News and Town Topics

Architect Robert Bell, in 2013, shows the facade of the Georgetown Theatre and the original Georgetown sign, which is being refurbished in order to rehang and relight.
Photo by Robert Devaney.
Architect Robert Bell, in 2013, shows the facade of the Georgetown Theatre and the original Georgetown sign, which is being refurbished in order to rehang and relight.

Georgetown Theater Sign Returns July 28; Neon to Be Lighted Sept. 23

A block of Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown will soon be getting its mojo back, according to architect Robert Bell. And, by mojo, we mean the iconic vertical sign — now being refitted to be relighted — which hung for years on the front facade of what was the Georgetown Theater.

Bell bought the old theater property in October 2013 and is renovating the building at 1351 Wisconsin Ave. NW for retail and residential space. The theater’s neon sign, which used to show the illuminated word, “GEORGETOWN,” was hauled away Sept. 16, 2014, to be refurbished at Jack Stone Signs, which originally manufactured it in 1950. “The target date for rehanging the sign is July 28, high noon,” Bell told The Georgetowner. “The target for turning the neon sign back on is the autumnal equinox, Sept. 23, at 7 p.m. I hope to have the new front doors and windows complete and hopefully the canopy for the lighting.”

“The building itself should have all the exterior complete, including the brick garden wall in back in August,” Bell continued. “All of the windows, which are solid mahogany, have been delivered. So, all is moving ahead full speed.” Bell, and his rejuvenation of the old Georgetown Theater, was the subject of a Jan. 15, 2014, Georgetowner cover story.

EastBanc Condo Plan for Penn. & M Gets Mixed Reviews

Developer EastBanc presented its designs for a five-story, red-brick boxy building at Pennsylvania Avenue and M Street at the monthly meeting of the Georgetown-Burleith Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E June 29. Near 28th Street, the site provides an eastern gateway to Georgetown.

Plans call for a 70-seat ground-floor restaurant, eight 2,000-square-foot rental apartments and roof top space. The near-triangle of land sits next to Rock Creek Park and across from the Four Seasons Hotel. It currently holds a Valero gas station and auto repair garage.

According to EastBanc, construction could begin by next summer on the property, which it bought for $4 million in March. While the commission approved demolishing the gas station and welcomed a reinvention and reuse of the property, several balked at the designs, perceived as boxy, bland and blocking open space.

Commissioner Jeff Jones, who summed up the feelings of some in the commission and in the neighborhood, told meeting attendees and EastBanc presenters of the planned construction: “I feel like this is an opportunity. It’s a blank space. I like authenticity in Georgetown as far as all the different types of architecture that we have. I’m OK with a modern building here. This is almost pedestrian-like.”

“We struggled a lot with the building,” EastBanc’s Anthony Lanier said. “It’s a building that grows on you over time. … It’s a very difficult building to understand, and it’s a very difficult site to build on.”

Victoria Rixey, who spoke for the Citizens Association of Georgetown at the meeting, gave the design faint praise: “We feel that this building speaks to the architecture of the West End. This is sort of a ’60s style where you have the concrete slabs with the brick infill, and we feel it belongs better in that neighborhood.”

Besides aesthetic criticisms, EastBanc has more hurdles for the 7,400-square-foot property at 2715 Pennsylvania Ave., NW. (It contracted with well-known Portugese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura for the design.

The Old Georgetown Board reviewed EastBanc’s demolition request and design concept July 2. In September, the D.C. Zoning Commission will designate the property’s category, which stills calls for at least three parking spaces. Also, there is a 50-foot height limit for the structure.

Bowser Signs Synthetic Drug Act into Law

Joined by police officers, D.C. administrators, local politicians and other community officials, Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the “Sale of Synthetic Drugs Emergency Amendment Act of 2015” into law July 10 in a proactive step to cleanse Washington, D.C., of synthetic marijuana.

The new law allows the Metropolitan Police Department to enforce harsh penalties on businesses found selling the substance, and comes on the heels of a dangerous spike in overdoses and links to violent crimes around the city, most recently a fatal stabbing aboard a Metro train.

Authorities are now granted the right to issue businesses caught selling the drugs a $10,000 fine and to be shut down for 96 hours as a first offense. Repeat offenders will be fined $20,000 and shut down for 30 days followed by the revoking of their license. “The District will not tolerate the selling of these drugs,” Bowser said upon signing the law. “This is very important legislation that will help get synthetic drugs off of shelves of D.C. retailers and off the streets.”

MPD Chief Cathy Lanier praised the efforts made by city government officials to pass the law and added that law enforcement will be vigilant in stopping the sale of synthetic drugs.

“This drug is dangerous not only to those who use it, but everyone around them. The risk is just too high for us not to be aggressive,” Lanier said.

Synthetic drugs are packaged under brand names like “K2,” “Scooby Snax,” ”Spice” and “Bizzaro,” with dangerous side effects like suicidal or erratic behavior, seizures and even death. The illegal hallucinogens also render users to be aggressive and disorderly.

Georgetown University’s Track and Field Team Under Investigation for Alleged Misconduct

After facing an investigation earlier this year over racial bias, the Georgetown University track program is being probed about allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

A day after a blog post titled, “Georgetown Track Exposed,” appeared online July 16, providing information about sexual misconduct on the men’s track team, Georgetown University released a statement acknowledging a probe into such activities that started in April 2015. In addition, the university’s communications office wrote that the university has met with every member of the team to review school policy and the allegations. The university also closed the men’s track locker room, where some of the misconduct was said to have occurred.

The university’s statement did not bring light to the activities that led to the investigation, though it did note that the sexual misconduct investigation is “separate from a review regarding allegations of racial bias within the track program being conducted by the Georgetown University Office of Institutional Diversity Equity and Affirmative Action, which began in late March following a report of racial bias.” That investigation stems from runner Stefanie Kurgatt’s claims that track program coaches conspired to kick her off the team.

The “Georgetown Track Exposed” blog post, on the other hand, provided more detail on why the team is under investigation for sexual misconduct. The anonymous blogger wrote, “During conversation concerning discrimination [with the university], issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the MEN’s LOCKER ROOM were brought up.” The writer goes on to describe a video the men’s team produced as a trailer for its annual “Hoya Snaxa Awards” that included long distance runners performing “overtly sexual activities between each other.” The awards, emails posted by the anonymous blogger show, were given out for things like “Hottest Mom,” “Best Drunken Performance,” among with other crude superlatives.

The author says that the video previewing the awards “prompted the university to open an additional Title IX investigation based on violations of the Georgetown University’s Code of Sexual Conduct.” In addition, the blogger says the university immediately took the video, which was released “through Georgetown University email accounts,” down. Neither investigation has concluded.

Citizens Association Concert with the Walkaways

The final concert of the summer for the Citizens Association of Georgetown’s Concerts in the Park series featured the alt-country band, the Walkaways, in Rose Park on July 12. Some neighbors brought picnics or enjoyed the Rocklands and Surfside food trucks — and free Haagen Dazs ice cream and Sprinkles cupcakes. Everyone enjoyed the music, young and old, including Frida Burling.

Join the Mayor on the Ward 2 Walk July 25

Mayor Muriel Bowser will join the Ward 2 Walk on Saturday, July 25, 9 a.m., part of the FitDC Billion Steps Challenge. FitDC is a new, fresh health and wellness initiative conceived by Mayor Bowser to encourage all District of Columbia residents from Ward 1 to Ward 8 to get out, move more and adopt a healthier, more active lifestyle.

There are lots of resources and programs in D.C. that help empower residents to improve their health and wellness. The program offers encouragement and support to help achieve

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