Seven Georgetowns: Upper Georgetown

GM is continuing with reprinting his series Seven Georgetowns. Today we visit the great north.

This week on Seven Georgetowns, GM is going to discuss the northern tip of Georgetown, which he uncreatively has dubbed: Upper Georgetown.

It probably makes sense to first describe the official northern boundaries of Georgetown itself, to help explain Upper Georgetown’s boundary. Georgetown is the only neighborhood in DC that is actually defined by federal law. (The definition is necessary to describe where exactly the Old Georgetown Act applies). The northern boundary of Georgetown, according to that definition, runs east along Reservoir Rd. from just west of the hospital. Then it heads north down the center of 35th St. to Whitehaven Parkway. From there it runs east of Wisconsin and meanders through the woods until it hits Rock Creek.

Upper Georgetown’s southern border is Book Hill, which comes to a natural northern end at the library. The eastern border is a bit fuzzier. GM figures that at some point between 32nd and Wisconsin, R St. and S St. stop being Georgetown Heights and start being Upper Georgetown, but it’s not a bright line.

Upper Georgetown is largely defined by its commercial district, which is distinct from the Book Hill commercial district below and Glover Park above. It’s a commercial district that has struggled quite a bit over the last five years or so. Some storefronts have been vacant for years. Others have become vacant more recent, yet still don’t look like they’re going to be filled any time soon. For instance, the Sweet Frog frozen yogurt shop closed last year, and relatively soon GM heard plans for a bakery. But that hasn’t panned out. (ed: It panned out! And Fresh Baguette has been a huge addition.)

And yet despite these challenges, Upper Georgetown has a lot to offer in terms of shops. The most obvious asset is the Safeway. Before the advent of Whole Foods around town, this was the supermarket, which is why it was called the Social Safeway. But nobody calls it that anymore. And even thought the rebuilt store is nicer than its predecessor, it’s not as fancy as some of the other grocery stores that have opened around the city in recent years. But it’s a perfectly fine store that has just about any staple you’d need.

Upper Georgetown also has three quality sit-down restaurants with Bistrot Lepic, Shanghai Lounge, and Cafe Divan. It also has a handful of cheap eats with Ledo’s Pizza/Casbah Cafe, Paisano’s Pizza, and a Starbucks (two if you count the one in the Safeway). Hop, Cask and Barrel is a fantastic liquor store.

This stretch also boasts a small group of fashion boutiques and salons.

On the civic side, Upper Georgetown has a lot to offer for such a small quarter. It’s got Hardy Middle School, which offers sixth through eighth grades. Moreover, the new and experimental Mysa School, which offers Kindergarten through fifth, meets in the historic Filmore School on 35th St. ed: Mysa has since moved to Columbia Heights (Duke Ellington School, which is just across 35th St. is not in upper Georgetown, or Georgetown at all. But whether due to ignorance or to give the articles more frisson, journalists often say the school is in Georgetown).

And of course Upper Georgetown has Jelleff. This includes the historic gym, a well used turf field, and a pool. Unlike the Volta Park pool, the Jelleff pool has fewer millennials taking up space staring at their phones, and more families with young kids actually using the pool. (Since it’s doesn’t get much in the way of shade, the Jelleff pool is warmer too, which is nice in the early summer, but less desirable during the dog days, when you want your swims to feel less like a bath.)

Oh, and upper Georgetown has the fantastic weekly farmers market on Saturday and flea market on Sunday.

A big change is on the horizon for upper Georgetown. It’s the construction going on just north in Glover Park. Most of the focus has been on how a Trader Joe’s will open there (ed: it opened). But a potentially bigger impact will be felt by the 226 new apartments built above. With that many new residents just across Whitehaven from upper Georgetown, the demand for more shops and restaurants should grow. And with so many vacant storefronts, there will be plenty of places where that demand could be met. (We could have avoided this downturn if Safeway had taken advantage of the reconstruction of the Safeway to build apartments.) Will this revitalize the upper Georgetown commercial district? We’ll see.


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One response to “Seven Georgetowns: Upper Georgetown

  1. Thomas Neale

    1. With respect to apartments, Safeway was probably limited by height restrictions in planning the existing (the new and current) store. Even though the structure is only two levels, the height is roughly equivalent to three or four stories on a domestic building.

    2. According to a long-departed lady friend, the area in yellow, along 35th Street, NW, between Reservoir Road and Whitehaven Parkway, which predated Burleith, was known as “Browntown,” or “Bryantown.”

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