Friday, July 31, 2009

Get Ready: "Dog Days" This Weekend

This weekend, Logan, Shaw, U Street and other mid-city neighborhoods will spring to life with the arrival of the 10th annual "Dog Days" celebration. Many local business along the U Street and 14 Street corridors will be featuring sidewalk sales and offering special discounts and deals on food, merchandise and services.

In addition to the sidewalk sales, there will be many cultural and entertainment activities ongoing throughout the weekend, such as:

U Street Festival at the 14th & U Farmers' Market
Free treats for your dog at the Shaw dog park (1600 block of 11th St NW)
Music and Arts Open House and National City Christian Church
Studio Theatre's Annual Garage Sale (home accessories, clothing, collectibles and more)
Washington Improv Theater's IMPROV-A-PALOOZA: 10 straight hours of improvisational comedy
Words Beats & Life – Film Screening of Chocolate City Burning

Plus, many of the restaurants in the area will be offering special deals and treats all weekend long (a gazpacho contest at Saint-Ex? Wine and cheese from Cork? We're so there.)

So be sure to make time to stroll our neighborhood, support our local business, enjoy some food from local restaurants, and soak in all of the unique cultural opportunities that our neighborhood presents.

Additional information, including a schedule of events and a list of participating businesses and restaurants, is available at MidCity's website.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Response to the Washington Post

For those who may have missed it, on Friday the Post ran what I can only call an "interesting" piece on how some U Street-area residents feel that the ambient noise along the corridor is too loud. As I read the piece on Friday morning, I began composing a response in my head addressing the points raised in what was, unquestionably, a slanted article.

And then I saw the response composed by area resident, former CSNA president and executive director of the 14th and U Main Street Initiative Environmental Programs Manager for the Downtown DC Business Improvement District Scott Pomeroy, that had been posted to the U Street Listserv. Scott's response encapsulated everything I could have hoped to convey, albeit from the perspective of a longtime neighborhood resident who has a tremendous understanding of the fabric of the neighborhood and the ways in which the neighborhood has progressed to its current state.

I thus asked Scott if he would acquiesce to having his response posted here, in the form of a guest commentator, and he obliged. What follows below is his response, verbatim, to the issues addressed in the Post article.


I felt compelled to encourage everyone (Washington Post writer included) who thinks (or reports) that 14th Street and U Street is just about bars and nightlife to take the time to come out next weekend and see the variety, quality, and quantity of retail offerings MidCity/14th & U ( has to offer its residents and visitors. There is an amazingly good mix of morning, daytime, early evening, and night time offerings to experience, even including 24-hour 7 Elevens for those late night early morning needs.

I am also writing today because I truly cringe every time I hear a community discussion about U Street started as the reporter did in this article:

“They worry that U Street will one day become like Adams Morgan, where traffic and crowds brought in by clubs and bars make living in the area almost unbearable.”

U Street is Not and Never will be Adams Morgan!

U Street and 14th Street were both designed and developed as retail destinations for the Washington, Maryland, Virginia region. The early car showrooms on 14th and the theatre district on U Street historically drew people from all over the region and even the world. Here are some additional reasons why U Street will never be Adams Morgan as Adams Morgan is perceived today:

Infrastructure and Design: Unlike Adams Morgan, U and 14th streets are very well served by public transportation, with Metro subway entrances, multiple bus lines, and the new Circulator line, as well as dozens of Zipcars. The roads are all six lanes wide, to better manage parking, loading, unloading and all the traffic generated by business activity. These corridors, unlike 18th Street, also have wide alleyways that mitigate the competing needs of businesses and residences.

Sustainable Destinations: Unlike Adams Morgan, U and 14th streets have a diverse array of preserved and well-supported live performance destinations -- Source Theatre, 930 Club, Studio Theatre, Twins Jazz, Lincoln Theatre, Black Cat, HR-57, 1409 Playbill, Busboys and Poets and others -- along with over a dozen galleries, cultural attractions and other features, that bring tens of thousands of people to the area every week in the early evenings, for something besides food and drink. But guess what? While they are here they do sometimes shop, dine and drink, before and after those performances. Or, they return to the area to make a purchase of an item seen in a store window or otherwise advertised in the neighborhood.

Leveraging Base: The fine dining restaurants that have been attracted to the area in the past few years are leveraging the base of neighborhood density and regional-serving entertainment venues which is why you see the dining nexuses that have developed around the theatres. We’ve also seen the development of several retail clusters that leverage the dynamic energy of the area. Fashion, home furnishings, design centers and boutique shops add to what makes our neighborhood unique and sustainable. Go into most any restaurant or retail business and take a look at the walls and you will see artwork from local artists, or the business owners themselves (as is the case at ACKC or Utopia), for sale as part of their business models.

Doing Things Now: We can and are dealing with the real issues of trash, noise, parking and safety: these are the quality of life issues that everyone complains about that can be mitigated by focusing on solving the specifics. Examples are:

  • Developers are advised not to put bedrooms on the fronts of buildings that face the commercial district, particularly on lower floors.
  • We are working with businesses on rodent proof compactor trash and recycling solutions that will minimize the number of trash truck visits to the alleyways that residents and businesses share.
  • Our Ward 1 and Ward 2 Council Members both have pending legislation that respectively, would help address overall parking and trash issues in the area and funding is pending to maintain the daily cleaning services for the commercial district.
...just to list a few.

I just hope that as we move forward as a community that we work together to utilize the limited resources available to cultivate, manage and adapt to our growth wisely, and focus on solutions for the real issues facing 14th & U Streets. I say let’s get away from wasting time trying to stop “U Street from becoming Adams Morgan" and instead, lets be U Street, a great place to live, work and experience.

Scott Pomeroy

Friday, July 24, 2009

Devilish Burgers Headed to 14th Street

Update 7/27: We have learned that the Policy guys have actually taken the entire corner--both the building pictured below and the building on the corner of 14th and U streets (the buildings are connected). The plans are currently for the aforementioned hamburger place to occupy the second and third floors of the building, with an as-ye-undetermined business to be located on the first floor. More details as we get them.


Hot on the heels of the recent announcement of the forthcoming bakery and wine bar next to Marvin ("I'll have a loaf of cinnamon bread and a glass of your 2003 Malbec please"), 14thandyou has received this nugget of info: the space down adjacent to the bake-oenology place, located at 2001 14th Street, will in fact be a "top-shelf" burger joint owned by Policy's Omar Miskinyar and David Karim, and featuring creations from Policy chef Brian Murphy.

Sources tell us that one of the names currently under consideration is "Hamburger Hell". Although that name brings to mind area burger chain "Ray's Hell Burgers," Miskinyar insists that the name has "nothing to do" with the unconventional Arlington-based restaurant, and that other names are still being kicked around.

Plans for the restaurant include a 1200 sq ft. patio in the back--which is certain to become a point of contention during the negotiations with the ANC and area residents.

Miskinyar and Karim are aiming for late-spring/early-summer 2010 opening date.

This announcement means further development for the block of 14th street immediately north of U, although still no word on what's happening at the sizeable building located at the intersection of 14th and U streets. Rumors have been swirling that the guys from Marvin are interested, but nothing definitive yet.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Local Restaurant Hosts Benefit to "Save the Seals"

14thandyou rarely ventures into the world of activism, but we did want to make our readers aware of a recent event held in the neighborhood that supported a worthy cause.

This past Tuesday evening at 14th Street restaurant and lounge Policy, entertainment stars and a number of representatives from the DC area's top restaurants--including Policy's Omar Miskinyar--held a benefit for the Humane Society of the United States to launch "In Our Hands," a campaign to end Canada's commercial seal hunt.

250 attended the benefit, with proceeds going to the HSUS and their effort to curtail the Canadian government's continued allowance of an annual seal hunt in which hundreds of thousands of seals--many of them mere pups--are clubbed to death for their fur. In spite of a decimation of the seal population due to melting ice shelves, the government has allowed the seal hunt to continue--and the HSUS has been on hand to document the activity and embark upon lobbying efforts to have the hunt discontinued.

In addition to packing the space and raising money for a just cause, the event attracted a noteworthy crowd: British photographer and America's Next Top Model judge Nigel Barker was in attendance, as was Real Housewives of New York star and chef Bethenny Frankel. Playing DJ for the evening was none other than Joel Josh Madden, brother of Good Charlotte guitarist Benji Madden.

Guests were treated to dishes made by chefs from some of DC's most popular restaurants, including Restaurant Eve, Equinox, Vidalia and Citronelle, plus others.

"It was great to be part of something so special here on U street," exclaimed Miskinyar. "This event was held to start awareness about the brutal seal hunt, the largest slaughter of marine mammals on the planet, and to increase appreciation for these creatures. It has changed my perspective on so many things on so many different levels."

Those interested in learning more about the Humane Society's efforts to curtail Canada's seal hunt can be found here. If you feel like getting involved, the Humane Society has also put together some tips for what individuals can do to help the cause.

Photo of the event are included below.

More Info on "Table 14"; "World's Best Philly Cheese Steak" Coming to 14th Street

Metrocurean has an update today on the forthcoming establishment on 14th Street from the Local 16 guys.

Turns out, the name is going to be "Table 14". (We always thought "Local 14" was a bit unimaginative...)

According to Metrocurean, plans for the space "include a farm-to-table restaurant serving modern American cuisine with an Italian influence on the main floor; a yakitori grill and bar on the second floor overlooking a green roof and garden space; and a space for events on the third floor with a small roof deck."

Of course, details related to the deck and garden space remain to be worked out, however plans currently call for Table 14 to be operating by spring of next year.

In other news, a quick peak inside the former 14U coffee shop seems to show renovations moving forward for the soon-to-arrive "JJs: World's Best Philly Cheese Steaks".

Now, we know what you're thinking, and you have a right to be cynical. Any establishment that makes the claim of "world's best" anything (cheesesteaks, martinis, scrapple) is setting themselves up for failure and disappointment. Furthermore, I'm no native Philadelphian, but I'm fairly certain the word they were looking for is "cheesesteak".

Nonetheless, a good neighborhood citizens who wish no ill will on any of our fledgling businesses, for now we will give JJs the benefit of the doubt. Will they truly turn out to be the world's best? I am skeptical. Then again, I never thought I would see the day when we'd see plans for an establishment that combined chocolate chip muffins and chardonnay, but there you go.

Original plans were for JJs to be open in July, but, seeing as how the old 14U sign is still up and much work remains to be done inside...I don't see them making that deadline. Which I suppose beg the question: What will we see first, a health care plan or the world's best "Philly cheese steak" on 14th street? I think I might actually take Congress--and the points--on this one.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Neighborhood Crime: Violent Crime Down Overall, but Gun Crimes Increase

Matt over at Borderstan has the latest crime stats from our immediate area. Overall, it's a mixed bag: there are a couple of nuggets of good information, and some bad. Some highlights:

Violent crime in May was terrible (16 violent crimes were reported, of which 14 were robberies), but that number dropped to only 4 in June. Likewise, there were 5 gun crimes reported in May, and only 1 in June.

However, for the first six months of the year, two items are up markedly: gun crime and property crime. While overall violent crime has remained virtually unchanged over the last three years, there have been 14 reported gun crime incidents through the first six months of the year, versus 6 in 2008. Property crimes are up in the neighborhood by 24% versus 2008, a significant increase.

More details and information can be found at Borderstan. Many, many thanks to Matt for taking the time to wade through all of this information.

Like, OMG! A Real World Spotting

I know it's become terribly unfashionable to do any kind of write-up on that young adult reality program that is currently being taped in our fair city. Still, one is not used to seeing a man with humongous hair and denim shorts waltzing around followed by a camera crew.

So it was that I found myself strolling around Dupont this afternoon with camera in tow, just taking some snapshots on a lovely (and quiet) summer day, when I stumble upon the cast and crew of the Real World taking a walk down S Street, and then down Connecticut. I have no idea what they had been up to, but one of them did have a basketball.

...and no, the 14thandyous are not stalking the RW cast. We're far more interested in stalking Kal Penn.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

DC Seeks to Fast-Track Buses, Increase Bike-Sharing Program

The 14thandyous want to like Metrobuses. Trust us, we do. But all too often, we find ourselves having highly unsatisfying rides--herky-jerky (or downright maniacal) bus operators, poorly-timed buses that arrive in bunches, and too many stops that frequently lead to rides taking so long that one could practically have walked to one's destination in that time.

Still, given the rapid expansion of the District's population and that of the surrounding area, and the fact that the planning and construction of new Metro line can take decades, the best hope for improving public transportation throughout the region is by improving the bus system--which is precisely what Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments is attempting to do.

According to a WaPo story this morning (registration required), the District is looking to grab some stimulus money--up to $300 million of it--in order to upgrade bus service throughout the region. Two lines that flow through the center of the city--the 16th Street S line, and the 70 line down Georgia Avenue--would be among the recipient lines of the improved service.

According to the story, streets with lines targeted for improvement under the new system would "have dedicated bus lanes, enabling buses to bypass intersection congestion, or electronic devices that would regulate traffic signals to favor approaching buses. At the heart of the system would be a radically restructured K Street between Ninth and 23rd streets NW...[Twelve] other roadways that currently carry 80,000 bus riders a day in the District, Virginia and Maryland would be modified with special lanes and priority signal controls to speed bus passage."

The system would be in place by 2012.

This makes so much sense it's almost inconceivable that it was proposed by the District government in the first place. A focus on the improvement of bus transit in this city is long overdue, and the implementation of a plan so broad in scope here would place the District squarely at the forefront of U.S. cities when it comes to robust rapid bus networks.

It is interesting that, particularly with the 14th Street streetscape project set to get underway within the next couple of years and the pace of development here, that 14th Street was excluded from those arteries that would benefit from this improved service. Although, the presence of the recently opened Circulator line does lessen the disappointment somewhat.

Interestingly, buried within the story was this nugget:

"The proposal also seeks federal funding to provide 1,600 bicycles to be made available for public use at 160 bike stations in the District, Alexandria, Arlington County, Silver Spring and Bethesda."

Whoah. That would be a reference to DC's bike sharing program, SmartBike, which seemed only recently to be destined for continued mediocrity for the foreseeable future. This proposal, should it come to pass, would increase the number of shared bikes thirteen fold, and would create 150 new bike kiosks throughout the region--most importantly, expanding the program from central DC to the entire District and close-in Maryland and Virginia regions.

No word on what role current SmartBike management company ClearChannel would play under this arrangement, but with the amount of federal dollars being proposed a third party management firm may not be required.

This move, too, would further the District's standing in the country as one of the few truly revolutionary transit-oriented cities (and still the only one with a public bike sharing program). Bravo, we say.

According to MWCOG's press release on the subject, the total cost of the project is nearly $700 million, although expectations are that the current figure will be decreased in order to ensure that all components of the project could be completed by 2012--a requirement for projects receiving federal ARRA funds.

Though the approval and completion of this project is by no means a certainty, the fact that so much effort and thought have gone into it--and that regional officials are even thinking at this level--is certainly cause for optimism.

More Restaurant News: "Cork and Fork", Seafood Market Headed to 14th Street

The pace of restaurant growth along 14th Street continues, seemingly unabated.

First, in a move certain to raise eyebrows at 14th Street wine bar/small plate restaurant Cork, Virginia-based wine shop "Cork and Fork" are headed to 14th Street, in the currently vacant space across from Garden District at 14th and Church streets. Metrocurean has the scoop.

This finally settles the question of what might end up in that space, but it begs several others: with the Cork Market set to open this fall, Cork already in place and Whole Foods (not to mention several nearby liquor stores) nearby, does Logan need yet another wine-themed establishment? And, are the owners of "Cork and Fork" seeking to build on Cork's name and reputation by opening up a store only two blocks south, or is their arrival merely coincidental?

The build-out in the space is currently ongoing, and according to the owners the aim is to have the space open by December.


In other restaurant-related news, many of you may remember Chef Barton Seaver from his days as chef at local mainstay Saint-Ex (or, if you're Mrs. 14thandyou, you remember him from high school). Seaver left Saint-Ex to take over the kitchen at Georgetown's Hook, where his sustainable seafood mantra led to widespread acclaim for the restaurant.

Now, fresh off the opening of Glover Park's Blue Ridge, Seaver is set to open an as-yet-untitled seafood market and restaurant at the long-vacant former home of 100% Mexico on the 1600 block of 14th Street, next to the HR-57 jazz club.

Scant details of the establishment are available, aside from the fact that his partner will be aforementioned Blue Ridge owner Eli Hengst.

The opening should provide joy to area seafood lovers since the loss earlier this year of seafood-themed Mar Del Plata from the 1400 block of 14th Street.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Shaping the Future of the 14th Street Arts District

If you are interested in having a voice in the ongoing transformation of 14th Street, I encourage you to take in one of the upcoming meetings of the 14th Street Arts Overlay District Committee. The next meeting will take place this Tuesday, July 14, from 6:30 - 8:30 in the Studio Theater. For those who may not be familiar with the Committee's work, I thought that I would present a brief overview here. (In the interest of full disclosure, I serve on the Committee.)

For the past month, a group of interested neighborhood residents have been meeting to discuss and recommend changes to the existing Arts Overlay District regulations with an eye towards guiding the neighborhood's development in a way consistent with the desires of area residents and business owners.

For those who may not be aware, 14th Street (at least the portion that runs north from Thomas Circle to just north of U Street) is part of the "Arts Overlay District", which is a guiding set of zoning regulations meant to shape the development of the street into a diverse, thriving corridor with a particular focus on the arts.

The most tangible component of the regulations is the 25% cap on linear frontage that can be restaurants or bars--a regulation meant to encourage the proliferation of diverse retail and business establishments. However, as 14th Street has grown rapidly over the past decade, two things have become clear: 1) the city has no meaningful way by which to track the % of linear frontage that is a restaurant or bar, and is thus not enforcing the restriction, and 2) the 25% allotment has most certainly been met and has likely been exceeded. (We have written previously on this topic, in a post available here.)

Thus, the Committee's main charge is to review the appropriateness of the 25% restriction, and make additional recommendations that can be implemented by the D.C. Office of Planning in order to guide 14th Street development throughout the coming years.

To date, in addition to reviewing the practices of other urban areas throughout the country (in particular, those who maintain some restriction on how much space in a given area may be taken up by restaurants, bars or nightclubs), the Committee has heard from numerous area business owners, residents, and ANC and District government representatives. Though the Committee will not be making official recommendations until August, several key themes have emerged from the meeting held so far:

  • There is a desire to implement some kind of limitation on the number of restaurants and bars in the neighborhood, but the most appropriate way to do this has not been identified. There is widespread feeling that residents and business owners alike would like to maintain a diversity of retail options along 14th Street.
  • The 14th Street corridor lacks a specific "brand" or message, which could aid in driving additional visitors--including shoppers and consumers--to the neighborhood.
  • There is a demonstrated need to attract more daytime foot traffic. Ways in which to accomplish this include developing additional office space in the neighborhood and marketing it to smaller, creatively-geared organizations, and marketing the neighborhood as a tourist destination for restaurants, shopping and the arts.
  • Although 14th Street has become one of the hottest redevelopment spots in the city, numerous blighted properties remain between Thomas Circle and Florida Ave. The Committee wants to do all it can to continue to attracts redevelopment in to 14th Street to address the vacant or blighted properties.
This Tuesday, the Committee will welcome as speakers:

Sakina Khan (Office of Planning), Creative DC Action Agenda,
Rebecca Moudry (Office of Planning), Retail development incentives,
James Nozar, JBG Development,
Barton Seaver, Owner, new seafood restaurant & market at 1608 14th Street, and
Geoffrey Griffis, former Chair of DC’s Board of Zoning Adjustment.

The Committee is meeting every Tuesday evening through July. You can find additional information about the it at

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Meeting on 11th Street Reconstruction Project

Those of you who live along or have occasion to traverse 11th Street know that the ongoing reconstruction of it has left things all kinds of ^$%@ed up.

If you are interested in learning about the current status of the project, including its anticipated completion date, DDOT is holding a public meeting on Tuesday, July 21 from 6p - 8p at Asbury United Methodist Church, located at 926 11th Street NW.

In a rather foreboding note, the flyer that was distributed encourages residents to attend to "learn what construction activities are planned for the coming weeks and months." The word "months" is suspicious because, as you may recall, the project was supposed to have been completed in July. As in, now.

We hate to bring this up, but we totally called this one.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Another Furniture Store for 14th Street?

Via DCist, we learn today of the potential arrival of yet another furniture retailer for 14th Street. Reportedly CB2--a less expensive cousin of Crate & Barrel--is in talks with Central Union Mission-building developer Jeffrey Schonberger to move into the as-yet-undeveloped space at 14th and R streets.

Although the deal has not yet been finalized, it would add another furniture retailer to an already crowded market (with places like Mitchell Gold and and Reincarnations to the south, and Vastu, Muleh and the soon-to-come Room and Board to the north, not to mention various antique and secondhand retailers scattered about).

The deal is contingent of course upon the Mission being able to relocate to proposed new quarters downtown in the Gales School building. Though the move was announced last year, complications have arisen stemming from the donation of the school property to the Mission, a religiously supported institution.

So what do you think--is this exciting news? On the one hand, in the current economy the fact that ANY retail tenants are being found to fill vacancies along the 14th Street corridor should be viewed as a net positive. The area on the east side of 14th Street between Q and S is largely a dead zone, and no doubt a national tenant of this caliber will aid that.

On the other hand, one of the positive attributes people frequently cite about 14th street is the unique retail and restaurant offerings. The corridor does have one of the most diverse markets in the city, and practically all of the retailers are independent boutiques. With Room and Board and now, potentially, CB2 entering the mix, there will be two rather significant retail frontages filled by national furniture chains.

We'll try to keep you up to date as plans for this move forward during the coming months.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Help Find Molly the Dog

As my grandmother used to say: "People today...well my goodness."

Local residents and neighbors are being asked to help find Molly the dog, a four year old Viszla who was apparently stolen from in front of the P Street Whole Foods at around 6 PM on Monday night. (Seriously...who steals a dog? As George Costanza might say: "we're trying to have a society here!"

A picture of Molly in all her adorable-ness is included below. This has been picked up by several local blogs, so we're hoping some astute reader might have a tip as to where Molly is. Molly's owners are asking that any tips or information regarding Molly's whereabouts be sent to findmollydog (at) gmail (dot) com. (On a related and equally infuriating note, it seems the Gmail account was set up after the owners started receiving harassing phone calls after initially posting their phone number. Some people just have no sense of decency it seems.)

More photos of Molly can be found at the link above. Please keep your eyes (and ears) peeled.

Bad News for DC SmartBikers

Image courtesy of SmartBikeDC.

As a subscriber to DC's first-in-the-nation bike sharing program, SmartBike, I was delighted by the news that came out recently regarding a planned expansion for the system. The phrases coming out of DDOT--"hundreds of more bikes" "90 more kiosks" "expansion into Virginia and Maryland"--gave reassurance that the District was committed to not only preserving but expanding the system, which is in wide use in European cities such as Paris, but was launched here only on a trial basis.

Sure, the bikes are fugly, and no they don't ride very well...but for my morning commute from Logan to Penn Quarter, a bike has proven to be the fastest way from Point A to Point B. So the anticipated expansion by the end of the summer was certainly welcome news.

Courtesy of Georgetown Metropolitan, we learn that the expansion appears to be on indefinite hiatus following SmartBike operator ClearChannel's balking at operating an additional 90 kiosks. As part of their agreement to operate the program, ClearChannel received a monopoly on advertising at all District bus shelters. Since they've already gotten that, there really isn't much of a carrot left for the District to dangle in front of them in order to get them to bite on a 900% expansion of the program.

In addition, as is pointed out on Metropolitan, part of DDOT's planned expansion of the program involves opening kiosks in northern Virginia--and since bus shelter advertisements are banned in VA, ClearChannel has a less-than-zero interest in pursuing that.

The alternative at this point would be to remove ClearChannel as operator of the program and bring in someone else committed to its growth in the region. From the perspective of someone who thinks that SmartBike is a fabulous program, this is the most palatable solution. But it won't happen tomorrow, and in fact would likely take quite some time to work out such an arrangement.

So the end result is that SmartBike probably isn't going to be expanding anytime soon. Which is too bad. With the District's clogged roads, Metro's recent troubles, and a ridiculously low annual fee, SmartBike seemed poised to become an increasingly viable transportation option for those in and around the District. Guess we'll just have to wait awhile before we become a velo-clogged metropolis a la Paris.