Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tortilla Coast coming to 15th and P, and other restaurant news

Some rather significant restaurant news to pass along this morning: the team behind Capitol Hill's Tortilla Coast (and the local Cafe Deluxe chain) will be bringing the Tex-Mex-themed eatery to the former McCormick Paint space at 15th and P Streets this fall.

The image above presents a very rough depiction of what the finished restaurant will look like, with indoor seating for around 150 and an additional 60 outdoor seats along the 15th street-facing side.

There are few other details at the moment, but it is worth noting that the outdoor seating would be in private space, rather than public space, so no public space permit would be required. (Thus, any restrictions on noise/hours etc. would need to be discussed as part of the inevitable liquor license protest.)

They are gearing for a fall opening, but as with all business openings, it's best to not hold your breath waiting to order that pitcher of magaritas.

* * * * *

Some other restaurant news to pass along, in brief:

The old post office building on T Street (next door to Policy) is set to become a "casual bistro" creatively called "the Post Office Bistro." You know the drill: casual fare, outdoor patio, summer garden, etc. The most striking thing about the liquor license application is a note that the total occupancy will be nearly 260 seats. No, I don't think there will be a protest at all about this one...

The new tacqueria coming to the space next door to the Black Cat, El Centro D.F., looks poised to meet its Cinco de Mayo opening date, notes U Street Girl.

And finally, also from U Street Girl, it looks like the folks over at Peregrine Espresso are gearing up for a grand opening at their new 14th Street location soon.

Details emerge of plans for Verizon building at 14th and R

Last night, the ANC2f community development committee met to review plans for PN Hoffman's renovation ofthe Verizon substation building at 14th and R streets. A few interesting details emerged from the meeting that shed some light into what the project will entail.

The biggest piece of news is that PN Hoffman acquired only the smaller south building for their project, not the larger building to the north. Verizon will retain that building, as well as a small amount of space in the renovated south building to store equipment.

The image above depicting the building as it appeared in its former life decades ago was provided by the PN Hoffman team and their architect, Eric Colbert. While the renovation will not be an exact replication of how the building once appeared, it provides a good indication of where Colbert and the development team are taking the project.

Chief among the alterations will be the reintroduction of the large storefront windows on the first floor of the building, and the repair/replacement of existing windows, along with the installation of new windows throughout the building. The image below shows the architectural rendering of the building along the R Street-facing side.

The building will have room for one ground-level commercial tenant, most likely a restaurant. (The developer has plans for the eventual installation of some kind of sidewalk seating.) The building will have four levels of residences, including a penthouse level with private rooftop decks/gardens for each unit, along with a communal rooftop area. The penthouse structure will very closely resemble the rooftop structure at the top of the Room and Board building at 14th and T streets.

There was discussion of what would happen to the SmartBike rack at that corner during construction, particularly since the construction of the condo building across the street will be underway at the same time. PN Hoffman representatives indicated that they weren't certain whether the station would be able to remain where it is, but that they have been scouting possible nearby alternatives (the ZipCar lot was mentioned.) It's worth noting that, once both of these projects are built, it's unlikely that there will be a bike to be found at that station after 8 AM on weekdays. Just sayin'.

PN Hoffman is looking at an agressive timeline for construction, with an anticipated delivery of mid-late 2012. All in all, it's an exciting development for the neighborhood, and by all rights appears to be a very thoughtful design of a woefully underutilized building.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

CityMarket at O financing clears hurdle; construction still a ways off

Those in Shaw who have been waiting for an inkling of positivie news related to the long-awaited CityMarket at O development finally have something to celebrate. Developer Roadside Development announced yesterday on the project's website that the HUD loan deal, which had stalled the project for decades months, had finally been approved, meaning that the project can officially go forward.

But before you start getting excited about shopping at the new Giant store, Roadside also cautions that "there is a lot of work to get done before a CityMarket construction start" and that this is only "the beginning of getting construction funding in place."

In other words: don't hold your breath. The project, which was originally scheduled to break ground in 2008 with an anticipated late-2010/early-2011 completion date, is now likelu looking at a late 2013 delivery, and even that may be an optimistic projection.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

PN Hoffman puts signs on Verizon building

When PN Hoffman announced recently that they had acquired the Verizon building at the northwest corner of 14th and R streets, they indicated that they wanted to move swiftly with the project, and hoped to deliver by late 2012.

They weren't messing around.

I snapped this photo this morning of Hoffman's signs wrapping around the base of the building. In addition, they will be coming before the ANC's Community Development Committee this evening seeking support for their plans--presumably for exemptions or exceptions they will be seeking before BZA and historic preservation.

Election Day: Do you know where your polling place is?

Perhaps you've been busy watching Dan Snyder tunnel his way to China, but there's a little election today in the District to fill the Council seat vacated by Kwame "Fully Loaded" Brown when he assumed the Council Chair seat.

There are nine candidates vying for the seat, including one Republican (Pat Mara) and one woman (Dorothy Douglas). Others running include professional politician Vincent Orange (who apparently walks and talks like Ward 8 residents), "incumbent" Sekou Biddle, Fenty write-in campaign leader (and, at 27, a spring chicken) Josh Lopez, former Adams-Morgan ANC commissioner and tie-detester Bryan Weaver, Ward 8's Tom Brown, Green Party candidate Alan Page, and the mysterious Arkan Haile.

Not sure where you should be voting? The DC Board of Elections website can help you with that. Happy voting!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Corner of 14th and Corcoran Gets "Cleaned Up"

Many of you have commented over the past couple of years about the individual who had made his home at the northeast corner of 14th and Corcoran streets. The individual, whose name is Michael, had amassed a rather large and unsightly collection of--for lack of a better word--"stuff" that was taking up a rather substantial portion of the sidewalk and treebox and creating a public health hazard.

A couple of weeks ago, signs went up indicating that the corner was going to be "cleaned up" by the city on or about April 29. Well, it looks like they got a jump on things, because as of this weekend, Michael's belongings were gone from the sidewalk.

(Sorry for the crummy cell phone photo above.)

However, the city cannot force Michael into a shelter or treatment program, which highlights the difficulties in addressing problematic situations with the homeless and/or mentally ill. Thus, Michael has simply moved down the block, in front of the Shirt Laundry dry cleaners building, and appears to be commencing the collection of another assortment of "stuff". Lather, rinse, repeat?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Shooting @ 14th and U This Afternoon

UPDATE #2: Congratulations DJ Reed Rothchild for winning the D-bag of the Day Award. (It's a good thing they never have shootings in Adams-Morgan, eh Reed?)

* * * * *

UPDATE: A couple of things to update from below. Reports now say that the two individuals shot were teenagers, both shot in the ankle, and that the violence stemmed from a gang/crew dispute. All of the surrounding streets have been reopened to vehicular traffic (the Metro station was never closed).

Jim Graham has also come out with a statement indicating that we need to crackdown on gang violence, although short of advancing the controversial anti-loitering law, I'm not certain what he is proposing.

* * * * *

At around 2:35 PM this afternoon, it appears that at least two individuals were shot near the intersection of 14th and U streets. According to DCist, witnesses stated that the two individuals were shot at 14th and W, and proceeded south to U Street. Apparently one victim was shot in the foot, and the other in the leg.

Police have currently closed U Street between 13th and 14th, leading one area resident to describe the scene as "eerily quiet".

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

About the "Shirt Laundry" space...

We've fielded some inquiries about about the Shirt Laundry site at 14th and Q streets, so just to clarify a couple of things:

Last June, we wrote about exciting plans for two new restaurants in the Logan/14th Street area: restaurant group The Whisk Group, in partnership with Abdo Development, announced plans to open an upscale Italian restaurant at the current site of Abdo's offices at 1404 14th Street, and to open an Italian bakery-style restaurant at the so-called "shirt laundry" building at 14th and Q streets.

Unfortunately, plans for the restaurant have no been shelved. Last month, the Whisk Group announced that they were pulling out of the project because of unexpectedly high cleanup costs. (Dry cleaners tend to leave a lot of mess in their wake.) This now leaves an open question as to what might end up there, if not a food-serving establishment? Several ideas have been floating around (it's been a poorly kept secret that Walgreen's would like to set up shop in the neighborhood, for instance) but nothing has been announced at this point.

What we *do* know is that while the building continues to sit empty, it continues to look worse and worse (the shot above is clearly from before the graffiti monster began attacking it). Anyone who has walked by the Shirt Laundry site over the past few months can attest that, not only has there been no movement on a restaurant there, but the building has deteriorated and is covered in posters and graffiti, and parts of the roof are blowing off.

The building is owned by one Stephen Jaffe of Potomac. If that name sounds familiar, it may be because he also owns the building across the street (1618 14th Street) that formerly housed the sex club, until the city shut it down following the death of a man inside the building. (We're betting that his wife's upscale clothing store in Bethesda--Pirjo--is kept in somewhat better shape.)

With regards to the other restaurant in the works--the Italian Cinema--we understand that that one is still a go.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

TONIGHT: Loose Lips D.C. Council At-Large Candidates' Debate @ Black Cat

In case you haven't had enough of local politics (and, really, CAN you get enough with all the theater DC politics is providing right now?), head out to the Black cat this evening for the Washington City Paper/Loose Lips At-large Candidates City Council Debate.

The forum runs from 7p - 9p. No word on whether the forum will be followed by a set from a promising up-and-coming indie band.

Details from the City Paper's website:

Washington City Paper, NBC4, and WPFW’s DC Politics show are sponsoring an At-Large D.C. Council candidates’ forum on Tuesday, April 12, from 7–9 p.m. Our gracious host is the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW.

Loose Lips columnist Alan Suderman, NBC4’s Tom Sherwood, and “DC Politics” host Chuck Thies will ask the tough questions. Former Loose Lips writers may drop by for a zinger, too.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The District's Plan for a Shutdown

EDIT: Ehrm, never mind. For now, I guess.

Right now, we're on the brink of a federal government shutdown, should Congress not pass a FY2011 budget before midnight tonight. Should the government shutdown, it threatens to have a substantial impact on the District, since all money in the District's budget--even though the majority is locally raised--is doled out via an appropriations process.

Putting aside the utter ridiculousness of this entire situation, the District has put together a PowerPoint presentation which outlines the impact the shutdown will have on District government operations. The most significant impacts will be felt in the areas of transportation and parking (no DDOT work, limited parking enforcement, no street sweeping), libraries (all closed), DCRA permitting (shutdown) and the DMV (also shutdown). This is in addition to the vast number of District employees who will be furloughed throughout the duration of the shutdown.

The full PowerPoint can be viewed at this link. And for those of you who might be furloughed next Monday...see you at the bar.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Verizon Building @ 14th and R Sold, Redevelopment Plan in Works

Big news for the Logan Circle neighborhood today from PN Hoffman:

We have learned that last week, PN Hoffman purchased the Verizon substation building on the northwest corner of 14th and R Streets (1401 R Street). They are planning to redevelop the existing five-story structure into a residential building with ground-floor retail.

The architect for the project is Eric Colbert, who also designed the Room & Board store and is working with Giorgio Furioso on the commercial project he is building on the east side of 14th Street, NW, between P and Q Streets.

I don't have any further details at the moment, but this is a significant development for the neighborhood. For years, the Verizon building has bee a so-called "block killer", in that it was basically dead space at a prominent corner along an otherwise vibrant thoroughfare. It will be interesting to see what plans are drawn up for the redevelopment of the building.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

ANC2f Meeting Tomorrow: Focus on 9th Street Establishments

ANC2f will hold their monthly meeting tomorrow at the usual place and time: 7:00 PM at the Washington Plaza Hotel at Thomas Circle.

All in all, the agenda (found below) looks to be your typical ANC agenda, filled with community reports, street closure votes and other assorted items of business. As is usually the case, the most contentious/interesting portion of the evening will likely occur during the discussion of ABRA-related (read: liquor-serving establishments) matters. This week, in addition to consideration for a new license for Bar Rouge, the ANC will be looking at a couple of 9th Street restaurants/lounges: Mood Lounge and Cafe Eagle.

Specifically, the ANC will be discussing an alleged breach by Mood Lounge of their voluntary agreement, which has the potential to create some rather significant problems for the establishment. After all, the reason why voluntary agreements are negotiated in the first place is to provide recourse to the ANC to address problems with an establishment that, for whatever reason, the establishment is loathe to address. I'm not certain what issues have led to this particular move on the part of the ANC, but a breach of a VA is unlikely to be overlooked.

Speaking of 9th Street, another new establishment will be on the ANC's agenda when the ANC votes on approval of a revised VA with Cafe Eagle. You may recall that Cafe Eagle, which serves up a mix of Italian, Eritrean and seemingly straightforward fare, will be replacing Vegetate, the former vegetarian cuisine-serving restaurant on 9th Street that closed last year.

The full agenda for tomorrow's meeting can be found below. More information about ANC2f can be found on their website.

MEETING Wednesday, April 6, 2011 – 7:00 PM



Call to Order
Commissioner Announcements
Report from Executive Office of the Mayor
Report from Office of Jack Evans, City Council Member, Ward 2-0
PSA 307 Report - Metropolitan Police Department, 3D
DDOT Report - Ward 2 Transportation Planner
Community Announcements

-10 Minute Recess-


Approval of Agenda
Approval of Minutes of Meeting of March 2, 2011

DCHSEMA/Street Closures:
Lupus Walk
Capital Pride Parade
Stop the Silence Race

Mood Lounge 318 9th Street, NW –Breach of Voluntary Agreement
Rouge 24 922-924 N Street, NW –New License
Eagle CafĂ© voluntary agreement—revisions demanded by ABC Board.

Education Committee
Options Charter School NW Campus, 1501 11 th Street, NW


Crime and Public Safety Committee (Bryan Goodman)

Community Development Committee (Mike Benardo, Chair):
1211 10th Street, NW – Application for Lot Variances

Arts Overlay Committee

Treasurer’s Report (Matt Raymond, Treasurer):
Approval of Expenditures


Property crime is up, but...

Last week, the blogosphere and Twitterverse were all aflutter over the report that came out showing a disturbing rise in property crime in the District. And to be sure, things like a 65% increase in thefts, or the fact that burglaries are up 300% in Dupont Circle, are worthy areas of concern.

But my point here isn't to address the city's response to crime. Well, not from a policing or policy perspective, at least (although it's a worthy discussion why Cathy Lanier seems to have determined that 3,800 police officers is the magic number for the District). Rather, I wanted to mention to something more insignificant, but which I've been noticing more of recently. Namely, this:

I passed this scene the other morning on a Logan Circle residential block--a truly unfortunate and all-too-common sight. However, the car you see in the background was not the one whose window was smashed; I had walked down the same block the week before and noticed the glass then. The shattered glass came from a different car, long since gone. Meaning that there is now a pile of shattered glass that is sitting there--and will continue sitting there for weeks, or until a heavy rain starts to wash it away. Meanwhile, cars are forced to drive over the glass when parking, and people and pets must step on or around it while walking along the sidewalk.

So, I'm issuing a plea to people who are the unfortunate victims of property crime to their cars: do everyone a favor, and clean-up the mess before you leave. And if you're a property owner and you notice something like this in front of your home, take a minute or two to sweep it up. After all, no one else will. Mrs. 14thandyou and I have each been on the receiving end of a smashed car window (enjoying that crappy, $10 cellphone headset, losers?), so we know that it sucks. But it also sucks having to dodge piles of shattered auto glass for weeks.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Development-palooza: It's 2007 All Over Again at 14th and U

The pace of development activity along 14th and U Streets has picked up immensely over the last few months, harkening back to the "boom years" between 2003-2008. And with several new projects coming online soon, the scale of development will only continue to increase.

Last year, we wrote about what looked to be a busy summer of development in the Shaw neighborhood, with many anticipated projects set to come online. Some, such as Progression Place at the Shaw Metro Station and the Howard Theater restoration project, did get off the ground (if a bit late). Others, notably Roadside Development's CityMarket at O project, remain little more than a set of blueprints.

This summer, the development focus shifts back west, as a number of high-profile projects either are or are set to get underway along the U Street and 14th Street corridors. The photos you see below are ones I took yesterday (Saturday) so as to give visual representation of where each project stands--sometimes words don't tell the full story.

Starting in the north, Level 2 Development UDR has started work (above) on the Nehemiah Center project, with site clearing and preparation for construction of the project. When completed, the nine story development will feature over 250 apartments ranging in size from 500 sf to 1,600 sf, along with over 18,000 sf of retail space, which the developer hopes to lease to neighborhood-serving retailers such as a grocery store, dry cleaners or bank. No timetable for a completion date has been shared that I am aware of.

Farther south at 2241 14th Street, local developer tycoon Douglas Jemal is planning a groundbreaking this summer for a 30 unit apartment building with ground-level retail at the corner space formerly occupied by the Latino Auto Sales dealership. There's no development activity yet at the space (above), which only recently completed the planning and approval process. Interestingly, the building will house only 10 parking spaces--a seeming indication of both the city's and developer's transition away from parking-oriented developments. With a Metro station only a few blocks away, several bus lines (including a Circulator line), and many destinations within short walking distance, this makes tremendous sense.

Things are much farther along a block south at Perseus Realty's 14W development (above), where a construction crew has been hard at work on the construction of the mixed-use project. The development, which currently has an (optimistic) delivery projection of mid-2012, will include 231 residential units, a new YMCA, and over 12,000 sf of retail. A small number of the units in the building will be "affordable" units for individuals making 60% or less of the AMI (Area Median Income).

Across the street, a two story restaurant (tenant currently unknown) will fill the currently vacant space at 2208 14th Street. As DC Mud notes, the building has an interesting and varied history, serving previously as the home of the New School of Afro American Thought, as well as a base of operations for Stokeley Carmichael and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the 1968 riots.

At the intersection of 14th and U Streets, Georgetown Strategic Capital is on track to begin construction of the long-awaited Utopia Development, set to consume most of the block on 14th between Wallach Place and U Street. When the project kicks off this fall, the buildings currently housing Taco Bell/KFC and ChiDogs will be demolished, while the buildings housing El Paraiso, Ace Check Cashing andf McDonalds will remain intact due to their historic designation. When complete, the 90 foot building (monstrous by DC standards) will feature over 230 rental units and 20,000 sf of retail (large enough for another furniture store, one hopes). Currently, the plans call for a one year construction timeframe, with delivery of the project in fall 2012. And yes, this is where we add our standard disclaimer that such projections appear optimistic.

Also on tap at the corner of 14th and U streets is the imminent opening of Cafe Society, the latest venture from Local 16 owner Ayman Ayoubi. And considering that the signs are now up and talk of soft openings is rampant, we're inclined to believe them this time. The ground floor of the building will house a Dunkin Donuts and a Subway. No word on whether the "Subway smell" might infiltrate the Cafe Society space...

A block east, plans have apparently been ressurected for JBG's on-again off-again hotel project. When we last heard of this project a couple of years ago, nearby residents were flipping out at the prospects of a 10 story building blocking their views of The Ellington, and the financial market crash was putting a serious dent in JBG's plans to construct U Street's first boutique hotel in generations. However, according to DC Mud, JBG has indicated that the project is "actively in the design phase"--which implies that the project may in fact not be dead after all. Having knocked a story off of the structure, JBG now plans to offer a LEED-silver certified four star hotel replete with over 250 rooms, 23,000 sf of retail and 4,000 sf of conference space. Under the most optimistic of timelines, groundbreaking might commence as early as late 2012--but don't hold your breath.

While we're on the subject of 13th Street, the renovation of the building at the northeast corner of 13th and U streets, which seemingly has been undergoing renovation since the dawn of time, recently completed and tenants are starting to move in. First among them is Boundless Yoga, which opened this weekend on the U Street-facing side of the building. Also announced as tenants of the building: a frozen yogurt spot, and dry cleaners Georgetown Valet.

Heading south long 14th Street, work is underway at JBG's District Condos project at 14th and S (note photo above, taken mere seconds before a torrent of hail rained down). We've written about this project quite a bit here, but to quickly rehash the details: 125 residential units, 18,000 sf of retail, summer 2012 delivery date.

A block farther south, according to Borderstan work is finally set to get underway on the mixed-use project at the southwest corner of 14th and R streets. The 31 unit condo building, which was designed by Bonstra and Haresign architects, will also feature ground level retail. The project has been a veeeeery long time coming, as the ANC first reviewed the project back in 2004. Project delivery is anticipated at some point in mid-2012 (aren't they all?).

And finally, down the street a couple of blocks, developer Giorgio Furioso continues to work on the develpment and construction of an office building to fill the vacant space between the Posto restaurant building and the Great Wall Chinese restaurant. No groundbreaking has yet been announced for the 55,000 sf project.