Georgetown Current

Plans Advance to Shift Farmhouse on Foxhall

September 30, 2015

By Kelsey Knorp
Current Correspondent

The owners of a 19th-century farmhouse at 2207 Foxhall Road NW will be able to relocate the structure elsewhere on their property to make room for a new two-story home and detached garage behind it, following a decision by the Historic Preservation Review Board last Thursday.

Board members, however, recommended the farmhouse be farther from the street than originally proposed and objected to a planned fence around the property, on the grounds that these conditions failed to “fit the context” of the setting.

The complex plan from owners Chantal Attias and Andreas Kotzur came after an earlier scheme — relocating the house to the Field School next door — fell through after school officials evaluated the long-term costs of annexing the building. Attias and Kotzur found the farmhouse too cramped for their family of five, which includes two toddlers and Attias’ mother. They’re seeking to add space in a way that avoids detracting from the building’s original character, particularly in light of a pending application to designate the home as a historic landmark.

The family’s plan represents the second time the farmhouse will shift positions: In 1903, it was moved about 150 feet from the spot where farmer Augustus Daniel Scheele originally built it in 1865.

Attias and Kotzur have proposed moving the home an additional 12 feet west and 40 feet north, which would require demolition of the pantry shed addition, kitchen chimney, second-story bathroom and enclosed rear porches that were added after the first move.

According to architect Rich Markus, this change would provide sufficient space farther back on the lot for construction of a two-story front-gable house and separate garage, with a covered walkway connecting the new buildings to the rear of the farmhouse. The historic building would serve as a potential in-law suite, while the rest of the family would live in the new house.

Since the move would also place the house within about 15 feet of Foxhall Road, the family also proposed to construct a tall metal fence around the property to protect their children.

Board members didn’t oppose the basic idea of the plan, but challenged the specifics.

“It’s really a remnant of the formerly agrarian roots of the neighborhood,” said member Maria Casarella. “The global strategy with preserving this is how to recall that context. Moving it forward and putting a fence in front of it does not lend itself to understanding that context.”

Chair Gretchen Pfaehler added that the board wouldn’t require a specific alternative design, but that fixes could include consolidating some proposed structures or spacing them out in a more cohesive way. Project engineer Tim Burke said the current arrangement of the buildings is designed to address concerns from neighbors about stormwater runoff, given the slope of the lot. The proposed garage placement assumed that the farmhouse would have already been moved to close to the street.

Frances McMillen, who prepared the Historic Preservation Office’s staff report on the farmhouse, also added some recommendations that were echoed by the board. She said the proposed covered walkway appeared somewhat out-of-place, calling its character “industrial” and “commercial” rather than residential. She recommended that the project team lighten and narrow the walkway or employ a structure more like a trellis; she also advised adding more detail or windows to some stretches of blank wall on the new house.

The family originally wanted to subdivide the lot and donate the farmhouse building to the northern-adjacent Field School. The proposal was intended to assuage the concerns of local preservation group Historic Washington Architecture Inc., which nominated the farmhouse for landmark designation in September 2013. Although the preservation board approved that proposal in December 2014, the Field School Board of Trustees declined the donation due to long-term land-use and preservation obligations too burdensome to outweigh student benefits. The preservation board still has yet to review the pending landmark application.

This article appears in the Sept. 30 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

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Wisconsin and M Eyed for Safety Fixes

September 23, 2015

By Brady Holt
Current Staff Writer

The intersection at the heart of Georgetown may get traffic-control officers next year to address its consistently high collision rates.

Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh, who chairs the council’s transportation committee, said in an interview that pedestrians are at high risk at Wisconsin Avenue and M Street NW when motorists carelessly make turns.

“Any car-kind of aggressiveness — all of that can be better handled if you have traffic-control officers on the scene,” said Cheh. “We’ll have to find some money for that. I’m committed to looking for money to do that.”

Every year, the D.C. Department of Transportation compiles data on the District’s most dangerous intersections, combining accident severity, accident frequency and traffic volume statistics to rank them. Wisconsin and M is frequently near the top of the list — seventh in 2014, third in 2013 and first in 2012. The corner’s bustling traffic is compounded by narrow sidewalks.

Cheh hosted a site visit there earlier this month with participants from the Transportation Department, the community, and advocacy groups representing pedestrians and bicyclists, as part of her broader effort to address the most consistently troublesome intersections.

In addition to traffic-control officers, attendees at the site visit suggested various fixes including pedestrian bump-outs on the corners, longer times for pedestrians to cross M Street, a “block-the-box” ticket camera, a red light camera on M Street, having pedestrians cross Wisconsin farther south from the intersection, and relocating an inbound M Street bus stop closer to 31st Street, according to Cheh spokesperson Kelly Whittier.

Cheh said her office will “pester” Transportation Department officials weekly until the agency develops solutions for the troubled intersection. “It’s in their hands now to evaluate some of these suggestions and then to come back to us about what they can do, and what they can’t do and an explanation … and what might need legislation or a budget fix,” she said.

Transportation Department spokesperson Terry Owens wrote in an email yesterday that the agency is still reviewing options.

“We are still pulling together our observations from the site visits. Nothing to report yet,” he wrote. “Our goal is to publish a report once the evaluation process is complete that spells out our proposals.”

One improvement is already on the way, according to Ron Lewis, chair of the Georgetown advisory neighborhood commission: a new traffic signal that will allow right turns from southbound Wisconsin onto westbound M while M Street traffic is already turning left to head north on Wisconsin. The Transportation Department got that idea while looking at congestion on 34th Street NW, which Lewis said has already improved greatly thanks to some recent agency fixes.

Lewis, who attended Cheh’s site visit, said his own preferred solution would be using red-light cameras in addition to traffic-control officers, and that he’s hopeful that all this attention on Georgetown traffic will help the situation.

“It will certainly make a difference — I hope it’s a big difference,” Lewis said. “It’s an intersection with very significant pressures, so anything that we can do to relieve that would be valuable.”

Other frequently troublesome intersections in Northwest include Florida Avenue and 7th Street and several corners in the 14th Street NW corridor, according to the Transportation Department data.

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

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Pope’s Visit to Alter Traffic Patterns

September 16, 2015

By Mark Lieberman
Current Staff Writer

As Pope Francis makes his first visit to the United States next week, his two-day stop in the District of Columbia brings anticipation, crowds — and traffic changes.

Though most of the pope’s activities will center around the White House and downtown, Upper Northwest D.C. will also see a number of impacts, particularly along and near Massachusetts Avenue.

Pope Francis arrives in the District on Sept. 22 at 4 p.m., but restrictions at the Vatican Embassy at 3339 Massachusetts Ave. NW, where he’ll be staying, begin the morning of Sept. 21 and last until he leaves at 4 p.m. Sept. 24. And a variety of road closures will be in place in the area for the duration of his visit, with detours suggested, such as one diverting Massachusetts Avenue drivers to Rock Creek Parkway. (More specifics are listed on page 5 and available at

More than 70 D.C. Department of Transportation officials, with backup from the National Guard, will be patrolling impacted streets and managing traffic patterns during the visit, according to transportation agency spokesperson Terry Owens.

“We’re going to do our best to ensure that people use the alternate routes that we’re directing people to. But of course we can’t control how people are going to try to navigate around this closure,” Owens said. “The best we can do is put this information out there based on our knowledge of the most effective routes …  and communicate that information.”

Transportation officials have advised D.C. commuters to telework during this time if possible, while the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is warning of intermittent service interruptions and large crowds.

According to Metro’s website, during the papal visit the “N” bus routes along Massachusetts Avenue NW will operate only between the Friendship Heights Metro station, the Tenleytown Metro station and the Washington National Cathedral. The 30s bus routes along Wisconsin will run less frequently than normal.

Delays and shorter routes are possible on all bus lines near the affected areas, Metro warns. The agency is encouraging riders to transfer to rail as soon as possible, and it will be offering free bus-to-rail transfers.

Nancy MacWood, a member of the Massachusetts Avenue Heights/Cleveland Park advisory neighborhood commission, said she hopes the city releases more details about the full traffic impact of the pope’s visit soon. She’s concerned that 34th Street and Wisconsin Avenue will be affected more than the current road closure schedule suggests.

MacWood predicted that losing access to Massachusetts Avenue will be a big adjustment for locals.

“It’s going to require an awful lot of patience, both for our residents but also the commuters that are used to using Massachusetts Avenue and are suddenly going to be detoured to neighborhood streets that they may not be very familiar with,” MacWood said. “Frankly what I’ve heard from a lot of residents is they’re going to be working from home.”

Massachusetts Avenue Heights advisory neighborhood commissioner Catherine May said her constituents are excited and honored by the prospect of the 266th pope coming to D.C.

“I think everybody welcomes his visit and understands it’s an extremely important gesture on his part to visit us,” she said. “Everybody understands there will be traffic problems and [they] are willing to roll with it. We’re asking for as much advance warning as possible.”

Residents planning to attend one of the pope’s events in D.C. should pack carefully. Officials last week released a list of items that won’t be allowed into any of the events, including balloons, bicycles, large bags, backpacks and even selfie sticks. The full list can be found at

Details on some of the parking restrictions and road closures in Northwest:

■ Parking on 34th Street NW between Massachusetts Avenue and Fulton Street will be restricted from 10 a.m. Sept. 21 until 4 p.m. Sept. 24. That restriction will extend from Massachusetts to Garfield Street beginning at midnight on Sept. 22, at which time Fulton Street between 34th Place and Normanstone Drive will also be closed to parking.

■ All above stretches will be closed to vehicular traffic beginning at 9 a.m. Sept. 22 and ending when the pope leaves on Thursday.

■ For the duration of the pope’s visit, northbound traffic on Massachusetts Avenue NW between Observatory Circle South and 34th Place will be diverted to Rock Creek Parkway at Waterside Drive.

■ Southbound traffic along Massachusetts Avenue NW between 34th Street and Waterside Drive will be permitted.

■ The city’s website also warns that traffic on Massachusetts Avenue will intermittently shut down entirely.

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

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