Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Protect Those Out In the Cold

It's chilly again, and those who live outside are at risk of hypothermia and frostbite. If you see someone suffering out in the cold, please make a call to Shelter Hotline Transport at 800-535-7252. They make periodic rounds in the city, but, when alerted, will go directly to the location of someone who may be at risk for hypothermia. Those who turn down transportation to a shelter will be offered blankets and warm clothing.

Alternative Thanksgiving

If you're without a group to join for dinner or you'd rather not spend all day Thursday around a table, consider volunteering for Thanksgiving. Here are some ideas:

So Others Might Eat is holding a Turkey Trot. Register online and join Mayor Fenty in a 5k to end hunger.

Food and Friends serves Thanksgiving dinners to those with HIV/AIDS. Sign up here to volunteer to prepare meals or deliver them.

If you are hosting a traditional Thanksgiving meal, ask your guests to bring a donation to the Capital Area Food Bank with them to dinner. Funds raised can then be donated online here. Bread for the City is also seeking donations for its holiday meals programs. Your neighbor, Central Union Mission, needs donations as well to help provide holiday meals.

You may also be thinking about making charitable donations as we reach the end of the year. You may also be feeling a little stressed about money right now. If you don't want to make a large donation in this economically challenging environment, consider setting up a small regular payment to an organization that you believe in. Many organizations have recurring donation forms which authorize them to make a periodic charge to a credit or debit card. You can also set up recurring payments through your bank.

All of these opportunities for volunteering and donating will continue through Christmas, so please keep these ideas in mind over the next month.

Monday, November 24, 2008

DC to suspend parking tickets, er, street sweeping November 30

Rejoice, all ye who do not drive to work and frequently forget to move your vehicles, for the city announced today that the annual cessation of street sweeping will commence on November 30. That means, no more seeing the street sweeper go by at 8:45 AM, and then seeing DC parking enforcement out ticketing vehicles at 10:00 AM.

Then again, maybe you will...

The full text of the announcement is below.

Weekly Residential Street Sweeping Ends November 28

The DC Department of Public Works (DPW) has announced that weekly, (signed) residential mechanical street cleaning will end for the season Friday, November 28, 2008. "No parking/street cleaning" restrictions will be lifted and motorists may park along posted, alternate-side, daytime street sweeping routes without being required to move their cars on street-cleaning days.

Residential street sweeping is suspended for public safety concerns during the winter. Sweepers emit a fine spray of water to keep dust down as they sweep; but when the temperature is at freezing or below, sweeping is discontinued to prevent freezing and accidents to vehicles and pedestrians.

Overnight sweeping scheduled for the District's major roadways, such as Pennsylvania, Georgia, Constitution, Independence Avenues and others, will take place as usual all winter, weather conditions permitting. Motorists are urged not to park in these areas during the posted overnight sweeping hours.

By suspending the street sweeping program, DPW personnel will focus on leaf collection and the upcoming snow removal season. Residents and business owners will be notified when street sweeping resumes again in the spring of 2009.

11th Street Reconstruction To Begin December 1

Over the weekend, we received an email from DDOT alerting us to the fact that construction on 11th Street is set to begin on December 1. Unfortunately, this represents a delay from when the project was originally supposed to start--mid-November--and doesn't present a promising kick-off to the project, which is due to end in July.

The full communication from DDOT:

The construction phase of this project is set to begin on December 1, 2008.

If you have questions, you can visit the construction project office located at 1200 N. Street, NW, #319.

You can reach us by phone (202) 898‐1720. Ask to speak with Mr. Osman Mohamed, the on‐site construction engineer, or Mr. Michael Conley, the DDOT Project Engineer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More on t Street Development: What kind of retail do we want?

This recent article from the Business Journal shows local retailers around U Street and 14th Street casting a wary eye towards the potential arrival of Minneapolis-based furniture palace "Room and Board" to the new development heading towards completion at T and 14th streets.

The article raises several points related to the ongoing development and gentrification of the U Street/14th Street corridor. Chief among them: what type of retail do residents want, and what type of retail are we likely to get?

It's not surprising that with skyrocketing commercial lease rates and a decreasing number of options, that the 14th and U St. retail corridor would begin to attract a greater number of "chain stores". After all, conventional wisdom goes, once the local businesses have moved in and paved the way for commercial success, the rents go up and the only businesses left who can afford them are national retailers. it's not true in every sense, of course, but a quick gander around Dupont shows a relative lack of the independent stores for which the neighborhood used to be known.

But what is more valued: a vibrant business corridor, or vacant storefronts awaiting the local tenant who can afford its space?

Those are not always mutually exclusive options of course, but those of us who were less-than-thrilled at the prospects of yet another chain furniture store setting up shop on 14th street might also ask what price independent stores should be maintained, simply because they are independent.

Let me be the first to tell you: I've seen a lot of overpriced crap at independent retailers. And I've seen a lot of merchandise at local stores that I could purchase cheaper at a chain establishment (the quote in the article from the Urban Essentials owner is a good comparison).

While I think we can all agree that a diverse mix of retail is an important component of any vibrant commercial corridor, I think it's also easy to too quickly adopt the "chains bad, local stores good" mentality at the cost of filling retail space. I'm not necessarily excited by the potential arrival of Room and Board, but would I be any more excited by the prospect of a new Muleh or Circle Boutique filling the T Street space? I doubt it.

What's happening at the Old Convention Center site?

The ANC2f Community Development Committee will be holding court this evening at the Washington Plaza Hotel, beginning at 7:00 PM. Among the items on the agenda, Hines will present the plans for the CityCenterDC (Old Convention Center redevelopment) streetscape and Northwest Park.

The redevelopment of the convention center site is but one of many significant projects about to be undertaken in the eastern portion of the central part of the District, but it may be the most prominent. As the largest remaining parcel of undeveloped land in the city's core, the development of the site offers the opportunity to develop a truly unique and lasting project. However, as we all know, these kinds of plans can get fouled up, and without community involvement you risk ending up with something the developer--no the community--wants.

One of those opportunities to learn about the scope and plans for the project is this evening, where you will be able to learn about the plans for the streetscaping and the new park that will be installed as part of the site's redevelopment. No doubt there will be plenty of opportunities for questions for the development team as well.

Coupled with the Convention Center Hotel, O Street market project, and the Kelsey Gardens 7th Street development, things are certainly on the upswing for the 7th and 9th street corridors.

11th Street Reconstruction Set to Start

Any day now, the construction vehicles are going to set up shop and the long-awaited reconstruction of 11th Street between L and O streets is set to begin. A website, www.11streconstruct.com, has been set up to alert the public to construction milestones and progress on the project, which will feature a complete reconstruction of the street, landscaping improvements, and the installation of a traffic signal at 11th and O streets.

You can read all of the details about the project at the website, but we thought it would also be helpful to highlight the project phases, so that those of you who either live along and/or frequent 11th St. know what's in store. The project will be broken up into four phases, as follows:

Phase 1 of the construction is between L St. and N St. on the northbound side of the street. Phase 2 is construction between N. St. and O St. on the same side. Phase 3 is construction between L St. and N. St. on the southbound side of the street, and phase 4 is construction between N. St. and O St. on the southbound side.

At the public meeting, there were some pertinent questions asked which are not answered on the website, so we're sharing a couple of them here.

Question: Why only between L and O streets? Why not reconstruct 11th street up to Rhode Island or beyond?
According to DDOT officials, it's an issue of funding. The DDOT budget, like most other city and governmental agencies, has seen their budget cut significantly, leading to the scaling back of some projects, and the indefinite delay of others. It seemed as if the DDOT officials would have liked to gone ahead and reconsruct 11th Street farther north, but the budget simply wouldn't allow it.

Question: What assurances are in place that the project isn't going to run months over schedule?

Many of you probably remember the Q Street reconstruction project and the significant delays that were incurred there--taking the project over 6 months over its projected end date. The biggest impediment to completing the Q Street project in a timely manner was the accidental severing of PEPCO service lines that were buried under the street. Whoops. DDOT officials assured us that there were ongoing communications between the DDOT contractor and the utility companies, and that there would be no repeat of the problems that delayed Q St. Additionally, the DDOT contractor is penalized $1,100 per day for every day the project runs over its projected end date. that may sound like a lot of money, but a $30,000 penalty for running a month over on a multi-million contract doesn't strike us as particularly foreboding. We shall see.

So, get ready for some significant road upheavals over the next nine months. Hopefully the finished project will be worth the wait.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Want Crime Information? Attend the Neighborhood Meeting This Thursday

Crime statistics and prevention seem to be of high interest on our blog and a number of other neighborhood blogs. If you want to know about issues that have occurred during the high-volume summer robbery season or you want to know about crime prevention efforts as we go into the holiday season carrying, unpacking, and giving high-value items, there is a neighborhood meeting you should attend this Thursday. Please see below for information from the Borderstan blog, a great resource addressing public safety in the Logan Circle neighborhood blocks along 15th Street:

The next Borderstan Neighbors public safety meeting is this Thursday,November 13, at 6:30 p.m. Location is the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church at the northeast corner of 15th and R Streets NW.

This is a follow up to the first Borderstan meeting on August 6. Ward2 Council Member Jack Evans and representatives of the Washington MPD will attend.

Remember that Borderstan is split between two MPD districts and twoPSAs: West Borderstan (west of 15th Street NW) is in the SecondDistrict and PSA 208; and East Borderstan (east of 15th Street NW)is in the Third District and PSA 307.

Visit Borderstan.com for more information and/or send an email toborderstan@gmail.com.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dog Park Grand Opening

The City's first off-leash dog park opens today at 11th Street and Rhode Island Avenue, NW. After the "leash cutting" ceremony this afternoon, you and your pooch can roam freely in the 15,000 square foot park, using the separate fenced in areas for pups under 25 pounds and for larger dogs. This freedom is, however, temporary. When the construction of the new Shaw School begins in June 2010, the park will close. For more information, consult the DC Department of Parks and Recreation press release here.

More on the Whitman-Walker Development

In spite of the current economic climate, the pace of development along 14th street is letting up.

At an otherwise uneventful ANC2f meeting yesterday evening, the ANC and meeting attendees were treated to a presentation regarding the forthcoming development of the former Whitman-Walker Clinic building, located along 14th St. between S St. and Swann. There have been some changes to the project since it was originally announced and discussed earlier this year. For those not quite up to speed on the project, here's a brief run-through.

What: DC-area developer JBG Companies acquired the former Whitman-Walker Clinic building, located at 14th and S, last year to the tune of $8 million. The property was put on the market after Whitman-Walker decided against developing the property themselves. W-W will condense the administrative offices which were located in the building with their existing clinical building, located at 14th and R St.

JBG's plans call for a seven story mixed-use development, with six stories of residential units and ground level retail. The building will include something in the neighborhood of 130 residential units. It wasn't discussed whether the building would be entirely condo, or a mix of condos and apartments--I would imagine in the current market it would be more difficult to obtain financing for a pure-condo project, so it would not surprise me to see a residential mix; but that's only a wild guess on my part. The project will also feature a dual-level parking garage with approximately 90 spaces.

No word yet on what retail establishments might be moving into the building, but a representative of JBG did indicate that talks were "ongoing" with several potential tenants. (Would now be a good time to start a petition to reject the idea of another furniture store or small-plate restaurant?)

How: ANC2f commissioner Charles Reed was quite intent on reminding the project representatives--repeatedly--about the fact that the project would be subject to the requirements of the 14th street "arts overlay" district. That may be true, but Reed's comments that this issue would be "one we will follow up on" must have struck the developer and architect's representatives as a bit odd, seeing as how the project does not technically sit within the boundaries of ANC2f.

JBG, which has a strong track record of successfully undertaking historic preservation work, will also work to integrate the development within the existing structure and facade of the building, which was built in 1908. (Interestingly, the building was originally designed as a residential and commercial-use structure.) Artistic renderings o fthe completed project--which looked quite nice--were shown last night, but unfortunately do not appear to have been posted to their website yet.

When: No word yet. The developer has a hearing before the BZA to address three outstanding issues (including the number of parking spaces they will be offering as well as a sightline issue). Beyond that, no definitive timeline was offered. I am personally a bit surprised to see a project of this magnitude undertaken during the current economic climate, but with the projects at 14th and T and 14th and U progressing along, I guess it's not too far outside the realm of reality.

So, my question for you all regarding this project: What type of ground floor retail would you like to see here? A good deli? A bookstore? Clothing shop? A brothel? Give us your thoughts in the comments section.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

$#%@ You, Parking Cone!

13th and R streets, Sunday afternoon:

That's one way to show your disdain for artificial Sunday parking restrictions.

Trick or Treat!

The 14thandYous spent a couple of hours on Friday evening handing out candy to the little ghouls and goblins in the neighborhood (actually, it seemed like a lot of football players and people dressed up as "the Scream", but no matter).  Mrs. 14thandYou adopted her alternate personna, the neighborhood witch (as seen below), while Mr. 14thandyou ventured out as himself.  It was difficult to tell who the neighborhood children were frightened of more.

Unfortunately, we didn't see too many of our neighbors doing the same.  We know Logan isn't a "family" neighborhood, so to speak (i.e. not too many families with children), but there were certainly enough kids out that evening to keep us busy.  When I was growing up, trick-or-treating was one of the things I looked forward to the most every year, and a big reason for that is virtually every house in our neighborhood was giving away candy.  It's a shame that so many houses, by all appearances, weren't participating this year.

Regardless, we hope everyone had a safe and happy Halloween.  Now, it's time to spend the next two months being overrun with Christmas songs, decorations and highly inappropriate gift items.  Rejoice!