GDS Plans to Share Campus Proposal Next Spring
At a meeting with residents last month, Georgetown Day School announced that it would begin developing a proposal for an expanded Tenleytown campus in December, with the goal of presenting an initial plan to the community in April of next year. The private school purchased the Safeway and Euro Motorcars Volvo properties adjacent to its upper school on Davenport Street in June 2014 with the intention of eventually moving its lower and middle schools from their current MacArthur Boulevard location.
Head of School Russell Shaw, who also met with residents this past July, informed community members that GDS had hired Wonder, By Design, a Chicago-based firm, to help the school think through the types of programs that would drive education at GDS over the next few decades, as well as how the school could meet both its and the surrounding community’s needs.
“[GDS] was founded to be and wants to be a part of the community – not apart from it,” Shaw emphasized as he reiterated the school’s interest in hearing from Tenleytown residents about their desires for and concerns about the new campus.
GDS hopes to be able to meet one clear priority for the community – attracting a grocer to a planned mixed-use development at the former car dealership. Under the terms of its agreement with Safeway, Georgetown Day School is prohibited from developing a grocery store at the current Safeway location, but can include a store of up to 18,000 square feet at the Euro Motorcars site. Shaw said the school is currently exploring how trucks could access the site to make deliveries and what types of grocers could thrive in a space that size.
In response to Safeway’s efforts to apply similar restrictive covenants to the sale of its Palisades property, the DC Council passed emergency legislation in October that would prohibit grocery chains from including restrictions on future food retailers in property sales agreements. As with the Tenleytown store, Safeway pulled back from a planned redevelopment of the Palisades location, deciding instead to sell following the company’s merger with Albertsons, another American grocery chain.
While the legislation applies to future sales contracts, residents at the GDS meeting inquired whether it could be used to pressure Safeway to lift restrictions placed on the Tenleytown property. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Jonathan Bender urged GDS and Shaw “to publicly and strongly take the stance that Safeway should release [the school] from the covenant.” In response, Shaw diplomatically stated that he would “certainly not be opposed to more flexibility.”
Beyond the intended inclusion of a grocer, Shaw was able to share few other details about GDS’ plans for a residential and retail development. He did indicate that the school views the development as key to generating income to make it less dependent on tuition and allow it to be more affordable to a broad range of students. As such, GDS would retain ownership of the property, developing rental units as opposed to condominiums. Shaw was unable to speculate how many units might be included in the development, but did say that priority was being placed on two-bedroom apartments that could serve young families, as well as older residents seeking age-in-place options.
Tenleytown residents will have to wait for details about the scale and density of the mixed-use development. However, Shaw attempted to reassure those attending the community meeting that the school intends to create “a vibrant area that people are going to want to be a part of,” and has engaged development and traffic management experts to help mitigate any potential negative impacts on the surrounding neighborhood.
Shaw concluded the meeting by encouraging residents to provide input on the campus and commercial projects. Emails can be sent to TalktoGDS@GDS.org. In addition, another community meeting will be held on December 1 at 7:00 p.m. for those who were unable to attend the November meeting.
For more information about Georgetown Day School’s plans for the Tenleytown campus and to sign up for regular updates, visit the school’s website at http://www.gds.org/CampusPlanning.