Georgetown Current

Agency Adopts Concept for Boathouses

February 16, 2017

By Mark Lieberman
Current Staff Writer

A long-gestating plan to build new non-motorized boathouses along the Potomac riverfront in Georgetown was finalized Monday by the National Park Service, though detailed design and implementation remain a long way off.

The Park Service has essentially formalized an iteration of the plan presented to the community last summer, which establishes a maximum development envelope for possible facilities. With this overview in place, the next step is to create detailed designs for each piece and seek community feedback, agency spokesperson Jeremy Barnum told The Current. He couldn’t provide a detailed timeline or estimated cost for the project, but finalizing the initial plans represents “significant progress,” he wrote in an email.

“What we have to do now is reach out to the various partners who are interested in this and go from there,” he said in an interview.

The agency’s proposal, generated after several rounds of back-and-forth with community stakeholders, would allow a three-story, 13,800-square-foot boathouse between the waterfront park and the Key Bridge; a three-story boathouse of between 3,600 and 7,200 square feet just west of the bridge; a two-story, 6,000-square-foot boathouse between the Potomac Boat Club and Washington Canoe Club; and a canoe/kayak launch area beyond the canoe club that could include a 2,700-square-foot storage building. The proposal doesn’t include any architectural plans for the buildings, which will require extensive review at the local and federal level when they become available.

The plan also proposes altering the streetscape near the entrance to the Capital Crescent Trail on Water Street, with two travel lanes and a shared bike lane, as well as a 30-foot-radius cul-de-sac and between 26 and 36 parking spaces. The D.C. Department of Transportation would be responsible for implementing this portion.

As a further aspect of the work, the Capital Crescent Trail would be widened to 10 feet and continued on the south side of Water Street, connecting it to Georgetown Waterfront Park. Other planned upgrades include an expanded kayak rental facility and a rehabilitation of the condemned Washington Canoe Club building, 3700 Water St. NW.

Community leaders have been supportive of the prospect of new boathouses overall but circumspect about various particulars. Bob vom Eigen, president of Citizens Association of Georgetown, told The Current he remains skeptical that the Park Service will find the funding for these projects and uncertain that the planned boathouses will revitalize the riverfront area to the degree the agency is promising.

“It’s not clear that the growing community is going to embrace the highly rigid design that they’ve concocted,” vom Eigen said. He’s frustrated that the Park Service doesn’t appear open to substantially revising its plans, though the agency has said particulars could change as the design progress.

For its part, Georgetown University is “grateful to the Park Service for its leadership on this important effort to expand public access to the river” and plans to stay active in future discussions of the boathouse project, according to spokesperson Rachel Pugh. George Washington University didn’t respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

In August, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E (Georgetown, Burleith) urged the Park Service not to let a large boathouse interfere with views of the river and the Key Bridge.

Commissioners haven’t had a chance to review the latest update, chair Joe Gibbons told The Current on Tuesday, but ANC 2E will be closely monitoring the impact on traffic from this project and others happening simultaneously in that area, he said.

Meanwhile, C&O Canal Association first vice president Rod Mackler remains pleased with the progress on the project after years of delays.

He’s particularly enthusiastic about the prospect of revitalizing the vacant lot west of the waterfront park and improving safety for pedestrians at the Water Street entrance to the trail. He shares ANC 2E’s preliminary concerns about oversized boathouses, though.

“There is a lot yet to be designed and done as the design phase comes about. We’re keeping an eye on those things, whether the boathouses grow and become disproportionate to the Washington waterfront,” Mackler said. “Generally speaking we’re positive about this document.”

The Georgetown Business Improvement District is also optimistic about the plans and looks forward to contributing further to them, according to president and CEO Joe Sternlieb.

This article appears in the Feb. 15 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

Click here to share your thoughts.

Deal Teacher Wins School System’s Top Honor

February 8, 2017

By Kate Magill
Current Correspondent

Jan Schuettpelz, a seventh-grade science teacher at Alice Deal Middle School, recently won D.C. Public Schools’ top honor as the Teacher of the Year.

Schuettpelz learned of her award Feb. 1, in her classroom full of cheering students, as D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and newly appointed Chancellor Antwan Wilson made the announcement.

“I am just always inspired by the students to try to bring my best every day,” Schuettpelz said moments after she received the award in the Tenleytown school. “I think it’s just a passion for what I do, and for trying to make science come alive for them, so that they might be our next great scientists.”

The school system’s annual award comes with a $10,000 prize, and nominations can come from students, parents and community members. Schuettpelz will be recognized alongside other honorees at the Standing Ovation for D.C. Public Schools event on March 13 at the Kennedy Center.

“When we look to find the Teacher of the Year, we look to find teachers that have demonstrated that their students are growing, who have demonstrated that their colleagues ... look up to them, that they have an unquenchable thirst to learn, and to grow and to be better,” Deputy Mayor for Education Jennie Niles said following the announcement.

Schuettpelz was recognized for her innovative lessons in the classroom as well as for her extracurricular efforts with students, including founding the Girls STEM Science Club and the “Mighty Girls Book Club” at Deal.

She also participated in the Inspired Teaching Institute last school year, in which she built on skills to create more “engagement-based instruction.” The institute is run in partnership with D.C. Public Schools, as part of an effort to strengthen teachers’ practices and to foster professional development.

A Woodley Park resident, Schuettpelz is now in her fourth year at Deal, and her 19th year as a teacher.

She credited her students with pushing her to grow as an educator. “We have the greatest humans in the District right here, they’re amazing,” Schuettpelz said. Her students, she said, “come in and work hard every day, [and] inspire me to come up with interesting lessons.”

The award announcement Feb. 1 also marked Wilson’s first official appearance as D.C. school’s chancellor. He comes to the District from Oakland, Calif., where he served as the superintendent of schools.

Wilson expressed his excitement to build on the progress that Bowser’s administration has made in improving the city’s school system, including an increased focus on middle schools. He said one of his top priorities is to create school environments in which students feel valued and challenged.

“Quite simply we want to focus on excellence in education and equity,” Wilson said, “making sure our students know that we are preparing them — not just to be successful while they’re in school, which is extremely important, but we’re preparing them for what’s going to meet them when they graduate. And we expect them to graduate.”

He also emphasized the importance of social and emotional learning for students, in order to foster self-awareness and self-motivation.

One of Wilson’s goals in his first year in office is to visit every school in the District, a process he has already begun. After touring several classrooms at Deal last Wednesday, he mentioned how impressed he was with the engaged educators.

“I love being in classrooms because I’m often mesmerized by how teachers captivate students’ attention,” Wilson said. “At the end of the day, a good classroom is one where students are challenged, where they are put in positions to be successful.”

This article appears in the Feb. 8 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

Click here to share your thoughts.

Dixie Liquor Seeking to Reopen in March

February 1, 2017

By Mark Lieberman
Current Staff Writer

A storied Georgetown liquor store that has clashed with the community numerous times through various incarnations over the years is making a comeback.

Dixie Liquor, located at 3429 M St. NW near the foot of the Key Bridge, will reopen in roughly mid-to-late March under the ownership of Jason Lim and his wife Soo Hyun Lim, who also own The Market at Columbia Plaza near George Washington University.

Residents who have caught wind of the news expressed preliminary concerns at a meeting Monday night, though Jason Lim said in an interview that he’s prepared to work productively with the community.

The store, founded in 1934 by the Miller family, has long been a draw for nearby Georgetown University students, with disputes cropping up over the years over the leniency of the store’s policies for checking identification. In 2005, the alcohol administration suspended the store’s liquor license for 30 days for selling kegs without proper registration.

The store has undergone several ownership changes, and The Georgetowner reported last year that Dixie Liquor’s most recent iteration closed in July. Last fall, the store’s previous owners placed its liquor license in “safekeeping,” in which they retain the license despite not applying it to an operating business. That license will remain in safekeeping until at least March 31, 2017.

In December, the Lims applied to transfer a liquor license to the shuttered M Street shop from Best DC Supermarket on U Street NW, which closed last April. The whole purchase, including inventory, cost $500,000, Lim said. Their application says that the new store could be open from 9 a.m. to midnight seven days a week, but Lim told The Current that he’s currently planning to stay open until 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends.

Customers familiar with the old store can expect some interior changes as well, Lim said — new furnishings, an expanded selection and more consistent service. Lim, who lives in Fairfax, Va., said he’s heard that previous owners would open late, close early and leave in the middle of the day while the store was open, but he plans to be more reliable.

Community members haven’t yet dealt directly with the new owners, but they see cause for concern. At Monday’s meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E (Georgetown, Burleith), Cookie Cruse of the Citizens Association of Georgetown said she wants the opportunity to review the store’s plans, given its troubled history. She’s concerned about the proposed hours, which could have the store open later than it was previously, as well as its approaches to selling kegs and serving alcohol to Georgetown University students.

“This is the type of thing that needs to be vetted by the community,” she said.

Fellow Citizens Association member John Lever and another resident supported Cruse’s trepidations.

“I’m not saying that the new folks are going to do anything illicit or wrong in any way,” Lever said. “But an abundance of caution is necessary.”

ANC 2E had opted not to take a position on the liquor license because members found no record of an existing or previous settlement agreement with the establishment. Lim, meanwhile, told The Current he has experience preventing underage drinking near George Washington University.

Lim said he wants to “have a good relationship with the customers, treat them like family.” The store appealed to him and his wife because of its prime location, he said.

“It was an empty space. We just thought Dixie Liquor has a long history,” Lim said. “We thought we should just take over it and see how it goes.”

He and his wife had conversations with the Millers prior to signing the lease, and he found them “very supportive and helpful.”

Aside from community conflicts, the store boasts a history of high-profile guests, none more famous than John F. Kennedy. A page on the Georgetown Business Improvement District website includes a statement from previous Dixie Liquor owners, who said they’re proud of the store’s heritage as “the oldest liquor store in D.C.”

An initial hearing on the requested transfer of Best DC’s old liquor license to Dixie is scheduled for Feb. 21 at 10 a.m. if anyone brings forward an objection.

This article appears in the Feb. 1 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

Click here to share your thoughts.