Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Resaurant and Bar update: Happy Hour on its way

While we've been away on a (somewhat unanticipated and not particularly enjoyable) "vacation" some restaurant and bar news has crept up that we wanted to pass along:

Remember Mova, the former bar on P Street that vacated its space last year amid cries of exhorbitant rent in excess of $25,000/month? At the time, owner Babak Movahedi indicated that Mova wasn't closing--it was simply going to relocate.

Now it looks like we know where. U Street Girl noticed that there are signs up in the former Bicycle Station space at 14th and W streets for a "martini lounge and tapas-style restaurant" under the name Mova. A tapas lounge would certainly be a departure from Mova's previous incarnation as an upscale gay bar, but sometimes the description of the restaurant/bar on the placard differs from how it will actually operate. (And, yes...another tapas bar, you're thinking? You can't really have too many, you know.)

Left for Ledroit has the news about a new bar called Happy Hour to be located above the Islander at 1201 U Street. In addition to the drinks and "light fare" to be sold by the bar, the owners also want to host live bands as well as--wait for it--skiball. THIS might actually be a place I could get excited about, even if the name leaves a bit to be desired in the creative department. (Some day, I'm going to open a bar called "Class C Tavern License". My other idea is for a chic urban lounge called "Solstice" that will only be open twice a year.)

Next, some restaurant departure news: Prince of Petworth notes that the closing of the KFC/Taco Bell located on 14th between T and U is imminent. This is, of course, to make room for the long-awaited Utopia project at the corner of 14th and U. Guess you're going to have to find a new spot to satisfy that midnight craving for chalupas and absolutely horrible service. Opportunities abound.

Finally, it's nice to know that the "OMG the bars iz coming!" scare tactics aren't limited just to Logan/U Street. Columbia Heights: brace yourself.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

14th and R Bikeshare station moved to make way for construction

In a further sign that construction on the PN Hoffman project at the Verizon building at 14th and R is about to get underway, Capital Bikeshare workers this morning relocated the station across 14th Street. the station now resides at the northeast corner, in front of the Whitman-Walker clinic.

The PN Hoffman project is one of two significant development projects set to get underway at that corner this summer--the other being the Bonstra | Haresign-designed condo project at 1638 14th Street, next door to the AYT Auto Shop.

Unfortunately, Bikeshare is not adding any docks to the 14th and R station, despite the fact that it--like most area stations--is devoid of bikes by 8 AM most weekdays.

Friday, May 20, 2011

This morning's redundant post: Peregrine Espresso likely opening Wednesday

As reported over at Borderstan and U Street Girl this morning, Peregrine Espresso, the purveyors of fine coffee beverages on Capitol Hill, is set to open their new 14th Street location next week.

"Probably Wednesday," said Ryan Jensen, Peregrine's owner, at last night's "sneak peek." Jensen and his team were offering sweet snacks, wine and complimentary coffee to the crowd at the event, which turned into something of a DC blogger caffeine-infused happy hour.

Jensen indicated that the Logan Circle location was the first of two additional Peregrine locations that he was looking to open, but was coy when I pressed him about the location of Peregrine #3.

The space inside was clean and well-designed, courtesy of local design firm Aesthetic Answers. Indoor seating appeared to be on the low-end (which could make finding a place to sit down and crank out a blog post a bit challenging), and outdoor seating appeared to be a ways off, pending the receipt of a public space permit.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Humanities Council of DC Honors U Street Businesses

Last night under threatening skies, the DC Humanities Council held their inaugural "Celebration of U Street" event. In attendance were local business owners, community leaders, District government officials and interested citizens.

At the event, the Humanities Council presented three U Street-area businesse were honored for their "contributions to the rich urban history and world-class reputation of U Street."

Nizam Ali of Ben's Chili Bowl, Richard Lee of Lee's Flower and Card Shop, and Suman Sorg of Sorg Architects (architects of area buildings such as the Solea) were all on hand to both accept their respective awards and participate in a brief panel discussion hosted by author Blair A. Ruble, who wrote "Washington's U Street - A Biography," a history of the street and its surrounding neighborhood. (A must-read for anyone interested in the tremendously rich history of the U Street neighborhood.)

Lee spoke briefly about what he views as the three defined stages of U Street's life: as the epicenter of African-American life and culture, as a decaying neighborhood plagued by neglect and under-investment in the aftermath of the 1968 race riots, and as a neighborhood reborn and resurgent in recent years. I couldn't help but notice that the crowd in attendance--a mix of people of different ages and races--seemed fairly emblematic of today's U Street.

There were some interesting facts and anecdotes that came out during the discussion and subsequent q&a. For instance, Ben Ali--founder of Ben's--never ate one of his restaurant's notorious half smokes, because he kept halal. Richard Lee, who is himself not a native Washingtonian but was actually born in Montreal, spoke of living around U Street before and after the desegregation of the District. Most interestingly, he noted that while U Street was the preeminent African-American neighborhood in DC, the People's Drugstore at 14th and U was a segregated store, and didn't allow African-Americans to sit at the lunch counter until after repeated sit-ins led by the likes of Mary Church Terrell and Mary McLeod Bethune.

Following the discussion, each business representative, along with Blair Ruble, received awards from the humanities council that reflected their individual and collective contributions to the neighborhood.

The Humanities Council of DC, which is based on U Street, "is a non-profit organization that provides grant support for community programs that enrich the lives of DC citizens through the humanities disciplines." More information about the Council, as well as how you can offer your support, can be found at their website, www.wdchumanities.org.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

U Street movie series back for 2012

Those of you who enjoyed the opportunity to take in moving picture shows while out in the elements last year, rejoice: the U Street Movie Series is back for its second season.

Once a month, now through October, you will have the opportunity to catch a movie outdoors from the Harrison Recreation Center, located on V Street between 13th and 14th. Gates open at 7, and the movies typically begin by 8:30. They're also offering a moon bounce for the kids this year (sadly, no moon bounce for adults.)

The full schedule and additional information can be found below. Oh yeah, they're also accepting donations and sponsorships for the Series through their website, located at http://movies.ustreet-dc.org. All proceeds benefit the friends of the Harrison Recreation Center.

After a successful inaugural season in 2010, Friends of Harrison Recreation Center, the U Street Neighborhood Association, and the Meridian Hill Neighborhood Association announced today the launch of the 2011 Summer U Street Movie Series.

This year’s movie series lineup includes films that feature and celebrate Washington DC, including both classic and family friendly Hollywood films set in Washington, DC, documentaries addressing environmental and education issues that resonate in Washington, DC, and films about local U Street entertainment institutions such as the Howard Theater and the 9:30 Club.

In collaboration with the AFI Silverdocs Festival, prior to the feature film will be a screening of a short documentary featured at a previous AFI Silverdocs Festival (http://silverdocs.com).

The schedule is as follows:

May 24: AFI Short: This Chair is Not Me (rain date May 26)
Feature: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

June 28: AFI Short: The Poodle Trainer (rain date June 30)
Feature: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

July 26: Short: Howard Theatre: A Century in Song (rain date July 28)
Feature: 930 F Street

August 23: AFI Short: City of Cranes (rain date Aug 25)
Feature: National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets

Sept 20: AFI Short: Big Birding Day (rain date Sept 22)
Feature: Bag It

Oct (TBD): Feature: Waiting for Superman, indoors, followed by community forum on
education policy

Admission is free, and all films with the exception of October’s Waiting for Superman will be shown at the field at Harrison Recreation Center on V Street between 13th and 14th Streets, NW. Gates will open at 7 pm. Attendees are encouraged to come early starting at 7 pm to picnic in the park and listen to music spun by local DJs. Free popcorn will be provided to the first 100 attendees beginning at 7 pm by Ventnor Sports Cafe. Showtime will be at sundown, exact time will vary. Several local food truck vendors will be on site serving food. On the June and August “family” nights, children can play in a moonbounce from 7:00 – 8:30 before the films. Full information can be found at http://movies.ustreet-dc.org.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Yet another huge condo building coming to 14th Street

Back in March, we wrote a post that took a look at all of the development projects currently ongoing around the 14th and U Street corridors and noted that it felt like a return to the middle part of the last decade, when development was going like gangbusters throughout the neighborhood.

Since that time, real estate development tycoons PN Hoffman announced plans to convert the Verizon building at 14th and R into a residential building with ground level retail. And today, courtesy of the City Paper's Lydia DePillis, we learn of yet another project for 14th Street: the eastern side of 14th near the intersection of Wallach Place (between T and U), which is currently the T Street post office (oh, you didn't know the Post Office was closing?), a furniture store and a Yum's carryout, is set to become a seven story condo building replete with ground level retail.

Image courtesy ofthe City Paper

The project, which is being developed by Level2 Development (of View 14 fame) and is designed by Eric Colbert and Associates, will house 126 residential units in addition to the aformentioned retail.

As you can see from the rendering above, it looks pretty much like...well, it looks pretty much like all of the cookie-cutter condo boxes that have been springing up around town recently. I sometimes wonder if we'll look back at this time in the city's development 30-40 years from now and view these buildings the way the brutalist SW federal center is viewed today: products of their time that have not aged particularly well.

No matter--progress is progress, right? A potentially greater issue than mundane architecture was raised on the Twitters today: namely, is DC starting to run out of Yums? With the loss of this location, and the anticipated loss of the one between Rhode Island and P street when that section of the block gets redeveloped, one does have to wonder: have we reached Peak Yums, and are venturing along the beginnings of a downhill slide from which we may never recover? Heaven help us.

Redistricting meeting with Jack Evans tonight

With the 2010 census figures in, the District is currently going through the redistricting process--that is, determining which areas and neighborhoods in the city will belong to which ward. One of the most interesting discussions relates to the residents of and near the so-called "Ballpark District" in southeast, who may move from under the auspices of Tommy Wells and Ward 6 to Marion Barry's Ward 8. However, some movement may also be afoot for neighborhoods in and adjacent to Ward 2, which includes Logan Circle, Dupont Circle and sizeable chunks of Shaw.

To learn more about the current state of negotiations, and to take an opportunity to ask questions about the process, plan to attend this evening's redistricting briefing at the Wilson Building, hosted by Ward 2 councilman Jack Evans. See the information below, which was distributed by the Ward 2 Democrats:

Monday, May 16, 2010
6:00 pm

Wilson Building - Room 120
1350 Penn. Ave. NW

At the meeting Jack Evans will give us a briefing on the status of the re-districting as a result of the 2010 census and will take your questions and comment on the process. Re-districting will affect the boundaries of Ward 2 and the ANCs and is of interest to all of us involved in politics, so it should be an interesting and lively meeting.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Adams-Morgan comes to T Street, Courtesy of the Post Office Bistro

Here's an exciting piece of news that you may have missed over the last couple of weeks: T Street has become Adams-Morgan.

Thart's right! The four block stretch along 18th Street notorious for its late night bars, nightclubs and restaurants has packed up shop and relocated south, to a commercial space near the corner of 14th and T streets. Adams-Morgan will henceforth be known as the Post Office Bistro, and will be reborn as a casual restaurant serving an extensive weekend brunch with a patio and summer garden. The neighborhood/restaurant will also be owned by someone with ties to New York, which unfortunately does not coincide with the arrival of a decent bagel shop.

Skeptical? So were we, until we saw this flyer (courtesy of Prince of Petworth) and its attendant exclamation points, noting that the arrival of the Post Office Bistro meant the end of T Street as we know it.

Some of the highlights of the flyer, which was put together by Elwyn Ferris, partner of ANC2B commissioner Ramon Estrada, and another neighborhood resident, include:

"URGENT! A New York investor plans to turn the Old Post Office building on T Street into a destination, special events venue under the guise of a "restaurant"! DO NOT BE FOOLED!"

"T Street will never be the same again"

"Only massive, unified opposition from by us (the residents who have to live here) has any hope of stopping this disaster!"

"The Post Office Bistro wants to eat your children and destroy your flower garden!"

OK, that last one was mine--I guess I was just a little caught up in the moment. But the rest of those hyperbolic statements were taken directly from the flyer itself.

Now, here's the thing: anyone who has read this blog over the years knows that we tend to fall somewhere in the middle when it comes to negotiating voluntary agreements with area liquor license holders. These businesses absolutely impact the lives of nearby residents by the very nature of their operation, and thus the residents have a right to at least attempt to mitigate some of the potentially negative impacts.

But there is a process for that: the negotiation of a voluntary agreement, frequently through the local ANC. A well-designed VA helps mitigate factors such as noise, trash and parking, which can have significant impacts on nearby residents, while encouraging the opening and success of a business that will continue the growth of the 14th Street corridor into the vibrant, energetic corridor that many of us enjoy.

Needless to say that vitriol and hyperbole, such as that found in this flyer, are tremendously unhelpful. Not only does it poison the negotiation process and serve to harden most neighborhood residents (and ABRA) against anything that involves a "protest" against the establishment, but it is written to portray all neighborhood residents as being vociferously against a business that a) many residents likely support, and b) helps build the character and dynamic of our neighborhood.

If you support the opening of the Post Office Bistro, and want to ensure that the process of negotiating a sensibile agreement with the establishment is not hijacked by a handful of loud, resourceful opponents, then make plans to attend tonight's ANC2B meeting, being held at the first floor of the Brookings Institution at 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW at 7:30 this evening.

Additional information can be found on ANC2B's website.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Community Happenings: Ward 2 townhall with Mayor Gray; Book Event with U Street Historian; DC Scores art gala

A few community notes of interest to pass along:

This Monday, May 9, DC Councilmember Jack Evans and all Ward 2 ANCs will co-host a town hall meeting with DC mayor Vince Gray to discuss the mayor's 2012 budget proposal. The event will take place Monday, May 9 at 7 PM at the Immaculate Conception Church at 1315 8th Street NW in Shaw.

An email distributed by ANC2F had this to say abot the event:

This coming Monday, May 9, 2011, our Mayor is holding a town hall meeting to present and discuss his 2012 budget for the District. Your Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2F is co-hosting this meeting and urges your attendance. This will be an opportunity to show our concern over the budget and to give the Mayor our thoughts on it.

I believe it holds several serious defects:

1. Our police chief, Kathy Lanier, whom we generally hold in high regard, has chosen to make cuts in prostitution enforcement throughout the City. As you know, our area is a center for prostitution in D.C. Far from being a victimless crime, prostitution plagues our community with its associated crime and health problems. MPD has already abolished the central prostitution unit, which had become increasingly effective. Despite MPD assurances to the contrary, enforcement efforts will decline, particularly when we move into the prostitution spike which comes each summer.

2. The education budget includes funds to reinstall most of the middle management personnel who in fact do very little in the school system. Education in our community is a number one priority; we want to see the money go for front line facilities, good teachers and refurbishing of the decaying structures of the schools in our area.

3. The income tax increase is insupportable. DC Residents already bear one of the highest tax burdens in the nation. Increasing taxes in D.C. adds injury to the insult already visited on us by a Congress which will not even permit us to vote.

Whether or not one agrees with the points raised by ANC2F above, this is a unique opportunity to express your opinions on these and other important issues facing the District. For more information, please contact Kenyon Churchwell at 202.727.2822 or kenyon.churchwell@dc.gov.

* * * * *

Can't get enough Jack Evans and DC politics? Congratulations--you're in luck! Next Monday, May 16, the Ward 2 Democrats will be hosting a meeting with Councilman Evans to discuss the District's upcoming redistricting plan. Every ten years, like other jurisdictions, the District examines census data in each of the city's eight wards and sets ward district boundaries accordingly. Although, as with most politically sensitive issues, things are rarely that simple.

According to the Ward 2 Dems statements about the event:

At the meeting Jack Evans will give us a briefing on the status of the re-districting as a result of the 2010 census and will take your questions and comment on the process. Re-districting will affect the boundaries of Ward 2 and the ANCs and is of interest to all of us involved in politics, so it should be an interesting and lively meeting.

(Note: "Lively" meeting is codespeak for "expect the expression of more strong opinions than at an ANC liquor license protest.")

The Dems are asking for comments or questions in advance of the meeting for issues that residents would like to discuss. You are encouraged to contact Chairman Patrick Allen (pallen39@verizon.net) with your ideas.

* * * * *

Those of you who are curious about the history of our neighborhood--particularly U Street--would be well-advised to seek out local historian Blair Ruble's book, "Washington's U Street: A Biography," an intensely fascinating and thorough examination of the history of our neighborhood.

Mr. Ruble will be in attendance at this week's U Street Neighborhood Association meeting to talk about his book. The discussion will take place from 7:00 to 7:30 PM, after which time the USNA will hold their regular meeting. Meetings are free (although donations are accepted) and held at the Thurgood Marsahll Center at 1816 12th Street NW.

More information can be found at the USNA's website.

* * * * *

Finally, next Wednesday, May 18, local nonprofit DC Scores! will host their Inspired Art Gallery at the Corcoran. The event will feature the works of local and national artists, including U Street's Isabelle Spicer.

More details can be found below, and at DC Scores website.

WHAT: Join DC SCORES for an evening of student voice and artistic vision at the second annual Inspired Art Gala, featuring a silent auction and showcasing the talents of DC SCORES youth and area professionals through spoken word performances. More than 200 guests are expected to attend the gala in support of DC SCORES' unique focus on creative expression and poetry for students across the District.

WHEN: Wednesday, May 18, 2011, 7-10 p.m.

WHERE: Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 17th St., NW Washington, DC 20006

TICKETS: $200. See the event website for ticket and sponsorship information

DETAILS: The Inspired Art Gala provides artists with the unique opportunity to support the instruction and cultivation of creative expression through poetry among DC SCORES poet-athletes. The unique silent auction features works of art created by local and national artists inspired by the poetry of DC SCORES poet-athlete. Poetry readings by DC SCORES’ most outstanding students cap off the night.

The event will honor Beverly Perry, Vice-President of Pepco Holdings, Inc., and Congresswoman Mary Fudge as the recipients of the evening’s Inspiration Award recognizing individuals whose leadership in the Washington, DC community directly or indirectly inspires creative, athletic, and/or civic growth of Washington, DC youth.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Local Outlet on El Centro D.F.: "Bringing Mexico to DC without the drug lords and fire ants"

As U Street Girl had mentioned, the folks over at El Centro D.F. (Masa 14's Richard Sandoval and Kaz Okochi) were successful in making their Cinco de Mayo grand opening last night. And from the looks of the line, getting a table at the new 14th Street taqueria is going to be a might bit difficult.

Did anybody manage to squeeze their way in last night? If so, was the months of anticipation worth it?

How are the local journos reacting to the opening, you ask? Well, the most interesting description of the new tacqueria thus far comes courtesy of DC scene publication "Dining Bisnow," which described El Centro this way:

El Centro D.F. is bringing Mexico to DC (without the drug lords and fire ants).

I must say, this city has gone long enough without a drug lord- and fire ant-free tacqueria, and I for one am glad that someone was able to step up and fill the void.