Sunday, January 31, 2010

City Paper Looks at 1612 U Street; "Restaurant/Bakery" for 14th and Q?

This week's issue of the City Paper takes a look at the (recent) history of the building located at 1612 U Street NW. It's an interesting read about an interesting building (it used to house "E.B. Adams and Co.," a retailer of dining and cutlery items), and highlights how so much of the recent development in the 14th Street/U Street corridor revolves around the efforts of a handful of individuals.

Among them is David Von Storch, who purchased the building in 1995 with an eye towards creating a gay-oriented business center, including a gym. The story goes on to detail the (at times complex) relationship between Von Storch and Results gym owner Doug Jeffries, Universal Gear owner David Franco, and developer Jeff Blum.

Most interesting in the article are the tidbits of information gleamed about current--and forthcoming--developments in the neighborhood. Talks were held, but eventually fizzled, to bring a Results Gym into the ground floor of Blum and Franco's View 14 project at 14th Street and Florida Avenue. Results, it turns out, will likely be vacating their space at 1612 U when their lease expires in March 2011, clearing the way for Von Storch to redevelop the building. Among Von Storch's plans for the building include keeping the existing Bang Salon, making a home for the new flagship location of Penn Quarter-based Vida Fitness, a new restaurant, and a rooftop pool.

Jeffries for his part is currently scouting locations for his new venture "Stroga," which combines yoga with personal strength training. Von Storch is currently making the rounds at the neighborhood association meetings, seeking to obtain approval for the project.

It will be interesting to see what the next chapter brings for a building that has played a prominent role in U Street's renaissance.


One other interesting nugget that came out of the aforementioned City paper article: David Von Storch has indicated that he has plans to convert the space at 14th and Q (former home of Candida's World of Books Shirt Laundry dry cleaners) into a "restaurant/bakery," and that lease negotiations for the project are underway. If these plans move forward, it would mean that the last available storefront on the east side of the 1500 block of 14th Street will have a tenant seems the space in question isn't Candida's old space, so that will remain vacant.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Hope everyone is enjoying yet another snow day here in DC. Hopefully we can get through the day without anyone pulling a gun at a snowball fight.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chocolate + Wine Goodness at ACKC

Last night, local purveyors of fine chocolates ACKC hosted their first wine and chocolate pairing event since obtaining their liquor license late last year. As you can see by the crowd, the even was an overwhelming success for them:

Here's the thing about ACKC: I really like their hot chocolate--particularly the French style variety, which isn't found in that many places around DC. When they opened, their focus was on the aforementioned hot chocolate and homemade chocolate confections sold around the store, along with the artwork of ACKC co-owner Eric Nelson. It was a pleasant place to be, even if the service was spotty.

Now, they're serving wine and liquor. Which makes sense, I suppose, for its ability to pair well with chocolate (as well as to draw crowds). But wine bars adopt a different ambiance and attract a different crowd than a cocoa bar; to enjoy your Audrey Hepburn are you going to have to fight for a seat with someone enjoying a glass of Pinot? Clearly, there's a business case to be made for the wine bar concept, and the early returns have been a success. But I can't help but wonder whether we're losing what was a pleasant neighborhood establishment in exchange for yet another 14th Street establishment that serves as a magnet for individuals from outside the area. I suspect 'yes', but we'll see. This also begs the question of what is--or is not--a "neighborhood place," and whether we have many (any?) of them left in Logan. But that's another topic for another time...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Like, our neighborhood is totally rad

I'm frequently curious how non-Loganites view our quaint little 'hood. Behold this nugget, courtesy of Modern Luxury:

OFF THE GRID!: The 14th Street corridor is quickly going from grit to glam. Galleries, theaters and condos are the backbone of a nabe now replete with rad restos and bars.

Like, our nabe is totally off the grid!


Catching Up on Restaurant Openings

Only in this neighborhood can you blink for a couple of weeks and get behind in passing along the news of new restaurant openings in the neighborhood.

Near the corner of 14th and U Streets, dance hall and Caribbean restaurant/lounge Patty Boom Boom opened a few weeks ago, and the early reviews have been largely positive. If you don't know the name, you probably know the building: it's the beige and black building just one space up from the corner of 14th and U Streets.

The menu at Patty features--what else--Jamaican patties (which feature such fillings as spicy beef and jerked goat). Perhaps even better for the neighborhood (or, at least for those of you clamoring for some late-night eats) the "patty bar" will remain open until 4 AM.

Upstairs, it's a bit of a different story: speakers out the wazoo pumping dancehall, reggae and house tunes at such a volume that patrons have reported drinks being shaken off of the bar downstairs. Considering that lately I prefer to do my drinking in the quiet solitude of my bedroom closet, I'm not certain the second floor of Patty Boom Boom will become my home away from home. But Patty, which is owned by the Eighteenth Street Lounge/Marvin/Thievery Corporation team, will offer up an attractive new going-out option in the neighborhood.

Approximately a block west on U, a slightly quieter establishment has opened, as the former Axis Bar and Grille recently became Cafe La Bonne. Cafe La Bonne presents U Street and its denizens with the corridor's first French bistro.

Chef Daniel Labonne, who hails from the Caribbean island of Martinique, presents a menu of classic French fare (you know, French onion soup, quiche lorraine, beef bourguinogne, etc.) in a "classic bistro setting". The Cafe will also offer a late night menu, brunch on Saturday and Sunday, and a selection of French wines (with most bottles priced in the $30-$50 range).

The 14thandyous are used to having to trek up to Napoleon to satisfy our French cravings, so we're very much looking forward to having them in the 'hood.

If you've had the opportunity to visit either of these establishments, please share your thoughts in the comments section below and let us know how things went.


A quick note, also on the topic of food: Mr. 14thandyou happened to stroll by the recently opened Homemade Pizza Co. at 14th and Church on Wednesday night, and halfway considered giving it a go--until he tried a complimentary slice of the cheese pizza that was being handed out in front of the store. I'm not certain that I've ever felt the need to describe a pizza as "listless" before, but I feel the word choice might be accurate here. Now, maybe the cheese pizza isn't their best offering, and maybe getting a slice from their outdoor pizza oven isn't the best way to try it...but I'm not getting it. Especially at the price at which their pies are sold.

In addition to the pizza itself, the line out the door was ridiculous (opening night problems, perhaps). So, perhaps I'll come back around and give it another go. But, man, that was one unimpressive slice of pizza.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

C-A-P-S Caps! Caps! Caps!

Mr. 14thandyou had the pleasure of taking in tonight's win by Ovechkin and the guys over the Red Wings (sitting behind Alex Ovechkin's father and Alexander Semin's mother and daughter, no less). Great job by the Caps in putting up two third period goals against Chris (not so) Osgood and the hated Wings. Massive props to Mr. Jose Theodore for hi 44 saves this evening. Where was the defense?? Doesn't matter tonight I suppose, but you can't rely on Theodore to be Mr. Stanley Cup for the rest of the year.

No matter, tonight we celebrate a Caps Win!

Go mama go! to close- What does that say about the future of 14th Street retail?

While 14thandyou was on a bit of hiatus over the past couple of weeks (thanks to all of you who sent warm thoughts and well-wishes), we received some unfortunate news: longtime 14th Street retail fixture Go mama go! would be closing its doors at some time in the spring. The store will remain open until the space's landlord is able to locate a replacement tenant.

According to a release provided by Go mama go's owner, Jonathan Chudnoff:

Go mama go!, the vibrant housewares, accessories and gift shop on 14th Street NW , will be closing its doors in the next few months, according to its owner, Jonathan Chudnoff. Chudnoff attributes the closing to the twin blows of the general economic decline and the death of the store’s founder, Noi Chudnoff, whose dynamic spirit, creativity and personality were key ingredients in the store’s early success.

This is sad news for a couple of reasons. First among them, it means the loss of a unique and pleasant retail fixture on 14th Street. Go mama go's colorful displays and product offerings were a true bright spot for the neighborhood. It is one of those stores that are simply pleasant to stroll through. Secondly, Go mama go! was one of the retail pioneers on 14th Street, opening in their current location in 2001 after a year of operations in a tent at Eastern Market. In addition to providing a boost to the burgeoning retail scene, Noi Chudnoff and her store were a force for positive change in the neighborhood, supporting numerous area charities, causes and organizations.

Beyond the loss of a popular retail establishment however, lies a perhaps greater problem for 14th Street and Logan Circle: can the neighborhood retain a mix of retail and other uses to go along with the exploding bar and restaurant scene?

The loss of Go mama go! is simply the latest domino to fall in what has become a worrying trend on 14th Street. G Fine Arts shuttered their doors last August, and in November indoor/outdoor plant supplier Garden District filed for bankruptcy and continues to hang on by a thread. Green Pets and Big Monkey Comics are looking for new homes. Several other businesses along the corridor--several of them quite prominent--are also feeling the pinch of a declining economy, high property tax rates and increasingly unaffordable commercial lease rates (I can't name any of them directly, but I can say that at least one of them is a well-known men's apparel chain). While restaurant openings have been plentiful during the past year, with more on the way, new retail openings--particularly of the independent variety--have been few and far between.

Over the summer, I served on a committee that examined the state of the 14th Street Arts District, and pondered what might be done to help stave off the decline of arts-related use venues along the corridor. I am increasingly coming to believe that we may quickly be reaching a point where our concern is not simply related to keeping arts uses along the corridor; rather, we may be looking at the potential loss of a number of locally owned retail establishments, while watching 14th Street/Logan becoming primarily a restaurant/bar/entertainment district.

The crux of the problem lies with both the city's property tax rate as well as the going commercial lease rates. What has occurred along 14th Street mimics that of many other urban neighborhoods nationwide: artists and entrepreneurs move into a neglected or under-served neighborhood in a city, due mainly to affordable commercial lease rates. As more businesses arrive, the neighborhood continues to attract attention both from residents and other commercial ventures. Restaurants, bars and lounges arrive, as do chain retailers and other deep-pocketed commercial ventures such as banks. As the neighborhood's desirability rises, the ability for small, locally owned establishments to remain declines. The neighborhood's pioneering businesses are forced to relocate or close, essentially victims of their own success.

At the same time, many commercial tenants are saddled with property tax bills that they simply find unaffordable. Certain landlords may absorb at least some of the property tax hit, but many cannot afford to do this for long. In the end, the lower-volume and/or locally owned establishments move out, finding themselves replaced by national chains and businesses that can afford the higher rates (namely, restaurants, bars and banks).

So what is to be done? Well, if history and a litany of other examples nationwide are any guide, the options are limited. The city can carve out exception to high property tax rates, or provide developmental incentives, for properties that contain a certain favored use (such as an arts use). Beyond that, what you see are market forces taking hold. Unless a local business owner is fortunate enough to develop a relationship with a landlord who is willing to take a sizable hit with regards to their commercial lease rate--and with escalating property taxes, many landlords are increasingly hesitant to do so--the business owner may find him or herself priced out of the very neighborhood he or she helped to build.

The irony of this is that many retail establishments depend upon a certain critical mass in terms of the commercial vibrancy of a neighborhood before they can achieve success. Unless you are catering primarily to neighborhood residents, it's difficult to attract shoppers to your boutique establishment unless there are a number of shops and restaurants to attract them.

Ultimately, what you are left with is a neighborhood with an increasing number of higher-end bars, restaurants, lounges, banks and chain retailers (hello, Room and Board) and fewer of the boutique, locally owned establishments and arts-related businesses such as Go mama go! that attracted many to the neighborhood in the first place. To be sure, this is not an entirely bad thing: Logan's status as a premiere DC dining destination is not necessarily a negative to the residents of the neighborhood who now have an abundance of food and drink choices to select from, for instance. But we are unquestionably losing a bit of our neighborhood's character. And that, along with the loss of a beloved local business, is something worth mourning.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Homemade Pizza Opening on January 21

Logan-ites will soon be able to take home some tasty take-and-bake pizzas, courtesy of the Homemade Pizza Company which is set to open on Thursday, January 21 at the corner of 14th and Church streets. We snapped this photo this afternoon of workers putting the finishing touches on the building's exterior:

Chicago-based Homemade Pizza has locations in Illinois and Minnesota, in addition to four locations throughout the DC area (not including Logan). Since Chicagoans are known for having rather particular taste when it comes to pizza, perhaps their opinion is worth something (unless you're one of those people who prefers "NY style", in which case you must hate life in DC). So, if the Wicker Park Yelpers are any indication, this place is quite good. Although at $15-$19 per pie, some might rightfully be asking why they're being asked to cook the pizza themselves.

Say, do you think we can claim that a neighborhood has "arrived" when take-and-bake pizzas sell for $19? Just wondering.

Oh, and some of you have asked about forthcoming wine shop "Cork and Fork," which is set to move in as well. It will indeed be sharing a space with Homemade Pizza, with the entrance right next door. No official word on an opening for them yet, but they do not yet have a liquor license so the opening is not imminent. And, no, for those wondering "Cork and Fork" has no connection whatsoever to a certain wine bar a little further up 14th Street.


One quick personal note: you may have noticed a lack of updates here recently. Unfortunately, the 14thandyous have been dealing with the prolonged illness--and recent death--of a family member in an out-of-state locale, which has necessitated numerous trips out of the area. Such a situation doesn't do wonders for your holidays, and it certainly puts neighborhood blogging on the back-burner. We look forward to getting back to more regular updates beginning next week.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

ANC Approves Voluntary Agreements for Estadio, Cork and Fork; Ghana Cafe Opens

Passing along a few notes from this evening's ANC2F meeting, before my head hits the pillow:

The ANC voted unanimously to approve the voluntary agreements for both Estadio and Cork and Fork, paving the way for liquor licenses for both. The approval of Cork & Fork's VA was pretty much a foregone conclusion--only an issue concerning an arcane ABRA regulation relating to the single sales ban caused any hiccups.

Estadio, on the other hand, had provoked a reasonable level of concern from residents of the condo building at 14th and Church streets that it is going to call home. Thanks to the savvy negotiating tactics of ANC2F chairman Charles Reed, all parties came away from the table satisfied. In addition to the VA covering the standard ANC fare (operating hours, parking, noise, etc.), the Estadio team also negotiated a "side agreement" with residents of the building covering issues such as odors and the location of vent fans. If all goes as planned, Estadio looks to be open by this summer.

In other ANC business, the Commission voted unanimously to endorse seven projects, totaling $350,000, that would be applying for funding as part of the Logan Circle Neighborhood Investment Fund through the DC government. Five of the projects were specific recommendations made by the Arts Overlay District Committee involving funding for economic projects for the 14th Street Arts Overlay District, such as a branding campaign for the neighborhood. The other two projects are for a "green team" for 14th Street south of U Street, and $50,000 for a "U Street Visitor's Center" to be awarded to Cultural Tourism DC.

In a later post, I'll delve into more detail on the recommendations made by the Arts Overlay Committee.


One final note to pass along: following months of space build-out and contentious liquor license negotiations, the Ghana Cafe has opened at its new location at 1336 14th Street (although their website says 15th Street--woops).

In addition to a full bar and a menu full of West African goodies, the Cafe will feature live DJs on Thursdays through Sundays spinning Reggae, Afro-Pop and International tunes. More information--including a full menu--can be found at Ghana Cafe's website.

Monday, January 4, 2010

"Estadio" Liquor License Discussion Set for Wednesday

Welcome to 2010, 14thandyou-ers. I hope everyone had a safe, happy and relaxing new year's. I know we did.

What better way to ring in the new year than via an ANC2F meeting? Well, actually, I can think of several more attractive alternatives, but this is DC after all, and we do nothing if not local politics here, so I guess it fits. There are a couple of items of note on this month's agenda, not the least of which is a discussion related to a voluntary agreement for a liquor license for the forthcoming Estadio, the new culinary destination set to arrive later this year at 14th and Church streets. Estadio, you may recall, will be operated by the same team that is behind Penn Quarter's Proof.

Needless to say, the restaurant's liquor license application has been met with a fair amount of pushback from neighborhood residents--particularly those who live directly above it. Remember, that space was previously occupied by the Garden District, and a more benign downstairs neighbor you are unlikely to find. I'm not privy to the issues being addressed in the voluntary agreement negotiations, but it's safe to assume that they involve some combination of 1) operating hours, 2) noise, 3) trash collection and 4) traffic and parking.

It's worth noting, prior to embarking on this lively discussion, that the ANC is limited in its powers with regards to liquor license applications. It cannot refuse to grant licenses--only ABRA has that power. But it can enter the proceedings as a protestant (typically on the grounds of "peace, order and quiet"). The voluntary agreements that are negotiated in order for the ANC to drop their protest are, despite some evidence to the contrary, voluntary--meaning that if the two sides cannot come to an agreement, an adjudication hearing will be held to resolve the dispute.

Other items on the ANC's agenda for Wednesday evening will be a ratification of the Cork and Fork VA (the new wine shop opening across the street from Estadio), a discussion of ongoing crime issues at the Monterrey Condominium complex at 11th and N, and a review of the economic development recommendations put forth by the ANC2f Arts Overlay Committee during summer and fall of last year.

As always, meetings begin at 7 PM on Wednesday evening at the Washington Plaza Hotel in Thomas Circle. Additional information can be found at the ANC's website.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year From 14thandYou

Mr. and Mrs. 14thandyou would like to wish everyone a safe and happy new year!  We're pretty much in agreement that the past decade was a pretty crummy one, so we're looking forward to moving on to the next one.

The new year began on an unfortunate tone for at least one local business:  one of the trees in front of Cafe Salsa was destroyed sometime last night.  It's unclear what destroyed the potted tree, but my guess is either a) someone with a baseball bat, or b) a car that ran up over the curb and struck the plant.  Too bad.

As you can probably tell, we're on a bit of blogging hiatus during the holidays, but rest assured we'll be back next week, keeping you up to date on goings-on around the neighborhood.  Cheers everyone!