Good Lord. Who in their right mind would start their day with one of these things?
If these are your choices, you might as well go with the sausuge-n-lard special.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Those of you who have been complaining about the lack of wine merchants in the area, and/or who long to have yet another business in the neighborhood with the name "Cork" in it, rejoice: Virginia-based wine merchants Cork and Fork will be opening their long-awaited location at 14th and Church Streets within the coming week. (An "official" opening of May 8 has been put forth; although I have received word of a "soft opening" taking place in the days before that.)
The store is, like most places in the neighborhood, opening several months later than they had anticipated (a December 2009 opening was the original date, way back when). But starting in May, Logan-ites will have yet another location from which to purchase the fruit of the vine. Cork and Fork promises us "the best wines available" to go with so-called "Wine 101" classes and other educational opportunities.
In other 'news", it seems that Point Chaud crepes is finally getting around to getting their creperie off the ground, at least if the construction permits and paper now appearing in the window are any indication. There has been some recent speculation that Point Chaud is simply leading us on, with plans to open elsewhere--but that now seems not to be the case.
Sadly, with the demise of Joe Carmack's "Crepes on the Corner" across the street, it also means there won't be any 14th Street Crepe Wars. Pity.
I am a bit late in posting this, but I did want to pass along the news that, at their meeting on Monday, the Zoning Commission decided to take emergency action to address the controversy that has erupted regarding the future of bars and restaurants in the area.
The Commission voted to expand the allowable percentage of linear frontage along 14th and U streets in the Arts Overlay District to 30%, up from 25%. The action goes into effect immediately and will last for 120 days, meaning that no businesses should see their operations or planned development disrupted by this issue.
At its June meeting, the Commission is expected to take up the issue of permanently raising the cap on bars and restaurants along the corridor to 50%, which was the recommendation provided by the Office of Planning in their letter sent last week to the Commission.
So, in sum: stop freaking out. We're cool here--more tapas is on the way.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
A couple of weeks ago, I put up a post about the decrepit state of a vacant lot at 14th and R streets, noting the tremendous amount of trash, debris and rats that had been allowed to accumulate there.
I was contacted by Christine Noel Kidwell, the Ward 2 Outreach & Service Specialist from the Office of the Mayor, who indicated that she would make arrangements to have the lot cleaned "soon". Lo and behold, as I am walking by the vacant lot yesterday evening, I spot this:
Those that subscribe to the "broken windows" theory of crime reduction should be pleased by this; as for me, I'm simply happy that such a neighborhood eyesore has been cleaned up. Now, how long it will stay that way is another matter, but many thanks to Ms. Kidwell and her team for being so responsive.
Monday, April 19, 2010
It appears that Nellie's was robbed this afternoon at gunpoint; Borderstan has the scoop.
I can't tell you how upsetting it is to learn that businesses we love have been the victim of a violent crime. The Mrs. and I have watched more Capitals and Buckeyes games at Nellie's (and played a few rounds of Jenga) than we can count. Thankfully, no one was injured.
On another note, I wanted to pass along a positive story about one of our local businesses. Over the weekend, I inadvertently left my debit card in a local ATM. Aside from being risky to your bank account, it presents all kinds of headaches for your day-to-day activities--including paying for your morning coffee and bagel. I had to hang around the neighborhood a bit this morning in order to wait for the bank branch to open up so I could retrieve my card; while I did so, I decided to pop into the Mid-City Caffe for some breakfast and a coffee.
After placing my order, it immediately dawned on me that I had no cash to pay for it. Seeing my predicament, the guy working the counter said "no problem, just pay us the next time you're in," and promptly delivered my bagel and latte. Now, he certainly didn't have to do that...but it was really cool that he did. So, thank you Mid-City. You've certainly earned yourself a loyal customer.
Ever since the announcement from DCRA's zoning administrator a couple of weeks ago that no more certificate of occupancy permits would be issued for bars or restaurants along 14th and U Streets, there has been a lot of uproar--and confusion--about what it means and how it will affect the neighborhood going forward.
That's understandable, as there has been a lot of confusing information (and hyperbole) being tossed around. Yet while individuals are of course going to continue to draw their own conclusions about what motivated the announcement, and what effect it might have, I wanted to at least attempt to clear up some of the misconceptions or confusion that surrounds this issue.
Q. Why did DCRA choose to make the ruling now?
A. Simple answer: because the so-called "25% cap" on bars and restaurants was about to be hit, and DCRA would be violating established DC zoning law by continuing to approve CofO permits for bars and restaurants that would cause the cap to be exceeded. Until fairly recently, no definitive study existed as to what percentage of street level retail frontage throughout the Arts Overlay District consisted of bar or restaurant operations. DCRA recently completed such a study, and found that the percentage was just a shade under 25%--meaning that any more bars or restaurants would exceed the cap. Thus, the recent ruling from the Zoning Administrator.
Q. Did DCRA thwart the recommendations of the Arts Overlay Review Committee in its recent declaration?
A. Absolutely not. In fact, DCRA was merely doing what the Arts Overlay Committee had requested it do: namely, conduct an assessment of the makeup of the retail market throughout the Arts Overlay District, and enforce the law accordingly. No one advocated that DCRA ignore the law and continue approving CofO permits in violation of the zoning code. It's important to understand that DCRA does not have the power to alter the zoning code; they can merely enforce it.
At worst, DCRA could be accused of being negligent on the PR front, via the issuance of a letter that seemed to ring the death knell for restaurants and bars along 14th and U streets. But nothing in DCRA's actions precludes the adoption of the Arts Overlay Committee's recommendations; in fact, one might argue that the statement hastened their consideration.
Q. Does DCRA's ruling mean the end of bars and restaurants along 14th Street and U Street?
A. Hardly. To begin, DCRA's statement has no affect on any bars or restaurants currently in operation, or those that are planned and have already received their CofO permit. Those that have NOT yet received their CofO may apply for an exemption through the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), who have traditionally been lenient with approving zoning exemptions for businesses along the 14th and U Street corridors.
Secondly, this past Thursday, the Office of Planning submitted a letter to the Zoning Commission formally requesting adoption of certain recommendations put forth by the Arts overlay Committee; specifically, those recommendations that dealt specifically with raising the cap on bars and restaurants to 50% of street level retail frontage. The letter requested that the Zoning Commission consider the issue under an emergency basis at their April 26 meeting (since certain proposed establishments stand to be affected by the ruling). Failure to do so would mean that the measure would move forward as a regular amendment and would become effective by the end of July.
Q. I've heard quotes from community leaders that the popular sentiment is that most in the neighborhood do not want additional bars and restaurants. Is this true?
A. While no one has gone door-to-door polling this question, it is safe to say that quite the opposite is true. When the Arts Overlay Committee presented their recommendations for changes to the Arts Overlay restrictions--including raising the allowable cap on bars and restaurants to up to 50%--they were supported nearly unanimously by all three area ANCs (1B, 2B and 2F) as well as by several area neighborhood associations. During the course of the Committee's public meetings throughout the summer of 2009, comments and testimony were virtually unanimous in support of allowing more restaurants and bars into the neighborhood. There is a recognition amongst most members of the community--leaders, business owners and residents--that such establishments have been, and will continue to be, key to the ongoing renaissance of the 14th and U street corridors.
It's true that certain community leaders, such as ANC1B commissioner Peter Raia, have spoken out on the issue, claiming that a majority of neighborhood residents and business owners support maintaining the 25% cap. I do not feel this is accurate, and do not believe that such a view is supported by anything other than anecdotal evidence.
Q. So, what's next?
A. As noted above, the Zoning Commission will take up the issue at its April 26 meeting. It could consider the issue under an emergency situation, in which case the recommendations--namely, the raising of the allowable cap on bars and restaurants-- included in the letter submitted by the Office of Planning would go into effect soon after. If the matter is not considered under an emergency situation, it will proceed through the normal channels, and would likely go into effect by late July.
In addition to raising the cap, the Office of Planning also requested that the Zoning Commission adopt another recommendation put forth by the Arts Overlay Committee: moving from measuring the percentage of bars and restaurants throughout the whole of the Arts Overlay District, to measuring it on a block-by-clock basis. In other words, no one block will be permitted to have more than 50% of street level retail comprised of bars and restaurants. (Blocks that already exceed that amount will be grandfathered in.) The practical effect will be that, for instance, the number of restaurants or bars along the 1400 block of U Street will no longer have an effect on the number of restaurants or bars along the 1300 block of 14th Street. In addition to making much more sense, the policy will also serve to foster retail diversity throughout the entire District.
In the meantime, businesses who stand to be impacted--and there are a few--are likely in the process of preparing applications for exemptions before BZA in order to move their permitting process forward, should the Zoning Commission not act in a timely manner or adopt all of the recommendations as proposed by the Office of Planning.
Certainly, it can be viewed as an unneeded hardship on businesses that many feel are already too bogged down in bureaucracy and red tape; it's difficult to disagree. But keep in mind that what DCRA is doing is enforcing the law, regardless of the motivations of those advocating for strict adherence to the 25% cap. The legal channels currently being worked--namely, the swift movement undertaken to change the zoning code to allow bars and restaurants to continue to flourish in the neighborhood--are the right ones. In addition to being the proper application of the process, it also helps ensure that future challenges to the law can be more easily dismissed.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
As our readers no doubt are aware, we rarely post about goings-on outside our little neck of DC. But in this instance, I'm making an exception.
Community of Hope is an organization that provides healthcare, housing educational opportunities and other support services to needy families throughout DC. Mr. and Mrs. 14thandYou have been contributing to CoH for quite awhile, and find them to be a very worthwhile organization. This Thursday, Madam's Organ is hosting a happy hour benefit for Community of Hope.
Below is the message I received from Community of Hope's Whitney Hicks about this event--if you find yourself in Adams-Morgan for happy hour tomorrow, I'd urge you to stop by, grab a drink or two, and support this organization.
Happy Hour Fundraiser at Madam’s Organ Blues Bar in Adams Morgan this Thursday, April 15 between 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. for Community of Hope.
For almost 30 years, Community of Hope has worked tirelessly to improve the health and quality of life for low-income, homeless and underserved families and individuals in the District of Columbia. Our holistic range of programs – from healthcare and housing with supportive services to educational opportunities and spiritual support – provide hope and stability to the adults and children who need these services. We have a clinic in Adams Morgan, transitional housing apartments in Columbia Heights and Anacostia, and a permanent supportive housing program throughout the city. To learn more, please visit our website: http://www.communityofhopedc.org/.
Participants don't have to donate a dime - just drink and eat! Community of Hope receives $1 for each drink ordered (including sodas and juice), and 20% of all food sales. Madam's also offers $1 off drink specials until 8:00 p.m.
At the Madam’s Organ Thursday Happy Hours, you can enjoy the atmosphere of a live blues bar and soul food restaurant while supporting a great cause.
Madam's is located at:
2461 18th Street, NW
Adams Morgan, Washington, DC
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
This is the scene at the vacant lot at 14th and R streets next door to Miss Pixie's, otherwise known as the future home of a condo building being developed by Loford, LLC and Habte Sequar of Sequar Development. The space will eventually hold over 30,000 sf of residential and retail development.
While it is waiting to become home to yet another high-end condo building however, the lot is currently home to a disgustingly large amount of filth, garbage and rodents.
In case you're wondering, it is indeed Mr. Sequar's responsibility to keep the lot cleaned up, which--from the looks of the lot--is not a priority for him.
For those interested in dealing with such situations, your first step should be to do as I did, and submit a request through the Mayor's Call Center. Should the city receive enough complaints about the condition of the lot, DCRA and the Department of Health can send out a team to clean the lot and bill the owner. The Department of health also maintains a Rodent Control and Enforcement staff to deal with rodent problems throughout the city.
At any rate, it would be nice to be able to walk down 14th Street and not have to encounter scenes such as this:
Last week, as reported here and elsewhere, DCRA Zoning Administrator Matt Le Grant issued a letter stating that his office would no longer approve occupancy permits for bars and restaurants along the 14th and U Street corridors, in what is known as the Arts Overlay District.
The announcement came at the conclusion of a study by DCRA that showed that the percentage of street-facing retail along 14th and U streets that is devoted to bars and restaurants was just under the 25% threshold permitted under the current Arts Ovelray restrictions. Enforcement of the rule had been advocated by a small group of neighborhood activists, including ANC1B commissioner Peter Raia and ANC2B commission Ramon Estrada, among others.
As expected, the announcement touched off the proverbial firestorm of controversy, both from within and outside of the area. Seeking to quell the anger, as well as to ensure that the decision posed as little threat as possible to the ongoing development and growth of the neighborhood, it was announced today that the DC Office of Planning would submit a set of recommendations to the Zoning Commission by April 26 to raise the allowable percentage of bars and restaurants to between 40-50%.
The 40-50% amount was the amount recommended by the Arts Overlay Committee in its report delivered last year. (Full disclosure: I served on the Committee.)
Once delivered, the Zoning Commission will vote on the measure at their next hearing, in either late May or early June. If adopted, the new rule would go into effect in late June or early July.
The move is clearly a response to the community outcry that arose after DCRA's statement last week. Although the statement merely indicated a willingness on the part of DCRA to enforce an existing law, the move was seen largely as a response to advocacy on the part of commissioners Raia and Estrada, along with other neighborhood activists, who had sought to have the so-called "25% rule" strictly enforced.
By moving so swiftly to change the law, and thus negate the potential effects of its enforcement, DC agencies seemed to be in agreement with nearly everyone throughout the 14th and U street area that the 25% rule was, in fact, outdated and needed to be revised.
Astute observers will note that, even with this action by the Office of Planning, there is still potentially a three month window during which occupancy permits could be denied to otherwise deserving businesses along the corridor. In response to this, local ANCs--including ANC2F--are moving to ensure that the move has minimal impact on the neighborhood.
"Our neighborhood is open for business," said ANC2F chairman Charles Reed in a press release issued today. "ANC-2F will do everything in its power to assist in speeding community acceptable license applications through the BZA process."
While nothing is certain--the Zoning Commission could, in fact, reject the recommendation--in a city where change seems to come at a glacial pace, it is refreshing to see agencies moving so quickly to address this concern.
So, after putting up my post last night about DPW's suspension of street sweeping due to the Nuclear Summit, I decided not to move my car this morning. Because, you know, street sweeping had been suspended.
Only it seems someone forget to notify Officer Williams of Parking Enforcement.
Note how Officer Williams was so on top of his/her game, that he/she indicates that the signs said parking enforcement was in effect on Thursday, even though the ticket is for Tuesday. Forget being on top of DPW announcements, he/she can't even get the day correct.
I know that the language at the bottom of the ticket includes a warning about assaulting parking enforcement personnel,so I will in no way imply that Officer Williams deserves a nice one of these.
So now I get to experience the joy that is the immense waste of time known as protesting a DC parking ticket. Thank you, Officer Williams.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
As somewhat of an addendum to my previous post, DPW issued a release indicating that residential street sweeping would be suspended on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for neighborhoods affected by the upcoming Nuclear Summit, including Shaw, Logan Circle and the U Street corridor. According to DPW's release, the official boundaries are:
-Florida Avenue, NW (northern boundary)
-H Street, NW (southern boundary)
-5th Street, NW (eastern boundary)
-15th Street, NW (western boundary)
You can view DPW's full release here.
Unless you've been living in a cave, you know that starting tomorrow, you're no doubt aware that streets/traffic/commutes are about to get royally fouled up for residents of Shaw, Mt. Vernon Square, Penn Quarter and eastern Logan.
Basically, if you are an auto commuter, you will seriously want to re-think your commute tomorrow morning (or telecommute if you can). Many roads--including a rather substantial portion of Massachusetts Ave. between Mt. Vernon Square and Thomas Circle--will be closed completely. If you are a Metro commuter, be advised that the Mt. Vernon Square station (Yellow and Green lines) will be closed. Additionally, I would anticipate Metro ridership will be very heavy tomorrow.
Even walking and bike commuters will be affected, as a number of streets around the Convention Center will be closed completely. Residents along affected streets will have to supply identification to prove that they live in order to be let in past the security checkpoints.
As if all of that wasn't enough, we have been told to expect serious disruptions along non-affected streets due to protests and other Summit-related activities. In other words, avoid heading downtown tomorrow if you can.
DCist has a good summary of road closures and other things you need to know. Good luck tomorrow.
Friday, April 9, 2010
If you're like me, you find the process of pouring yourself a bowl of cereal and pouring milk on top of it to be an annoying, vexing and time-consuming process. If only, you think, someone would open a business where I could leave my house, pay an absurd sum of money, and have someone complete that task FOR me, my life would be so much better.
Well, the good Lord has answered your prayers. A place called "The Cereal Bowl" has opened in Cleveland Park. For $4, you can get a bowl of Cookie Crisp topped with, well, whatever one might put on top of Cookie Crisp, and delivered to you by an employee wearing pajamas.
Seriously, you ask? Seriously.
This might be the most idiotic concept I have seen since Pizza In A Cone. And at least Cone Pizza isn't something you could whip up in your own kitchen in 15 seconds.
That having been said, how long until Cereal Bar opens up somewhere in the Logan/U Street area? If they combine it with a "gourmet donut shop" concept, they might have a winner.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
EDIT (4/8/2010): The Mid-City Business Association has a good breakdown of the ruling and who it will affect on their website. Also, a nice review of the Arts Overlay District's purpose, which was something I didn't delve into my post from last night.
EDIT #2: DCist has now gotten into the act, and the commentariat are doing their thing.
Earlier this week, Matthew Le Grant, the Zoning Administrator for the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, announced that the office would no longer be granting certificates of occupancy to bars and restaurants throughout the Arts Overlay District, without those businesses first seeking--and obtaining--an exception from the Board of Zoning Appeals.
ANC2B commissioner Ramon Estrada and ANC1B commissioner Peter Raia had approached DCRA and asked that the so-called "25% rule" pertaining to bars and restaurants throughout the Arts Overlay District be enforced.
The Arts Overlay District, which includes the commercial corridors of 14th Street, U Street, and 9th Street, along with stretches of 7th Street and Florida Ave, includes a provision forbidding bar and restaurant establishments from taking up more than 25% of the linear frontage of space along those streets. In Le Grant's communication, he noted that DCRA had recently completed its survey of the Arts Overlay District, and learned that the percentage of linear frontage consisting of bars and restaurants in the District was currently at 24.88%. "With this," he wrote "my office will not approve any new building permit or certificate of occupancy applications for additional eating and drinking establishments as a matter of right."
The decision will take affect immediately, and apply to any project that does not yet have its certificate of occupancy.
The net affect of this decision has yet to be seen, but in all likelihood it will be more symbolic than anything. BZA is notoriously supportive of bars and restaurants throughout the 14th and U Street corridors, and it is likely that any bar or restaurant with a solid business plan that would improve the neighborhood will obtain the exemption.
In the event that the decision begins to have a negative impact on development throughout the area, expect to see a strong push from those within the community for the adoption of the recommendations put forth last year by the Arts Overlay Committee, which included a recommendation for raising the allowable amount of bars and restaurants in the area to between 40-50% linear frontage.
As I wrote at the time, I feel that such a limit is both appropriate and sensible, considering the ongoing development and growth of the Arts Overlay District. It's peculiar that a push would be made at this time to enforce the existing 25% rule, but so long as neighborhood development is not adversely impacted, the decision merely represents the enforcement of a law that remains on the books.
Those wishing to learn more about the recommendations of the Arts Overlay Committee may do so at the ANC2F's website.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
A couple of somewhat significant developments around the city that could have a significant impact on the Logan and Shaw neighborhoods:
First, those following the ongoing drama with the Gales School/Central Union Mission situation may be interested to learn that the District recently wrapped up its competitive RFP (Request For Proposal) process for the redevelopment of the school. I won't rehash all of the history of that building here (see my earlier post for that recap), but this does represent an important development in determining whether or not the Central Union Mission, currently located at 14th and R streets, will be able to relocate to the Gales School location.
The March 26 deadline represented the third such deadline in the process. The original deadline of February 16 was challenged by the ACLU, which contended that it was an "unreasonably short" timeframe designed to give an advantage to the respondent--the Mission--whom is believed to be the District's preference for taking over the property and renovating in order to operate a homeless shelter.
Ultimately, the District received three bids for the property, and aside from the Mission it is not known who the other two bidders are. A decision is expected within the coming 4-5 weeks. Should the Mission be selected as the winner, it will be up to them to raise the necessary capital to renovate the property and build a 5,000 sf addition it wants to add for classrooms and other services.
The project was initially challenged by the ACLU as an illegal government subsidy to a religious organization (the Mission, which is a Christian institution, requires shelter residents to attend a religious service before being given a bed, counseling, and other services.
Should the Mission be successful in its endeavor to relocate, it would pave the way for the redevelopment of the building into a mixed-use residential/retail structure. Such a move, coupled with the anticipated condo project across the street, would go a long ways towards transforming the somewhat-dilapidated 14th and R street intersection.
One other big piece of news to pass along, relevant more for those in the Shaw/Mt. Vernon Square area:
A major step was taken towards the groundbreaking of the proposed Marriott Marquis Convention Center Hotel last week, when a judge dismissed developer JBG's lawsuit against the District over the awarding the Convention Center hotel development to Marriott.
The situation was an interesting one: late last year, JBG sued the city, claiming that the process used to select Marriott as the developer of the site was illegal. However, in February, the District countersued JGB, claiming interference and alleging that JBG's suit was little more than an attempt to gain leverage regarding another one of JBG's properties--Washington Marriott Wardman Park--since JBG had not even submitted an RFP for the development of the hotel site.
Although it's not clear whether JBG will appeal the dismissal, this does move the project one step closer to groundbreaking. When completed, the 1,167 room Marriott Marquis will offer the District a premier hotel for the Convention Center, as well as a host of amenities including several new restaurant locations, retail, and ballroom and meeting space.
I hope everyone had an opportunity to take in the absolutely lovely weather we enjoyed this weekend. Certainly one of the best Easter/cherry blossom weekends we've had in recent memory, weather-wise that is. The tourist volume has been intense the past few days, but will hopefully quiet down to a dull roar as families start to head home this week.
Those of you who happened to find yourselves in Dupont Circle yesterday may have noticed a peculiar sight: a bunch of people engaged in pillow fights. However, despite the spontaneous appearance of the feathered fights, it seems they were actually a coordinated effort. Yesterday was some international pillow fighting day or something, at least that's what the Huffington Post is saying.
And speaking of peculiar sites, the Mrs. and I recently returned home from a trip to NYC. During our meanderings around Greenwich Village, we encountered this scene, which should be familiar to many of you around DC:
I guess I didn't realize that Borf made it up as far as NY?
Thursday, April 1, 2010
The scene: a male and female couple, mid-30s, walking along Q Street on Thursday evening.
Woman: I don't know...I'm wearing a white skirt. Do you think I should put on a pair of pants?
Man: No, it's OK. I'm sure they have towels.
About two blocks later, also on Q Street, a woman talking into her cell phone:
Woman: Darrel is the best incompetent manager you could work for. He's really nice, and he'll go to bat for you. Plus, I'm pretty sure he smokes up on his lunch break.
To follow up on the recent news item related to pending service cuts to Metro, comes this distressing bit of news that I received this morning:
Included in the potential service cut alternatives is a proposal to eliminate all Green Line service on weekends. Yes, you read that correctly: the Metro Board is actually considering eliminating an entire line of service on weekends. Under the proposed plan, Yellow Line trains would continue to operate between Mt. Vernon Square and Eisenhower Ave.
According to the release distributed by WMATA, the elimination of Green Line service would substantially aid the beleaguered transit agency in closing a projected $190 million budget gap. According to incoming interim Metro GM Richard Sarles:
"At this point, these options are precisely that--options. Nothing has been decided, or will be decided, without significant input from those throughout the community. We recognize that certain proposed measures could potentially have a perceived negative impact on certain Metrorail riders, and we take those concerns very seriously. Any final decision will certainly take into account any potentially detrimental impacts to riders, and we will take every possible step to mitigate those impacts."
It goes without saying that such a move would be potentially devastating to communities up and down the Green Line. If you have not already, make sure you take advantage of the period available for public comment and express to Metro your concerns about these (and other) proposed changes.