Friday, November 02, 2012

A More Accessible Georgetown, and Other BID Ideas


For a guy who has spent his career hopscotching between the public and private sectors, heading up the Georgetown Business Improvement District could be the ideal job. Joe Sternlieb, a Northwest DC resident and former vice president for acquisitions with EastBanc, the DC-based developer, started his new job as CEO of the Georgetown BID in mid-October. It’s his second round of employment with one of the city’s BIDs; Sternlieb spent ten years as part of the Downtown BID at a time when that area was just beginning to bloom. Before that, he spent time as a staff director for the DC City Council and worked on social justice issues.

Reporters and others focused on the city’s development scene might know Sternlieb as one of the chattiest and most accessible folks in the business. Here, he talked to DCMud about his new gig.

DCMud: Why did you decide to work for the Georgetown BID?


Joe Sternlieb: I’ve never had more fun than when I was working with the BIDs and I thought it could be a really fun and interesting opportunity to apply what I’ve learned in last 20-some years. And it’s in a new and interesting environment, quite different from the Downtown BID.

DCMud: How is it so different?

Sternlieb: When I started working for the Downtown BID, there were something like 40-50 surface parking lots, few restaurants, and very few people living there. We were trying to give definition to a place while development was occurring from private sector. [In contrast], Georgetown is really well-defined and developed: it’s got a vibrant retail and restaurant presence, and all these other physical attributes, from the C&O Canal and the waterfront to historic neighborhoods. The task here is how to make it appear and be a really accessible place.

DCMud: What do you mean, “accessible”?

Sternlieb: A lot of people perceive it as difficult to get to. There are lots of ways to change that. [For example], there’s a huge number of underground parking spaces in Georgetown that are closed on the weekend; demand isn’t high because there’s street parking. But the latter creates a lot of congestion. So I’d like to look at how to improve congestion parking. I also think we need a lot more bike racks, cabbie stations, and Circulator service. I think of transportation the same way DDOT does: considering all options, including cars, buses, bikeshare, pedestrians—it’s all a single system.

DCMud: Georgetown used to be the place to go in DC, but there are so many dynamic neighborhoods now. How do you plan to compete?

Sternlieb: We’ll need to work harder to remind people that Georgetown is here. We’re working with local merchants to think about ways to attract people back to Georgetown; we have opportunities to do open markets and special events, and we’re also working closely with home furnishings and design retailers to create a real urban design district.

DCMud:
The new park along the river is such a terrific resource—do you have plans for it?

Sternlieb: Because that park is owned by the National Park Service, things like vendors selling food can’t happen there. We haven’t yet come up with a program for concerts, movies, etc. to occur there, but that’s not to say we can’t. It’s on our radar screen and we’ll be spending time with the Park Service to figure out how to better integrate the neighborhood and the park.

DCMud: How do you define your job, and the role of the BID?

Sternlieb: BIDs can help facilitate programs, projects, and solutions to problems that individuals might not be able to tackle on their own. It’s a middle space between the private, governmental, and residential sector. For example, the regional bus map that WMATA uses was developed out of the Downtown BID. I see us doing things like that here—some demonstration projects, sometimes convening a bunch of people to look at something and try to develop a better plan.

Washington, D.C., real estate development news

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like his "all of the above" approach to making the are more accessible. Bike racks, cabbie stations, and circulator service...it's important that we explore a variety of transportation modes. Ridesharing is another cheap way to get around, particularly with the new apps that let you offer to pay nearby drivers to take you somewhere. Here's one of the apps: http://us.amovens.com/en but there are others out there too.

Anonymous said...

As the rest of the city revitalize (think H Street, U Street, 14th Street, Ballpark District, Gallery Place, etc.) Georgetown is going to be has-been in terms of attracting the marquee brands and restaurants. Embassy Euro-trash and Georgetown students will continue to rule the roost along M Street, but the city's hipsters have already voted with their feet. Joe Sterlieb will be fighting a losing battle to attract the best and brightest in resturants and retail unless Georgetown bites the bullet and demands a Metro stop. Back in the 1970's the Georgetowners were worried about the folks "East of the park" (you know, 'those people') invading their prim neighborhoods. Now they'll be lucky if anybody comes at all. Change is good. Competition is better.

Adam L on Nov 2, 2012, 2:59:00 PM said...

Anonymous 2:32 doesn't know what he's talking about. A Metro stop does not make a neighborhood (just ask H Street). The myth that Georgetown opposed a Metro station because of "undesirables" coming into the neighborhood is just that- a myth. Georgetown was never seriously considered for a Metro station due to complications of geography that still exist today.

That said, I do think Mr. Sterlieb has his hands full. It's difficult to get anything new or exciting in such an established neighborhood... and the trend towards many chain retailers and restaurants is not necessary the character Georgetown wants, but that's what their getting. Reversing that trend will be a challenge.

Anonymous said...

Adam. According to Peter Schrag's "Great Society Subway" we're both correct.

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/423/georgetown-never-blocked-metro-stop/

Georgetown indeed was never considered for a Metro stop for the aforementioned construction problems you alluded to. That being said, there clearly was neighborhood animus on having a Metro stop for same reasons that stalled public transportation efforts out in similar suburbs in Atlanta and Boston, fear of inner-city crime spreading to their neighborhoods.

Given that a Georgetown Metro ISN'T in the cards anyway, its probably best to focus on getting DC's streetcar system running to G-town. DDOT's efforts on rehabbing 37th and O and P Streets while keeping the old streetcar tracks in place seems to indicate that the city is thinking along the same lines. http://fixingoandpstreets.com/

Lets hope the NIMBYs in Georgetown don't put the brakes on that too, either actively or passively.

Anonymous said...

Zachary Schrag, not Peter Schrag,

And "cabbie station"? Do you mean a taxi stand, or do you mean CaBi station, as in Capital Bikeshare?

Ed said...

DC has major holes in the Metro system, Georgetown is just one. There isn't a Metro stop between Foggy Bottom and Tenleytown going up Wisconsin. The Metro map is designed to look like the stops are distributed throughout the city, but if you look at an actual map of Metro stops, there are huge swaths that have missed out. Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Glover Park, Logan Circle, and the north side of Capitol Hill are all inner neighborhoods that are far from a stop. The city should develop another east-west line, until then DC's Metro will never be a great system.

Anonymous said...

"Shocker" that Georgetown's most active local development company has one of their officers heading BID ...

Nathaniel Martin said...

Joe Sternlieb is a smart, good guy. Glad to see him in this role.

Jamie Gorski said...

Joe Sternlieb is bright, talented and knows how to get the job done. This is good news for Georgetown.

xmal said...

Really excited to see someone with broad experience and appreciation of city-wide dynamics coming into this position.

Three great ways of improving accessibility to Georgetown:
1. Walking and Biking: Work with NPS to improve connections from surrounding neighborhoods via the Key Bridge, K Street, and Rose Park all of which are currently too narrow and unpleasant to use. Same goes for the M Street sidewalks.
2. Dedicated bus lanes on M Street: Metro's busiest bus line (the 30s) already runs through Georgetown but most people wouldn't think to use it because it gets stuck in traffic. Since building a subway will take a long time, do the next best thing and build a surface-subway for buses with dedicated lanes comfortable stops, and short headways.
3. Separated blue line: The only long-term solution to enable Georgetown to compete with more centrally-located neighborhoods by drawing customers from further away. Start planning now even if it will take another decade to build.

Good luck!

IMGoph on Nov 11, 2012, 2:34:00 PM said...

I'd like to see some clarification based on what the anonymous commenter said on Nov 2nd at 4:50 pm. Did he say "cabbie" or "CaBi"?

Wishing him all the best of luck to get NPS to let them work on programming the park. It's a no-brainer, but when it comes to urban parks, NPS has no brain, so that'll be tough! :)

 

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