Photo by Judith Beermann
Joe Sternlieb discusses Georgetown's commercial challenges
Joe Sternlieb discusses Georgetown's commercial challenges

The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown hosted the Citizens Association of Georgetown (CAG) first public meeting of 2019 Tuesday evening. 

 

CAG President Leslie Maysak greeted guests at a reception of cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres, as over 100 organization members and neighbors gathered to hear about “The Future of Georgetown.”

Joe Sternlieb, Jamie Scott and Cheryl Gray (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Joe Sternlieb, Jamie Scott and Cheryl Gray

Cheryl Gray, CAG VP thanked everyone for coming and introduced Joe Sternlieb, Business Improvement District (BID) CEO and President, and Jamie Scott, BID Director of Planning and Economic Development.

 

Sternlieb and Scott addressed the historic neighborhood’s ongoing concerns about the high number of storefront vacancies. With asking rents the highest in the city, $300 per square foot and more, changing consumer habits (online shopping vs brick and mortar), aging properties, narrow sidewalks, cumbersome approval process, and transportation issues, the business community faces a number of challenges, many beyond its control. 

CAG meeting at Ritz-Carlton Georgetown (Photo by: Judith Beermann) CAG meeting at Ritz-Carlton Georgetown

In 2018, 25 Georgetown stores closed and 18 opened. At the same time, other commercial areas around the city, including 14th Street, The Wharf, Union Market, and Shaw saw exponential growth and more affordable rents.

 

Consumers, especially millennials, Sternlieb explained, “are interested in experiences, not buying stuff.” With two notable exceptions, “Apple and Georgetown Cupcake, Georgetown’s biggest grossing businesses.”

Capital One Cafe and Chase Bank (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Capital One Cafe and Chase Bank

Georgetown property owners are not typically offered a tenant improvement allowance (TI) to build out space. Locally owned businesses are priced out of the market by banks and national retailers.

Capital One recently paid $50 million ($5,720 per square foot) for their new banking cafe at the corner of Wisconsin and M Streets.

 

To address some of these issues, Georgetown has introduced pop-ups with short term leases, experiential coffee and entertainment shops (Blue Bottle, Grace Street Coffee, Escape Room Live) and new retail concepts and boutiques (Bonobos and Aritzia).

Grace Street Coffee (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Grace Street Coffee

The BID is continuing to work with Georgetown Heritage on restoration of the C&O Canal with designers of The High Line, and proceeding with its plans for The Georgetown-Rosslyn Aerial Gondola Lift.

 

Citing its incomparable outdoor parks and meeting spaces, historic charm and annual events like GLOW, Sternlieb expressed optimism, “In 50 years, Georgetown will still be here.”

 

Former CAG president, Ray Kukulski, who died last week, was remembered for his long-standing service to the community.

Joe Gibbons, Kishon Putta, Matias Budman, Lisa Palmer, Elizabeth Miller and Gwendolyn Lobse (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Joe Gibbons, Kishon Putta, Matias Budman, Lisa Palmer, Elizabeth Miller and Gwendolyn Lobse

The Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2E  Chair Joe Gibbons, representing Georgetown and Burleith, introduced his team: Rick Murphy, Kishon Putta, Matias Budman, Lisa Palmer, Elizabeth Miller and Gwendolyn Lobse.

From car thefts to natural gas repairs, Jelleff Recreation Center survey on improvements, and the need for more equitable access across the city, commissioners addressed quality of life issues important to the neighborhood.

Georgetown's great outdoors (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Georgetown's great outdoors