Sunday, July 31, 2011

Abdo to build apartments on vacant Logan Circle site; McDonalds and ChiDogO to return @ 14th and U

DC Urban Turf and DC Mud report that local developer Jim Abdo is seeking to construct an apartment building on one of the last remaining vacant parcels in Logan Circle. The developer is seeking to construct 70 apartment units at 1427 Rhode Island Ave. NW, along with an underground parking garage.

Why is the site vacant, you ask? Abdo acquired the property, along with the adjacent lots, in 2001. The adjacent lots have since been redevelped, while the currently vacant lot housed two 19th century romanesque townhouses. Abdo's team originally removed the roof from the townhomes after they were found to be hazardous; in 2007, the entire structures were demolished.

According to DC Mud: "Design of the building will mirror the adjacent buildings, designed by William Harris in 1929 and 1930. The new addition will add "a classical tripartite organization, with a two-story stone base, a five-story midsection clad in brick, and a brick attic story with a cornice." Abdo Development is seeking a zoning variance for reduced parking, and will share the existing driveway to a planned underground garage."

The project has received the support of the Historic Preservation Office, but must still receive approvals from both HPRB and BZA.

* * * * * *

In other development-related news, as reported here and in the Business Journal reported last week, JBG Cos. and Georgetown Strategic Capital announced plans to commence work on the unnamed project formerly dubbed the "Utopia Project" in the 4th quarter of 2011.

According to JBG, at least two tenants for the project are already known: McDonalds will return at its 14th and U location becaus eit has a longterm lease there, and recnet arrival ChiDogO will return as well. In addition, the developer also announced that they would work to retain as many of the existing tenants along the U Street-side of the project as possible. These tenants, which inhabit the series of rowhouses that will be preserved and incorporated into the project, include Coppi's Organic, DC Noodles and restaurant and jazz lounge Utopia.

The massive project will rise nine stories above the 14th and U intersection and include 267 apartment units.

"Local Color" at Gallery Plan B

This past thursdy, July 28, Gallery Plan B opened their most recent show, "Local Color," which features works from a number of artists in and around the Logan Circle, Shaw and Dupont Circle neighborhoods.

The show features works in various media depicting scenes of local DC neighborhoods by Chad Andrews, Michael Crossett, Ron Donoughe, Charlie Gaynor, Isabella Spicer, David Ballinger, David Kalamar, Joey Manlapaz, Luis Gomez, Steven Stichter and more.

The 14thandyous attended the opening party on Thursday (invited by fellow blogger and area photographer Luis Gomez, of One Photograph a Day and Borderstan), and came away thinking that it was one of the best exhibitions put on by a local gallery in some time. Of particular note were Gomez's stark photographs, the mixed-media collages of Crossett, and Ballinger's negative prints.

All artists featured unique and interesting perspectives of day-to-day life in central DC--buildings, houses, people and intersections. (Don't miss Crossett's "Wonder Collage," which captures in an erratic and disjointed way the beauty of Shaw's abandoned Wonderbread Factory. Catch it now before Douglas Jemal finally makes good on his threat to redevelop the property.)

The show will be up until August 28 at Gallery Plan B, 1530 14th Street NW. For more information, check out Gallery Plan B's website at

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tonight: U Street Movie Series Continues with "930 F Street"

With the temperature a practically balmy 92 degrees (hey, it's better than 102), it seems like a great night to head out to catch the next installment of the U Street outdoor movie series.

Tonight's feature is "930 F Street," the 2004 movie about our neighborhood's own 930 Club (the title, of course, pays homage to the club's original downtown location). The feature will be preceeded by "Howard Theater: A Century in Song."

For more information about the U Street Movie Series, check out

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Utopia project set to get going as businesses, Freemasons move out

Last week, we snapped the photo below of employees from local Tex-Mex restaurant El Paraiso packing up their belongings for greener pastures. (In this case, their sister restaurant, El Paraiso II in Alexandria.)

Soon after, the City Paper's Lydia DePillis reported on the sale of the United Supreme Council National Headquarters and Archioves building, located next door to El Paraiso at 1924 14th Street NW, to JBG for $5 million. With the recent exodus of the fast food restaurants further up the block, that moves things a step closer for JBG's groundbreaking of the Utopia project, which is anticipated this fall.

The Utopia project will bring 220 rental units and over 20,000 sf of retail to the intersection that serves as the inspiration of this blog's name, which is also one of the busiest in DC. Originally announced back in 2008, the financial market calamity took its toll on JBG's ability to finance the project. However, financing is now on track, and the recent departures pave the way for the commencement of construction of the 90 foot high, Eric Colbert-designed building.

Utopia will be JBG's second large construction project along that stretch of 14th Street, with their District Condos project in full swing two blocks south at 14th and S. And it will be one of many projects currently ongoing in and around 14th Street, all set to deliver at some time during the next one to three years. (Not included in that post, BTW, are Giorgio Furioso's office project near 14th and P, and the recently announced--and HPRB rejected--Level 2 development at 14th and Wallach Place.)

In other words: get used to seeing a lot of upturned dirt along 14th Street over the next few years.

Friday, July 15, 2011

City Development and Business Ethics Issues Come Calling

I usually participate in telephone polls unless I truly do not have the time to do so. A research geek, I think valid surveys are important. I see little harm in answering a few questions when I’m otherwise free, and I always have the option of ending the call if the questions seem inappropriate or drag on too long. That said, I was infuriated by a telephone survey call I received two days ago. Despite my misgivings, my curiosity motivated me to stay on the line. “Who is behind this survey and what do they want?” I thought. Then, as the answers to those questions became clear, I continued to respond to survey items so as to learn what data being collected.

The survey began with questions about my opinions of politicians. Do I view Barack Obama very unfavorably, unfavorably, favorably, or very favorably? What about Vincent Gray, Kwame Brown, Marion Barry, Yvette Alexander, Harry Thomas Jr., Michael Brown, Vincent Orange, and Tommy Wells? Oddly, the titles mayor and council member were not included as the names were read. Also strange was the list of politicians itself; why were some CMs omitted? I was asked only one more question about DC politics. What single DC political issue, from a list of more than ten items, was most important to me? As the long list was read and my working memory struggled to keep up, I was initially frustrated that I could choose only issue. Then I was struck by the omission of important issues and inclusion of other issues. Where was transportation? Why was illegal immigration on the list, particularly since it so rarely features in city politics? My discomfort rose: Either this poll was incompetently written or the organization behind it designed the questions to support an agenda. After a brief shift into questions about my shopping habits and opinions of locally operating retail chains all of the remaining questions were about …Walmart. Ah, this call was related to Walmart’s plans to open four stores in DC.

This was not a simple survey of public opinion; it was a push poll. After establishing that I knew Walmart planned to open stores in DC and my level of support for these developments, it became immediately clear why I had been asked earlier in the survey to pick the one DC political issue that was most important. (Education is what I selected.) I was asked if I knew that Walmart had given hundreds of thousands of dollars to education efforts in DC and over $100,000 to a local non profit that provides jobs and training for city youths (an organization located in Logan Circle). Following this statement disguised as a question, I was asked If I was “strongly opposed to, opposed to, supportive, or strongly supportive of Walmart?” “Um, based on the information I just received?” I asked. “I can’t elaborate on the question,” the surveyor responded.

All of the remaining survey items began with preambles about the positive virtues of Walmart. Did I know that they employed many people? That they made fresh meat and produce available to areas lacking grocery stores? That DC residents spent millions last year at Maryland and Virginia Walmarts? This “survey” was a read-aloud of press releases and talking points. The only thing not qualifying this call as a one-on-one press conference is that I was asked after each glowing report of Walmart’s saintliness how I felt about the chain coming to my city. Of course, the survey designers did not provide for a “neutral” or “no opinion” response option for these questions.

This survey would be laughably bad if the results were not important. Though I cannot prove that Walmart is behind the call, I think it unlikely that a pro-Walmart citizen group would have the money to engage in such shenanigans or that any DC political group with such cash reserves would risk its credibility by push polling. I have a problem with any corporation calling from home to home to share slanted information about their business operations, but Walmart’s efforts cause me particular concern.

At best, I think that this call was being used to test which of Walmart’s talking points will be well received by DC consumers. At worst, the completely statistically invalid data gathered from these calls will be used to influence politician’s feelings about the proposed Walmart stores. I am vividly imagining a Walmart representative saying to a CM, “the vast majority of District residents support Walmart’s development plans. I have the survey data to prove it.” In fact, in response to Living Wages, Healthy Communities' request that Walmart sign a community benefit agreement, Steve Restivo, a Walmart spokesman said, “Unfortunately, some of the louder voices in this discussion just don't represent the majority opinion of D.C. residents" (The Washington Business Journal). I previously wondered how he could trot out the word “majority” with any confidence.

Commentariat: Have any of you received such calls? If so, how do you feel about it?

I believe that Walmart opening in DC is inevitable, and the point of this post is not to discuss the litany of issues at play there. What is within my control, though, is to draw attention to Walmart's unethical PR efforts. I can also ask the council members who represent me to negotiate with Walmart in a way that preserves the interests of the citizens of the District.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fire guts U Street wine shop, dance studio

DCist is reporting that a fire swept through the commercial building at 1351 U Street at around 5 AM this morning. The building houses the U Wine and Beer store, as well as a dance and martial arts studio.

While no official damage tally is yet available, DCist is reporting that it appears that the wine and beer store suffered "heavy losses" in inventory.

U Street had been closed between the 1300 and 1400 blocks this morning for approximately an hour, but has since been reopened.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Residential project at 15th and V adds to growing list of area projects

Last month, we noted the announcement of a forthcoming residential project at 14th and T set to bring new residents, retail, and some really staid architecture to the 14th Street corridor. Although, as recently launched blog U Street Dirt (welcome to the blogosphere, guys) reported, the Historic Preservation Review Board didn't look to fondly upon architect Eric Colbert's plan for the building, and basically sent him back to the drawing board.

Earlier this week, the Meridian Hill Neighborhood Association blog broke the news that yet another large (by DC standards) residential project is forthcoming, this one for the parking lot of the Paul Revere Dunbar Apartment complex at 15th and V streets.

The project, which is being developed by Jair Lynch Associates and was designed by WDG Architecture PLLC, is proposed to stand 9 stories tall and will contain 96 units. It does not appear that any ground level retail will be included as part of the plan, but two levels of underground parking will be included.

Pardon us, if you will, but the rendering for this project looks remarkably similar to a number of residential buildings that have either been proposed, are under construction, or have been built throughout the neighborhood in recent years. In fact, it doesn't look tremendously dissimilar to the Colbert-designed building that was just rejected by HPRB (although, it should be noted, HPRB personnel had other, specific reasons for rejecting the 14th and T building--namely, its size in relation to nearby structures.)

According to Jair Lynch, the senior citizen residents of the Dunbar building have given their full support to the project, which will also include a complete renovation of the existing Dunbar building.

The plans for the building are currently with HPRB, who could discuss and vote on the matter as soon as their July 28 hearing.

DDOT set to tackle U Street reconstruction project

Anyone who has ever driven, ridden or cycled along U Street NW knows that it can be a bone-jarring ride. And anyone who has tried to navigate U Street's crowded, narrow sidewalks, particularly during busy times of the day or night, knows that it can seem like an obstacle course. This fall, DDOT aims to fix that when it kicks-off its reconstruction project of U Street between 9th Street NW and Florida Ave NW.

Eric Fidler over at Greater Greater Washington has done an excellent overview of the project, which I won't repeat here. But there are a few details of the project that are worth calling out.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the project is that DDOT is guaranteeing a four foot wide sidewalk minimum throughout the length of the street. Where less than four feet of sidewalk currently exists--such as along the 1300 block of U Street, where the stairs of several buildings make traversing that portion of the sidewalk a single-procession affair, DDOT will eliminate parking on that section of U Street and extend the sidewalk into what is currently the roadway.

Anyone who has ever been bounced into the roadway to avoid an oncoming group of pedestrians (or drunk, rowdy co-eds) will certainly appreciate the importance of this enhancement.

At the intersection of 16th, U and New Hampshire, a notoriously bad intersection for anyone who has to cross it, DDOT will be installing buildouts to reduce the distance that pedestrians must travel. Eric Fidler also notes the elimination of so-called "slip lanes" on New Hampshire, which will help cut down on speeding vehicles and provide additional pedestrian safety.

On the north side of the 1700 block (the residential block), an exceedingly narrow and choppy sidewalk will be replaced and extended outward, with the casualty being the loss of a number of parking spaces along that portion of the street.

This work is of course all in addition to repaving the the length of U Street, replacing gutters and, along the western portion, replacing the water main. This is not an official "streetscape" project, which means that many of the decorative flourishes found on recently completed streetscape projects such as H Street and 18th Street won't be found along U. Additionally, in spite of plans to eventually run a streetcar line along U Street, streetcar tracks will not be included as part of ths project.

The reconstruction project is set to commence this fall, and will begin with the eastern portion of the street between 9th and 14th street. This phase of the project is anticipated to last 9 months, followed by phase two between 14th and Florida Ave., which will commence at the completion of phase one of the U Street project as well as the 18th Street project currently ongoing in Adams Morgan.

For more details, check out the post on Greater Greater Washington, or head over to DDOT's website for the project,, where they have been kind enough to include a link to this blog.

ANC2F Meeting tonight: Tortilla Coast, Studio Theater banners on agenda

It's a pretty quiet agenda for ANC2F's monthly meeting tonight at the Washington Plaza Hotel at Thomas Circle. Highlights include a discussion related to California Tortilla's Tortilla Coast's liquor license (you may recall that the Capitol Hill tex-Mex restaurant is opening a second location in the former McCormick Paints space at 15th and P streets).

Other items of note include a discussion related to supporting another year of banner hanging for the Studio Theater (likely to be a no-brainer), and a discussion from the Community Development Committee related to a traffic mitigationplan for Pepco's O Street substation.

The full agenda is below. As with all ANC2F meetings, the meeting will begin at 7 PM. Also, the ANC will not be meeting in August, so this is your last chance for two months to air your grievances.

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



Call to Order – 7:00
Commissioner Announcements – 7:00
Report from Executive Office of the Mayor – 7:00
Report from Office of Jack Evans, City Council Member, Ward 2-0 – 7:00
PSA 307 Report – Metropolitan Police Department, 3D – 7:10
DDOT Report – Ward 2 Transportation Planner – 7:25
Community Announcements – 7:30

-10 Minute Recess-

Business Meeting

Approval of Agenda – 7:40

Approval of Minutes of Meeting of June 1, 2011 – 7:40
DCHSEMA/Street Closures – 7:50

14th Annual Leukemia & Lymphoma Light the Night Walk
DC Road Runners and DVLEAP
ABRA – 8:00

Tortilla Coast Street, 1454 P Street NW- New License Petition Date: 7/11/11 Hearing Date: 7/25/11

DDOT – 8:15

Studio Theatre- Pole Banners
Crime and Public Safety Committee (Bryan Goodman) – 8:20
Arts Overlay Committee (Andrea Doughty) – 8:25

Community Development Committee (Mike Benardo, Chair) – 8:30

1211 10th Street, NW Condo Conversion
1427 Rhode Island Ave- Variance Relief
Pepco O Street Substation Traffic Control Plan
1309 Q Street- two unit condo conversion
Arts Overlay Committee – 8:40
New Business – 8:45

Department of Housing and Community Development’s proposed funding of 1417 N Street Northwest DC Tenants Association (A.K.A. Norwood Tenants Association)
Treasurer’s Report (Sam Goekjian, Treasurer) – 8:55

Approval of Expenditures
Adjournment – 9:00

NOTICE: The agenda attached to this notice of meeting is provided by ANC 2F in advance of its public meetings contains matters that are expected to come before the meeting. It is, however, subject to formal adoption by the ANC at the meeting, which may result in additions or deletions to the draft. Individuals who may have official business before the ANC or persons with interests in specific matters are advised to contact the Executive Director or a Commissioner in advance of the meeting. See for contact information