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Georgetown Day School buying Tenleytown Safeway, Martens dealership

Georgetown Day School, one of the area’s top private schools, announced a massive campus expansion plan Thursday in which it is purchasing the Tenleytown Safeway and Martens Volvo/Volkswagen car dealership across the street.

The sales are expected to close Thursday, at a total cost of about $40 million. They will allow Georgetown Day, an institution whose students and alumni include the sons of daughters of some of the most prominent movers and shakers in the Washington area, to ultimately consolidate its lower, middle and upper schools in Tenleytown.

At the moment the school’s lower and middle schools are on MacArthur Blvd., about four miles away.

“Georgetown Day School has been a member of the Tenleytown community for 28 years. We value the relationship we have with our neighbors and are excited about this unique opportunity to enhance the education our students receive and the neighborhood we call home,” said Russell Shaw, head of Georgetown Day School.

Both the dealership and the grocery store will remain open for at least 10 months through lease agreements with the school, according to school spokeswoman Alison Grasheim.

Grasheim said the school was in the early stages of planning how to use the properties.

“We had hoped for the opportunity for everyone to be on the same campus. We just have felt that it makes for a better school community and better connects students through grade levels and connects parents with our students and our curriculum,” she said.

Selling its Tenleytown store, at 4203 Davenport St. NW, off of Wisconsin Avenue, marks an abrupt turnaround for Safeway, as it had been contemplating a mixed-use development of the site to include a much larger store with  apartments on top, similar to projects in Wheaton and Petworth. The Tenleytown store was built in 1981 and is one of the California chain’s oldest stores in the region.

Safeway spokesman Craig Muckle said the company had repeatedly received offers from the school before finally coming to a deal. Once the store closes, Safeway shoppers in the area will have to travel to stores in Bethesda, Georgetown or Chevy Chase Circle.

“Until GDS made its offer, we were continuing efforts to redevelop the existing store,” Muckle said.

Winning zoning approval has not been easy for some developers in the area. (A plan to redevelop a Giant Food store nearby took more than 10 years to be approved.) Muckle said development approvals weren’t the deciding factor in the sale but that “the offer presented by GDS provided a much quicker solution than development.”

Getting city and neighborhood buy-in for changes to the corridor now falls to Shaw. The school plans to raise money for the project and Shaw said in the school’s press release that it will be relying heavily on neighborhood input in formulating its plans.

“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. 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,” Shaw said.

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