Georgetown Current

Dumbarton Oaks Closes Gardens for Pipe Project

July 20, 2017

By Alexa Perlmutter
Current Correspondent

The formal gardens of Dumbarton Oaks — acquired by Harvard University in 1940 — are currently undergoing stormwater remediation efforts and will be closed until March 15, 2018.

The museum and main house on the site will remain open throughout the renovations, and the adjacent Dumbarton Oaks Park owned by the National Park Service is also unaffected.

The entirety of Dumbarton Oaks, located in north Georgetown east of Wisconsin Avenue, was originally owned by Robert and Mildred Bliss, who financed the gardens. In 1940, the Bliss family gave the formal gardens and research collection to Harvard University, while the lower 27 acres of wild gardens went to the National Park Service.

The original irrigation and water management pipes that still run through the Harvard-owned gardens are made of terra cotta. Coming up on the 100th birthday of the gardens, which were designed originally by trailblazing architect Beatrix Farrand, the mile-long stretch of pipes need to be revamped, according to Dumbarton Oaks communications manager Erica Bogese.

The pipes have been crumbling and cracking for years, limiting the amount of water that can reach certain areas of the garden. To properly hydrate the estate, Bogese said, gardeners have to pull hoses around the property; there is no proper sprinkler system. The replacement pipes will be made of polyvinyl chloride, which have a longer lifespan than the existing ones.

“No one was designing water management systems with the environment in mind,” Bogese noted. “Renovating the irrigation system will allow us to be more eco-friendly.”

The pipes were originally installed in the 1920s under the guidance of Farrand, who also designed gardens at the Washington National Cathedral and New York’s Hyde Park.

Farrand’s vision and the garden’s beauty will be preserved throughout the process, according to Bogese. Managers of the property worked with conservators and designers before the closure to ensure that her designs are unaffected. “If we do it right, no one will see a difference,” Bogese said.

The updates to the property, according to Bogese, demonstrate Dumbarton Oaks’ commitment to being a good neighbor and hopefully will attract more visitors to the garden and museum — “the hidden gem of the city,” she said.

When the gardens reopen to the public in March, however, that will not be the end of upcoming improvements to the original Dumbarton Oaks property. The public park is currently in the early phases of its own two-year pipe and irrigation restoration project, according to Dumbarton Oaks Conservancy president Lindsey Milstein.

“It’s pure serendipity that both sites are going through stormwater remediation efforts at around the same time,” Milstein told The Current. “Although [the gardens] are now under separate ownership, it is one design. It is one piece of art, and one part needs the other to really shine.”

The park updates will be implemented next spring, according to Milstein.

This article appears in the July 19 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

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Turkish Journalist Plans Café in Georgetown

July 13, 2017

By Mark Lieberman
Current Staff Writer

Emel Bayrak — a Georgetown resident and White House correspondent for a Turkish broadcasting service — plans to open a new coffee shop and wine bar in her neighborhood where she might eventually host and film interviews with government officials.

Café Georgetown at 3141 N St. NW, just east of Paolo’s Ristorante on Wisconsin Avenue, plans to sell French pastries, beer and wine. But its primary feature will be coffee from the Philadelphia-based roaster La Colombe, which has five D.C. locations. Bayrak is seeking a beer and wine license that also includes an entertainment endorsement.

“Coffee shops create a coffee culture [and] bring people together. It creates a community where one can exchange ideas, jokes, and make new friends. That’s what I hope to achieve at Café Georgetown,” Bayrak wrote in an email. “I want it to bring together people from many backgrounds — my Georgetown neighbors, students, the diplomatic community, and friends from the White House.”

In an interview, Bayrak said she started working on the business plan for her shop in 2011. Searching for a location took several years, but she ultimately landed just three blocks from her Volta Place home, far closer than she’d anticipated.

The store’s alcohol license would allow maximum hours of 6 a.m. to midnight seven days per week, with live entertainment permitted from 8 a.m. to midnight.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E (Georgetown, Burleith) and the Citizens Association of Georgetown both voted this month to protest the cafe’s alcohol license application on the basis of peace, order and quiet. Representatives from both said at last Thursday’s ANC 2E meeting that they need more details about potential noise impacts before getting on board.

“This would not be live music,” Bayrak’s liquor license attorney Sidon Yohannes explained at the meeting. “It would be the operator conducting interviews and then streaming them.”

Bayrak hasn’t finalized her plans for that component yet, but she’s hoping to invite prominent government officials for informal interviews that might eventually end up on YouTube or in podcast form.

Bayrak told The Current she hopes to open the coffee shop in August. ANC 2E’s Lisa Palmer said she plans to meet with the establishment’s attorney on July 12 in hopes of reaching a settlement agreement.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has scheduled a protest hearing for the beer and wine license for Sept. 20.

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Evans Pushes Extended Lease for Art Center

July 6, 2017

Jackson Art Center has support from Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans in hopes of staying at its Georgetown building long past next year, when its lease with the city is set to expire.

On March 2, Evans introduced a bill to renew the lease for up to 20 years — moving ahead of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office, which hasn’t yet begun negotiations with the nonprofit. The art center has occupied the historic Jackson School building at 3050 R St. NW since 1980 and currently pays $145,000 in annual rent.

The center has signed two short-term lease extensions in recent years, most recently in 2015. The large Georgetown building has been eyed at times by developers, making users and neighbors anxious at the possible loss of a community arts space.

The mayor supports a long-term extension of the lease, D.C. Department of General Services general counsel Camille Sabbakhan told the council’s Committee on Business and Economic Development at a hearing last Wednesday. She asked the committee to hold off on moving the bill because the mayor is prepared to submit her own legislation that is “very similar to the bill currently presented” after discussions with Jackson Art Center.

But Evans said he wants faster progress.

“I am anxious to get this done,” Evans told Sabbakhan. “It’s very important. I think we can just do it, knock it off.”

Sabbakhan said the rental fee is one of the top issues up for negotiation.

A dozen community members attended the hearing to endorse the art center and support a long-term lease. Karen Ruckman, president of Jackson’s board of directors, said she hopes to remain in the building for many years to come. Several residents pointed out the dwindling number of affordable dedicated arts spaces in the city.

“The Jackson Art Center is a place of refuge and quiet productivity for more than 40 practicing artists,” testified Barbara Downs, an instructor at the center and a former Citizens Association of Georgetown president.

Members of the center pay a $45 membership fee and an additional monthly fee for renting their studios, about $21 per square foot. Evans said he would like the city to direct more funding for upgrading equipment and other needs, likely through grants from the Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

Evans’ Ward 5 colleague Kenyan McDuffie, who chairs the business committee, mentioned during the hearing that he’d like to see the center expand outreach of its programs for residents across the District. Ruckman said that the center has open studio time twice a year for the public and also holds workshops for children citywide through partnerships with other organizations.

A few hours after the hearing, Evans told Georgetown residents at a neighborhood meeting that it went “very, very well.”

“That is such a real gem in our community,” Evans said. “It’s really important that we keep it there and continue to support the arts.”

Staff writer Mark Lieberman contributed to this report.

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

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