Thursday, October 27, 2011

Turning the Page.

I started this blog in the summer of 2007, about a month before buying a house in the neighborhood. Inspired by other neighborhood blogs across the city, I wanted to provide a casual and visual place for others to see Anacostia the way I was starting to see it, and hoped it would help push forth a counterpoint to the generally-accepted belief that Anacostia was a scary place with nothing to offer, that you only found yourself in if you slept through your Metro stop or got lost on 295.

 During my three years living in Anacostia, the change often seemed so incremental that sometimes I'd have to look up before and after pictures to remind myself that it was even happening. But it was. Houses on every block were restored. Trees were planted. Friday night art openings at Honfleur and Vivid hosted more and more newbies and outsiders checking out the neighborhood. Seeing it as something other than the stereotypes. A coffee shop opened, then a neighborhood bar opened. For the first time in a long time, neighbors, visitors, and workers had places to grab a bite or a drink in this part of town. Without buying it through bullet-proof glass. Sounds so simple, but it was a seachange.

 For a neighborhood with a gorgeous housing stock, Metro, Circulator, and Bikeshare access, two main streets, beautiful spring blossoms, river frontage, and that je ne sais quoi embodied in things like block association Christmas caroling, the front porch neighbor-waving culture, and the beacon of historic leadership and values that is the Frederick Douglass Estate, what Anacostia has always needed is just people and institutions to help boost it that next step up from where it already is. And the momentum for that, it seems, is finally building.

 Is Anacostia there? Nope. Abandoned houses pockmark its streets. Barbed-wired-in parking lots mar the downtown areas that will, hopefully, one day be the neighborhood's center. People, places, and plans have and will disappoint. The overall vision isn't where it needs to be, and ward leadership still brings down the broader area that could otherwise be a lighthouse of positive and progressive change. 

My friend and Anacostia cheerleader Nikki Peele said once that Anacostia isn't the next U Street, or the next Adams Morgan, or the next H Street. Whatever happens in Anacostia will turn it into the next Anacostia. It's unique. It has its own architecture, its own history, and an awesomely passionate class of eager residents that just want it to develop into an inclusive, amenity-filled, and good-looking neighborhood.

 For the people living in Anacostia who are packing out Uniontown Bar & Grill every night, filling up Historic Anacostia Block Association meetings, and hoping a few more decent places open up shop in the neighborhood, Barracks Row is close, but MLK Ave? That's closer. More general and lifestyle amenities are needed, and as more businesses take a chance and succeed, more will come. More art shows will happen. More houses will get their grooves back. More infrastructural, architectural, heck -- maybe even political -- changes will take place.

Which is why in a lot of ways it kills me, as someone who has really loved this role, to admit/realize/say outloud/think about the fact that it's time to turn the page on Ye Olde Anacostia Blog. But truthfully, this "turning of the page" for me has been a while coming.

 "At crucial moments of choice, most of the business of choosing is already over." It's an Iris Murdoch quotation that my dad has, ever since I was a kid, reminded me of. We can hem, haw, and deliberate all we want, but usually we've already -- whether in plan or action -- made up our minds. When I moved out of Anacostia and into the Near Southeast/Navy Yard neighborhood in summer 2010, I knew things would change for me and the blog. And then, almost as soon as I moved, I ran for and was elected ANC Commissioner -- not something I had planned to do before moving, but government-level change-making was always something that interested me and so I dove in head first. As a result, my first neighborhood advocacy priority has shifted across the river.

 Until now, I've kept up the blog because I know it's still a resource. Some of my favorite emails are the ones from people saying they've read the blog and are interested in moving to or buying in the neighborhood. Or from people finally feeling like their home turf is being celebrated. But I'm no longer a first responder in Anacostia. At this point, I don't "happen upon" those incremental changes, or attend the neighborhood and Ward 8 meetings like I used to. Without being there day in and day out, I've lost a large part of the voice that made this blog the resource it once was.

Anacostia hasn't stopped moving forward. People keep on moving in, fixing up houses and filling condos, thinking up creative ideas, and communicating with each other on new channels. New construction is finally coming to the neighborhood. I'm even hearing talk of ethnic restaurants and community food co-ops. What, in Anacostia? Yuupp.

This isn't my goodbye to Anacostia. It's my recognition that at this stage, in order to be an effective advocate for anywhere, I can't be the voice for everywhere. I'm in love with DC -- with neighborhoods east and west of the Anacostia River -- and I promise to keep doing everything in my power to knit these incredible places together even more.

Thank you so much to all of you who have engaged with the blog and the neighborhood, and for giving me the opportunity to talk about a place I like a whole heck of a lot. Anacostia, you'll always make me weak at the knees.

How to stay connected: 

Blogs: East Shop Live Anacostia, The Art of Ward 8, Anacostia Yogi, DC Minnie (Minnesota Ave), Congress Heights on the Rise.

Historic Anacostia Google Group: Click Here

People to follow on Twitter: ESLAnacostia, AnacostiaYogi, TheAdvoc8te, UniontownBar, HonfleurGallery, FirstHomeDC, TheDCHive.

Realtor who knows the neighborhood: Darrin Davis.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Anacostia's Newest Mural - What Do You Think?

Designed and painted by Bryan Conner, Anacostia's newest mural sits at the intersection of MLK Ave and U Street SE. It is bright, hopeful, and looks professionally done. It has cherry blossoms, a great MLK quotation, and buzzwords signaling what is important to the neighborhood: nurturing, community, light, culture, and respect.

the mural fades from being highly detailed to simple line drawings...

artist Bryan Conner spraying the final finishing touches...

I love the pop of the cherry blossoms...

the view from across the street...

I like this quotation because it really represents what's going on in the neighborhood: a growing dedication to seeing it develop into a place that it inclusive, beautiful, and bright. What do you think of the new mural?

(And remember what this spot used to look like?)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A TreeHouse Grows in Austin

Anacostia isn't Austin. But there are always lessons and best practices and cool things that can brought and taught from place to place. TreeHouse, simply, is the "Whole Foods / green version of Home Depot" (but not quite as big as the other big boxes) and just opened last week in Austin, Texas. The company was founded by a friend of mine who used to live in DC, so fingers are crossed that he'd be interested in one day bringing his concept back east.

The store is certainly filling a niche. People want homes that don't poison them, that are made with sustainably sourced and harvested materials, and that can be maintained with earth-friendlier products than what are found at most places.

Check it out:

great logo, solar panels on top, what's not to love?

this is what makes the store pretty awesome.

Got a question in need of a solution?

quantity and diversity: what you do not get at the other big boxes...

tile made from recycled toilets? yes, please.

again -- it's all green.

another view of the general feel of the store...

how cool is it that they tell you to ask honest questions about their products?

plant selection chosen for climate suitability and nativeness.

What do you think? I know the first store just opened two days ago, but is this a concept that needs to spread?

(Thanks to my awesome parents who snapped these photos!)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Guest Post: Time for a New Ward 8

By Anonymous

After another weekend of trash cleanup behind my fellow Anacostans, I have to say that some are simply too trashy, have no regard for public appearance, and simply purchase, eat, and dispose on the spot. I have seen everything from tires, to bicycles to items too unsanitary to mention. It's never "everybody," but it is certainly "somebody." After a year on the Historic side, observing, cleaning, contacting authorities, attending meetings, seeing outcomes, etc., it seems the community is on one page, yet elected officials and decision-makers are on another. How are we defining progress? Believe it or not, for some, more social services is progress. For others, it is more of the same.

My issue borders on the behavioral. Dirty is just plain dirty. Foul language is just plain foul language. A negative outlook and blaming society, is simply a negative outlook that continues to blame society. It seems, some prefer to keep it this way. I think we need better council representaiton. I don't hate Barry, but after years and years and years of representing Ward 8, I think we need somebody who can interact with other council members in a more progressive way. We need new blood, new ideas, and simply new waysof doing things. Other wards have issues too, and our council is just plain jacked up. DC politics is a joke in my opinion and elected officials undermine their effectiveness by creating an atmospehere of mistrust over a series of missteps, financial and otherwise. Good luck pushing statehood...

I respect all individuals, but things were moving under Fenty and at least he was decisive. Under Gray, we've had nothing but scandals and issues surrounding his vetting process. With the drama, what is he really accomplishing? Will he take a stand on the11th st bridge project? Can he help produce the 1.5 million to install streetcar tracks so that we avoid a disastrous short-term decision? It's hard to keep any progressive momentum going in DC. 4 years is not enough time to let initiatives play out, when you take transition into account. Throw in a couple of scandals, and we have "Amateur Night at the Apollo". You have to impress quickly....or out comes the sandman.

I think residents personalize things too much in this city, at the expense of looking at things objectively. In Ward 8, the uneducated simply outnumber the educated. Not that education is everything, but politicians play residents. People in a neglected part of town come out against the very transportation initiaitives that are designed to increase access to points west. How smart is that? I don't think anybody will open businesses, thereby increasing jobs in an area inundated with too many social services, resulting in people out on the street. Like I'm really going to take my wife and kids to a sit-down restaurant in that type of environment? Despite being walkable, we NEVER walk to the library. It's not just about the access. It's also about the experience. Walkability is not just about distance. People with families don't want their kids constantly seeing liquor stores and laundromats and people out doing nothing, standing around, wasting time, when we need workers to compete in a global environment. Local security impacts national security....

Lastly, I am all for neighborhood meetings and participation. I consider it a civic duty. However, it seems various "officials" and business leaders show up, produce great looking renderings, listen to the community, and hear great ideas, but to no avail. If the people who care enough to show up, who actually own property, pay taxes, clean up where the city doesn't, etc. are voicing one direction, why does it always seem that decisions are being made against the wishes of those who are actually investing the time, energy and resources? Why are secret deals going down resulting in more social services on Good Hope Road? Why do we get Save-A-Lot, when we clearly said we wanted something of higher quality. We already have Safeway and Giant in ward 8. Why are these decisions kept secret, where we find out about them afterwards. For all the meetings we have, Ward 8 is not a very transparent place....

What this says to me is that people aren't taking us seriously. When I say "us" I mean the people who are trying to make a positive difference in improving our community, regardless of socio-economic or educational status. There should be one Ward 8. In reality, this means doing things differently. I am not a Barry hater, but I am a realist. I just think political officials higher up - and on the council - in that environment, will never really take Ward 8 seriously, until we elect somebody to represent us on the council who brings a more progressive approach. It's a new day in the economy, the country and the city, and it's time for Ward 8 to catch up. Otherwise, we will continue to be the land of the lost in a city where the other wards are embracing progress. We have to move away from this divide and conquer community set-up. For example, I live in historic Anacostia, but most forces against Ward 8 tend to group our neighborhoods together. Therefore, I believe Ward 8 has to take a more collective and unified approach on common initiatives and challenges in order to affect the type of change that is needed.

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free..."

This post was originally sent by an Anacostia resident as an email to the Historic Anacostia Google Group mailing list. To request inclusion into the Google Group, follow the instructions on the Google Group page.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Circulator Comes to Anacostia!

You've probably heard the buzz or seen the big red busses zipping through the neighborhood, but Anacostia gained a pretty big new public transportation amenity this week: The Circulator.

Click to Enlarge
The new Circulator route goes from Skyland / Hillcrest, down Good Hope Road, down MLK Avenue, then across to the Navy Yard, Barracks Row, and Harris Teeter.

To download the full route map and brochure, Click Here.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Art & Jazz TONIGHT at Honfleur. Be there.

Come to Honfleur Gallery for events starting at 7pm tonight. THE CONNECTION is a free jazz performance by Butch Warren and Freddie Redd, and will be accompanied by a photographic slide show by Antoine Sanfuentes. A poetry reading by local DC poet, Fred Joiner, will also happen in between sets.

Also check out the new works by Cuban mixed-media artist Gustavo Díaz Sosa. Art show opens at 7. Jazz starts at 8.

For more information, check out Honfleur Gallery's website. Be there for the goodness.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cedar Hill Gets HPRB Approval

Another step! The Cedar Hill townhouse/condo project at the corner of W and 13th Streets is on track to finally start construction... soon.

On W Street looking towards 13th.

"The Board approved the design in concept, with delegation to staff of further review, with the conditions that the V Street building be limited to two stories of height; the applicant satisfactorily address the issues raised in the staff report; and that the applicant careful revise and develop the balcony details on the Type 2 houses, the stairs, the siding on the Type 3 houses, and the width of the alley and the continuation of the 13th Street sidewalk and vegetation along it."

Still awaiting word from Stan Voudrie of Four Points, LLC as to when exactly this will start. Last I heard, the HPRB approval was one of the final steps before construction.