‘Final’ Jelleff Renovation Plans Revealed by DPR       

In the last three years there have been about a half dozen town hall, stakeholder or outreach meetings with D.C.’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) regarding the dynamic ever-changing plans for the renovation of the Jelleff Recreation and Community Center at 3265 S. St. NW.

At previous meetings,  there were always large crowds of eager users and advocates to make suggestions, demand commitments, applaud and criticize the latest plans. But at this so-called “final meeting” on May 2, the meeting room at the Georgetown Public Library was barely full and everyone seemed subdued — tired maybe, a bit skeptical. But hopeful, too, that at least some parts of the dream renovation would happen, although that is now projected to occur in 2026.

In 2018, the renovation plans started off modestly enough. Seven million dollars was being budgeted by the District Council to make the highly popular single basketball court and well-used 1950s building — that has housed the Georgetown Boys and Girls Club for decades — and public swimming pool, legally compliant. The plans were examined by advisory neighborhood commissioners Elizabeth Miller and Kishan Putta at the time. 

Soon, that amount grew to $28 million. Heads were spinning with plans for a possible three-story community recreation and senior center with classrooms, kitchen, two gyms and a moved and renovated swimming pool. The planning was delayed but remained active during the anxious days of the pandemic, the consequent flush of money and new bureaucrats in D.C. government with eager ideas to make things better.

But the “finding a contractor” planned phases were delayed several times, as permits were not obtained in time and costs went up. Although the total budget remains, the project has shrunk.

As of May 2, the renovated building includes a fully refurbished gym and a half-size auxiliary gym. There are men’s and women’s and family bathrooms, as well as large locker rooms, but without showers or benches for dressing. Several activity and multipurpose rooms for games, yoga, and fitness and a kitchen area are to be configured on the first, second and partial third floors.

Near the pool, there will be a separate room for lifeguards The pool lounge area and new playground outside the building will be partially covered with a solar shading roof.

“There is lots of flexibility for different usages in most all the activity rooms with moveable walls and the like,” Peter Nohrden, DPR Project Manager assured the crowd at the unrecorded meeting.

But several in the audience were concerned about getting more space. “Could we lower the ceiling in the planned spacious, light-filled reception room and lobby with high-ceilings to gain space on the second floor?” asked commissioner Putta. “That would be a decision for the construction contractor, who is expected to be selected this summer,” Nohrden answered.

Continuation of activities on the adjacent soccer field used by hundreds of people from throughout the Washington area during the construction period was a concern. “Just please, hear us on three things,” urged long-time Jelleff Karate Club founder David Ernst: “Do no harm;  continue the existing programs; provide safe parking.”

Everyone stayed to the end to hear one person: Jelleff’s long time venerable Sports Director Bob Stowers.

“Well, I haven’t that much to say,” he said in his expected modest way. “We need more space, especially for a second full gym. I agree with looking into expanding the third floor. And I agree with those who say we don’t need large locker rooms. With no showers nor benches, few will use them and probably will pile their stuff in the restrooms or gym. That space could be better used.”

But Stowers also had the final word of the night: “Be grateful for what we’re getting. A new building! Way beyond the original handicap-compliant renovations originally planned.”

“It’s good progress,” Putta told The Georgetowner after the meeting. “More gym space and more usability for the after-school programs than before. Hopefully, we can move to construction by the end of the year, since residents have already been waiting six years.”




2 comments on “‘Final’ Jelleff Renovation Plans Revealed by DPR       ”

  • Robert Stowers says:

    The comment I made after the meeting about locker rooms was referring to one of our Virginia clubs which no longer has showers or lockers.

  • DCer says:

    This is nice but hopefully once its finally complete they won’t just let all the equipment fall into disrepair like what’s happening with the Palisades fitness room.

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