Checking In with Joe Sternlieb

Joe Sternlieb | Photo Courtesy of DCRE

Last time we saw Joe Sternlieb, CEO of the Georgetown Business Improvement District, better known as the BID, after a nice lunch of crab cakes at Clyde’s, he was checking on a BID pedestrian movement counter in front of the City Tavern, then, seeing a homeless man sprawled out on the sidewalk, calling for medical assistance for the poor, lost soul. We had been talking about new BID initiatives and commercial real estate numbers.

This glimpse tells you quite a bit about Sternlieb, who lives in upper Northwest D.C. and worked previously for the Downtown BID as well as at EastBanc. He is a precise, practical and compassionate guy who wants to get things done right and bring people together. As one observer said, “He’s the best thing that ever happened to the Georgetown BID.”

Sternlieb and his BID team are working daily from their offices on Potomac Street or from the town’s sidewalks. Keeping the streets clean, helping people move around easily and assuring public safety. These basic services are primary. But other BID ideas have gotten attention too, such as the aerial gondola between Georgetown and Arlington. That idea may never get off the ground, but there are many other proposals in the BID report, called, “The Georgetown 2028 Plan.” The BID is supported by a special tax on Georgetown businesses and has a $3 million-plus annual budget. The BID explains its 15-year action plan this way: “In order to establish Georgetown as a friendlier pedestrian environment and to encourage discovery, the plan includes the addition of temporary parklets, temporary sidewalk widening programs, increased programming south of M Street and a major renewal project to restore the canal and its boat.” The 2028 action plan is detailed on

What’s new, besides a revamped newsblast on the website? Lots apparently because the BID is not at a loss for projects that better Georgetown.

The Georgetown BID has placed about 50 chairs around town for residents, workers and visitors in a pilot program “for pedestrian respite.” Chairs are near the C&O Canal, at Washington Harbour, near Dean and Deluca and on Book Hill. They were such a big hit that plans are underway to order 50 more.

The Georgetown Gongoozlers mural project (a “gongoozler” is an idler who stares at length at activity on a canal) has begun. Artist Nena Depaz, the first of four local artists commissioned to produce a mural, installed a mixed-media work on construction barricades covering the main entrance of the closed Latham Hotel at 3000 M St., NW.

The BID said that it “commissioned the temporary, rotating artworks to improve the streetscape during construction, discourage illegal graffiti, and to help support community efforts to maintain and interpret the section of the C&O Canal that is adjacent to the hotel.”

The BID also completed a signage project with the District Department of Transportation that was approved years ago by the Old Georgetown Board. You may have seen the new signs along M Street or Wisconsin Avenue, pointing the way to Georgetown University, the waterfront or Francis Scott Key Park.

Coming soon from the BID: Lighting the undersurface of the Whitehurst Freeway — that is above K Street down at the waterfront.The lights will bring safety along with an entirely different streetscape. With the touch of an iPad the color of the proposed LED lights can be changed to evoke various holiday moods.

As for that dock at C&O Canal near the mule bridge on 34th Street, the National Park Service requires that it be a fixed structure. The project has been pushed back. It will be presented to OGB in September.

Also in September: the annual Taste of Georgetown celebrates its 21st year, noon to 5 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 13, with tastes from more than 35 of the neighborhood’s best restaurants along with an expansive Craft Beer and Wine Pavilion and live entertainment. For the first time in the event’s history, the Taste will move from Wisconsin Avenue to K Street, along the Georgetown Waterfront. This longstanding event in Georgetown is hosted by the Georgetown BID and benefits the Georgetown Ministry Center’s services supporting the homeless.

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