Georgetown will temporarily widen sidewalks, but it’s complicated

In the past, Georgetown has temporarily widened M Street and Wisconsin Avenue sidewalks several times for weekend events. (Credit: Google Street View)

Georgetown is working on giving pedestrians more socially-distanced breathing room by taking away some street parking to widen sidewalks, but it will be different than what has been done in the past.

Georgetown has temporarily widened M Street and Wisconsin Avenue sidewalks several times for weekend events, such as area universities’ parents days and family weekends, by using portable crowd control barriers on streets. But that won’t work for longer-term plans.

Current plans, being led by the Georgetown Business Improvement District, are being designed to keep wider sidewalks in place through at least Phase Four of the District’s coronavirus pandemic reopening plan. That could be anywhere from this fall to sometime next year.

So, it has to be both safe and attractive. “It can’t look like a war zone or a construction zone,” Georgetown BID CEO Joe Sternlieb told WTOP.

“And what we are balancing is what is important for business functions, such as the ability to take delivery of goods, get their trash hauled out, and for those restaurants doing take-out and delivery, to make it easy for them. And we have to figure out what is safe for pedestrians, for bikers and cars, and for buses to operate. And it all has to be ADA compliant,” Sternlieb said.

That will mean a combination of planters, water-filled barriers and jersey barriers sturdy enough and safe enough to be in place for months, yet still not a permanent infrastructure change.

The Georgetown BID calls it “longer-term temporary,” because it has to be reversible.

The project is being funded by both the Georgetown BID and the District.

The Georgetown BID is waiting for the District Department of Transportation to complete repaving along M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, but hopes to start the project by late-June at the latest.

It will take away a lot of already hard-to-come-by street parking in Georgetown.

“We are talking with parking garage operators to restructure pricing to be more consumer friendly with lower hourly rates; we will need for customers to come back,” Sternlieb said.

Many Georgetown restaurants are open for take-out and delivery, and those with outside dining are open for patrons.

Most Georgetown retailers remain closed, waiting for Phase Two of the District’s reopening guidelines, which will allow them to reopen their doors for shoppers to come in.

Several Georgetown businesses were looted or vandalized during last weekend’s otherwise largely peaceful demonstrations following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

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Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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