Housing Complex

Georgetown Day School Buys Safeway and Car Dealership in Huge Expansion

safeway lot

Georgetown Day School is undergoing a massive expansion, buying a nearby Safeway supermarket and car dealership, the Washington Post reports.

The elite private school is currently divided geographically. Its elementary and middle schools are on MacArthur Boulevard NW just west of Georgetown, while its upper school is in Tenleytown. The acquisition of the Tenleytown Safeway, at 4203 Davenport St. NW, and the nearby Martens Volvo/Volkswagen car dealership will allow the school to consolidate its campuses in Tenleytown. 

Safeway was contemplating a mixed-use redevelopment of its Tenleytown store before receiving an offer from GDS that simplified its decision, according to the Post. The deals are expected to close today. The supermarket and dealership will remain open for at least 10 months.

The school's acquisition leaves it with two challenges. One is turning the purchased sites into new school facilities; the other is disposing of the old school facilities. Tenleytown neighbors will lose their Safeway, although they have other nearby shopping alternatives, including a Whole Foods on Wisconsin Avenue.

In a statement, GDS says it has yet to make any specific decisions on how it will go about the development, other than its goal of uniting the school's two campuses, currently four miles apart.

“We are committed to beginning a thoughtful and deliberate conversation with our community in and around the school to best inform development plans in the future," GDS Head of School Russell Shaw said in a statement. "Any final plans will be consistent with the beauty and character of the Tenleytown neighborhood while keeping an eye on creating open, green spaces and increasing safety for bicyclists and pedestrians."

GDS spokeswoman Alison Grasheim says the school doesn't "have exact plans for what's going to happen" with its elementary and middle school spaces on MacArthur Boulevard, but it won't be keeping them. The options are to sell or lease them, she says.

This post has been updated.

Image via Google Maps

  • Pop M

    This area has a number of grocery stores. There are TWO area Whole Foods. The first is at the Tenleytown Metro near Wisconsin and Albermarle. The second is at the Friendship Heights metro stop and just slightly over the line in to Maryland. There is also a Giant (although a smaller store than usual for that brand). It is also near the Friendship Heights metro. Of course, there will be a brand new and large giant just down Wisconsin Ave a few blocks if/when the big construction ever gets done....

  • Michael

    There actually is a third Whole Foods and a larger Giant just up River Road from the site. Rodman's, just a couple blocks to the north on Wisconsin, has a wide selection of groceries, dairy, frozen foods, fresh fruit and vegetables, and beer and wine, as well as a pharmacy.

  • anon

    and Glover Park WF on Wisconsin isn't exactly far away either. Maybe Ward 3 can be rebranded Ward Whole Foods

  • sbc

    Not to mention the Giant at the Van Ness metro and the one under construction near the Cathedral. Each are 1.5 miles from this Safeway. Not exactly a food desert.

    It will be interesting to see what happens to their lower school property--charter? DCPS? another private school? residential/office development?

  • Tenleytown Tim

    Screw GDS... I hope the Nimbys can actually rise to the challenge and kill this project... The neigborhood needs more density and retail NOT another overpriced finishing school for the elite. GDS do DC a favor a move to MoCo so you can be a tad closer to where much of your student body comes from...

  • Anonymous

    A different aspect of this purchase is how this portends the end of new car dealerships in DC. Other than the Tesla showroom downtown (which is a different type of offering), I believe that these are the last ones standing. Redevelopment was bound to happen at these locations at some point though -- too valuable for this use.

  • Northwesterneer

    I noticed that several new people have posted about alternative grocery store options in the neighborhood which makes me wonder aloud if they're shills for the school.

    GDS is by no means an elite school. Let's get that corrected right away.

    If you don't know, GDS is the hippy prep school.

    Among the Elites:
    St Albans is jock school, St Johns is also a jock school with a heavy military component.

    Sidwell is the intellectual Pre-Law school and the top school to get into. Maret is a similar liberal arts school if you can't get into Sidwell.

    NCS is the top girls only school. Madeira if you want your little angel to board outside of the city, ride horses, and hobnob with Arab Heiresses.

    And the non-elites:
    Under those comes the competent girls schools, Holton Arms, Visitation, Stone Ridge.

    WIS- You know, if you're a diplomat.

    There are a handful of good Catholic schools which aren't prep, like Gonzaga, Holy Cross, Holy Child, etc.

    St Anselms has always been a mystery to me, but I think it qualifies as a hippy prep school like GDS. It might be really academically rigorous, but just not enough students to know, really.

    Yeah, GDS is not elite. hope that helps.

  • ShawGuy

    There is no reason why, if Safeway is interested in maintaining a store in this area (and by now they should be able to see if the store is profitable enough to make this a viable option) that they couldn't build a mixed use building on this busier street frontage with a Safeway lease on the lower level and administrative or other uses for the school, maybe the library, on the upper levels. Of course, if the Safeway isn't making enough money there, then they would have closed and redeveloped into something different eventually anyway.

  • Northwesterneer

    Tenleytown Tim, I'm not sure that GDS students come from Montgomery County, which makes no sense.

    Montgomery County has excellent, top-flight high schools right over the border- BCC, Whitman, Churchill, and decent schools on par with Wilson in WJ, Montgomery, Blair, etc.

    However inside DC itself, there aren't many options. Wilson is getting better, but its by no means at the level of GDS if little Jenny needs extra help getting the straight As she needs to get into an Ivy League school.

    All the parents I personally know who send their kids to GDS live between Georgetown and Spring Valley or variously around Ward 3.

  • Tenleytown Tim

    @Northwesterneer... I agree with your assessment. That said, GDS had street cred as a "hippy prep school" back in the '70s and early '80s -- these days, though, the school (much like Field) has used high tuition and paranoid Ward 3 and MoCo types to become a very expensive finishing school for the limousine liberal crowd... not exactly elite but not excactly hippy either. Just overpriced.

  • Observer

    @northwesterner, I had the same thought about them being shills. People in the Tenleytown area shop at Safeway precisely because it isn't Whole Paycheck. @tenleytowntim, right on. Nobody in Tenleytown who doesn't go to GDS benefits from a bigger GDS.

  • Chgobluesguy

    Northwester -- GDS is by no means an elite school? Huh? Tuition is $36,000! They have lacrosse and crew! GDS is every bit as elite socioeconomically as Sidwell. Its parents have just as many resources; they just choose to spend them a little differently. It's just as elite to spend $300 on a pair of Birkenstocks as on a pair of tassled loafers.

    From what I hear though, it's the best school academically in the DC area which has a host of very good independent schools. If you can make it there you can make it anywhere.

  • AUWalker

    GDS's gain is certainly our family's loss. Hard to see how placing 3 private schools at this location serves anyone but GDS and certainly not this neighborhood community. The "character" of this community that GDS wants to serve is a character with a decently priced, convenient and accessible full service grocery store within walking distance. If GDS does not put a comparable store in its retail space, all I see is a net loss for the neighborhood. We love Rodmans, but please it is no substitute. And there is no comparison in terms of convenience to the closest Whole Foods or Giant, not to mention the outrageous cost of the former. Anyone that advocates a trip back down Wisconsin to the Giant to come or out River to the Westbard Giant must be commuting to GDS and going past those locations and consider them convenient as a result. Gone are the days of walking to the store for a host of things only a full service grocery store conveniently provides. All for the sake of 3x the morning and afternoon traffic in the immediate area. Sorry, but don't feel good about this deal.

  • Glover Parker

    1) I am deeply disappointed to see this real estate, with better bus and Metrorail service than in many other parts of NW DC, be used for a school rather than higher-density retail and housing. And I agree with everyone here who says Whole Foods is NOT a practical substitute for a full-service grocery store.

    2) What's going to happen to GDS' Macarthur Boulevard property? The Palisades NIMBYite contingent is already on high alert, after that recent proposal to expand and add housing on the Palisades Safeway site.

    3) A possible silver lining: Could the loss of the Tenleytown Safeway spur action on the Spring Valley grocery store Fresh & Green vacated? (My wish would be for Magruders to open a full-service grocery store there, but....)

  • gimbels lover

    Only East of the Park would Whole Foods used by families and not confused MLTs.

  • GDS Student

    I'm a current GDS student, and I just wanted to clarify a few things.

    Firstly, over 20% of GDS students are on financial aid and many commute from across the city on the Metro. The vast majority of GDS students (60+%) live within DC's boundaries. GDS was the first integrated school in DC, founded 9 years before Brown vs. Board, and has remained a quirky progressive school ever since (with stellar academics to boot).

    Secondly, the real reason Tenleytown residents are losing their Safeway is not GDS's purchase of the property, but actually their own doing.

    For years, Safeway had been trying to redevelop the property by modernizing the grocery store and building apartments and additional retail above it. Tenleytown residents fought bitterly against the plan and caused it to stall for years to the point that Safeway's continued existence became less economically beneficial to the overall corporation then simply closing down and selling the property to GDS.

    The purchase is probably the best decision GDS has made for its future in a decade. In comparison to its peers such as Sidwell, St. Albans and other independent schools, GDS has always lacked when it has come to its campus facilities and athletic fields (We have no pool, baseball field, tennis court, or even a track, despite having the #1 track team in the city). Also, unifying our HS and LMS campuses would help align logistical and curricular goals and save the school a significant amount of money as well.

  • Alf

    I support the GDS purchase and think it will add to the diversity of land uses in Tenleytown. Who needs yet another generic Clarendon town center development? There's already a Giant Giant town center rising just a mile down Wisconsin.

    However, the PP "GDS Student" sounds more like a professional "GDS Flack."

  • halothane

    Quit being so fairy gay, Mr. Not Know it all.

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