Funding Announced for Ellington Field, Rebuilt Jelleff Center

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Delano Hunter, director of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, in front of the Jelleff Center on S Street NW. Courtesy DPR.

Jack Evans, Georgetown’s Ward 2 Council member for more than 25 years — the longest-serving Council member in D.C. history — dropped two bombs full of money on the neighborhood at an Oct. 7 community meeting. Organized by the Burleith Citizens Association, the meeting focused on the future of the playing field connected with the Duke Ellington School of the Arts — as well as the field at the Jelleff Community Center.

Emerging after months of ongoing investigations into possible conflicts of interest, a re-energized Evans told the crowd gathered at Washington International School, behind the Ellington School: “All you have to do is decide by November what you want to do at Ellington field and how much it will cost, and I can get it in next year’s D.C. budget.”

As for the Jelleff Center, the contentious $7-million plan to bring the building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act apparently is no more. Mayor Muriel Bowser has budgeted $25 million to tear down and rebuild the 50-year-old building, which houses the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and an extremely well-used basketball court, said Evans. He added that it will be reconstructed in accordance with community input.

To many in the room, the news was surprising but welcome. Concerns that the $7 million budgeted to make the aging building ADA compliant have been heating up for over a year. They first surfaced at a contentious town meeting in May of 2018 with the Department of Parks and Recreation, which manages the Jelleff Center. Various community surveys about what residents really wanted done with the building and requests for meetings followed.

A general consensus had been building that Jelleff should be rebuilt as a multiple-use senior, community and athletic center. Suggested remodeling plans included two playing courts, modern locker and shower rooms, space for classes and yoga and even a full kitchen for cooking courses and catering. Longtime center manager Bob Stowers has called for the entire building to be torn down and redone as a community center, as had been done in neighborhoods elsewhere in the city,

Georgetown-Burleith Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kishan Putta, who hosted the Burleith town meeting about the Ellington field along with BCA President Eric Langenbacher, said he had heard of the idea this summer. He again urged that the entire planning process for the new Jelleff Center building be completely transparent and involve all community voices and representatives,

At least at this point, the rebuilding of Jelleff is not related directly to the contract between DPR and Maret School for use of the Jelleff playing field. The renewed 10-year contract includes commitment of almost $1 million by Maret to refurbish the playing field and contribute to the center’s renovation. In exchange, Maret, a private school, gets priority scheduling of the field for 20 weeks during prime after-school hours in the fall and spring.

Many in the community think the contract does not consider the increasing need for playing space by nearby and growing Hardy Middle School and community groups. The Georgetown-Burleith ANC passed three resolutions calling for more transparency in the contract proceedings,

On Monday, Oct. 21, at 11 a.m., a roundtable will be held at the John A. Wilson Building to hear public opinion about the contract and access to Jelleff’s playing field. Concerned residents are being encouraged to sign up to speak at the roundtable, organized by the Committee on Recreation and Youth Affairs. “Over 3,000 people have expressed their support of this hearing,” Putta told The Georgetowner.

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