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Plus—which location gets the biggest haul. By Judy Colbert
The National Gallery of Art water fountains, where they scoop out $5,000 annually. Photograph by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters/Newscom.

Throwing a coin into a fountain for good luck may date to the Roman Empire, when life-giving spirits were thought to dwell in water. These days, fountains in Washington are still magnets for coins that provide a lift to local charities or the fountains’ owners.

Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center

Number of fountains: Four.
Cleaned: Daily.
Take: Josh Wample of Cascade Fountains says a UN’s worth of currency is found, from euros to Canadian pennies.
Annual haul: Less than $1,000.
Goes to: Children’s Miracle Network.

National Building Museum

Number of fountains: One, in the Great Hall.
Cleaned: As needed.
Annual haul: About $500 in 2013.
Goes to: The museum’s general fund.

National Gallery of Art

Number of fountains: Nine.
Cleaned: East and West Garden Court fountains in West Building are cleaned with a Shop-Vac monthly; West Building’s Rotunda, Garden Café, and Sculpture Garden fountains as needed.
Annual haul: $5,000.
Goes to: Classified as unrestricted gift to the museum.

Market Square

Cleaned: Once a year.
Annual haul: $60.
Goes to: Buckets of collected coins are turned over to Alexandria Vocational Services, which uses it for picnics and other parties for clients.

National Mall

Number of fountains: 17.
Cleaned: Fountains are turned off for the winter; passersby take coins before National Park Service employees can collect them.
Annual haul: Unknown.
Goes to: National Mall fund.

This article appears in the August 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 07/31/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
He built the team into a national powerhouse over 27 seasons. By Luke Mullins

Kevin Giblin, who led the elite Georgetown Preparatory School’s lacrosse squads to two national number-one rankings during his tenure, has submitted a letter of resignation after his alleged involvement in a bar fight at Caddies on Cordell, a restaurant and bar in Bethesda, in mid-June.

Giblin’s resignation comes days after Washingtonian contacted Giblin and Georgetown Prep to answer questions about the altercation.

Today Georgetown Prep athletic director Dan Paro e-mailed lacrosse players and their parents to say he had accepted Giblin’s resignation. In his e-mail, Paro credited Giblin for leading Prep’s lacrosse team to ten IAC titles, in addition to the national rankings, and a 424-89 record during his tenure.

“Over 27 years, Coach Giblin has been honored as ‘Coach of the Year’ 12 times by various organizations, including The Washington Post, the Gazette, US Lacrosse, the Maryland State Lacrosse Coaches Association, and the National Interscholastic Lacrosse Association, among others,” Paro wrote.

Giblin did not respond to requests made last week for comment on the incident. At the time, Georgetown Prep’s Director of Communications, Patrick Coyle, said in a July 23 e-mail that “Georgetown Prep cannot comment in accordance with the school’s employee/personnel privacy policy.”

Two sources familiar with the situation said Wednesday that Giblin’s resignation came as a direct result of the bar incident. “If he had not gotten into that fight, he would still be Preps’ lacrosse coach,” said a person familiar with the situation.

Contacted Wednesday, Coyle again declined to comment. Giblin did not respond to e-mails and voicemails requesting comment.

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Posted at 03:27 PM/ET, 07/30/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The bureau going to Prince George’s or Fairfax means the District gets to redevelop a prime spot on Pennsylvania Avenue. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph by Flickr user Sammy Six.

It’s official: The District will no longer be home to Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Instead, the bureau’s next headquarters will be suburban, according to a short list of potential sites released Tuesday by the General Services Administration that includes plots in Greenbelt, Landover, and Springfield.

Since the FBI announced plans in 2012 to leave the hulking, brutalist Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest, local jurisdictions have scrambled to win the agency’s favor. The FBI is desperate to consolidate more than 11,000 regional employees­­­—currently spread across 20 sites—on a single campus, and the Hoover Building, home to about 5,800 of those workers, is showing its age after 39 years as an eyesore squatting on Washington’s most famous street.

While today’s shortlist cements it, the FBI’s departure to the suburbs was telegraphed by its requirements for a new headquarters: a plot of at least 50 acres big enough to hold a 2.1 million-square-foot building, parking, and other ancillary facilities that’s also within two and a half miles of the Capital Beltway and two miles of a Metro station.

The District’s best offer when the GSA started taking proposals in March 2013 was 40 acres on Poplar Point, an empty swath of Southeast that has frequently been touted as one of the city’s last remaining opportunities for high-value waterfront development. Republic Properties, a large private development firm, floated a tract a few blocks behind Union Station that would have displaced another federal building.

Besides wide-open spaces, the FBI also wants its new headquarters to be a fortress behind a wide security perimeter and without “close proximity to community facilities,” as the federal government’s request for expressions of interest read.

Poplar Point proved too close to densely populated Anacostia, while the site behind Union Station would be neighbored on every side. The FBI’s desire for heavily armed isolation was one of the factors that led Victor Hoskins, DC’s former deputy mayor for planning and economic development, to tell the GSA last November that the District was effectively rendered ineligible to keep the bureau within its borders.

The sites announced today, by contrast, fit the FBI’s wish-list to a T. Greenbelt’s 82-acre plot is mostly occupied right now by parking for the nearby Metro station. The Landover Mall was demolished in 2006, leaving 88 acres of open space; and the Springfield site would replace a GSA warehouse and land owned by Boston Properties.

Prince George’s County has been making the hard sell for Greenbelt, offering $112 million in subsidies to the firm that would eventually develop the site for the FBI, according to the Washington Post. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, Representatives Steny Hoyer and Donna Edwards, and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker already have a celebratory press conference scheduled for this afternoon.

But DC, home to the FBI for 106 years, shouldn’t feel like a big loser. While the District stands to forfeit $9.2 million in tax revenue in the short term, it will gain much more than that back when the Hoover Building, which takes up 6.7 acres and an entire city block, is knocked down and redeveloped, especially if its replacement is a taxable property. A report issued last year by Natwar Gandhi, then DC’s chief financial officer, suggested a privately owned, mixed-use development could generate $28 million in new annual revenue, along with several hundred new taxpaying residents. As a federal building, the Hoover Building’s only economic contribution to the District is the sales taxes FBI employees pay when they go off-campus.

“We are happy to see the solicitation process is moving along and look forward to the opportunity to redevelop the site along Pennsylvania Avenue,” reads a statement today from Jeff Miller, the current deputy mayor for economic development.

Fiscal projections aside, the FBI leaving suits city and federal planners’ desired future for Pennsylvania Avenue. With the Old Post Office turned over to the Trumps to transform into a super-luxury hotel, the roadway that’s purportedly “America’s Main Street” is about to get a jolt of commercial activity it sorely lacks. When the GSA floats 935 Pennsylvania Avenue on the real-estate market, as it has said it intends, developers will undoubtedly jump all over each other to claim the sexy address while local officials await a potential windfall that will fill city coffers a lot more than law-enforcement sentimentality will.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 03:15 PM/ET, 07/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
To accommodate the coming crush of commuters, Washingtonians will have to adopt newfangled modes of transportation—and continue to drive—just to keep pace with growth. By Harry Jaffe
Photograph by William Randall/Getty Images.

For the past seven years, as Washington began to burst its seams, DC’s former planning director Harriet Tregoning encouraged Washingtonians to use Metrorail, buses, bicycles, and their feet to navigate the city’s crowded streets. An early force in the smart-growth movement who was hired by then mayor Adrian Fenty, Tregoning pushed for streetcars and bike lanes and for changes to the Height Act to accommodate more space for a rapidly expanding populace. Her tactics unsettled drivers and other proponents of the status quo as she shoved residents toward a more crowded, less automobile-centric future.

Tregoning has departed for the federal government, but the problems she tried to solve didn’t leave with her. At the current pace, the District will add 170,000 residents and 200,000 jobs in the next 25 years, according to MoveDC, a city study of the region’s coming transportation needs that was released in June.

Washington’s best hope is not a car-free city but one that is “cars and.”

“There will be the same number of car trips as now,” says Sam Zimbabwe, associate director of planning for DC’s transportation department. “But as we add these new residents and jobs, maybe everybody who’s new will not drive as much.”

As DC Council member Tommy Wells says, “The new car is your smartphone.”

Will the passion for new modes of moving people that the city has shown under its past three administrations continue under the mayor who replaces Vincent Gray? Many of the innovations, such as the return of streetcars, that became realities under Tregoning were actually proposed when Ellen McCarthy ran the planning office from 2004 to 2007. With Tregoning’s departure, McCarthy has taken over as director. “A lot of the things that are in the process of being implemented came from plans we made a decade ago,” McCarthy says.

The question is whether the city’s rising political class and Congress have the will to adopt the most forward-thinking ideas—and pay for them. (The total cost of the recommendations laid out in the MoveDC report is $54 billion.) The leading mayoral candidates, Muriel Bowser and David Catania, both favor investment in transportation. “It’s critical to the health and welfare of the city,” Catania says.

DC planners suggest funding improvements and reducing traffic by charging a toll to drive downtown, as another major capital has done: Since 2003, British drivers have paid a “congestion charge” (currently about $19.75) to bring their cars into London’s city center on weekdays. Can the District expect drivers to pay a toll to cross into DC?

The question is cultural as much as it is practical. “We can’t forget we are the nation’s capital,” Catania says. “We can’t charge people for driving in.”

Find Harry Jaffe on Twitter at @harryjaffe. This article appears in the August 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 12:15 PM/ET, 07/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The Supreme Court could be the next stop. By Benjamin Freed

Photograph via Shutterstock.

A federal appeals court in Richmond on Monday upheld an lower court’s earlier decision ruling that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, notching another win for marriage-equality advocates and further pushing the issue back toward the Supreme Court.

A panel of judges in on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found in a 2-1 decision that Virginia’s ban, which the state’s voters adopted in 2006, “impermissibly infringe[s] on its citizens’ fundamental right to marry.” A federal district court judge struck down the ban in February, but that ruling has been stayed pending a series of appeals.

“We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable,” Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote in his majority opinion today in Bostic v. Rainey. “However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws.”

The case is being waged on behalf of two gay couples in Norfolk and Prince William counties, and the state switched to the plaintiffs’ side in January when Attorney General Mark Herring announced his office would no longer defend the ban. Instead, the ban is being defended by local court clerks in the counties where the plaintiffs attempted to obtain marriage licenses; the clerks are being defended by lawyers from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative group. The plaintiffs are also being represented by Ted Olson and David Boise, the high-profile litigators who won last year’s Supreme Court case that overturned a same-sex marriage ban in California.

Besides Virginia, the Fourth Circuit covers Maryland, where same-sex marriage became legal in 2013, and West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, which still have bans on the books. Floyd’s ruling, which only applies to Virginia, doesn’t take effect for three weeks to allow for appeals, but doesn’t include a long-term stay. The Alliance for Defending Freedom says it will appeal, though, either to the entire Fourth Circuit bench or to the Supreme Court, which could take it up next year.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 06:26 PM/ET, 07/28/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Oaks and maples are the most prominent families in the streetside forests of DC, but the city’s planting program has been fostering some interesting upstarts. By Vicky Gan
Illustrations by Lauren Joseph.

1. Red Maple, Acer rubrum

Size: 60 to 75 feet tall, 25-to-35-foot spread

Life Span: 130 years

Description: The most common tree species in the District, making up nearly 10 percent of its street trees, these super-generalists grow that one arborist calls them “weedy.” In summer, they produce samaras; in fall, they turn orange-yellow to fiery red.

2. Sweet Gum, Liquidambar styraciflua

Size: 65 to 115 feet tall, 45-foot spread

Life Span: 200 years

Description: Aromatic, with a star-shaped, five-lobed leaf, sweet gums represent less than 1 percent of DC street trees but are being planted rapidly in public spaces. The city typically plants sterile forms, which don’t drop nuisance samaras (winged seed pods), but look for its spiky round “gumball” and red fall colors.

3. Scarlet Oak, Quercus coccinea

Size: 60 to 75 feet tall, 45-to-60-foot spread

Life Span: 80 years

Description: The official tree of the District, the scarlet oak appears in neighborhoods throughout the city but is most common in Ward 4 and found in massive plantings on the Capitol grounds. Leaves turn scarlet in fall; the acorn can be identified by its extensive cap.

4. Willow Oak, Quercus phellos

Size: More than 100 feet tall, 35-foot spread

Life Span: 100-plus years

Description: These enormous, hardy oaks with deeply grooved bark and narrow, willow-like leaves share nothing with true willows other than their affinity for water. The third-most common tree on District streets after pin oak, they drop a small acorn and turn yellowish in the fall.

5. Okame Cherry, Prunus x incam “Okame”

Size: 15 to 20 feet tall, 20-foot spread

Life Span: 100-plus years

Description: A delicate, decorative non-native that blooms in early spring, this cherry is popular around DC and with arborists. The tree’s tiny fruit is too bitter even for birds; in autumn the leaves turn a lovely copper.

See Also:
Tree Whisperers: Meet the DC Employees Who Watch Over Our Trees

This article appears in the August 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 02:47 PM/ET, 07/28/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A DC Superior Court judge will decide if the merger is final after hearings this week. By Luke Mullins
The Corcoran Gallery. Photograph by Flicker user SBC9.

After years of uncertainty due to ailing finances, the fate of Washington’s oldest art museum will be determined once and for all this week.

Opponents of the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s controversial merger plan—which would hand the bulk of its art over to the National Gallery of Art and its art school operations to George Washington University—will appear in DC Superior Court Monday, hoping to derail the deal at the last minute. Although the Corcoran’s trustees finalized the agreement back in May, the merger must still be approved by a judge, who recently agreed to hear from a group of merger critics before issuing his decision.

The Corcoran’s trustees insist the merger is the best way to save the institution from financial collapse. The 145-year-old Corcoran, located across the street from the White House, is home to the perhaps the world’s finest collection of 19th-century American art. Its landmark Beaux-Arts building also houses the 600-student Corcoran College of Art and Design, which has long nurtured up-and-coming artists.

But as fundraising and attendance have tanked, the Corcoran has posted budget deficits in 11 of the past 13 years, according to the Washington Post, and the building now needs as much as $100 million in repairs. “If required to continue to operate in the current mode, [the Corcoran] would exhaust its available financial resources, and would be required to sell portions of its collection to maintain its operations,” the trustees argued in court documents.

The Corcoran’s board, led by chairman Harry Hopper, blames its woes on factors outside its control. Trustees point out that since the Corcoran is a private museum it must charge admission, putting it at a competitive disadvantage with the nearby federally funded museums that tourists can visit for free. In addition, the trustees said in court documents, “while the Corcoran has benefitted from the close relationship between the Gallery and the College, the fundraising for each has been hampered by the lack of unique identity for either.”

But a plucky band of students, faculty, staff, and supporters known as Save the Corcoran has spent the past two years arguing that the Corcoran’s financial crisis has been engineered by the board itself. Hopper, for example, hired his next-door neighbor to serve as the Corcoran’s chief operating officer despite her “virtually complete lack of experience in the art world,” the group argued in court documents, and the trustees spent $3.7 million to bring in just $4 million in fundraising contributions in 2012 through 2013. Perhaps most galling of all, the Corcoran itself will chip in nearly $50 million to help finance the deal, according to the Post.

To critics, the Corcoran doesn’t need a merger—it needs a new board. “The problem has been—and remains—a failure of leadership,” Save the Corcoran argued.

During a four-day hearing beginning Monday, Save the Corcoran will have a last chance to convince the court that a more competent board could revitalize the Corcoran without resorting to a complicated merger with two other organizations.

If the merger opponents are unsuccessful, the Corcoran as we know it will be gone forever.

Find Luke Mullins on Twitter at @lmullinsdc

Posted at 11:21 AM/ET, 07/28/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The big ceremony for the new train line had a few hiccups. It is Metro, after all. By Benjamin Freed
The platform at Wiehle-Reston East awaits its first crush of passengers. Photographs by Benjamin Freed.

After five years of construction, $2.9 billion spent, countless legal entanglements and political fussbudgets, Metro’s Silver Line finally opened Saturday, connecting previously far-flung suburbs such as Tysons Corner and Reston with the rest of car-free civilization.

Out at the Wiehle-Reston East station—the last stop on the new extension before the Silver Line’s second phase extends past Dulles International Airport—Metro played up the celebratory side: food trucks, commemorative pennants, a tent full of public officials engaged in a mutual admiration society.

But how was the journey itself? Metro’s opened its doors to more suburbs, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still a hassle. Here’s how the Silver Line opened, told in Metro-related miscues:

1. To reach the opening ceremony in Reston via Metro, the transit agency advised attendees to travel to West Falls Church on the Orange Line and pick up a shuttle bus. The day got off to a rough start for your correspondent, however, while waiting for a Route 42 bus in Adams Morgan to connect to Metro rail. The 42 blows right past a Columbia Road stop, leaving said correspondent to hail it at the next stop with a combination of determined sprinting and several loud, unprintable, 12-letter exhortations.

2. While Metro’s shuttle buses ran from West Falls Church, many Saturday-morning Orange Line trains terminate at East Falls Church. With Silver Line-bound people feeling suddenly stranded, another train rolls up. Turns out it’s just for VIPS attending the Silver Line ceremony. Reporters and other not important people finally board an Orange train that goes to West Falls Church eight minutes later.

3. A Fairfax Connector shuttle bus from West Falls Church to Wiehle-Reston East appears a few minutes behind its scheduled 9:30 departure time. When it finally starts moving, Metro’s 9:50 deadline is a pipe dream.

They just want to ride.

4. The Silver Line ceremony goes off without a hitch, the lengthy speaking program even beginning three minutes ahead of schedule. When’s the last time Metro did anything ahead of schedule? More VIP trains arrive at the Wiehle-Reston East platform ferrying dignitaries like Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who calls the Silver Line’s inauguration a “great day for America.”

As the speakers take their turns—including, among many others, DC Mayor Vince Gray; Representatives Gerry Connolly, Frank Wolf, and Jim Moran; Fairfax County Board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova—a mass ofFairfax County residents forms at the base of the escalator leading to the turnstile.

“I’ve been waiting a while,” says Anne-Marie Smith, of Reston, who expects taking the Silver Line to her job in DC instead of driving will save her as much as $18 a day in tolls, parking, and gas.

But first, all those officials inside the tent must amble over to the escalator to cut a ceremonial ribbon. The clutch of scissor-wielding officials has expanded from the above list of speakers to include DC Council members Muriel Bowser (who serves on Metro’s board) and Vincent Orange (who does not).

The ceremonial snip comes a few minutes before noon, and the Silver Line is open.

5. Metro escalator etiquette is pretty simple: stand on the right, walk on the left. Even during this special occasion, people seem intent on obeying this custom. Who’s not? That’d be Richard Sarles, the CEO of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, standing on the left to yuk it up with a couple of the congressmen.

6. The first Silver Line train, that will run through Fairfax County, Arlington, DC, and Prince George’s County, is packed. Many are Reston residents looking to spend the sunny afternoon in the District; some are train nerds like Ethan Maron, a Southwest DC resident who rode his bike out to the end of the Silver Line and plans to get off at each of the five new stations so he can get a fare card stamped at each one. But will the Silver Line’s inaugural run depart at noon, as scheduled?

“Folks, we’re running a little late, but hey, it is WMATA,” Meron announces at 12:04 PM, sending the sardine-can-like car into a fit of laughter.

The doors seal and the train starts rolling at 12:06, prompting a genuine cheer for the transit system Washington loves to rag on.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 10:56 AM/ET, 07/28/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
One of the best views of DC will be unavailable for a month. By Carol Ross Joynt
A view of the Washington Monument from P.O.V. Photograph by Flickr user Katie T.

As of this weekend, there will be one fewer city rooftop where scenesters can eat, drink, be merry, and, in some notable cases, get in trouble. The P.O.V. rooftop lounge of the W Hotel, famous for a stunning view of the White House and beyond, announced it will close after business on Saturday to start a “full renovation.”

We have no clue what specific changes the renovation will bring, but reps say when it reopens in September, the rooftop concept will be taken to “a new level” and provide service in “ways unimaginable until now.” The mind reels.

Since its splashy opening in 2009, P.O.V. has attracted publicity but not always the kind that’s wanted by a bar or restaurant. In an incident in April 2011, former Washington NFL defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth pleaded no contest to a sexual assault charge after an incident at P.O.V. The charges against him said he popped his credit card down a female server’s shirt and touched her breast. Last fall, singer Chris Brown was arrested in an altercation outside the W, but there’s no indication he had been upstairs at the rooftop bar. In June 2011 a woman, who reportedly had been drinking at P.O.V., later plunged to her death from the rooftop’s ledge in an apparent suicide.

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Posted at 02:45 PM/ET, 07/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Seriously, is anyone ever this happy about Metro? By Benjamin Freed

Just how excited should you be for the opening of the Silver Line on Saturday? According to Metro’s latest ad for the new train route, residents of newly serviced areas will be tossing out their car keys, doing backflips out their front doors, and dancing to the nearest turnstile.

The commercial, set to Australian indie-poppers Architecture in Helsinki’s “Escapee,” features 30 actors and 15 Metro employees dancing their way to the Wiehle-Reston East station at the far end of the Silver Line in Fairfax County. The opening of a new Metro line is so jubilant, even the guy who gets stranded on the platform at the end keeps jamming as the train pulls out.

The ad will start airing on television on Saturday afternoon when the Silver Line goes into service. Will people be dancing their way onto the first trains? Probably not; Metro’s rules ask customers to refrain from running and horsing around on station platforms. Besides, it might be far more excitement than this dude and his cat could handle.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 02:04 PM/ET, 07/24/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()