Sunday, January 30, 2011

ANC2f meeting this Wednesday--Ghana Cafe protest continues

This month's ANC2f meeting will take place on Wednesday, February 2 at 7 PM at the Luther Place Memorial Church (NOT the usual ANC2f meeting location). The full agenda can be found below.

It's a rather quiet meeting agenda (pending any last-minute agenda items), but one thing worth mentioning is the unresolved protest against 14th Street restaurant Ghana Cafe and their plans for an outdoor summer garden. By some accounts, negotiations with owner Tony Opare have not gone particularly smoothly. Wednesday night's meeting promises an update on the status of the summer garden protest.

Also on the agenda is an update from the Arts Overlay Committee (to discuss the new banners that have recently been hung throughout the neighborhood) as well as a scintillating discussion about trash pickup in the alleyway between CVS, Logan Hardware and the Whole Foods.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011 – 7:00 PM

The Church is directly across the street from Washington Plaza Hotel,
and may be entered on the Vermont Avenue side.



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

Business Meeting

Approval of Agenda – 7:40
Approval of Minutes of Meeting of January 5, 2010 – 7:40
DCHSEMA/Street Closures – 7:50
Bike DC

ABRA – 8:00

Ghana Café status of protest against summer garden

Education Committee – 8:10

DDOT – 8:20

Crime and Public Safety Committee – 8:25

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

1513-1521 14th Street, NW Application for Variance
1432 Q Street, NW – Application for Variance
1211 10th Street, NW – Application for Variances

Arts Overlay Committee – 8:40

New Business – 8:45

P Street Greenway Project
Amendment of Bylaws and appointment of CDC member
Trash pick-up alley way between CVS, ACE Hardware, and Whole Foods

Treasurer’s Report (Matt Raymond, Treasurer) – 8:55

Approval of Expenditures
Approval of 1st Quarter 2011 Report

Adjournment - 9:00

Thursday, January 27, 2011

SNOprise 2011: Please remember to shovel your walk

I hope everyone is safe and warm--and has power. (Ours went out for a few minutes last night, but otherwise stayed on.)

For those of you not working today and who are currently at home on your sofa, in your pajamas and sipping coffee--lucky you. But please make sure that your front walk is shoveled. The sidewalks and streets are a slushy mess outside!

While you're at it, if you are able, Dupont Circle Village is organizing volunteers to help older or disabled residents shovel their walk, steps and porches. Courtesy of the Urban Neighborhood Alliance:

Some villagers are in need of support shoveling their steps and sidewalk and may need help with groceries. Show this local group we're here to help! Contact Bernice Hutchinson at or 202-436-5252.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Justice Kagan considering move to "gentrifying" Logan?

Is it a sign that your neighborhood has officially entered the upper echelon of DC neighborhoods when a Supreme Court Justice is spotted checking out a potential new home there?

According to Above the Law, Elena Kagan, the Court's most recently confirmed Justice, is considering a move from her current downtown residence into a townhome in Logan Circle. She was recently seen checking out the townhome and, suppsoedly, "asking a lot of questions." (Which would, apparently, make her the polar opposite of Clarence Thomas.)

Strangely, Above the Law's David Lat appears unaware of Logan's thriving restaurant scene:

A possible downside of the area: it doesn’t have that many restaurants. And Justice Kagan doesn’t seem to cook much.

No, of course it doesn't. That would certainly explain why community activists felt the need to pursue legislation last year to raise the allowable percentage of bars and restaurants in the so-called "Arts Overlay District" to 50%, since the previous 25% cap had already been exceeded. And places like Estadio and Cork haven't been consistently making the lists of the area's top dining destinations or anything.

Oh well. At least Lat makes room for the possibility that the neighborhood isn't as gritty as it used to be--and even poses the question whether Logan has actually gentrified. If you can believe it.

Regardless, if Justice Kagan elects to move to our fine little neighborhood, I suspect she will enjoy it quite a bit. I just hope she can find a decent place to eat.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Courtland Milloy's selective memory

Courtland Milloy wants us all to just get along.

The venerable Post columnist, who blasts users of social media while maintaining a Facebook profile, questions today why it takes a tragedy like the Tucson shootings to ostensibly bring people together and bemoans the fact that DC residents don't take heed of the killings going on right at our doorstep.

The homicide of a little-known Hispanic man has about as much chance of generating widespread sympathy as, say, the death of a resident of Juarez, Mexico, by people wielding firearms bought in the United States. We just don't see the connection to us, as if they are not part of our human family.

For most of us, the lives of the Morenos of the world aren't worth so much as a blip on our emotional radar. We discount their deaths as easily as we do those of civilians in Afghanistan who get killed by our missiles, fired from drones as easily as we fire off nasty anonymous notes via e-mail.

TBD has already performed a rather thorough takedown of Milloy's apparent technological inadequacies, but that's not my point. The man who today laments "that our current state of goodwill is not expected to last" is the same man who, only four months ago, decried the "myopic little twits" (affluent Fenty supporters) who patronize "chic new eateries" and "(fired) up their "social media" networks" whenever Adrian Fenty was supposedly under attack.

In the wake of Vince Gray's defeat of Fenty in the Democratic primary, it was Milloy encouraging those who "need more time to gloat and wave their fists" to, in his words, "take it".

One wonders whether the January 2011 Courtland Milloy, with his calls for a toning down of political rhetoric and an increase in restraint and civility, would be at all bothered by the September 2010 Courtland Milloy, who accused Fenty and his supporters of seeking to "re-create a more sophisticated version of the plantation-style, federally appointed three-member commission that ruled the city for more than a century."

Death panels? Fenty the Plantation Master? Both to me seem to be branches of the same rhetorical tree.

Not that the January 2011 Courtland Milloy doesn't have a point. Yes, the Tucson shootings were indeed a tragedy, but so is the fact that Prince George's County is averaging practically a homicide a day, as is the fact that the nation's capital--despite tremendous improvements--maintains one of the nation's highest murder rates. It shouldn't take the tragic murder of six people, and the shooting of 14 others, including a congresswoman, to remind us that all human life is valuable, argues Milloy.

No, it shouldn't. But, pray tell, what separates the charged rhetoric at the heart of the current national debate--the us-versus-them mentality, the vilification of those with whom we disagree as not simply different from us, but as people who actively seek to do harm and who must be stopped--from the heated rhetoric and "suck on it" attitude adopted by the likes of Milloy to describe the recent mayoral race and its implications on the city's ongoing metamorphosis?

If there's a line there, it's blurred beneath a cloud of inciteful, overheated rhetoric.

Do as I say, not as I do, Courtland?

Vintage fashion alert: Rock It Again opens for business on U Street

From 14thandyou's fashion desk (also Quarter Life and UStreetGirl), we learn that vintage fashion retailer Rock It Again has opened in the former Nana's space at 1528 U Street. (Nana's for those who did not know, packed up and moved west to Mt. Pleasant storefront.)

Rock It Again has operated for years out of a stall at Eastern Market, and focuses on men's and women's vintage fashions from the 50s through the 70s.

Strictly from a neighborhood commercial development perspective, we're quite happy to see a retailer rather than a bar, restaurant or nightclub, open in the space. Although we remain unconvinced about the pairing of the vintage plaid jacket with the Under Armour scarf.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Logan resident, real estate broker Wayne Dickson enters DC Council race

For those who keep up with citywide politics, a brief note of interest to pass along. According to the Washington Post, longtime Logan Circle resident Wayne Dickson announced yesterday that he was throwing his hat into the ring for the at-large DC Council position.

Dickson, who is a real estate broker and community activist whose advocacy was instrumental to bringing Whole Foods to their P Street location, is a close associate with Jack Evans and former chairman of the Ward Two Democratic Committee.

From the Post story, Dickson said "I think development and new businesses are very important; it also translates into jobs and increased tax base. As a commercial real estate broker, I am well aware of the value of great business development."

Dickson's wife, Carol Felix, was recently involved in the graphic design for the recent branding of the DC Arts District.

DC Council Special Elections can be notoriously difficult to predict, as they frequently attract many candidates who need only attract a few thousand votes to win what is typically an election with very low turnout. Current DC councilmember David Catania was first elected in 1997 in a special election that generated only a 7% turnout. In a tight and difficult vote, DC Democrats recently elected school board member Sekou Biddle over Vincent Orange to temporarily fill the role until the April 26 election.

Black's protest dropped; seafood restaurant and bar on its way

TBD reports this morning that all protests aginst Jeff Black's new seafood-themed restaurant and bar have been dropped. This means that Black can continue the build-out of the space can continue without any concerns related to the obtainment of a liquor license. As we reported previously, there were some sticking points in the negotiation process between Black, ANC2F and a group of citizen protesters.

The final license agreement stipulates closing hours of 1 AM weekdays and 2 AM weekends, along with outdoor patio hours of 11 PM weekedays, midnight on Friday and Saturday, and 10 PM Sunday. As part of the negotiations, Black agreed to drop plans for a so-called "smoker's deck" in the back of the restaurant.

No official word yet on an official opening date for the Pearl Dive Oyster Bar and BlackJack, but look for something early-mid summer.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Restaurant Update: Bar Pilar to expand; Protest continues against Jeff Black establishment; Italian Shirt Laundry "on hold"

I hope everyone had a good (and warm) weekend. While we await the coming White Death, I wanted to pass along a few restaurant-related tidbits from our neighborhood.

As has been reported on We Love DC and elsewhere, Bar Pilar will soon be expanding into a second floor space currently housing Raven Arts. (Raven Arts artist Regina Miele will be involved in a 14th Street gallery opening later this spring, so never fear.) Renderings of what Bar Pilar's space will look like, replete with characters from The Sims: Affluent Urban Neighborhood, can be found on We Love DC and Brightest Young Things.

And speaking of BYT, they unquestionably receive the award for Most Breathless Announcement of Bar Pilar's Expansion, with their headline "How Excited Are You For the Bar Pilar Expansion?" (To borrow a quote from Mike Birbiglia: "Um, like THIS much.")

* * * * *

A couple of blocks south on 14th Street, restaurateur Jeff Black's plans to open a new restaurant and bar (called, respectively, Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and BlackJack) at 1612 14th Street continues to face hurdles from both ANC2F and a group of citizen protesters.

As TBD reports, Black, who purchased the former 100% Mexico building for over $2.4 million last month, has made a few concessions to the protesters, including the abandonment of a proposed outdoor smoking deck in the back of the restaurant and an agreement to abide by operating hours until 1 AM during the week and 2 AM on weekends. But certain sticking points remain, such as a request from ANC2F chairman Charles Reed that Black promise not to make any changes to his license for three years--a request which Black has, thus far, refused.

A protest hearing before the ABC Board is scheduled for January 19. Reed and the other protestants are no doubt aware of the potential for the Board to rule in favor of Black on not only Reed's request, but also on other aspects which Black has already agreed to, such as operating hours. Black and his attorney, Andrew Kline, have indicated a willingness to go to a protest hearing--something which increasing numbers of restaurateurs and bar owners may be willing to do in order to push back against what they feel are overly intrusive demands from protestants included in so-called "voluntary agreement".

Stay tuned to see if something can be worked out in advance of the January 19 hearing date.

* * * * *

One final note to pass along: many of you have been asking about the fate of the proposed Italian Shirt Laundry restaurant and bakery, proposed for the former Shirt Laundry dry cleaners space at 14th and Q. I have been in touch with representatives of the Whisk Group, who are developing the restaurant, and have thus far only been able to confirm that plans for the restaurant are "on hold". Undoubtedly, this is due to the (unanticipated?) high costs of performing a cleanup of the site in order to be able to open a food serving establishment in the space.

Meanwhile, the building continues to deteriorate into more of an eyesore, as it has been tagged repeatedly with graffiti. I'll pass along additional information regarding Italian Shirt Laundry and its companion space down the street, Italian Cinema, as I receive it.

Friday, January 7, 2011

JBG breaking ground on District Condos this Monday

According to James Nozar of JBG, the raze permits finally arrived for the span of low-lying buildings along 14th Street between S and Swann, meaning that demolition can commence and the long-anticipated District Condos project can finally get off the ground.

Clark Construction will handle the demolition, which is expected to last between 15-20 days, after which Bovis Construction will commence excavation and construction. All told, construction should last approximately 18 months, placing an anticipated delivery date sometime around summer 2012.

Nozar mentioned that JBG will be planning a community meeting to discuss the details of the construction process--access, loading, parking, etc.--once those details are finalized. In the spring, JBG will be setting up a sales cente rin the neighborhood to commence condo sales for the building.

And no, for those wondering: no info on potential commercial tenants yet.

Additional info can be found at the District Condos website.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Douglas Development sitting on 5 million square feet of vacant space

You know how you walk around DC and see all of those "Douglas Development" signs in empty retail windows?  If you think you're seeing a whole lot of that, and that Douglas must be sitting on a great deal of vacant properties, you're quite right.  But it's probably worse than you think.

According to a recent tweet from WCP's Housing Complex reporter Lydia DePillis, 50% of the square footage owned by Douglas is vacant.  This amounts to over 5 million square feet of empty space.  To make matters worse for the city, Douglas is failing to pay property taxes on much of its vacant portfolio.

This news came up in a discussion at last night's ANC2C meeting, where two new potential Douglas projects were discussed, both in the Mount Vernon Square neighborhood near 6th and New York:  a 200 unit apartment building, and a massive 300,000 sf office building with ground level retail.  One of the reasons Douglas executive Paull Millstein was before the ANC last night was to request relief on the "blighted" designation of one of their Mount Vernon Square properties, which under the District's blighted property tax rate would cost Douglas $92,000.

According to Millstein, Douglas could incur costs of up to $30,000 to renovate the property to the point where it was no longer blighted, but with redevelopment of the parcel "imminent," he was requesting an exemption altogether.  Millstein argued that the lack of development on the site was a result of the ongoing economic turmoil, and thus Douglas shouldn't be faulted for that.  The ANC agreed, voting 2 to 1 to support a one year tax relief for the site.

That's fine and dandy, but with 5 million square feet of vacant space spread throughout the city, I would not hold my breath for either of these developments to break ground anytime soon--in spite of assurances from Millstein that they will.  And Mount Vernon Square residents will be forced to contend with a blighted property for at least another year, while the District continues to fail to collect on unpaid property taxes from properties among Douglas's holdings.

The wheels on the bus go round and round...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2011: A Look Ahead

By now, hopefully you have shaken off your post-New Year's hangover, you've cleaned out the remnants of the holiday feast from your fridge (and no, I don't mean Thanksgiving) and you haven't yet broken any of you new year's resolutions.

As we move into the new year, I thought we'd take a brief look at what's to come in our neighborhood during 2011. Call them predictions, prognostications or wishful thinking, here's what's on my list for 2011:

  • District Condos will finally break ground.  I know, it seems like JBG is simply teasing us recently with talks of an "imminent" groundbreaking for their new mixed-use development at 14th and S streets.  But, sooner or later, the demolition of the site's current buildings will commence, and earth really will start getting pushed around, and we'll finally start to see real progress after years of discussions.  And once that happens, the real fun can commence; by which I mean, the hemming and hawing over who the project retailers will be.  Who wants an IHOP?

  • 14th Street north of U Street will go gangbusters.  With both Perseus Realty's 14W development and the long-awaited Nehemiah Shopping Center development breaking ground, and Jemal's project across the street, it's shaping up to be a busy couple of years north of U Street for new development.

  • O Street Market will/will not break ground.  This long-anticipated project remains frustratingly in a state of suspended animation.  In spite of a pronouncement in September 2010 that the project was set to commence, there's been little activity at the site in the four months since.  We keep looking out for signs of earth-moving equipment and an official announcement from the Giant at 9th and P that it is closing, but nothing yet.  At least nearby Progression Place finally broke ground:  it, along with the O Street Market, Howard Theater restoration and Marriott Convention Center hotel threaten to dramatically remake the Shaw neighborhood in the coming years.

  • The Hiltons will continue adding to their DC restaurant/nightlife empire.  Marvin, The Gibson, ESL, U Street Music Hall, Patty Boom Boom, American Ice Co....brothers Ian and Eric Hilton have, seemingly overnight, turned into the kings of the DC lounge and nightlife scene.  Expect that to continue into 2011 with the soon-to-open Blackbyrd Warehouse near 14th and U, along with a new restaurant/lounge on Georgia Avenue in Petworth at the former Billy Simpson's House of Seafood and Steaks.  The Hilton's aren't the only ones with expanding ambitions along 14th and U Street, however.  Expect to see a new steakhouse and lounge from the Local 16 crew at the currently vacant building at 14th and U streets, and--perhaps--the opening of Local 14 along 14th Street between T and U.

    A little farther south along 14th Street, look for the opening of burger-and-fries eatery Standard at the former Garden District location at 14th and S, a new taqueria from the Masa 14 team next to the Black Cat on 14th between S and T, and maybe the new location of hamburger purveyors Rogue States near 14th and U (assuming there are no lawyers in the building).

  • Transit:  A temporary reprieve from the streetscapes.  Don't expect too many headaches transit-wise throughout the mid-city area.  Although DDOT is nearing completion of its design for the 14th Street Streetscape project, actual construction remains years away.  And with the recently completed 17th Street Streetscape project, and the soon-to-be-completed 18th Street project (the Dupont portion, at least), the jackhammers and paving machines should be relatively quiet throughout our neighborhood.

    However, beginning soon (January or February) look out for major headaches in Adams-Morgan, as a reconstruction project for 18th Street between Florida Avenue and Columbia Road commences.  In addition, look for an announcement at some point in the first quarter of 2011 regarding the completion of the U Street Streetscape design.

  • Housing prices will continue to rise.  Oh yes they will.  And in other shocking news, Ward Three residents remain unconvinced of Vince Gray's mayoral capacities.

  • Hank's Oyster Bar will finally expand into their adjacent space.  Prepare your fallout shelters now, because I have it on good authority that this development will most certainly lead to a cessation of all human life within a four block radius of Hank's.  Oh the humanity.

  • The 14th Street arts corridor will look a little less artsy.  Never mind the recent branding campaign to raise awareness of the so-called "Arts District,"the single greatest issue facing arts organizations and related businesses--spiraling commercial lease rates--remains unresolved by the city.  And with the District facing a mounting budget deficit and a continuing soft economy, don't look for the road to get any smoother for neighborhood arts institutions.  Longtime jazz club HR-57 has already packed up its Steinway and headed east to H Street, where the commercial tax rate is lower.  Who's next?

  • 14th Street will get a decent sandwich shop.  Actually, that already happened.
Happy 2011 everyone.