Thursday, August 30, 2007


If those things that the sign is advertising are happening behind those walls, this looks like a really good thing. Keep checking back -- this is (I hope) a fast-evolving issue!

I have an email out to the address listed on the sign.

photos by DG-rad, 6:36pm

promised pic

Not sure if this is an improvement over the old look, but hopefully these boards are only temporary and signal further work to be done at the building.

photo by DG-rad

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Drake's Building Update

I'm not sure which major decisionmaker is reading this blog, but today there is definitely major work being done at the corner of MLK and Good Hope where Drake's was intending to go. Windows have been removed and new brickwork is being done, and I noticed at least four people working on it.

I will post pictures when I have my camera next! More news as it comes...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Chili Bowl B-o-n-a-n-z-a

September 12, 2007
Schedule of Events:
4:00-4:45 Competitors drop off chili to be warmed (no crock pots--no electricity!)

5:00- 6:15 Chili Tasting (community judges People's Choice, "celebrity" judges for other 4 categories)

6:30 Awards announced
Where: Anacostia Farmers' Market
(Peace Park on 14th St SE between U and V Streets)

4th Annual Chili Bowl Bonanza chili contest and tasting
The five categories are:
- All-around Chili Champ
- Four Alarm Fire House Hot Award
- Best Vegetarian Chili Award
- People's Choice
- Best New Classic with a Twist
It's events like these that make Anacostia special. Let's all make it out there for some good eats! Also, Mayor Fenty is scheduled to attend.

If you are interested in submitting your chili to the contest, the deadline to enter is September 7.

Dowload the Entry form here

Any questions should be directed to market director Nadja Strucker, at 202-526-5344.

Thanks to Clagett Farm's blog for the tip!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

the corner ________

Could be:
- the corner store
- the corner cafe
- the corner restaurant and bar
- the corner book shop
Nope, unfortunately it is the corner weeds/posters/disaster

Ever wonder what the "Welcome to Historic Anacostia" boarded-up mess at the corner of MLK and Good Hope is hiding?.. Anacostia Economic Development Corporation sign (Ironic, no?) stranded in an overgrown basement-level pit!

This corner has so much potential, it is really too bad that it is used to advertise long-ago events and portray our neighborhood as blighted for those just entering it.

photos by DG-rad

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What Ever Happened to Drake's?

Proposed location, photo by DG-rad

Last October the news was in blogs and local papers: a sit-down restaurant was coming to historic Anacostia. This was news because there wasn't a restaurant of that quality in the neighborhood, despite many residents' eagerness to spend their money within walking distance. And this is still the case.

Most notably, there was a feature article in the Washington Business Journal proclaiming the arrival of Drake's Restaurant & Lounge at the corner of MLK and Good Hope, a new American-style sit-down restaurant and sports bar where, among other conveniences, people could come for Sunday brunch.

promo handouts, photo by DG-rad

But that was last October, and the article noted that the establishment, created by Anacostia resident Drake Wilson, should be opened by the end of 2006.
"It's a neighborhood where carryout restaurants dominate the sidewalks and the hype that builds up for coming retail attractions often is followed by letdowns." -WBJ
Should we be expecting another letdown? Is Drake just waiting for this area to see some more revival before he invests more? Or is this site part of the larger Anacostia Square project, as it appears to be in early renderings?

interior, notice the old "Anacostia" scripted sign, photo by DG-rad

I wrote an email asking about the progress to the address listed on the still-active Drake's website, but as of a couple weeks, no response. I'll continue to dig, but if anyone has information about Drake's, please comment away!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Post on DC's Riverfronts

While there wasn't much coverage of our side of the Anacostia waterfront (mostly because there isn't any new news to report), this article from Sunday's Post paints a good picture of DC's efforts to revive its extensive riverfront property and parkland.

I especially like the interactive graphic, which, shown from the Anacostia perspective, places an emphasis on our long-forgotten river frontage. Not the view of DC most people are used to seeing.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Skyland Meeting Recap 8-15-07

Last Wednesday's meeting about Skyland Town Center was the usual mix: there were some that were against any change at all, and there were others that were eager to see the wrecking ball and a complete re-do of everything that is Skyland. It was really great to meet some of you all there-- let's keep that up!

NEW site plan by Torti Gallas, courtesy of The Rappaport Companies

The most exciting element of the meeting was the unveiling of the revised site plan (above) by Torti Gallas, a town planning and architecture company best known around here for projects like Kenyon Square and Highland Park in Columbia Heights, The Ellington on U Street, Arlington East at Bethesda Row, and the recent Shirlington addition. They are the perfect addition to the Skyland team because they are experts at urban infill with a lasting aesthetic, and at designing spaces where people love to congregate. It will, however, be critical for the buildings to a have a diversity of design (like at the previously mentioned projects or at Rockville Town Square), rather than the sterility often achieved by it all looking the same-- my criticism of some large projects of similar scale such as City Vista in Mt. Vernon Triangle.

OLD site plan by Leo A. Daly

More highlights of the new site plan:
- the new site plan draws the development together, disbursing the parking garages around the site rather than in one unsightly location. (see above OLD site plan)

- better connection with adjacent neighborhood through use of townhomes or low-density multifamily along the Eastern periphery

- natural grade throughout project

- parking above large format retail building

- commitment to design excellence (we'll hold them to that)
If all goes according to plan, we should be able to live/shop/play/work here in March 2011.

header graphic and minor additions to site plan graphic by DG-rad

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Solomon G. Brown Corps Community Center

rendering courtesy of WCS Construction

The Solomon G. Brown Corps Community Center, expected to be completed in June 2008, is the new Salvation Army building (not thrift store) going up at the corner of MLK and Morris Rd. It will really depend on the quality of materials they use on the exterior for whether it ends up looking like a contributing piece of our main street.

Here is the floor-by-floor breakdown:
1st Floor: Retail Tenant
2nd Floor: Childcare Center that is open to the community
3rd Floor: Corps Community Center
4th Floor: Workforce Development
5th Floor: Wellness Center with "aerobics classes, cardiovascular machines and weight-lifting equipment"
Fortunately, there is an effort being made for the retail to be something of greater value than another check-cashing storefront. One Salvation Army newsletter from December 2006 mentions CVS as the type of tenant they are looking for for the ground floor. (keywords here are "the type of tenant")

This is what the Center looks like now:

photos by DG-rad

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Public Meeting: Skyland Town Center

Wednesday, August 15, 2007 (Tomorrow!) from 6:00-9:30pm
Hillcrest Recreation Center (click for map)
Focused discussion on:
- Project Timeline
- Refinements to Masterplan by new architects
- Key Elements of Housing Component
- Affirmation of Retail Mix

Sponsored by the Skyland Development Team in consultation with Council Members Yvette Alexander, Marion Barry, Kwame Brown, and Vincent Gray

Click Here for Formal Announcement

Also, here is a link to Skyland Development Team's answers to some of ANC7B's questions regarding the new development. From the looks of it, this will be a very conscienscious development, taking into account urban sustainability, pedestrian-friendly design, and local business support.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Picturesque Anacostia

From time to time I will post excerpts from old newspaper articles about or referencing Anacostia. (with a wink to JD who had the same idea)
Check out this pretty amazing article from 1890:
"There is no more beautiful and picturesque suburban village in such delightful proximity to any city than Anacostia is to the Capital City.

"Sweet Auburn" may have been the "loveliest village of the plain," but Anacostia, with her reach of streets up the easy stretch of hills that decline from the Maryland shore to the banks of the Eastern Branch of the Potomac that separates it from the southern section of the city, must claim the prize as the loveliest village of the hills, or "divide the crown" with some extremely beautiful hamlet.

The village from the city looks picturesque, indeed, with its rich emerald background of undulating sward and rich foliage, but from the village, in a gaslight view of Washington, it does not take an extravagant stretch of the imagination to recall the "Loroli" on the River Rhine.

And while the village is borrowing some of its beautiful designs in architecture, it is also imitating the neighboring city in its general business and public enterprise. It is in all its features a very desirable adjunct to the city proper as a place for suburban residence. Its situation is healthful and delightful, many of its most attractive sites being 200 feet above the level of the river. It will soon have greatly increased street car facilities from all parts of the city, which will give an additional impetus to crown its emerald slopes with neat cottages and more pretentious villas.

It has now two churches and a public school-house of no mean proportions. Its stores, both wholesale and retail, compare favorably with like establishments in the city, and enjoy a very considerable trade from the contiguous counties of Maryland, whose trade must pass through its streets to enter the city. The streets are well laid off, lit with gas, and are being rapidly built up and properly graded, and otherwise improved."

excerpt from "Picturesque Anacostia", The Washington Post, June 8, Eighteen-Ninety

Header graphic by DG-rad

Saturday, August 11, 2007

crosswalk striping

photo by DG-rad, 10am 8/11/07

There are a lot of street and sidewalk touch-ups going on this morning on MLK: rebricking in front of the new Jamaican Restaurant at MLK and V, painting on the offramp, and re-striping. We're sprucin' up!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Poplar Point RFEI Announced

This morning the Deputy Mayor for Planning & Economic Development's office released the Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for the development of Poplar Point.
For the Website, Click Here
For the RFEI, Click Here (PDF)

Square On

The front page of this week's print edition of the Washington Business Journal is dedicated to Anacostia Square, the future mixed-use project (40,000 SF retail; 30,000 SF office space; 80 residential units) at the corner of MLK and Good Hope. The article is essentially an announcement that the project, a joint venture between Douglas Development (Ventana, 7th Street Historic Row) and the Anacostia Economic Development Company (Anacostia Gateway), can now move forward after the Historic Preservation Review Board approved demolition of all but the facades of the historically significant--or at least aesthetically historic--buildings at 1909-1913 MLK Ave. Butch Hopkins, president and CEO of AEDC, expects construction to begin in August 2008. (!)

*Note: this very blog broke similar news over two weeks ago--though I acknowledge that WBJ still has a slighty higher readership.

Although initially focused on this Anacostia project, the bulk of the article is about the tedius process of trying to develop around structures deemed historic. Having worked for an infill urban development company in the past, I know firsthand the difficulty of trying to develop a financially feasible project, while also appeasing the DC Historic Preservationists.

Ultimately, however, I support the fastidiousness of preservationists because the end result usually has more character, a more human scale, and doesn't erase a past aesthetic that is, in most cases, entirely worth preserving when comparing the attention to detail and quality of construction and materials to that of today.
"Our purpose is to prevent the demolition of historic buildings," said Tim Dennee, architectural historian for the D.C. Historic Preservation Office. "What would happen if we allowed everyone to demolish their homes or buildings just because they've fallen into disrepair? We'd have no historic buildings in this city."
Backside of 1913 MLK Ave, picture courtesy of Washington Business Journal

On a separate note, the article also mentions that there have been over 100 applications for the recently announced grants for up to $35,000 to spruce up Anacostia homes in historically sensitive ways. That is major news for the neighborhood. Thank you all!

images for header graphic courtesy of Washington Business Journal

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The DC Region is experiencing a drought, and Anacostia is not immune to its ill-effects. From today's Examiner article:
"Farmers in Virginia and Maryland are fretting over brown-eared corn and drooping soybean crops. Here in the city, our communal crop is trees, and they are suffering.
It’s time to get out our buckets and our hoses, check the ’hood for newly planted saplings and drench them. Every day, if possible."
Our trees add value, beauty, health, and pride to our neighborhood, and it is our responsibility (and hopefully, desire) to make sure they stay alive.

For a Great piece on the importance of street trees, see this post from The Goodspeed Update.

photo used in graphic courtesy of flickr user stgermh

Saturday, August 4, 2007

the continuing conversation

There is a good editorial in today's Post that offers good clarification and focus to the Poplar Point discussion. Highlights:
It's wrong to think of Poplar Point as just another hunk of land waiting to be developed in the District of Columbia.
...The success and popularity of D.C. United is undeniable, but Mr. Fenty is smart to keep the city's interests, not the team's, foremost. Absent other plans (which could well include stadium proposals), it's hard to judge what is the best for the District.
...D.C. United's disappointment and that of its backers in Ward 8 is understandable. The community is tired of being told yet again to wait for the commercial and residential development it so desperately needs.
...It's important to stress that Mr. Fenty's action does not preclude D.C. United's project but only ensures that its merits will be weighed against those of other possible developments. If, indeed, it is the best project and one that enjoys widespread community support, D.C. United should have little problem proving it.

The good news is that the efforts attributed to this issue are reminding people outside of Anacostia that yes, our neighborhood exists and it is worthy of public discussion outside of news of violence and urban disrepair.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Need a grant for your neighborhood, organization, local biz, etc? Are you extremely creative? Are you sort of a fan of American Idol?

If so, the Case Foundation's "Make It Your Own Awards" are definitely for you. Essentially this is a competitive grant program wherein the Case Foundation will allow you and me to vote for the grant idea we like best.

The basic idea:
"We recognize that improving communities takes ongoing commitment and persistent action from the people who live in them.

That's why we will provide funds to individuals, and individuals working with small organizations and groups, who join together to imagine and implement innovative ideas and solutions that lay the groundwork for long-term social change.

We want to lift up these efforts to show that they're not happening in isolation, but are part of a growing movement that can, and will, transform our communities."
The catch--you only have until August 8th. So get writing!

Apply Here

Thursday, August 2, 2007

fenty on the point

Direct from Mayor Fenty (is there a nickname I could be using here to the same effect as Mayor Bowtie?)

He has gotten a lot of flack for his decision to offer up Poplar Point to a competitive Request For Proposals (RFP), but that does not mean that he is anti-affordable housing, anti-development or anti-soccer stadium. We have been waiting years for major development East of the River, and this is a good way to ensure that what we get is something we can all be proud of.

Click Here to Watch the Video interview with the mayor.

video courtest of WUSA Channel 9
(windows media player)