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July 5th ANC Wrap-up

Furin's is closing, the Georgetown Park Mall is courting tenants and Tudor Place is still working towards a preservation plan.

The Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC2E) considered several large development projects Tuesday evening, but two smaller projects seemed to draw genuine interest from those in attendance. Not because of planned construction, but because of the implications of the requests.

First, is closing. The owner, Bernie Furin, has decided to close his bakery, so he sold his building and the new owner is currently leasing it back to him until he retires. The new owners were before the ANC seeking exception from floor area ratio requirements so that the first and second floor can all be leased for non-residential space. Currently some 350 square feet are still required to be zoned as residential.

Before evaluating the plan, Commissioner Tom Birch commented, that the "community is devastated that Furin’s is closing."

Second, Herbert Sanborn is a local artist who owns a home at 1679 35th Street in Georgetown and works out of a studio in Maryland.

He is trying to convert a part of his home into a rentable space. He explained that the current economic situation does not favor artists like him who create large projects that require sizable studios and big buyers.

Sanborn's explanation for his need for an accessory apartment- to help pay his mortgage and taxes, and to ultimately keep his home- put a human face on the current zoning re-write underway. 

The ANC last month objected to the apartment because it created an exception the commissioners feared could be abused by future owners of the property.

The exception "would let someone have up to 6 people in that space" said Commissioner Ron Lewis. He added that until Georgetown is able to carve out a rule in the new zoning rewrite, the commission could not risk approving the exception.

Sanborn, however, described his role in converting his home from a poorly-kept student home into what it is today and his efforts to improve the condition of other student homes on his street.

He was at times bewildered at the perceived inflexibility of the ANC.

The ANC held firm on its previous decision, but Commissioner Lewis admitted, "it really doesn’t matter what we say when [the Office of Planning] comes down in your favor...I think you’re going to get the exception."

Sanborn received a spontaneous round of applause from the room as he left the podium.

Dumbarton Oaks
The neighbors of the on Wisconsin Avenue showed up to express concerns over the updated plan. Last month and the both weighed in with concerns over the massing of the proposed new property.

Tuesday, one neighbor of the project, Julian Raby, said despite modifications, the new addition looks like its "being bolted on back and on top" of the existing structure.

The architect for Dumbarton Oaks said he would continue to work to address the concerns of the surrounding neighbors. The project goes back before the OGB for review Thursday.

Tudor Place
The revised plan for this historic property drew a large crowd of neighbors, though only a few neighbors were able to speak.

Leslie Buhler, executive director of Tudor Place Historic House and Garden, said the plan has had two changes made since the last time it came before the ANC in October.

First, the gate house has been moved from the north side to the south side of the 31st Street entrance. Second, the proposed education building has been moved off of the historic easement line.

The adjustments come in response to National Park Service review.

The OGB provided comments on the plan and Buhler said the project team took them into consideration, but that no other changes have been made in response to them.

The ANC "urged" Tudor place to consider again the OGB design comments. The Commissioners also pushed for the project to pursue a request of the Board of Zoning Adjustment to help resolve any conflicts that would arise between zoning and historic preservation standards.

Georgetown Park Mall

The architects for Vornado Realty presented plans for updates to the Georgetown Park Mall to the ANC Tuesday. Jon Eisen of the Eisen Group presented plans for updated windows and entrances, a roll-up loading dock door and new glazing on the first and second story on a small portion of the M Street facade nearest Dean and Delucca.

A representative for Vornado told commissioners that during conversations with several "high-end" retailers, a glazed facade to broadcast the store's presence was discussed. The mall owners hope to make the entire lower level one retailer, but the store will need an "M Street presence," hence the glazed second floor facade.

The ANC objected to the glazing and the roll-up door, but spoke favorably of other adjustments.

williamslassiter@aol.com July 06, 2011 at 04:05 PM
FURINS,SAD,SAD,SAD!!!! Another landmark gone .We are looking to purchase a new home but are rethinking Georgetown , why pay the HIGH price ,as it fast becomes anywhere america!! Realtors beware,many of our friends are feeling the same way,fast going the way of Dupont!! Mall store heaven!!!
Lorraine Rose July 07, 2011 at 06:50 PM
This is terrible news about Furin's closing. Is there anything we can do to convince Mr. Furin's not to go? Can anyone else take over this wonderful one-of-a-kind bakery, breakfast place, luncheonette, with all its amazing charm. Please don't go.

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