Prominent Figures Spar Over Planned Addition
By Brady HoltCurrent Staff Writer
The nine-bedroom, 7,000-square-foot manor once owned by Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham sits on more than an acre of prime Georgetown real estate. But since her death in 2001, it’s been owned by a local venture capitalist who for years rarely used the property.
But now Mark Ein has fresh plans for his 1870 home, known as the Beall-Washington House: a large new addition to the east, and a pair of detached garages out front. Ein, CEO of the Venturehouse Group firm and owner of the Washington Kastles tennis team, presented his plans last week to the Georgetown advisory neighborhood commission and the Old Georgetown Board.
But both panels and Ein’s immediate neighbors — prominent developers Calvin and Jane Cafritz — questioned the proposed work. Neighborhood commissioners worried last Monday about the size of the three-story addition that would replace an existing one-story kitchen, the prominence of two new garages in front of the home, and the impact on the property’s trees.
And on Thursday, the Old Georgetown Board — part of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which has jurisdiction over the neighborhood’s federally protected historic district — also raised concerns. According to commission secretary Tom Luebke, the board members opposed the garage placement and requested that Ein rethink plans to replace the existing side addition.
Perhaps the most passionate appeal, though, came from the Cafritzes, whose adjacent 29th Street home is a twin to Ein’s. They said Ein hopes to build unnecessarily close to their home rather than excavating the basement and building in the large space behind the house if he wants more room.
“We are bewildered why the architect chose to put all of the density on this location instead of taking advantage of a property size that’s twice ours,” Jane Cafritz said at the neighborhood commission meeting.
The Cafritzes also feared the loss of trees on the 2920 R St. property and their own near the property line, and said some architectural drawings were inaccurate. They also criticized Ein for not consulting them early in the design process.
Ein and his representatives said little about the concerns at the neighborhood commission meeting. One neighbor, supporting the application, said there had been community outreach in the 10 days leading up to last Monday’s meeting.
The Cafritzes’ comments recall the neighborhood complaints surrounding a Calvin Cafritz Enterprises apartment project that’s now under construction at 5333 Connecticut Ave. in Chevy Chase. There, neighbors also criticized a lack of public notice and cooperation, complained that there was room to move the project farther from their homes, called renderings inaccurate or misleading, and feared tree damage.
At 5333, though, the apartment project was free to proceed as a matter of right, having met all applicable zoning requirements. When polled a few years ago, a majority of Chevy Chase residents opposed forming a historic district overseen by the city, which would have granted some level of protection against development. In Georgetown, though, the Cafritzes are protected by federal law that oversees any building changes that are visible from the street to ensure compatibility with the community’s historic fabric.
Luebke said Old Georgetown Board members suggested that Ein make use of his rear carriage house — recently split into a separate lot but still owned by Ein — rather than constructing new buildings out front.
This article appears in the July 9 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.