsin Ave. to house a new sushi restaurant, next door to his planned teriyaki restaurant.
The Current reported last week on Mugati’s vision for two merged Japanese restaurants, which he described to the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board in July. But after the article came out, representatives of Violet Salon & Spa, the tenant now occupying the ground floor of 1513 Wisconsin, insisted that they weren’t moving out, as Mugati’s statements had suggested.
Mugati, who has owned the Georgetown building for less than two years, clarified the situation over the phone this week. He said he is “not going to proceed with my project” now that he knows for certain Violet Salon wants to stay put. “They weren’t sure before,” he said. “Now they’re sure.”
“They’ve been great tenants; they have a wonderful business,” he added. “I’d love for them to stick around.”
Violet Salon has been in place there since 2005, according to manager Sandra Patterson. She said the business has a 10-year lease for the space, with the option to renew in another five years.
Mugati has plucked former Sushi-Ko chef Koji Terano to helm both the sushi place and the planned “Yakitori” restaurant at 1515 Wisconsin, serving a distinct style of skewered chicken.
Though he said it would be ideal for the two restaurants to operate side by side, he’s now looking at other properties in Georgetown for the sushi spot.
In particular, Mugati is zeroing in on a property he owns at 3073 Canal St., which already hosts a sushi to-go place. The idea would be to transform that operation into a more upscale restaurant, he said.
Mugati said the “Yakitori” plan is still on for the 1515 Wisconsin property, which he has owned for about a decade. He said the current tenant there, John Rosselli Antiques, also has the option to renew its lease, but plans to move out.
Mugati said he has also looked into putting the sushi restaurant on the second floor of the neighboring property, above Violet Salon, but it doesn’t seem feasible. “The more I look at it, I just don’t see that being a great location up top,” he said.
This article appears in the Aug. 27 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.