Long-awaited “Georgetown Gateway” designs for three of the four major entrances into Georgetown — at K and 19th Streets, M and 28th Streets and the Georgetown side of Key Bridge — are ready for review. Presentations are planned at community organizations over the next few weeks, including the April 30 meeting of the Georgetown-Burleith advisory neighborhood commission.
The design commission for the Georgetown Gateways project was awarded last February to architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle by the Georgetown Business Improvement District after a competitive bidding process.
“Each of the sites is unique and has different challenges,” said Jamie Scott, the BID’s director of planning and economic development. “Our goal has been that each gateway uniquely reflects their particular placement’s history. The K Street gateway may reflect more of the industrial history of that site, while M Street will have a civic feel and the Key Bridge site will recall the busy jurisdictional crossing of the bridge from Virginia into the District.”
But at the same time the designers have aimed for a recognizable theme and common elements — such as signage, lighting and landscaping — though each gateway may be constructed with different materials, responding to each site’s requirements and feel, Scott explained.
For instance, the word “Georgetown” will be clearly visible at each site in large block letters, but handled in different ways. At K Street, the sign will be placed high above in an overhead girder of the Whitehurst Freeway. At M Street and at Key Bridge, signage will be embedded or even carved in an entrance wall.
A common theme at each site, according to the current design plans, will be at least one large empty frame. At Key Bridge, a high narrow frame painted in earth tones will be placed in a newly constructed traffic diamond across from Francis Scott Key Park, visible from the Virginia end of the bridge.
On K Street, a series of girders will be illuminated to mark a pathway of frames along the waterfront. On M Street, a new pocket park across from the Four Seasons Hotel will highlight a large horizontal frame focusing on Georgetown’s main thoroughfare.
At all the gateway sites, crosswalks for pedestrians and bicyclists will be clearly distinguished using unique and contrasting paving materials for safety and visibility. Additional pop-up and pocket parks and gardens, provided with garden furniture and architectural features, will be up for discussion at various planning meetings in the coming months, according to the BID.
The K Street entrance will probably be the first to be constructed, while more design work and complicated approvals are still needed for the others, Scott said. Since the M Street sign will be placed on National Park Service property, that agency’s approval process must be followed before submitting it to the Old Georgetown Board. The Key Bridge signage and traffic triangle will require approval by the District Department of Transportation. All the designs will be reviewed by the Old Georgetown Board, in a process that can take months.
The exact location of the northern entrance to Georgetown on Wisconsin Avenue is yet to be completely determined, according to BID CEO Joe Sternlieb. “The natural place would be at the top of the hill at R Street and Wisconsin next to the Georgetown public library,” Sternlieb told The Georgetowner. But the semi-official border of Georgetown places that entrance a few blocks further north, at Whitehaven Street.
Community input is encouraged.