ANC Meeting With Mayor, Biggest of 2013. Thanks to Duke Ellington

It was the extra December meeting, meant for January, taking place Dec. 19 at Georgetown Visitation Prep on 35th Street. Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E had to meet again before the Jan. 2 meeting of the Old Georgetown Board in order to get its recommendations in before that meeting, as is the routine.

It turned out to be the most highly attended meeting of 2013.

Was it because Mayor Vincent Gray came to speak? Not especially.

There were many agenda items, as is usual, including the plans for the modernization of Duke Ellington School of the Arts, plans for Hyde-Addison Elementary School and additions and alterations for the former Georgetown Theater. All big designs that deserve a review by the Georgetown-Burleith ANC, before appearing in front of the OGB.

It was students and staffers from Ellington School who swelled the audience numbers and wanted to hear the ANC’s take on the designs for the arts school’s upgrades — something the ANC does with any major design before the community. A typical ANC meeting can have an audience of 80 to 100. This meeting with curious Ellington School supporters easily doubled that figure to approximately 200. It was definitely standing room only this night. It appeared that some thought that the ANC was questioning Ellington’s position on 35th Street in Georgetown, only three blocks north of Visitation. To allay any fears, one commissioner affirmed Ellington School as a “good neighbor.”

Commissioners took major exception to the rooftop addition at the school, worrying about large receptions that might occur. After all, noise can easily travel around the neighborhood. There were other historic and design issues, too. Even planned access from Reservoir Road and other parking spots are a concern — again, routine questions during any ANC meeting about a design.

Meanwhile, the Hyde School gymnasium-auditorium addition will eventually be completed as will the reconstruction of the former Georgetown Theater on Wisconsin Avenue, only steps away from the O Street public school. Finer design questions from OGB are, of course, expected.

During his speech, earlier in the meeting, the mayor said: “I am a huge fan of Ellington School.”

Seeking re-election as mayor, Gray said he would be happy to get personally involved with any stalled negotiations, if necessary, as he considered himself “a problem solver.”

Gray was also happy to report on Washington, D.C.’s strong position: “number-one economy . . . number-one high-tech hot spot . . . number-one for college graduates.” The mayor also said that D.C. is the number-two “hippest” city. So, which is number one? It is Houston . . . really.

Gray celebrated the near completion of the City Center and the plans for a new soccer stadium. There are now 61 cranes across the city, he said. He took delight in reporting that Microsoft would take up a spot on the rebuilt St. Elizabeth’s campus. The first place outside Washington State for Microsoft, Gray noted, is in Washington, D.C.

As for the government’s partial shutdown, it did not hit the District of Columbia government hard, said the mayor, having made all employees “essential” — and with D.C.’s $1.5 billion reserve at the ready.

The mayor also said the streetcars were back — after 50 years — but was also looking on how to keep D.C. “an affordable city.”

That’s an issue for another day and the 2014 mayoral campaign. The April 1 Democratic primary is less than 100 days away.


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