Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Round-Up: Myths, Condos, and Sandwiches at a Gas Station?

As we head into the Christmas break, 14thandyou will be taking a little hiatus as well, mainly to catch up on sleep and sanity. In the meantime, here's a little reading material to get you through the cold (and snow filled?) days ahead:

U Street Girl writes about Fast Gourmet, a new sandwich shop (!) located at the gas station at 14th and W. All of y'all who've been clamoring for a decent sandwich shop in the area, head over there and let us know what you think. U Street Girl seems sold on the Chivito.

WeLoveDC has some fun busting some common DC-related myths. Did people in Georgetown really rise up to keep the underclass out of their neighborhood by scuttling plans for a Metro station there? Did Pierre L'Enfant and other early DC planners have it in for John Jay? Do we have more speakers of foreign tongues than comparable cities? Head over to WeLoveDC and find out.

Remember the Nehemiah Center--the strip mall along 14th Street between Belmont and Chapin that was bulldozed in 2008 to make way for a new mixed-use development? And has been nothing more than a vacant, rock-strewn lot ever since? Well, DCMud is reporting that they're pushing dirt around over there now. While stressing that this does not mean that construction is imminent, it is undoubtedly a positive sign for a long-stalled project.

DCMud also has another hot tip: construction equipment has finally arrived at the 7th and S site of Progression Place (formerly Broadcast Center One).

Further on the development front, DC Metrocentric takes a look at a potential new design for Cardozo High School.

The always-contentious issue of DC's height limit (a great topic for some mythbusting if ever there was one) gets some attention from the City Paper's Lydia DePillis. 30 story office towers in Chevy Chase? Frank Winstead would have a coronary.

Contradicting the notion that it's all doom-and-gloom for the 14th Street arts community, Borderstan profiles Loft Gallery, the latest addition to the neighborhood arts community. (Oh, and don't forget the lighting of the community holiday tree.)

On that note, here's hoping for a white Christmas for everyone (even though I'm hearing that's increasingly less likely).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Report: DC9 Death Ruled a Homicide

An interesting turn in the ongoing saga relating to U Street-area rock club DC9 and the death of Ali Ahmed Mohammed. According to TBD and DCist, Mohammed's death has been ruled a homicide by the DC Medical Examiner.

There are no accusations related to who may--or may not--be responsible for Mohammad's death. DC9 had been closed for the last two months as a result of the incident and ongoing investigation, but reopened last week.

DCist provided a statement sent to them by the Mohammed family's attorney, Billy Martin:

This morning, the family of Ali Ahmed Mohammed received the death certificate based upon the autopsy performed by the D.C. Medical Examiner's office. The death certificate confirms that Ali's death was a homicide. The family wishes to commend those at the Medical Examiner¹s office for their hard work and dedication in helping to uncover that Ali¹s death was a homicide. The family is confident that law enforcement will continue its investigation into Ali's tragic death and that the Medical Examiner¹s report is a step toward justice for Ali. The Medical Examiner's findings, however, also reminds us that Ali suffered a cruel and senseless death. Ali did not deserve to die for allegedly breaking a window. The family remains heartbroken and cannot have peace until those responsible for Ali's death are brought to justice.

There is no word on the club's operating status at this point, although nothing leads us to believe that they will shut down again in the near future.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Community Tree Lighting Tonight @ 5PM at the Reeves Center

The invitation below from the DC Arts District pretty much says it all. An 18' community tree, adorned with over 4,000 lights, will be lit this evening at the corner of 14th and U Streets. Hope to see you there!

HR-57's Final Logan Performances This Weekend

Gah, it pains me to write this, being such a fan of 14th Street institution HR-57, but the longstanding Logan-based jazz club is hosting its final performances at 1610 14th Street this weekend. Longstanding performer (and 14thandyou household fave) Antonio Parker and AJ Parham will send HR-57 off to their new digs on H Street in style.

Tickets are $15 at the door, so get there early.

CapitalBop has more on their website.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Capital Bikeshare's "Winter Warrior" Contest

Just received this from the nice people over at Capital Bikeshare. This is a clever bit of marketing to encourage use of the bikeshare system during winter weather, I think.

That said, I would be happy to cede the title of Winter Warrior to someone else if these single degree wind chills continue much longer...

Announcing: The Winter Weather Warrior Contest

On January 1, the hunt is on to find Capital Bikeshare's Winter Weather Warrior. The Capital Bikeshare annual or monthly member with the most trips taken from January 1- February 28 will be awarded the title of Winter Weather Warrior, a three-year extension of their membership, two annual memberships for friends, a $100 Hudson Trail gift card and a $25 Starbucks gift card.

In addition to the grand prize contest, Capital Bikeshare members can look forward to two full months of other contests and random giveaways. To participate in the Winter Weather Warrior contests and random drawings, you must opt in.

Visit our contest page for more details and to opt in. The Winter Weather Warrior contest is sponsored by goDCgo and BikeArlington.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

January Opening for 14th and U Restaurant; American Ice Co. Opens Thursday

It's been about a year since we wrote about the new restaurant and club that was coming to the vacant space at the corner of 14th and U streets. When we last spoke with them, Local 16's Ayman Ayoubi, along with Policy's Omar Miskinyar, had grand plans to open a steakhouse along with a "music and arts space" at the highly visible corner. At the time, Local 16's Salvatore Rosa indicated that they hoped for a July 2010 opening.

Well, clearly *that* didn't work out as planned, as the space continues to sit vacant, awaiting for some kind of activity. However, that could be changing.

According to both The Feast and U Street Girl, Ayoubi has confirmed that the restaurant, which is still unnamed (it's unlikely that the name that was being tossed about last year--Cafe Society--will stick), will open in late January on the second and third floors of the building. That opening will be followed in March by the opening of a club "very similar to Eighteenth Street Lounge" on the basement level. A rooftop patio is likely to open in the late spring/early summer. (Look for a bank or some other high rent-paying entity to take over the ground floor between the two spaces.)

In her post, U Street Girl expresses skepticism that Ayoubi and his team will be able to meet this timeline; I must confess that I join her in doubt. Perhaps interior work continues on the space, but I haven't witnessed a great deal of activity there in recent months. We will see what materializes there, however. As this space materializes, and with the recent opening of Patty Boom Boom and forthcoming opening of the Hilton Bros.' Blackbyrd Warehouse, the intersection of 14th and U is shaping up to become the epicenter of mid-city DC nightlife. Whoo boy.

* * * * * *

Speaking of the Hiltons, I've had Eric's band Thievery Corporation's song "Warning Shots" playing on my iPod a lot recently. Which...doesn't really tie-in at all with the other piece of Hilton-related news, which is that their latest venture, the American Ice Co., will be throwing open their doors for the first time this Thursday.

The Ice Co., located at 917 V Street NW, will serve barbecue, cans of PBR, and will be a laid-back kind of joint, according to manager Joe Reza. The will-they-or-won't-they questions regarding the Ice Co.'s opening appear to have finally been put to rest...for now. Prince of Petworth has a nice (ridiculously awesome?) set of photos of the interior, if you're interested.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What's Jayson Worth?

Taking a break from the usual neighborhood stuff this weekend to do a little write-up on one of my other passions, the game of baseball.

If you follow the Nationals at all (full disclosure: I was, am, and will continue to be a Reds fan, but the Nats do pop up on my radar screen from time to time), you know that they recently signed former Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth to a seven year, $126 million contract. The deal provoked a lot of dropped jaws and eye rolls throughout DC and all of MLB due to its length and its total (although Carl Crawford could not have been more thrilled). I was willing to write it off as simply the latest example of a mid-market MLB time desperately trying to prove that they're relevant by overpaying for a player. (ESPN columnist Jayson Stark tweeted after the deal was announced that Werth's agent, Scott Boras, told him that the Nats' offer was so high he (Boras) didn't even bother to ask if other teams wanted to match it. The Nats front office shouldn't be too thrilled to learn about that.)

But then I opened yesterday's Post and, in my usual momentary lapse of reason, turned to the ever-engaging "Free For All" section, where I read this letter from Doug Snyder of Bowie:

The three Dec. 6-7 Sports articles, two by Adam Kilgore and a column by Thomas Boswell, gave us plenty of information on the pros and cons of outfielder Jayson Werth joining the Washington Nationals for more than double his 2010 salary but failed to include his 2010 statistics: 27 home runs, 85 runs batted in and a .296 batting average. These can be compared with the numbers of Adam Dunn, the hitter Werth replaces: 38-103-.260. Werth also had more doubles, a league-leading 46 to Dunn's 36, and, at 147 strikeouts, had 52 fewer than did Dunn.

These kinds of false comparisons help demonstrate why franchises such as the Nationals continually make mistakes on players like Werth. They look at a player who is coming off a career year, and extrapolate those numbers out throughout the life of a lengthy contract. However, the reality is Jayson Werth is virtually guaranteed to disappoint anyone who thinks that he is going to come close to replicating the numbers he put up last year in Philadelphia. Here's why.

First, it's important to examine Werth's numbers outside of the vacuum of last season alone. His numbers last year (.388 OBP/ .532 SLG/ .920 OPS) clearly placed Werth in the upper tier of NL outfielders. They also represent a marked increase over his career averages of .367/.481/.848 (numbers which, it should be noted, include Werth's 2010 career year). Looking back on Werth's last three seasons in Philadelphia prior to 2010, his OPS (on-base plus slugging) was .863, .861 and .879. Solid, but not superstar quality.

Werth's power numbers (HR totals of 24, 36 and 27 over the last three years) are decent enough, but also throw up a couple of red flags. Werth's 2009 season, in which he hit 36 HRs, is beginning to look more and more like an anomaly as his HR total fell by 25% last year (much closer to his 2008 number). Second, he benefited substantially the last several seasons from the protection offered by a Phillies lineup that featured Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins batting around him--a luxury he won't have in Washington. Additionally, Werth benefited from hitting in a park--Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park--that was slightly homer friendly (a HR factor of 1.125), and will be moving to Nationals Park, which offers no HR benefit whatsoever.

Inevitably, Werth's numbers will be compared with Dunn, as the Post letter writer did above. If they are, Werth will almost certainly come out on the short end. Dunn was much maligned for his strikeout totals, which over the last six seasons have been consistently towards the top of the NL. But those numbers tell only part of the story with Dunn, who is a model of consistency not just in regards to strikeouts, but across the board. He has a lifetime OPS of .902, and 4 of his last six seasons have seen him put up OPS numbers in excess of .900. He is a virtual lock to hit nearly 40 HRs every year--and will benefit immensely from moving to Chicago's absurdly homer-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. He stays healthy (having played 152 games or more each season since 2004), and has put up RBI totals of 100 or more for each of the last six seasons, despite playing in lineups that offered him little or no protection.

Werth, meanwhile, has seen his career peak at ages 31-32. It is exceptionally rare to see a player the caliber of Werth go on to post career numbers in their mid-late 30s, as the National's contract with him seems to imply that he will do. More than likely, Werth will post numbers at or close to his career averages for the next several years--OPS numbers around .850, HR totals around 25, RBI totals around 80-90--and then a tapering off from there. By the time he gets to age 39, it will take either an act of God or a prescribed regimen of pharmaceuticals more fitting for competitors in the All Drug Olympics for Werth to put up the good-but-not-great numbers he put up in Philadelphia. Werth does play better defense than Dunn, and will be an upgrade for the Nationals in right field.

Meanwhile, the Chicago White Sox signed Dunn to a contract that includes both less years (four) and money ($4 million less per year) than the deal the Nats signed with Werth. Clearly, there are other factors involved here: perhaps Dunn wanted to go to a team that had the potential to be a World Series contender next season, or he just wanted out of Washington. But the takeaway is this: Werth isn't a bad player by any means, but he is unlikely to approach Dunn's offensive production, and there's little doubt that the Nationals overpaid for him. Additionally, the length of the deal almost certainly ensures that the Nationals will be trying to unload him as it reaches its later years, and will have a difficult time doing so.

Nats fans, meanwhile, will likely have to suffer through at least another year or two of mediocrity on the field, while the only one who really makes out on this deal is Werth.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Plans Take Shape for 24-Hour Jazz/Supper Club at 14th and F

When plans were announced this summer that the Border's bookstore, located at 14th and F streets, was going to be closing and replaced with a new restaurant from the Clyde's group, it seemed like a rather mundane announcement about a new downtown restaurant from a familiar chain.

However, when it was later announced that, in addition to the restaurant, Clyde's had plans to open a 15,000 sf nightclub in the basement of the building, that raised a few eyebrows. In a part of town not known for its nightlife--particularly not on that scale--many wondered what kind of operation Clyde's had in mind.

Now, we're beginning to get some idea of what's to come. From its liquor license filing with ABRA, we learn that the new concept--which is tentatively called "Hamilton Square Grill"--will be seeking a CX (multipurpose) license, which would cover the restaurant, live music venue, and proposed 96 seat outdoor patio. The 35,000 sf space, which includes a 20,000 sf restaurant plus the downstairs nightclub, will feature sushi, a raw bar and, according to Clyde's executive VP Tom Meyer, "comfortable, good food and a menu with drinks."

Perhaps most interesting, however, are the operatiing hours for the space: they are requesting outdoor seating until 2 AM Sunday through Thursday, and 3 AM on weekends, and plan to be a 24 hour operation inside.

That's right: a 24 hour restaurant/club in downtown DC. Those of you who are NYC transplants are likely wondering what the fuss is about, but 24 operations are hard to come by in DC--even in neighborhoods known for their nightlife options.

The Clyde's group plans on a tentative late 2011 opening, but we'll see if that materializes.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

14th Street Facelift Continues: Commencement of 14th and W Project Imminent

2004-2008 saw a resurgence in development along 14th Street, particularly north of U Street. And while the 2008 financial collapse saw indefinite holds placed on several key developments (including the redevelopment of the since-demolished Nehemiah Center), there are signs that the development freeze is beginning to thaw.

Last week, it was announced that Perseus Realty, which since 2008 had planned to develop a project--the so-called '14W"--at the intersection of 14th and W streets had sold the project for $7.5 million to Jefferson Apartment Group (JAG), and that the project should commence within the month. Perseus will stay on as developer for the project.

To recap, the 14W will include 231 housing units, a 44,000 sf YMCA and 12,000 sf of retail. 18 of the housing units will be offered as affordable units for individuals and families making up to 60% of the area's AMI. (Note: This equates to roughly $62,000/yr. I remain unconvinced that these so-called affordable units function as they should, as though said units are indeed less expensive than their full-priced cousins, they're rarely what one could consider to be inexpensive. The recommended maximum monthly amount that should be spent on housing expenses is roughly 30% of gross income, or around $1,550/month. It's challenging, but not impossible, to cover all of your housing expenses, even with an "affordable unit," on that. But that's another discussion for another time.)

Assuming the project begins as quickly as they are hoping it does, expect a delivery sometime in mid-late 2012.

The 14W is but one of several projects set to come online along 14th Street. A few blocks south, JBG continues to await demolition permits in order to commence its mixed-use project at 14th and S. And last month, developer Douglas Jemal announced plans to construct a 30 unit apartment building with groundfloor retail at the decrepit and vacant former home of Latino Auto Sales at 14th and Florida (along the same block as the 14W project). Under the most optimistic (read: unlikely) of scenarios, Jemal hopes to break ground on that project by next summer.

The Neverending Story Continues: ANC Officially Withdraws Hank's Protest, ABC Board Yet to Rule

Believe me, if you're sick of reading about the ongoing drama related to the proposed expansion of Dupont Circle eatery Hank's Oyster Bar, we're even more sick of writing about it. It's one of those issues that seems to polarize the neighborhood--with most neighborhood residents either supportive or unopposed, and a small cadre of residents opposed to the expansion and insistent upon dragging the process on for a seemingly unendurable length of time.

There's no need to re-hash the issues at play here--click on one of the links above, or head over to Borderstan where Tom Hay should be considered for a Pulitzer for his work documenting the situation over the last several months. But here's where things currently stand:

At last week's meeting of ANC2B, the ANC voted unanimously (with one abstention) to withdraw its protest of Hank's expansion, which includes taking over an adjacent building and expanding both a sidewalk-facing patio as well as a "summer garden" in the back of the building. The ANC also voted unanimously to support the placarding of the changes because they were deemed to be "substantial" changes.

This leaves Hank's with the final hurdle of approval before the ABC Board before the expansion can proceed. The ABC vote will also be the last opportunity for a small but vocal group of resident protesters to derail the expansion plans, although that seems highly unlikely. As we've previously noted, the resident protesters, through multiple meetings and hearings, have been unable to demonstrate an adverse impact to the neighborhood to such a degree that the ABC Board would refuse to approve an otherwise legally permissible expansion.

In other words, come 2011, this nearly year-long saga might finally draw to a close. And we'll have to find something new to write about.