Townhouse purchase will allow JCC to expand its reach

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DC Jewish Community Center CEO Carole Zawatsky opens the door of the new building. Photo provided by DCJCC
DC Jewish Community Center CEO Carole Zawatsky opens the door of the new building. Photo provided by DCJCC

With more than 200 children on its preschool program’s waiting list and many of its programs reaching a record number of participants, the DC Jewish Community Center has run out of space.

So, the DCJCC last month purchased a three-story townhouse for $2.45 million, directly across the street from the historic JCC building, according to public records. The building, at 1534 16th St., NW, will be used for administration and office space, freeing up space in the current building for more people to attend classes and watch movies and plays.


“It is really a symbol of the great success we are having,” said Carole Zawatsky, CEO.

“It’s just quite amazing,” she said. “The good news is all our programs are incredibly popular.”

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Several staff members are working “practically out of broom closets,” Zawatsky said. Moving administrative functions across the street will free up space in the current building, she said.

“We need more rehearsal space. Our after-school program is burgeoning,” she continued. The JCC has been operating “100,000 square feet of programming in 60,000 square feet” of space, Zawatsky said.


The JCC is expanding its space at a time when other Jewish nonprofits are selling their property. The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism announced in January that it was selling its New York office for $15.9 million in an effort to cut expenses.

The newly purchased townhouse is 3,600 square feet; the current building is almost 65,000 square feet.

The current building is home to Theater J, which has a yearly audience that exceeds 30,000; a preschool with an enrollment of 110; and an after-school program for 375 children a week, said Sara Rostolder Mandell, the JCC’s spokeswoman.

It is also home to 1,700 campers at various times throughout the year, and a program for 390 children when their schools are closed for the day. About 12,000 people attend its annual film festival.

People continually walk through the lobby to go to classes, use the fitness center, eat at the Silver Crust kosher restaurant or just meet up with friends.

Although aware that they needed more space, JCC officials were not actively looking for more space. But, when a former board member mentioned that the cream-colored townhouse across the street was about to go up for sale, the JCC jumped at the chance, said Rose Cohen, president of the board of directors.

“It was not even on the market yet,” Cohen said, adding, “It’s a perfect space. It’s already zoned commercial for offices.”

She said: “We are so excited to expand our reach within the community.”

The seller, Suite 16 LLC, is still operating out of the JCC’s new space, and will sublease it from the JCC for the next few months,
she said.

Plans call for moving seven JCC staff members to the townhouse by the end of July, with more relocating there
by September.

“We are staging in our move. Ultimately we will take the whole building,” Zawatsky said.

JCC President Rose Cohen attaches the mezuzah on the new building.
JCC President Rose Cohen attaches the mezuzah on the new building.

 

When the first group moves out of the current JCC, the library will be relocated to their former office. That will free up space for a new preschool classroom, the ninth in the building. That additional class “is already full for the fall,” Zawatsky said.

Because the JCC’s current building was debt-free, JCC officials took out a new mortgage on it to cover the purchase of the townhouse, which took less time than it would have to finance the new office building, Cohen said, adding that the seller didn’t want to wait too long.

The 2015 assessment on the large building is $20 million, according to the DC Office of Tax and Revenue. No money was
exchanged during these transactions, but Suite 16 LLC, received a $300,000 promissory note.

A capital campaign will be held to cover the new expenses, she said.

“It’s really a positive move for us,” Cohen said, noting that the JCC’s growth points to both good programming at the JCC and “vibrant growth” throughout the community.

The townhouse was built in the late 1800s and will require no construction.

However, plans call for redoing some rooms in the original JCC to accommodate classroom and rehearsal space.

There are no plans to increase staff.

Zawatsky is particularly happy that with the new JCC offices located right across the street, employees will be able “to keep the sense of connection.”

[email protected]
@Suzanne Pollak

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