Georgetown Observer Nov. 30, 2011

Riyad Said, Karen Ohri and Rokas Beresniovas at F. Scott’s reception.
Robert Devaney
Riyad Said, Karen Ohri and Rokas Beresniovas at F. Scott’s reception.

ANC: Wisconsin Avenue Work in Glover Park; Neon Annoyance

Georgetown and Burleith’s advisory neighborhood commission (ANC 2E) met Nov. 28 to discuss the details of the Wisconsin Avenue streetscape project in Glover Park and its effects on Georgetown to the south. To improve safety and the aesthetics along Wisconsin Avenue from Whitehaven Parkway north to Cathedral Avenue, DDOT will begin March 2012 to spruce up Glover Park’s main drag, sidewalks and lights. Construction is expected to last six months.

Residents expressed concern about traffic tie-ups as well as cut-through traffic on smaller streets. There will be medians on this stretch of Wisconsin Avenue, some with left turn lanes. In the works since 2006, plans call for cutting the number of lanes for traffic from three to two during rush hours and from two to one during regular hours as well as widening of sidewalks, some of which do not meet disability access standards. The reduced lanes are intended to slow down traffic and improve pedestrian safety in the neighborhood known to many for Whole Foods, Sushi-Ko and Good Guys. DDOT said: “High numbers of vehicle crashes throughout the corridor are indicative of an environment with higher operating speeds with no provisions for left turning traffic which led to sudden lane changes by motorists.”

“We can’t play Russian roulette anymore,” said Glover Park ANC Chairman Brian Cohen who was invited to the meeting, recalling two deaths a few years ago as well as an Oct. 5 accident, when a police car hit a woman in the walkway at Wisconsin Avenue and 35th Street. Concerning that intersection, commissioners asked DDOT to consider placing a flashing light to slow down cars on the hill. At the same intersection next to Holy Rood Cemetery, there will be a sidewalk bump-out to slow down cars making right turns from the avenue onto 35th Street. (The ANC approved of the plans and asked for regular work updates to the public.)

Also during the meeting, commissioner Bill Starrels said Prince Cafe on lower Wisconsin Avenue could be cited for its neon sign as a fine arts violation along with a shop in the 3200 block of M Street for its signage.

We guess it is the next big, little thing: Macaron Bee, coming to 1669 Wisconsin Avenue, got approval for its tri-fold window from which shopkeepers will sell pricey macaroons (that’s the English spelling) to sidewalk sweets-lovers.

New Plan to Develop GSA’s West Heating Plant Property

The Levy Group, a longtime and well-known owner of Georgetown commercial real estate, and The Georgetown Company of New York City, which is working with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Strategic Hotels & Resorts, Inc., are proposing a project to build a Four Seasons Private Residences and create an adjacent park on the site of the West Heating Plant. According to the group, “the proposal, which has been developed over the past year and a half, is being made public following the GSA’s recent announcement that it plans to dispose of the underutilized and inaccessible property that sits at the confluence of the C&O Canal and Rock Creek Park at the foot of Georgetown.”

“We and The Georgetown Company have joined forces with the Four Seasons to bring life to a cordoned-off section of Georgetown,” said the Levy Group’s managing principal Richard Levy. “Our priorities are clear: transform the West Heating Plant into an attractive and contributing building that complements and respects the neighborhood and create a new park that links the Canal and Rock Creek Park with the fabulous Georgetown Waterfront Park. We look forward to working with Four Seasons, Strategic Hotels & Resorts, the National Park Service and the broader Georgetown community to make this vision a reality.”

In another statement from the group, Paul White, vice president of residential for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts noted: “Since opening more than 30 years ago, Four Seasons Hotel, Washington, D.C., has been a vibrant hub for locals and visitors; the premier place to conduct business or to retreat with family in Washington’s only five-diamond hotel. Four Seasons is enthusiastic about the plan developed jointly with The Levy Group and The Georgetown Company and we are confident that working together with the community we can make this a welcomed addition to Georgetown. We have decades of experience in operating wholly-owned residences designed and built to Four Seasons standards, offering the same degree of caring, customized service that discerning hotel guests have come to know and love.”

“Located at 1051 29th Street, N.W., the proposed renovated building will include approximately 80 Four Seasons Private Residences in a LEED-certified building directly across the C&O Canal from Four Seasons Hotel,” according to the group. “The planned low-density residential component with adjacent park would ensure that the area doesn’t become over-crowded as it would with high-density towers and the related traffic congestion. A significant part of the property south of the West Heating Plant will be dedicated to parkland which will supplant the coal yard and the four oil storage tanks. By so doing, the area will be returned to its natural environment and linked to the point of confluence of Rock Creek and the Canal. Inspired by the National Capital Planning Commission’s 1986 plan, the new park will connect Rock Creek Park directly to the Georgetown Waterfront via a bridge and provide a powerful reminder of industrial Georgetown and its origins as a port town.”

Beyond creating construction jobs, the group says, “this undertaking would augment the D.C. tax base with taxes from high-income suburban empty nesters moving into D.C. as well as add revenue from an estimated $1.5 million in annual real estate taxes, $5.4 million in real estate transfer and recordation taxes and $1.6 million in construction permit fees.”

Halcyon House under Contract to Evermay’s Owners

For sale since August 2008, Halcyon House, one of the more recognizable historic homes of Washington, D.C., went under contract to S&R Foundation two weeks ago. Its present owners – The Dreyfuss family – have held the property longer than anyone else in its 225-year history.  Owners of the Evermay Estate, Ryuji Ueno and his wife Sachiko Kuno, who purchased that east side historic gem for $22 million in July, have signed a contract for S&R Foundation to buy Halcyon House for $11 million, according to tenants’ documents. (There are six rental units and a townhouse along with the main house at 3400 Prospect St., N.W.)

Purchased by Edmund Dreyfuss and Blake Construction in 1966 from Georgetown University via John Truver, Halcyon House – built by Benjamin Stoddert, first Secretary of the Navy, between 1785 and 1787 – was restored and improved by artist John Dreyfuss, son of Edmund Dreyfuss, and Prospect Associates during parts of the 1980s and ‘90s. Dreyfuss and his team received the top award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Once called Stoddert House, the Prospect Street mansion is a well-known party and wedding venue around Washington. 

“The restoration of Halcyon House … meant a great deal to everyone in the Dreyfuss family,” said John Dreyfuss, who has lived there for many years and is considered a great neighbor to the community. “We were committed to doing the hard work both structurally and in the craftsmanship that this Federal building deserved. Every effort was made to restore both the historic interiors and gardens. It is our hope that the next steward will maintain the standards set for this extraordinary national heritage.”

Founders of Bethesda-based Sucampo Pharmaceuticals, drug researchers Ueno and Kuno – who also own a house on P Street – are not well known to most Washingtonians, but they are known in philanthropic circles, such as the Washington Opera and the Smithsonian. The couple founded S&R Foundation in 2000, a non-profit that encourages scientific research and artistic endeavors among young individuals – and “to recognize talented young scientists and artists for their distinguished work in fields of science and fine arts, especially those who contribute to U.S.-Japanese understanding.”

Beresniovas Elected GBA President

On Nov. 16, the board of directors of the Georgetown Business Association elected its officers for 2012 and held its networking reception at F. Scott’s restaurant on 36th Street.

Succeeding Joe Giannino as president will be Rokas Beresniovas of HSBC Bank USA. The new vice president will be Riyad Said of Wells Fargo; treasurer, Karen Ohri of Georgetown Floorcoverings; secretary, Janine Schoonover of Serendipity3. They begin their one-year terms Jan. 1.

“Building on great leadership for the past two years, the GBA has new energy and is getting younger members,” Beresniovas said. “We have to sustain that, and we have built better relationships with many community groups.” The GBA – which also acts as a lobbyist for small businesses – works closely with the Georgetown Business Improvement District, which is not allowed to lobby. The GBA’s Dec. 14 annual meeting on Dumbarton House will elect new members to its board and celebrate the holiday season.

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