Monday, June 27, 2011

Transportation in Logan

A few things caused me to ponder transportation issues lately. The first is my own increasing frustration when trying to park my car. The second was a post at Greater Greater Washington advocating more infill stations on Metro rather than suburban train sprawl.

I could feel the cold, judgemental stares of some readers even as I typed that I find parking frustrating. Yes, I drive almost daily. Let me explain: I can drive to work in about 35 minutes, but commuting by bus and train would be a 90 minute ordeal, requiring that I leave home shortly after 6 a.m. As I am not a morning person and my chosen profession is teaching sixth graders, this commute scenario conjures up visions of a Lord-of-the-Flies-like scene in my classroom as my students and I become progressively more and more exhausted throughout the week. Even in my wildest fantasies of fitness, biking would be a similar time drain. Granted, though my morning commute by car is relatively fast, my evening commute is hairier. On truly ugly nights, it can take 75 minutes, if I include the time it takes for me to get parked at home in Logan.

Mr. 14th & You also has a commute conundrum. He works about a mile from home, which is great. The conundrum part is that there is no Metro or MetroBus that will get him to work. So Mr. 14th & You takes a Capital Bikeshare bike (when one is available) and gets to work in about 10 minutes. Absent an available bike to let, Mr. 14th & You walks to work. When attired in a suit on a hot or wet day, the commute that otherwise seems like a lovely opportunity for some light exercise becomes a 20 minute slog. Though cabs are certainly an option, the price of a round-trip fare and tips is comparable to the cost of using a parking garage for the day.

Despite these (minor) commuting challenges, both Mr. 14th & You and I love our jobs and love our apartment. Depending on the day, I mostly accept the trade-offs of life in a vital urban area. I offer these scenarios not as complaints. These are the daily journeys that our household makes for better or worse.

Now, let me get to the other reason why I have been thinking about transportation options. While reading the above-mentioned post on Greater Greater Washington, I noticed the following comment from Tom Coumaris: "I live at 14th and S and Metrorail is worthless to me except for DCA." Other GGW readers jumped on Tom for this statement. One retort was, "14th and S NW? 3 blocks from the U Street Station? How is that worthless?" This back-and-forth got me thinking. How often do Mr. 14th & You and I use Metro? How often could we use it.

As it would be for many Logan/U St. residents, the U Street stop on the Green Line is our closest Metro station. My opinion, informed by eight years of experience riding the Green Line from U Street is that it rarely offers a time benefit over other alternatives. The Circulator gets me to DC USA faster than walking to U Street, awaiting a train, and riding one stop. Even driving will get me to CoHi and parked within 15 minutes for very little money. Metro is a great way to get to Penn Quarter, but cycling is still faster. Where time really starts to drag, though, is when one attempts to transfer to the Red or Blue/Orange Lines from the Green Line. In such cases, I will typically begin my trip by walking to Dupont Circle or McPherson Square, respectively. Why do I walk to McPherson? Because, if I jaywalk judiciously, I can keep pace with a bus from 14th and R to 14th and L during rush hour. When one factors in waiting for the bus to arrive, walking almost always saves time.

Speaking of the bus, it's mostly off my radar. Though I can understand the utility of using Metrobus to commute north-south along 14th or 16 streets, it doesn't get me many places where I need to be. Two summers ago as a grad student at GW, I thought I'd finally make friends with the bus. Alas, the WMATA trip planner said it would take me either a bus to Metro tranfer or two bus lines to make that 1.8 mile trip. Total trip time was optimistically estimated at 31-33 minutes by WMATA and 25 to 27 minutes by Google Maps (assuming the bus was one time, heh). Mr. 14th & You, in a push to be an enlightened non-car-dependent urban dweller, once recommended that we take the bus to Georgetown. We spent 15 minutes sitting on G2 bus at 14th and P awaiting a driver shift change that day. Once the bus finally achieved forward momentum, we stopped on the 1500 block, the 1600 block, AND the 1700 block. All members of our party agreed that taking a cab home would be wise.

So the answers to my own questions are that Mr. 14th & You and I might go weeks between using Metro and Metrobus even if we tried to use them more often. Fortunately, walking and driving are typically convenient for us. I might be better able to leave my car parked if I embraced Capital Bikeshare. I'm still overcoming my fears of urban cycling that stem from the close calls I witness between cars and cyclists every day. Also, though I can ride a bike competently on the tow path, I am easily overstimulated and have a significant lack of large motor coordination. If you ever see what appears to be a tangle of knees and elbows zig-zagging down the road, it likely means that Mrs. 14th & You is now using CaBi.

I do understand, though, that we are just one case study of travel habits among Logan Circle households. I'm curious how other residents feel about transportation options along 14th and U Streets. We have more choices in transportation than many of our DC neighbors, not to mention residents of other cities. Trends in parking space utilization at new condo developments certainly seem to show that many folks are giving up cars in the city. Do you feel like you have been able to get away from using a car? Have you tried to avoid using a car and been frustrated by the experience? If you were being 100 percent selfish, how would you re-align existing transportation options to better serve Logan residents?

P.S.: Yes, this post was penned by the Mrs. 14th & You, the very same woman who walked off of blog duty about two years ago to go back to school and change careers. You may see some more of my ramblings between now and the start of the school year.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Weekly wrap-up: Lost Society opens, Shariah law comes to CityCenter, shooting in Pleasant Plains

Scouring the web so you don't have are a few things in and around the neighborhood that Caught our attention.

Lost Society opens: This blog's eponymous intersection is getting a new "boutique steakhouse" with a rooftop deck. Begining July 1, Lost Society, from the Local 16 team, will commence operations in the building located at 14th and U. The menu is designed by former Smith & Wollensky chef Joseph Evans. Eater DC has all of the details, including pictures of the interior and the rooftop--which will undoubtedly be full come next Friday evening.

No bars in CityCenter?: Hot on the heels of a glowing piece from the New York Times regarding downtown DC's massive CityCenter project, the City Paper's Lydia DePillis examines an interesting yet seemingly glossed-over point regarding it. Seems that a huge chunk of the financing of the $700 million project is comign from a team of Qatari investors. And while it's true that their money is quite good here, it does come with some strings attached: most notably, the project must follow Shariah law. This means no banks, and no businesses that sell alcohol as their primary business. Avoiding banks isn't that big of a deal--after all, developers Archstone and Hines have been quite vocal about not wanting banks to consume commercial space in the projcect, aiming instead for more dynamic retail. But what of the ban on primarily alcohol-selling establishments? Does this mean no liquor stores, bars, clubs or wine shops? It would seem so. Also, what of a restaurant that derives more than 50% of its sales from alcohol--would they be included?

Considering that the project sits on multiple acres of city-owned land, the fact that religious tenets might impact the type of retailers that can be recruited into spaces in the project might not sit well with some. For their part, the project's developers are downplaying any potential negative consequences of the Shariah law requirements, and are insisting that their plans for the project's retail space--of which nearly 300k square feet will be available upon the project's completion--will not be impacted by the religious requirements.

Four shot--one fatally--near Howard University: Just after yesterday's Caribbean Day parade, four individuals were shot, one fatally, in the 700 block of Gresham Place, just off of Georgia Avenue. MPD have indicated that they believe the shooting related to a neighborhood dispute and was not related to the parade or the day's festivities.

Business Journal interviews Jeff Black: DC restauranteur Jeff Black will soon be bringing two new enterprises to the space at 1612 14th Street: the Pearl Dive Oyster Bar, and the BlackJack Lounge on the second floor. DC UrbanTurf has renderings of the two spaces (including, apparently, a BlackJack bartender who is preparing to fire a weapon). Meanwhile, Missy Frederick at the Business Journal has an interview with Black, where he discusses the 12+ years it has taken him to open in Logan, and his plans for both establishments. (Note: the WBJ website is subscription-only.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In case you missed it: Monument Realty exploring massive Logan Circle redevelopment

While we've been away on a bit of a blogging hiatus (much like the city itself, the 14thandyous slow down a bit during the summer months), there has been a steady stream of news coming into the neighborhood. The most intersting, in our opinion, was the story broken last week by Lydia DePillis at the City Paper regarding Monument Realty's potential acquisition and redevelopment of two massive sites in the Logan Circle area.

You probably know the Frontiers developments (one located at 14th and Riggs, the other at 11th and N): the series of bland brick townhouses built in that oh-so-lovely 1970s style, each featuring an almost comically massive (by urban neighborhood standards) parking lot. Originally built as public rental housing by the city, the units were eventually sold to private owners in the late 1990s. Today, the units that were originally purchased for around $125,000 are now appraised at upwards of half a million.

But in Logan Circle, where new developments are going up practically every day, developments such as the Frontiers aren't exactly aligned with the rest of the neighborhood. So in steps Monument Realty to address that issue.

DePillis takes readers through a recent meeting Monument representatives held with members of the Frontier condominium associations about a potential acquisition of the properties. In short, it would look something like this: 80% of the 54 unit owners in the east and west Frontiers associations would have to vote to dissolve the master condo association, and then the east and west associations would have to vote unanimously to dissolve themselves. If that unlikely series of events occurs, Monument is prepared to pay each unit owner over $800,000 for their respective units, along with an assurance to make units available in the new development(s) available to owners who wish to remain in the neighborhood.

In all, Monument could end up with one, both, or neither parcel, and end up paying upwards of $40 million to acquire both. (Which tells you how profitable the condo market is these days.)

Initially, it's easy to take a cursory look at this situation and proclaim it the clearest example in an ever-lengthening list of perceived attempts to purge Logan and the 14th Street corridor of low- and moderate-income residents. Undoubtedly, if this sale goes through, there will be those pining for the redevelopment of the buidlings along the 1400 block of R street as well.

But as with most such issues, the situation is a bit more nuanced than that. After all, receiving an amount equal to 175% of the value of your home is a deal that many people would take. $800,000 would grant you pretty wide latitude to purchase a new property in many areas throughout the city. And, since all units are privately held, and with the complexity of the condominium association governing documents, each individual owner literally has final say as to whether the deal moves forward. And based upon comments made by Monument representatives, they appear prepared for the very real possibility that it won't.

Owners also seem to be aware that they're in an advantageous position: the developers came to them, and they basically hold all of the cards. But Monument is unlikely to have endless patience (or pockets) for pursuing the acquisition of the properties. In the meantime, there are 54 condominium owners in Logan Circle who have a lot of thinking (and meeting) to do.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Happy hour for a good cause on June 23

We don't typically post news or event items related to Adams Morgan (unless, of course, it relates to warnings of 14th Street or U Street becoming the next iteration of that cesspool of drunkeness and debauchery), but today we're making an exception.

One of the 14thandyou's favorite nonprofits, Community of Hope, is hosting a "Happy Hour for Hope" next Thursday, June 23 from 5p - 8p. Community of Hope provides some tremendous and much-needed services to individuals and families in central DC. More details about the event are below. If you're planning on being out in Adams-Morgan that evening, please consider stopping by one of the establishments listed below and supporting this very worthwhile organization.

Community of Hope will be joining forces with six Adams Morgan restaurants to host Happy Hour for Hope, an event to raise awareness, volunteerism, and funds for our continuing efforts to provide healthcare, housing, and supportive services to low-income and homeless families and individuals in Washington, DC.

Happy Hour for Hope will be held on June 23, 2011 from 5 to 8 p.m. A portion of proceeds from food and drink sales from participating restaurants will go to Community of Hope.

Participating restaurants are Bardia’s New Orleans Café, Bukom Café, Madam’s Organ, The Reef, Savour, and Sutra Lounge.

For more information, check out our website at:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

14th Street Becoming Restaurant Row: Slew of Restaurant News

A French restaurant, a cousin to Estadio, a sister to Ted's Bulletin, a new Matchbox, and Rogues States burgers 2.0.

What do these places all have in common? They all might be on their way to 14th Street.

Lydia DePillis, the City Paper's crack Housing Complex reporter, unleashed a slew of news today about new restaurants coming to the neighborhood. Perhaps the biggest piece of news out of all of them is that the notorious "Shirt Laundry" building at 14th and Q, which had been slated to become an Italian restaurant until high renovation and environmental remediation costs got the better of the Whisk Group, is set to become Parc, a French brasserie from Philadelphia-based Starr Restaurant Group. The apparently deep-pocketed Starr Group is undeterred by the high clean-up costs of the desirable space, and those of you who have strolled by the building recently may have notice that the posters, stickers and handbills have all been sraped away. No timeline that I'm aware of, but I would expect movement there shortly.

Up the street and across the block, DePillis is also reporting that two restaurants are close to signing leases in the new District Condos building, although JBG's James Nozar isn't confirming anything yet. First, Mark Kuller of Proof and Estadio is said to be signing on for a space there, while the owners of Barracks Row's Ted's Bulletin will be opening up a companion restaurant there as well.

Moving up the street a bit more, local pizza joint Matchbox will be filling the space that was formerly the home of the Arena Stage warehouse at 14th and T. And, just to top things off, Raymond Mendizabal--whose Rogue States burger spot in Dupont ran into a bit of trouble with the Steptoe & Johnson law firm--will be opening up the new iteration of his burger spot, Black and Orange, at 1931 14th Street NW, near the intersection of 14th and U.

Combined with the recent announcement of the arrival of Taylor Gourmet sandwich shop, Jeff Black's Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and BlackJack Bar at 1612 14th Street, and the still-anticipated Italian Cinema Restaurant down the block...well, is 14th Street going to be anything other than a row of restaurants and furniture stores?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Neighborhood news: Irvine Contemporary to close, Azi's gets a new owner

Here's a couple of news items to pass along:

Azi's Cafe in Shaw is getting a new owner. (Initial reports that it was closing ended up not being correct.) Azi, the owner, sold the business--but the coffee shop/cafe concept will remain. It's unclear whether the name will remain the same, since Azi will no longer be involved--although for now that seems to be the case.

Those of you who have been in tne neighborhood longer than a couple of years will remember Azi's as one of the businesses that contributed towards changing perceptions of Shaw. While the always-smiling Azi will be missed, it's great that the coffee shop will remain.

In other not-so-good news, 14th Street is losing another one of its galleries. From Borderstan, Irvine Contemporary gallery owner Martin Irvine has announced that he will be relocating his gallery from 14th Street to an as-yet-undisclosed location. The gallery will close following the closing of the Artist Tribute Exhibition show, which is set to open on July 23.

The closing of Irvine represents yet another blow to the 14th Street arts scene, which in the past couple of years has also seen the loss of the Randall Scott Gallery and G Fine Arts. Other arts-related businesses--such as jazz club HR-57--have also left the neighborhood in search of cheaper rents elsewhere. And while the ANC2F arts overlay committee made recommendations two years ago for steps the city could take to help retain arts-related businesses in the neighborhood, few tangible results have come out of it aside from last year's controversial banner campaign.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Taylor Gourmet coming to 14th and T

A bit of news to pass along this morning: there have been some questions and speculation as to what might open in the space that is being vacated by Ruff & Ready Furnishings (beneath Yoga District). Today we learn the answer:

Local sandwich chain Taylor Gourmet, which prides themselves on their Philly-style hoagies, will be opening up shop in the former furniture store. Washingtonian reports that co-owner Casey Patten is anticipating opening in the fall, but that is of course dependent upon the permitting process and the completion of the renovation of the building (which is not in terrific shape, to say the least.)

Although the lease was just signed, taylor has apparently been in negotiations for the space since February.

So, those of you who have been pining for a sandwich shop on 14th Street: here it is.