Tuesday, August 31, 2010

O Street Market to Break Ground Wednesday

Holy mixed-use developments, Batman. One of the city's most long-awaited projects is set to break ground tomorrow.

Via DC Mud, "Citymarket at O" developer Roadside Development will officially break ground on the project, located at O and 9th streets NW in Shaw, tomorrow afternoon. This being election season and all, it seems that a number of city politicos--including mayor Adrian Fenty and mayoral candidate Vincent Gray will be in attendance, along with other neighborhood and community leaders. (Over-under that Fenty and Gray get in a shoving match over the rights to overturn the first spade of dirt?)

We've written in depth about this project before, but here's the quick recap:

Back in 2007, Roadside sought--and received--HPRB approval for their nearly 1 million sf project bounded by 7th, 9th, O and P streets. The project will feature a new 71,000 sf Giant store, over 600 residences, senior housing, a boutique hotel, and other commercial space.

The Giant store is scheduled to close in January 2011, and will reopen in early 2013.

In short, this project is immense and has the potential to be the single greatest catalyst for change in Shaw to date. In the meantime, expect to see a substantial amount of construction going on at the site for the forseeable future.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Public Meeting This Tuesday: Branding and Marketing the Mid-City Arts District

These are vastly changing times around Logan and U Street.

Last year, the ANC2F Arts Overlay Committee, of which I was a member, took a look at the so-called "Mid-City Arts District"--essentially the area centered around 14th and U streets, but also including stretches of 9th, 7th and Florida. We wanted to examine the current state of the neighborhood and chart a course for its ongoing development and evolution. One of the things we examined was the question of how the neighborhood is perceived, both by neighborhood residents as well as those outside of it.

Are we a nightlife destination? An arts center? A home for high-priced restaurants, furniture stores and fashion boutiques? And, perhaps most importantly, how do we *want* the neighborhood to be perceived--and what can be done to facilitate that?

The answer to those last questions will begin to be answered this Tuesday, August 31, at the first of three public meetings that will help determine the direction of the branding and marketing of the neighborhood, as well as to introduce the 'Street Graphics" competition. The evening promises to feature an interesting and lively discussion, and will include overview discussions of the project and its importance to the neighborhood by Andrea Doughty, project coordinator, and Carol Felix, Lead Branding Consultant.

That will be followed by a panel discussion that includes Andy Shallal, owner of Busboys and Poets, Mark Chalfant, director of the Washington Improv Theater, Rev. Sandra Butler-Truesdale, owner of the Emma Mae Gallery and a 14th and U historian, and others.

This will be a tremendous opportunity to learn about the 14th and U/Mid-City neighborhood and, most importantly, have a voice in the direction of its future.

The event will take place from 6p - 8p, in the Langston Room at Busboys and Poets, at 14th and V streets. For additional information about the initiative, visit www.midcityartsdistrict.org.

To learn more about the Arts Overlay Committee and read our final report, visit www.anc2f.org/arts. I hope to see you at Busboys this Tuesday.

Monday, August 23, 2010

U Street Cafe Burglarized

Via TBD, the U Street Cafe, located at 1301 U Street, was burglarized early Sunday morning. In what could have been an inside job, it appears that a suspect (or suspects) entered the cafe before it opened and set off the burglar alarm, though not before making off with approximately $200 from the register.

This is indeed unfortunate news, although we're thankful that no one was injured. Personally, we like the U Street Cafe, even if they manage to occasionally screw up your bagel order. Nicer people you will not find, and the space is very well maintained. The blueberry muffins aren't bad either, although they're going to have to sell a few of those to offset the $200 in losses.

The Whitman-Walker Project: A Preview of What's to Come

Anyone who follows the pace of development around Logan and Shaw knows that the past couple of years has witnessed a tremendous slowdown in terms of new projects in the area. Several high profile projects, such as the Utopia at 14th and U, the Nehemiah Center redevelopment a few blocks north of that, and the U Street Hotel Project, have ground to a halt, with no immediate signs of progress.

This environment, in part, is what makes the forthcoming groundbreaking of JBG's mixed-use development at the former Whitman-Walker Development at 14th and S Streets all the more interesting. Spanning the length of a full block between S Street and Swann Street NW, the project will see 125 residential units and over 18,000 square feet of retail added to the corridor, the area's largest project in several years. Recently, 14thandYou had an opportunity to sit down with James Nozar, JBG's project manager for the development, to pick his brain about the project as well as his thoughts on what's to come along the 14th Street corridor.

Timeline: Demolition of most of the buildings on the block (save for the historic Whitman-Walker building at the corner of 14th and S, which will be incorporated into the project) will commence within the next two to three weeks, as the final permitting issues are being worked out. Demolition will take approximately one month, after which time foundation work and other pre-construction activities will begin. At this time, Nozar is anticipating that the project will deliver in Spring - early Summer 2012.

The close-to-final rendering of the building is shown above, with only a few minor tweaks remaining (such as the color of the terra cotta--yes, that's terra cotta on the front, not brick).

The Project: The development, which does not yet have a name ("We're working on that," says Nozar. "We'd like to have a name for the project within the next month or so.") will be one of the largest projects to go up along 14th Street in recent years. All told, the building will house 125 condo units, approximately 85% of which will be efficiencies and 1 BR units. The project will also feature over 18,000 square feet of retail, fronting both 14th Street and S Street. Although no tenants have signed yet, Nozar has some ideas. "We've been approached by many potential commercial tenants," he said. These include everyone from small, independent boutiques, to local and national chain furniture retailers and a variety of restaurants, including "practically every major chef and restauranteur in the region."

Although the exact retail size specs are still in flux, Nozar indicated that the project will most likely feature two restaurants--one larger, full-service establishment, and a smaller, casual cafe-type of space. (And to those clamoring for a bagel shop: James has heard your pleas, but can't promise anything yet.) A smaller space could also see an arts-related use, Nozar said. However, as much as they would like to ensure that local retailers are included in the project, there is no mandate for it. "We want retail that represents a best use for the neighborhood and the space, regardless of whether it's a local business or national retailer--but our preference is for local shops."

Condos or Apartments?: Nozar indicated that the residential units in the building would likely be condos, rather than apartments, although a final decision wouldn't be made until approximately 12 months before delivery. Why condos?

"Our analysis showed that there are not many condo units remaining in the 14th Street/Logan area, particularly the smaller units--studios and one bedrooms," he said. "The ones still on the market tend to be larger, more expensive units. The smaller units are selling much more quickly and are in higher demand." The term "smaller" is key here, because the units in the Whitman-Walker project are going to be smaller than the typical units available throughout the city. The average one bedroom will clock it at around 650 square feet, which is approximately 100 square feet smaller than the typical unit elsewhere. Two bedroom units would come in at around 1000 square feet. To compensate for the smaller square footage, JBG has contracted with a layout and interior designer Cecconi Simone to develop the layout for the space.

"I believe that most people, when comparing one of our floorplans to the floorplan of a slightly larger unit, would actually think that ours is the larger unit, simply because of the way the unit is laid out." Of the 125 residential units, six will be located in the historic Whitman-Walker building that is being preserved as part of the project, including one "premier unit" that will include over 2,000 square feet of space and two rooftop decks.

Although pricing still needs to be finalized, Nozar indicated that most studios and one bedrooms would be retailing in the "$300k - $400k range."

What's next?: Nozar lives in the Logan Circle neighborhood, which he feels is the "most exciting neighborhood in the city."

"Do you think we're ahead of a place like Georgetown now?" I asked him. "Well, Logan and Georgetown are two distinct neighborhoods, and difficult to compare" he replied. "But I can tell you that I hardly ever venture into Georgetown to shop or eat, and most people I know don't either--Logan and U Street seem to have come up more organically, and it's more interesting here. We've got a great diversity of retail, restaurants...we've got the "furniture row"-thing going. It's a really great place to be."

I asked if there were any other projects in the pipeline that he could tell us about.

"Not that I can tell you," he laughed, although he did indicate that JBG is currently looking at "several" other locations in and around the neighborhood as a potential location for a new project. As for JBG's proposed U Street Hotel project, Nozar doesn't seem to think we should be holding our breath for that one anytime soon.

"In addition to the problems with securing financing for a hotel project--which is very difficult these days--there is the issue of finding an acceptable location for the Rite-Aid (located at 13th and U)" he said. In other words, that one could be a ways off.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for the wrecking crew at 14th and S, as the next chapter of 14th Street's redevelopment continues.

For more information about the Whitman-Walker development, visit JBG's website.

Weekend Shooting at 8th and R

Total crime may be down across DC so far this year, but that didn't stop a shooting at 8th and R Streets just outside of the Shaw Metro Station early Sunday morning.

According to PoP, a victim was taken to a hostpial in stable condition.

The shooting was one of several notable events in the central-NW part of the city this weekend, which included a CUA senior being murdered at Sherman Circle, and a carjacking on Sheridan Street.

Not saying the two are related, but perhaps we should be thankful that the first day of school is today?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

EFN Lounge/Motley Bar Abruptly Closes

9th Street has lost one of its pioneering businesses.

The EFN Lounge and Motley Bar, two bar concepts under a single roof on 9th Street in Shaw, abruptly closed its doors Monday night after the loss of its manager and months of financial instability.

The Blade has the scoop, which apparently includes some tension between the bar's employees and its owners, Tom McGuire and Adrian Massiah, over the surprise announcement of the closing. From the Blade story:

"Employees were informed of the decision Monday night. Gay bartender Matt Bamford, who’d worked there four months and is Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2010, said the news came as a shock...“Company standard there was always two weeks notice if we wanted to leave,” Bamford said. “What they did to not just the staff but to the community at large is just unconscionable.”

No word on what, if anything, might replace EFN. However, the bar's abrupt closure does not bode well for the immediate future of 9th Street retail and commercial activity. Business owners there and elsewhere clamor for so-called "critical mass" of businesses, which helps drive traffic to the neighborhood. Although several new businesses have opened along 9th Street in recent years, the corridor continues to encounter problems generating that critical mass--and EFN's closure won't aid matters.

EFN was formerly BeBar until being rebranded back in January 2009. BeBar opened in the space back in 2006.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Looking Back Six Months Ago: Snowmageddon!

With this constant parade of 90 degree heat, thunderstorms and humidity, I thought we could take a quick trip back in time to February--a mere six months ago, but it might as well have been a different universe.

I think this looks even crazier now than when we were going through it, and it was pretty crazy then.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Peregrine Espresso Headed for 14th Street; Shake Shack to Dupont

Caffeine addicts, take note: you'll soon have another 14th Street option to get your fix. Capitol Hill-based Peregrine Espresso is opening up an outpost in Logan, at 1718 14th Street in the space formerly occupied by Flowers on Fourteenth (who moved a few doors down to the former Cafe Salsa location).

Peregrine has earned a rather significant following for the quality of their coffee, including from Mrs. 14thandyou's sister, who always makes certain to stop by when she is in town visiting. Peregrine joins an increasingly crowded field of upmarket caffeinated beverage purveyors along 14th Street, with the cozy Mid-City Caffe just a block away above Miss Pixies, and the soon-to-come Hilton Brothers-backed Blackbyrd Warehouse in the space next to Marvin, just north of U Street. (And, I feel compelled to mention, the good folks at Cork Market can also churn out a decent latte.)

No word on Peregrine's opening, which according to them is "months" away.

Suddenly, it feels like circa-1993 Seattle around here. Except hotter.


Briefly in other restaurant news: in case you missed it, New York's finest urban park-based burger provider, Danny Meyer, is bringing his Madison Square Park outfit, Shake Shack, to the former Fuddrucker's location near Connecticut and 18th, just south of Dupont Circle.

Normally, this would fall a little bit outside of our purview, but since we've been known to take the occasional dig at Manhattan transplants, perhaps this will help them feel at home. Will it mimic Shake Shack's NYC location, and become DC's burger answer to Georgetown Cupcakes, which consistently features lines snaking around the block? One can only hope...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Shots From Dog Days

Some photos from this past weekend's Dog Days celebration. Hope you had a chance to soak up the good weather and our neighborhood!

The 14th and U Farmer's Market:

Tom and Matty from Borderstan:

14th Street Action:

More vendors along 14th Street:

Looking east on T Street, from the rooftop of Room & Board:

14th Sreet Chess Players:

A Question for City Leaders

A brief question for District leaders, related to this weekend's fracas on the Metro:

How does a "brawl...which involved at least 70 youths fighting each other in a frenzy" that began "at the Gallery Place Station...and spilled onto the platform for the Green and Yellow lines at L'Enfant Plaza Station, terrifying other riders and causing a stampede" that resulted in the injury of five people, result in this:

"Two 16-year-olds were charged."

And people wonder why the perception of DC being an unsafe city persists. The question of why an out-and-out brawl, which went on for between 15-20 minutes across multiple Metro stations and lines, and sent several people to the hospital while frightening many others, resulted in 97% of the participants escaping arrest warrants significant scrutiny. Such as, why did it take police officers more than 15 minutes to respond to 911 calls from panicked riders who were ducking the melee? It's a miracle no one fired a gun, and that no one was killed.

In the meantime, while DC and Metro police, and various city officials, sort this out, allow me to offer a recommendation to the youths of the city: The next time you have a score to settle, instead of meeting down to the flagpole after school, why not board the nearest Metro train? Apparently you can go at each other, unharassed by local authorities, for as long as you like. Make sure you bring weapons.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Washington Post Takes a Tour of 14th Street

In today's Weekend section, the Post reminds everyone that there is a lot of stuff along 14th Street. You know, in case you forgot.

Some nice write-ups of local businesses are included, but those selected for inclusion, and those not included (no ACKC? Point Chaud Crepes, but no Policy? No Pulp? And - gasp - not one single furniture store?) make for a someone spotty examination of the commercial scene here.

With this weekend's Dog Days celebration, anticipated awesome weather, and now a lengthy Post feature, expect a crush of people here this weekend. In other words, park your car by 6 PM tonight and don't move it...then, go and enjoy the weekend.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Desperado's Burgers Opening Tomorrow

'Cause we know you love to eat...

Desperado's Burgers, the flame-grilled meat joint opening up in the former Polly's space at 1342 U Street, will be opening tomorrow. Thrillist has the details about the place, including a shot of the interior--which looks NOTHING like Polly's, let me tell you. I bet your feet don't stick to the floor anymore, either.

From Thrillist:

The main attraction's their eight open flame-cooked, specially blended (sirloin/brisket) burgers, including the cheddar/Swiss/American 'Cheese Lover", a Swiss/avocado/spicy red pepper-sauced Southwestern Turkey, and a grilled onions/house-made chipotle mayo Cajun, seasoned with a spicy Cajun rub.

Just what I need...another excuse to consume red meat. In addition to the burgers, Desperado's, whose owners hail from New Orleans (so we're betting the aforementioned cajun burger is pretty swell) by a handful of beers, wines and cocktails. I couldn't find a website for them, but if anyone stumbles across it please post it in the comments.

Contrary to the swirling rumors, you do NOT get a special deal on your burger if you know all of the words to this.

This Weekend: Dog Days Celebration

With temps consistently in the 90s and the humidity making a trip down the street feel like a walk through a bowl of split pea soup, what better time to celebrate the "dog days" of August? (BTW, I was curious as to what "dog days" meant, because it always seemed an absolutely bizarre phrase to me. According to my good friend Wikipedia, the term "dog days" traces its roots to Roman times. The Roman people associated hot weather with the star Sirius, or "the dog star". Hence, the hottest, most sweltering days of the year are called the "dog days". At least MY curiosity is satisfied...)

Here in Logan, the term "dog days" takes on a slightly different meaning: the 11th annual Dog Days Event, where shops, restaurants and entertainment venues throughout the neighborhood entice shoppers and diners with special deals, and sidewalk entertainment and other special events are ongoing throughout the neighborhood.

As I'm certain that many of our readership consider themselves to be champions of local businesses, weekends like the one upcoming are critical to their success in the neighborhood...so if there's a gift you've been holding off on buying, or a new restaurant you've been wanting to try, this is a great weekend to do it. Rather than simply parroting what Dog Days sponsor Mid-City Business Association has to say about it, I'll just copy the text of their email below. The 14thandYous plan to be out and about, and we hope to see you out as well. Stay cool!

DC's Coolest Downtown Neighborhood Hosts the
Hottest End-of-Summer Weekend Event August 7 and 8

Dog Days of August, the annual cultural event which brings together over 100 stores, boutiques, restaurants and art galleries in one of Washington's most celebrated neighborhoods, announces their 11th annual event on Saturday and Sunday, August 7 and 8. The weekend will feature special events, sales, family events and restaurant deals throughout the 14th and U Street (MidCity) corridors, which comprises the area up 14th Street from Belmont Street to Thomas Circle and just off U Street from 9th to 17th Street.

The weekend is anchored by arts events including The Studio Theatre Prop & Costume Sale, the highly anticipated annual sell-off from the 2009-2010 season. In addition, meet local artists and performers at Source and join Cultural Development Corporation and Source resident organizations for family events including improv, step, and light saber workshops for all ages as well as a free showcase performance of the upcoming year at Source.

On the fashion front, independent clothing boutiques including Redeem, Nana, Junction, Lettie Gooch and Treasury Vintage will feature sales of up to 70% off on current season designer clothing and accessories as well as other sidewalk specials. Home furnishing and design shops including Urban Essentials and RCKNDY will be holding floor sample sales featuring discounts of up to 80% off throughout the Dog Days weekend. For a list of stores and offers to date click here.

Cork Market, the accompanying shop to 2010 RAMMY award winner Cork Wine Bar, will stage a donut and lemonade stand on 14th Street as well as a wine tasting and discounts throughout the store. ACKC Cocoa Bar will be hosting a tropical beach party throughout the weekend, while many of MidCity's other heralded restaurants, including Marvin, Busboys & Poets, CakeLove, Saint Ex, 1905, Rice and Policy will be offering patrons Dog Days specials on food and libations. MidCity is home to three 2010 RAMMY award winning restaurants, including Birch & Barley (winner, Best New Restaurant) and Churchkey (Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene) and Cork Wine Bar (Best Neighborhood Gathering Place).

In addition to the great sales, Dog Days will also feature art and cultural exhibits and performances from Sukio Design Co., The Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, and Twins Jazz Club.

"Dog Days showcases the incredibly vibrant destination MidCity has become," says Natalie Avery, Executive Director of the MidCity Business Association. "It brings together all of the best things about the area in one weekend. For localresidents it's a yearly tradition. For visitors, it's a great weekend to get to know one of DC's most unique, thriving, and historically rich districts." The MidCity district is home to many of Washington's most historical and wellknown cultural landmarks, such as Ben's Chili Bowl, the Lincoln Theatre and the Taylor Motors Building that is now home to neighborhood newcomer Room & Board.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Capital Bikeshare Bringing New Bike Stations to Logan and Shaw

The District is ready to move forward with plans to significantly upgrade its fledgling bike sharing program, and mid-city neighborhoods stand to benefit significantly.

Beginning this fall, the District will roll out the expanded program, now called Capital Bikeshare, which will replace the existing SmartBike program. SmartBike is currently a joint venture between the District and Clear Channel. As you may recall, last year the city announced plans to greatly expand the SmarkBike program, only to have Clear Channel express a less-than-enthusiastic reception. Seems that the 10 station/120 bike program was sufficient enough for them, thanks very much. But it wasn't for District transportation officials, who very much wanted to expand the program so that it mimicked programs in cities such as Paris, whose program features hundreds of stations and thousands of bikes (as well as significant amounts of theft and vandalism).

Undeterred, the District sought out a partner, and found one in Alta Bike Share, a Portland, Oregon-based firm that works with jurisdictions here and abroad to set up bike sharing programs. They recently launched a 600 bike program in Melbourne, Australia. And this fall, they will be implementing the expanded version of DC's program, which will feature 1100 bikes and 114 stations throughout the District and Arlington.

Predictably, most of the new stations are centered around the District's core, with the largest number of stations existing in the area bounded by the Mall, 25th Street, Florida Avenue and North Capitol. However, stations will be located in farther afield neighborhoods in all quadrants of the city, including Tenleytown, Petworth and 16th Street Heights in NW, Brookland and Deanwood in NE, and Fort Dupont and Barry Farms in SE, among others. Nearly 15 stations will also be located in Pentagon City and Crystal City in Arlington, with plans to expand into the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor as well.

Logan and Shaw both stand to benefit significantly from increased stations throughout the neighborhoods. Currently, the are is served by SmartBike stations at 14th and Rhode Island, 7th and T streets, and U and 14th Streets. To these existing stations, Capital Bike Share plans to add stations at 15th and P, 14th and R, 10th and U, 16th and U, 7th and M (Convention Center) and 13th and M. (See area map below for all neighborhood locations.)

According to a message I received this weekend, existing SmartBike users will be able to use Capital BikeShare at no additional cost through April 2011, at which time they must apply for Capital BikeShare membership. The Capital BikeShare membership registration will be available, according to DDOT, sometime this month.

As someone who has pined for the District to continue focusing on alternative methods of intercity transit, particularly with the likelihood of further Metro expansion likely placing somewhere between a Nationals World Series trophy and a Leo Alexander mayoral term, it's truly wonderful to see the city investing so heavily in such a program. With this program and DC's focus on the installation of bike lanes across many major corridors, and development requirements that mandate the placement of bike rails near the new development (and don't forget the recently opened Union Station Bike Center), DC is well on its way to becoming one of the country's most bike-friendly cities--and the more people who can be coaxed off of our traffic-clogged roads (and, increasingly, rider-clogged Metro)--the better off we'll all be in the long run.

One final brief transit note, for those who may have missed it: the infamous "Blue Bus" will soon be no more. Last week, the District announced what many had anticipated for some time: the Circulator will replace the Georgetown Metro Connection on its existing Dupont-Rosslyn route, which passes through Georgetown along the way. This move makes perfect sense, and will provide a roomier and, hopefully, more reliable form of transit into Georgetown. The K Street Circulator line had already replaced the Metro Connection on one route, from the Foggy Bottom Metro stop to Rosslyn. Additional information can be found at the Circulator's website.