By Elizabeth Wiener...Current Staff Writer...
The District may soon get a second carousel, just south of the lions and tigers at the National Zoo. But because the Zoo focuses on conservation and education, this carousel would have children riding models of endangered species, and potentially spinning courtesy of solar power.
The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts last week unanimously approved concept plans for a carousel off Olmsted Walk on a grassy slope between the Great Cats exhibit and Lemur Island. Ideally, Zoo planners say, ticket sales would eventually cover the cost.
The commissioners had one initial concern: Would the noise bother the animals? The Zoo’s landscape architect, Jennifer Daniels, said she’d shared that worry until various keepers reassured her.
“The closest animals are 250 feet away,” Daniels said. “And because they’re in a zoo, they get desensitized to sound.”
The Zoo’s master plan identifies the lower reaches of the park as a place for children’s activities. Daniels called the site, along the main pathway to the Great Cats, “a wonderful opportunity, a moment in the park with no animals, purely for visitors.” The carousel would be “in the hub of a highly active zone, with many intersections,” she said.
Carousels, in a variety of designs, are a feature of many zoos. According to Daniels, 80 percent of the nation’s top accredited zoos — including the Bronx Zoo — entertain young patrons with carousels.
The preferred design for the National Zoo at this point is a classic-looking structure with stone-covered piers, topped by a pavilion roof of slate shingles, with a smaller roof on top — in carousel-lingo, a “pre-fabricated clerestory dodecagon pavilion,” Daniels said. The materials would echo those on the nearby Mane Restaurant and other older Zoo buildings.
The ticket booth would be on Olmsted Walk, with amphitheater-type seating carved into the slope on the other side of the carousel.
Some of the fine arts commissioners were skeptical about the aesthetics and practicality of solar power, especially after Daniels showed a photo of the carousel at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, its roof dominated by solar panels.
“That’s a traditional design, and solar panels on the roof seem out of place, and look very strange,” said commissioner Diana Balmori. “Could you put them somewhere else?” Member Edwin Schlossberg noted that it would take a great expanse of solar panels to completely power the carousel.
Daniels said planners are still exploring solar power for the carousel, and “aggressively pursuing a sponsor. It would be exciting to have a solar-run carousel.”
There was also some skepticism about the educational value of a carousel. Member Pam Nelson said she had taken her grandchildren to a zoo in Dallas with a similarly themed endangered-animals carousel. “They never knew,” she said. “They come and ride, shrieking. I don’t think most of the children who ride it have a clue.”
The Zoo, part of the Smithsonian Institution, has faced financial constraints of late. The popular Kid’s Farm almost shut down for lack of operating funds, for example, until State Farm Insurance Co. pledged $1.4 million.
But a carousel, Daniels and other Zoo officials said, could turn into “a revenue generator,” even producing funds for other Zoo needs. They hope it will open by spring 2013.
This article appears in the Sept. 21 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.
By Brady Holt...Current Staff Writer...
After a lengthy delay, a new restaurant may be coming soon to a largely empty stretch of K Street below the Whitehurst Freeway.
The owners of the planned Malmaison restaurant and the Georgetown advisory neighborhood commission have nearly finalized an agreement requiring the restaurant to provide a police detail at the site, commissioner Bill Starrels said yesterday.
According to an Alcoholic Beverage Control Board notice posted Aug. 27, 2010, Malmaison will be a “European dessert bar and lounge specializing in gourmet pastries, refined hors d’oeuvres and exotic cocktails, with DJ and dancing.”
In the application, Malmaison was seeking permission to operate until 2 a.m. weeknights and 3 a.m. weekends at 3401 K St., where the road is also commonly known as Water Street. The application states that the restaurant will have a capacity of 81 seats and 241 total occupants.
The owners and their attorney, Stephen O’Brien, could not be reached immediately for comment, but Citizens Association of Georgetown board member Karen Cruse said O’Brien told her last week that Malmaison had not changed its requests since that original application.
Residents of the nearby Water Street Condominium raised concerns about noise and other disruptions from new late-night activity in the area. The neighborhood commission filed a protest last year against a liquor license for the property absent a voluntary agreement between the community and the business, said Starrels, whose single-member district includes the Malmaison site.
In the meantime, the District reduced the level of funding it contributes to reimbursable police detail programs, in which uniformed Metropolitan Police Department officers are paid to provide overtime security. Starrels said the shift complicated negotiations: Neighbors were unwilling to support an establishment with liquor and live entertainment without the police protection, he said.
“It’s at the very end of Water Street in an area that is not typically a busy area. There’s nothing else down there,” said Starrels. “We just think that a reimbursable [detail] is vital to keeping things orderly down there.”
Starrels said the remaining negotiations for the voluntary agreement appear to be about wording, not substance. “We’re just waiting for the language to be finalized at this point, about the reimbursable detail,” he said.
The owners of Malmaison also operate Café Bonaparte at 1522 Wisconsin Ave., among other D.C. restaurants.
This article appears in the Sept. 14 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.
By Brady Holt...Current Staff Writer...
The developer of a planned Georgetown condominium building withdrew his concept from consideration at last week’s Old Georgetown Board meeting, following criticisms from neighbors and the advisory neighborhood commission a few days earlier.
Chevy Chase, Md.-based Willco Residential hoped to build a four-story, seven-unit building on the site of a 2,700-square-foot gravel parking lot at Grace Street and Cecil Place, Willco president Gary Cohen said at last Monday’s neighborhood commission meeting.
But after many meeting attendees criticized the scale of his plans — and nearly everyone who spoke objected to the proposed design — Cohen said he would consider revisions.
One neighbor who said he “agreed with the idea” of the condos remarked to a companion at the meeting that the boxy glass, metal and brick building Cohen showed in renderings was “the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen.”
“I think it’s a bad architectural design when you have a building turn its back on the neighborhood,” he told Cohen later in the meeting, criticizing the main entrance for opening to an alley instead of the street. “It’s essentially saying, ‘We’re not part of you.’”
“When you say ‘turning your back,’ I hear you. I’m going to work with my architect on that,” Cohen replied. Other aspects of the design, he said, came from meetings with the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts — the parent organization of the Old Georgetown Board — where he was asked to model the design on the Georgetown Safeway.
Thomas Luebke, secretary of the Fine Arts Commission, said Willco representatives asked to have their project removed from last Thursday’s agenda but didn’t explain why. Cohen didn’t respond to messages.
In addition to Old Georgetown Board approval, Willco will need Board of Zoning Adjustment exemptions to bring the front and side of the building closer to the property line than allowed, and to provide none of the four required parking spaces on site.
At last week’s meeting, several residents said leasing four spaces from a private garage would be insufficient for a seven-unit building. “The parking is impossible on that street,” said one neighbor. Cohen said there isn’t room to build a garage under the property.
Michele Jacobson, who lives near the site on Cecil Place, said the project should be smaller and use cues from nearby buildings.
“Most people were fine with the concept of the use; they were fine with the development,” Jacobson said in an interview. “They figured that was inevitable. But the concern was particularly about the massiveness of the building on the site and the impact it would have on the narrow streets.”
Bill Starrels, the neighborhood commissioner whose single-member district includes the parcel, agreed that Willco was simply trying to squeeze too much development onto a tiny lot. “The building site would be better suited for either a few town houses or a smaller building that would be a more effective use of the space involved,” Starrels told Cohen at the meeting.
In a subsequent interview, Starrels said Cohen didn’t tell the commission why he skipped the Old Georgetown Board meeting. But Starrels said he didn’t think the plans were ready for prime time.
“Nothing about the project seemed to fit the neighborhood,” Starrels said. “It didn’t pay any homage to the historic nature of that section of Georgetown, the scale of that section of Georgetown, the parking needs of that section of Georgetown.”
Neighborhood commissioners voted 5-0 to request that the Old Georgetown Board reject the plans as presented. Luebke said it’s not clear when Willco will return to the board or whether the firm will bring revised plans.
This article appears in the Sept. 7 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.