Georgetown Current

Designer Digs Headline 83rd House Tour

April 23, 2014

By Kat Lucero
Current Staff Writer

Georgetown is widely famous for preserving its 18th- and 19th-century dwellings. While many share the same architectural ilk — Colonial, Federal, Victorian — their stylish interiors reflect residents’ varied tastes and lifestyles.  

Visitors can walk through some of these dapper residences at the annual Georgetown House Tour this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“It provides a unique glimpse of Georgetown’s impressive architecture and the stories behind the bricks and mortar that make Georgetown so special,” tour co-chair Barbara Wolf said in a statement.

In its 83rd year, the event will feature eight houses that have undergone renovations but retain the classic appeal of historic Georgetown. Some owners have revealed their international and artistic flair, while others prove that a family-oriented home can be just as stylish.

The ninth property on the tour belongs to The George Town Club at 1530 Wisconsin Ave. In the past year, operators of the dining and social organization enlisted interior designers Andrew Law and Debbie Winsor to renovate the building’s interior but still keep intact historic architectural features of the 18th-century structure. The building — which was last renovated decades ago — is best known as the likely meeting spot of President George Washington, surveyor Andrew Ellicott and architect Pierre L’Enfant as they discussed plans to develop what is now Washington, D.C.

Elsewhere on the tour, some of the artistic-inspired residences include a semidetached 34th Street home that owners Soula Proxenos and Bruce O’Brien adorned with their personal craftwork and international art collection. Most of the main level is filled with cabinetry and furniture hand-crafted by the couple.

Farther down O Street, local interior designer Linda Battalia created the “ambience of a Paris apartment” inside her town house. The open layout directly flows into the spacious rear garden, which features a croquet lawn, water fountain and seating area. Landscape architects Fritz & Gignoux designed the attractive outdoor space.

Another designer, Ann Goodman, took charge of decorating her own O Street dwelling. Through a major renovation, Goodman unified the kitchen, family room, brick patio and garden, picking an “English library” theme for the open layout.

Carrington and Jack Tarr furnished their brick home on P Street with several treasures found at the neighborhood’s antique shops. Local designer Elizabeth Hague aided the couple, who also showcase artwork from Nantucket, where they first met.

The family’s updates of this mid-19th-century home included expanding the kitchen and creating a natural flow to the rear gardens. An indoor pool was also transformed into a family room, while a playroom was added in the bottom level for the Tarrs’ three children.

Another family-friendly residence is Claire and Tony Florence’s P Street abode. When they purchased it four years ago, they built a small theater room on the bottom level. They also added New England-inspired white beadboard cubbies to accommodate their four children’s sports equipment.

Tickets for the tour can purchased online, or on the day of the tour at St. John’s Episcopal Church at 3240 O St. The cost is $50 per person before Saturday and $55 on the tour day, including admission to the traditional parish tea gathering in the church’s Blake Hall. For details, visit georgetownhousetour.com.

This article appears in the April 23 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.


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Dock Plan Would Aid C&O Kayakers, Canoeists

April 16, 2014

By Kat Lucero
Current Staff Writer

Kayaks and canoes may become common sights along Georgetown’s stretch of the C&O Canal. The Georgetown Business Improvement District and the National Park Service are evaluating locations along the waterway to install a dock, which would allow people to easily transfer their small boats to and from the water.

“The water sits down pretty deep from the edge. … Right now there’s no easy way to get down to the canal,” said John Noel, a spokesperson for the Park Service, which manages the C&O Canal National Historical Park. “That’s the hope of this project — to install a dock that would be more easily accessible for kayakers and canoeists.”

One of the sites being considered is near the vicinity of Fish Market Square, located south of and below Dean & DeLuca, a high-end grocery store at Potomac and M streets. The proposed area offers one of the few access points between the canal and the main commercial strip of M Street.

“We’re very focused on doing things to enhance the use of the canal,” said Joe Sternlieb, CEO of the business group. The canal has been losing visitors, and a boat that once carried them up and down the waterway no longer operates. So the BID has been brainstorming with the Park Service for more than a year on ways to revitalize this well-preserved waterway, which contributed to the commercial growth of Georgetown in the 19th century. The group included work on the C&O Canal in its “Georgetown 2028” plan, which aims to enhance the commercial district over the next 14 years.

The dock was “one of the many ideas that came out of the Georgetown 2028 planning process that we liked,” said Sternlieb.

Kayaking and canoeing are popular farther north, in the more wooded parts of the canal. There are no functional docks, but the Park Service has created access points. “We’ve put some steps in, for example, and created some paths that kind of wind down to the edge of the water where [people] can easily put their canoe or kayak in,” said Noel.

In Georgetown, these activities are permitted in the canal, but access to the water is a hurdle. Boating is popular nearby on the Potomac River, where facilities such as Thompson Boat Center rent out watercraft. Sternlieb said the BID plans to see if these vendors will allow customers to carry their rental equipment to the canal, which could be an alternative when boating in the river is not advisable. “Sometimes, it can be a beautiful day and the canal is peaceful, [but] the Potomac is rushing out after a storm,” he said. “I’m hopeful that people will figure out ways to get access to the recreational craft even if they don’t have their own. We’ll also help facilitate those conversations.”

The Park Service first approached the BID a few weeks ago about installing an existing but unused dock in the canal. The business group then held a meeting on the proposal, which drew a positive reception from neighboring businesses, said Sternlieb.

Officials recently discovered that the existing dock wouldn’t work in Georgetown, because it was designed for larger boats. The BID is now looking at building a new one, which would require a design review by the Old Georgetown Board.

Ron Lewis, chair of the Georgetown advisory neighborhood commission, told The Current that the dock “could be a lively and fitting use for the canal if it’s done well.”

This article appears in the April 16 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.


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Board Calls for Tweaking Exxon Condo Plans

April 9, 2014

By Brady Holt
Current Staff Writer

A plan for condos at the site of the Key Bridge Exxon station is moving closer to fruition, but the Old Georgetown Board continues to seek architectural refinements.

EastBanc is proposing 26 to 28 luxury condo units in a five-story, 50-foot-tall building at 3601-3607 M St., in a project dubbed “Hillside.” The board had previously signed off on the size of the building despite community objections, but members requested revisions to architectural details.

The board — part of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts — reviewed the company’s latest designs last Thursday. “The preferred scheme that was presented last week was a move in the right direction,” but members felt it still needs some tweaks, commission secretary Tom Luebke said in an interview.

At that Thursday meeting, the board also informally supported rough plans for an addition at Hyde-Addison Elementary School and requested a revised design for a mixed-use project proposed at 3000 M St., according to Luebke.

On the Exxon project, Luebke said the board suggested revising the first floor to make the upper levels look less like they’re “floating,” as well as additional vertical design elements. “It feels like it’s an office building or an embassy, and it needs to feel more residential,” he said.

The board also asked EastBanc to reduce the height of its rooftop mechanical equipment so that it will have less impact on the Prospect Street homes that overlook the M Street property. Residents there, and the Georgetown advisory neighborhood commission, had unsuccessfully petitioned the board to allow only a 40-foot building.

EastBanc’s Mary Mottershead wrote in an email to The Current that the company doesn’t mind revising its architecture. “Design is subjective, and OGB always has good comments,” she wrote. “Right now we don’t really see any downsides per se to the direction from OGB as long as we and they continue to narrow down the search for an acceptable design.”

However, revising the roof structures would force EastBanc to seek a variance from the Board of Zoning Adjustment — a three- to six-month process that Mottershead said could affect the project’s timeline. The company has said previously it hopes to break ground in spring 2015, with construction lasting 20 to 22 months.

In addition to sightlines, Prospect Street residents have also raised concerns about the project’s impact on the retaining wall that holds their homes in place. The Georgetown advisory neighborhood commission has urged EastBanc to pay attention to this issue.

On Hyde-Addison Elementary, Luebke said the board was comfortable with the idea of a new building at the center of the school property. The feedback will let project architects fully refine this approach and return to the board for further approvals, Luebke said.

The addition proposed is a three-story, 25,000-square-foot structure — connecting to the existing school buildings via hallways — with the bottom level below grade, comprising a gym, cafeteria, media center and classroom space. D.C. Public Schools officials cited the expansion as a reason to enlarge the boundaries for Hyde-Addison as part of a newly released city plan aimed at relieving crowding at nearby schools.

Construction of an addition at the 3219 O St. school was slated to begin this summer, but faced delays after the Old Georgetown Board rejected a previous proposal that would have buried the new space under the school’s playground.

At 3000 M St., the site of the closed Latham Hotel and vacant retail space, developer SB-Urban hopes to construct new storefronts and turn the hotel building into about 150 “micro” apartment units with shared amenity space. Luebke said the board supported the general idea but had concerns about the style and scale of some of the plans.

In particular, the board said the proposed second story of retail was too tall and “top-heavy,” according to Luebke. “It’s putting two stories in an area that’s usually three or four,” he said.

The board also criticized an M Street “tower” structure and the 30th Street “arcade” entrance, both of which are dominated by glass in the SB-Urban plans. And according to Luebke, board members also said the company should consider “a more bold reworking” of the staid brick hotel building, which is mostly untouched in the SB-Urban proposal above the ground level.

Board members did support the proposal to demolish and replace the M Street retail space, even though they were not comfortable with SB-Urban’s specific designs for it, Luebke added.

This article appears in the April 9 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.


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