MEET JOE STERNLIEB

CEO, Georgetown Business Improvement District

BID CEO Joe Sternlieb acts as sous to Malmaison's Chef Pangaud at 2014's Taste of Georgetown 'Chef Showdown.'

Your leadership at the Georgetown BID has been most associated with the development of the Georgetown 2028 Plan. What project(s) are you most excited about right now?

Today I am most excited about or work on the C&O Canal with the National Park Service and the District government. The Canal is a unique asset in the region and has a rich and layered history influenced by George Washington, slave and immigrant labor politics, 19th Century engineering, development of the railroads, jurisdictional competition, and historic preservation. Our effort to build a new canal boat to expose school children to the Georgetown Canal experience is just the first of many initiatives to preserve, revitalize, interpret, and activate the canal. The other fun project we are working with is a feasibility study on an aerial gondola lift between the Georgetown and the Rosslyn Metro station as part of Georgetown 2028. I like to joke that the Aerial Gondola Study consumes 1% of our energy but generates 90% of our media coverage. It is a really fun project for the staff and board because it is very forward thinking – both in terms of potential impact, and how this old technology is being introduced to cities around the world to address urban transit needs. 


You have a Master’s degree from MIT in City Planning and have been part of so many city projects like launching the D.C. Circulator and Retail TIF legislation that have helped neighborhood development. Aside from your Georgetown projects, what have been your favorites? 


I get my energy from thinking about both big and small problems in the District that need to be solved and looking for creative solutions, or projects, that I can develop to solve them. I am proudest of co-founding DC Vote – to achieve equal representation in Congress for D.C. residents. In my professional life, some of my favorite projects are the ones that I see on the street every day. I led the development of the city’s blue wayfinding sign system, helped produce the first Heritage Trail in downtown D.C., and co-led the redesign of the Metrobus shelter maps – all to make the city a more navigable and more pleasant place to be. 


What makes Georgetown special? How do you define Georgetown’s ‘sense of place’? 

I think Georgetown is the most beautiful place in the region. Its diversity, scale, architecture, water, and mix of uses make it endlessly interesting. These things all contribute to providing an incredible pedestrian experience where you can walk for hours but always feel like you are experiencing new and different things in a very human scale and friendly environment. 


What is your favorite thing to do in Georgetown? 

I have many favorite things to do in Georgetown.  I love to stop in on a few of the art galleries on Wisconsin Avenue and see what’s new. I love taking a quick walk along the water, either on the canal or in Waterfront park. I love having a beer after work in the courtyard at Kafe Leopold or at Washington Harbor. My favorite out of the way restaurant – this month - is Kintaro


What is something most people don’t know about you?

I try to sneak out to Annapolis most weekends for a quick sail on the bay. Four hours away can feel like a relaxing week-long vacation. I come back completely relaxed and ready to tackle the challenges of the week ahead.