Jelleff Center Feasibility Study: Déjà Vu 


The District Department of Parks and Recreation will conduct a feasibility study and community survey in the next few weeks to determine the best way to renovate — or perhaps completely reconstruct — the Jelleff Recreation Center into a Georgetown-area community center, according to DPR official Tommie Jones. Jones made the announcement at the Nov. 30 meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E. The project is expected to be a top priority for newly elected Ward 2 Council representative Brooke Pinto.

Sound familiar? Déjà vu all over again?

Yes, this is the same Jelleff Recreation Center, located at 3265 S St. NW, about which The Georgetowner wrote on Jan. 21, 2019: “They’re getting $7 million!” The money had been budgeted to bring the building into Americans with Disabilities Act and safety code compliance. That was after almost 100 Jelleff supporters met at the Georgetown public library in July of 2018 to demand input. Some had proposed extending the project to create a community center, as well as a home for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, the building’s original sponsor.

In response, the ANC posted a 10-question survey online to elicit a consensus of ideas for the project; DPR promised at least two more community meetings.

But the meetings never happened. The ANC forwarded to the mayor several resolutions to incorporate community input and to put funding for Jelleff renovations in the 2020 budget. Then, in September of 2019, The Georgetowner reported that Council member Jack Evans “dropped a bomb full of money” at the Oct. 7 meeting of the Burleith Citizens Association: Mayor Muriel Bowser had budgeted $25 million to tear down and completely rebuild Jelleff the following year. “It will be reconstructed according to input from the community,” Evans said at the time.

That plan was overtaken by stunning events in the months to come. In January of this year, Evans resigned his Council seat of 25 years and was replaced by Pinto. When the coronavirus pandemic closed down the District, along with the drop in revenue, some of the reserve funds the city had allocated to projects were no longer available. The new budget, passed in the spring of 2020 to replace the one passed in January, did not include the expanded project money for Jelleff.

So now it’s back to the future. New faces at DPR are operationalizing the Ready2Play 20-year master plan, which will guide the development of recreation facilities large and small throughout the District, according to Jones. The reconfiguration of Jelleff into a community center is one element.

Pinto and the ANC called on community groups to offer their input, ideas and suggestions. There will be resolutions. “The DPR assures us they have received and will consider all the input from last year’s surveys, meetings and propositions, as well as update them,” Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kishan Putta told The Georgetowner. Putta estimates the entire project will take two to three years for planning, possible demolition and construction.

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