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.
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.
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.
By Brady Holt
Current Staff Writer
Just over a year ago, the project team redeveloping Georgetown’s West Heating Plant property had received generally positive feedback on its plan to raze the hulking industrial building and construct a glassy new one of a similar size and shape.
Then the team went before the Old Georgetown Board last February. And there, developer Richard Levy said, “We ran into a buzz saw.”
Although the 1948 heating plant building — by virtue of its year of construction — is a contributing building to the federal Georgetown Historic District, Levy’s team thought the design panel would be open to a more dramatic departure from the existing structure. It was not. “That required us to slow down and rethink,” said Levy.
Last Thursday, the project team unveiled its updated designs, the third iteration of the 2900 K St. NW project since 2013. The latest proposal retains the building’s west facade and is truer to the rest of its masonry-dominated architecture. While the new building includes windows for the roughly 60 condo units, they pay homage to the narrow vertical “exclamation points” on the current building’s sides, and many windows can be disguised with retractable brick. Previously proposed balconies have been removed except for the rear of the building, facing Rock Creek.
As before, the project calls for luxury condos on the site of the heating plant, and resident parking below an above-grade public park on the former coal yard to its south. The design retains the only exterior wall that the project team deemed salvageable: the front of the building on 29th Street. The rest, according to architect David Adjaye, is “interpretation rather than preservation.”
“We want to come back to the monumentality of the building but also have room for innovation,” he said. “We’re trying to … allow the building to express its sort of noble, sort of strong character without being compromised too much.”
Located at the prominent confluence of Rock Creek and the C&O Canal, the federal industrial property has long inspired gripes from residents in its section of southeastern Georgetown. At last Thursday’s presentation, most attendees expressed support for the latest design, and for redevelopment of the site in general. “My bedroom overlooks this building. I have looked at it for 25 years — so I love this idea; I welcome you,” one woman said to hearty applause.
Although the last design iteration also had substantial informal community support, it faced some pushback from Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E (Georgetown, Burleith) over the appropriateness of razing a building considered historically significant, and about the proposed size and shape of the planned replacement. Significant turnover on the commission — including the departure of former chair Ron Lewis, a leading proponent for protecting the heating plant — means that several ANC 2E members will be casting their first votes on the project when they review its Old Georgetown Board application on April 3.
The project will then face scrutiny from that board itself on April 6, and approvals by the Zoning Commission and the mayor’s agent for historic preservation will also be necessary. All told, the project is at least four years from completion, developers said Thursday.
Some project details — such as the exact number, layout and costs of the units, as well as the number of parking spaces — haven’t yet been finalized, according to Nnenna Lynch of The Georgetown Co. She said the goal is to build a mix of larger units that would range from 1,500 to 3,000 square feet apiece. While she didn’t share the estimated sale prices, Lynch said the units will be “at the top of the market in D.C.,” a position that she says currently commands $1,400 per square foot.
As far as parking, Lynch said the designers have currently found enough room for an average of 1.5 parking spaces per unit, and “we’d love to get closer to two.” Parking will be part of the project’s future Zoning Commission application, as the Old Georgetown Board only looks at compatibility with the historic district.
The only negativity at last Thursday’s presentation regarded the new building’s impersonal name: Four Seasons Private Residences Washington, which elicited a sigh from the audience. “I think you can call it what you want,” quipped Adjaye.
One attendee said she expected the West Heating Plant name to stick: “I lived in the Residences at The Ritz-Carlton. If you look it up, it’s still called ‘the incinerator plant.’”
This article appears in the March 15 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.