Thursday, July 31, 2008

the two meetings

Monday night was the meeting about redeveloping the East Campus of St. Elizabeth’s. Fortunately they held the meeting on the campus itself, because I had never before been inside and was completely blown away with how awesome it is there. Yes, totally underutilized right now, with some buildings completely abandoned, but the place looks like an Ivy League school. It’s actually pretty ridiculous how cool the place is, and encouraging to know that since all of the buildings were built to a high standard of quality, that when whatever redevelopment does occur there it will look really nice.

The meeting was essentially a time to revisit the plan that the community and the Office of Planning put together back in 2003, as well as refine it in order to complete the Small Area Plan for the campus. Back then there was absolutely no momentum for development east of the Anacostia River, which clearly now has changed. It has already been decided that the city wants it to be a mixed-use community: residential, retail, office, recreation, and potentially institutional use (UDC, please). There were a fair number of people there – it’s funny because there are definitely public meeting “regulars” and I am finally starting to know them by name.

One of the goals of the plan will be to conveniently connect MLK to Alabama Avenue, via a new boulevard running through the edge of the site. Because there is an entrance to the Congress Heights metro station on the campus, the area around the station will likely be developed to a slightly higher density. One of the presenters mentioned allowing Homeland Security to take some space on the East Campus as a way to bridge the two campuses and allow for some economic development from their tenants to spill onto the east side – however, the idea met with some criticism because the area of the campus they suggest is right next to the existing stables, which many hope can be renovated into a first-class equestrian facility.

Obviously this is just another “first step” towards this project actually getting started, but it looks like the it’s on its way to being a reality. There will be another meeting in September (TBD) to unveil the plan, and the city hopes to put out a solicitation to the development community early next year.

- - -

Tuesday night was the Poplar Point meeting. Although Clark Realty wowed everyone with their sweeping visions for the 110-acre mix of overgrown land and scattering of federal buildings earlier this year, the actual plan for the area has yet to be drawn up. Because the city needs to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in order for the federal-to-district land transfer to occur, this meeting was about asking the community some specifics about how we wanted the development to connect with the river, how we wanted the required 70 acres of green space to be laid out (*cough* central park *cough*), and how sustainability should fit into the overall plan.

I’m of the belief that meetings like this actually do have the power to change big plans, which is why I go – but also acknowledge that we are still pretty early in the planning and development process for Poplar Point that no major decisions for the site plan and development layout are being set in stone just yet. One thing that I have been worrying a little bit about was the possibility that the platform over 295 could be scrapped, and that it was just a way for Clarke to win the master developer slot – but the amount of support shown at the meeting for meaningful connections to Anacostia alleviated some of that. Everyone in attendance was separated into groups of ten or so to discuss various questions and give suggestions, and it was almost unanimous that the most important connection to Poplar Point needed to be from downtown Anacostia.

This is all a ways off, and I felt bad when one elderly woman next to me asked if this would be started before 2012. The response was that it was possible ground could be broken in 2012, but that that was probably the earliest that anything was actually going to begin at the site.

Click Here for the Poplar Point EIS website

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Poplar Point Meeting Tonight!

Yikes, sorry for the late notice on these, but tonight's meeting is important because it is meant to solicit community feedback on the kinds of planning principals we want to see at Poplar Point.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008 from 6-9 P.M.
Matthews Memorial Baptist Church
2616 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, SE
The Deputy Mayor’s Office for Planning and Economic Development and the National Park Service are serving as joint-lead agencies in the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the redevelopment of Poplar Point.

The July 29th meeting is the first of three public meetings to develop the Small Area Plan alternatives that will be studied in the EIS. This meeting will be an interactive workshop on site planning principles.
Hope to see you there!

graphic by DG-rad

Monday, July 28, 2008

Anacostia in 1921

The past is not a package one can lay away.
~Emily Dickinson

Click image to Enlarge

This aerial photo from June 26, 1921 shows Anacostia before much of the post-war redevelopment and unfortunate tear-downs in the neighborhood.

1. The U-Street cut-through, before poor planning eliminated the road (formerly called Jackson Street) and the houses that once graced it!

2. The once-human-friendly block that is now the decrepit grocery store and an unnecessarilly large parking lot. I wonder what that larger u-shaped set of buildings was...

3. The current home of a now-empty lot and a corrugated-metal warehouse / health care center thing. Any idea what those two larger (and probably very cool-looking) buildings were?

*Update: the large building on that site was the old Van Buren School, a neighborhood landmark.

4. The residential block - on both W Street and Pleasant Street - that is now the Union Temple baptist church and its ridiculous parking lot.

photo for graphic courtesy of the Washington Post his, via Proquest.

St. Elizabeth's Meeting Tonight!

Tonight is the second of two meetings designed to inform the public about what is going on with the St. Elizabeth's redevelopment and solicit suggestions and input on the Small Area Plan that the Office of Planning is putting together for the site.

Monday, July 28, 2008 from 6:30-8:30 P.M.
Saint Elizabeths Hospital
Main Sanctuary
2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20032
The likely relocation of the US Department of Homeland Security, as well as a significant level of planned development in the area presents a new opportunity to catalyze development on the East Campus at Saint Elizabeths Hospital.

Anyone who lives, works, worships in, or cares about the future of Ward 8 and the surrounding area is encouraged to attend and provide input and feedback on what will ultimately be a small area plan to be presented to the DC City Council.
Click Here for meeting announcement (PDF)

graphic by DG-rad

Thursday, July 24, 2008

one year later.

A year ago today was my “welcome” post. Fortunately a lot has changed, progressed, and happened over the past 12 months --or I'm not sure I’d still be as excited as I remain today about the state and future of this fine, and soon to be even finer neighborhood.

Thanks mostly to all of you – bloggers tend to really rely on their readers, and your comments, suggestions, emails, and kind words have energized me to keep on doing this.

Cheers to another great year!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


From Beyond Bread, Bread for the City's blog that focuses mostly on affordable housing in the District:

Anacostia History II
Ms. Tate described the run-down buildings along Good Hope Rd., which once housed thriving businesses such as a five-and-dime store, two dress shops, and a hardware store. “Good Hope Rd. was built up, had more buildings; it was like coming into a little city, a little country town,” she said.
With Gentrification, Small Businesses Take the Hit
This is not just the story of "giant Walmart kills the local mom and pop store" but also a story of how development in inner-city neighborhoods often pushes out local convenience stores and ethnic-specific retailers to make room for national chains.
And from the Wall Street Journal:

The End of White Flight
Washington -- where African-Americans have been in the majority for a half-century -- has lost about 80,000 black residents between 1990 and 2006. Whites had been leaving, too, but recently they've started coming back.
photo of oldest building in Anacostia by DG-rad

Monday, July 21, 2008

the old bowling alley

the title might seem misleading, since 2004 MLK Ave has been a discount furniture store and a masonic temple for so long, but this yellow-glazed brick art deco jewel of a building was once something very different--and is now back on the market.

the proof is in the flooring. check out the stripes where the lane separations used to be:

the interior is now decked out in very forlorn-looking paper flags and remnants of furniture parts, burnt out fluorescents, and flaking linoleum:

the space upstairs is mostly taken by an old masonic temple auditorium of sorts, and a large ancient kitchen in back. looking out the back windows, I felt like I was seeing back to the American Dream, circa 1940:

overall, the potential of this building is ridiculous. I see a music venue, ala Rock & Roll Hotel or the Black Cat. The 3-tiered lower level is perfect for a variety of spaces to accomodate such a use. Or how about a gym: Washington Sports Club, Results, or Crunch. Even bring bowling back: another Strike, like in Bethesda--perfect for playing off the building's already-obvious retro style.

Endless possibilities, folks. It's going to take dreamers and doers, but good ol' 2 double-O 4 MLK will definitely live to see another day.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Walking Tour Tomorrow!

Main Street Anacostia is hosting another walking tour tomorrow, July 19, at 10 AM. These are a great way for people both inside and outside of the community to learn more about our great neighborhood.

From the MSA website:
The tour travels along the historic routes of Anacostia giving participants the opportunity to see and learn about various landmarks in the historically-rich neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River. Tour stops include Rosie’s Row, Frederick Douglass home, Old Carver Theatre, the “Big Chair”, and a host of others.

The walking tours will be held every third Saturday at 10am through October 2008. The tour begins and ends at the Anacostia Metro Station (green line). Donations are appreciated.
Remaining 2008 Tour Dates: July 19, August 16, September 20, October 18

To Make Reservations: call 202-889-5090

photo for graphic courtesy of flickr user stgermh

Thursday, July 17, 2008

MLK & Good Hope

So it turns out that the Drake's building and the beige building are owned by the same person. I wonder why the owner fixed up (or at least is in the process of fixing) the one and not the other. My speculation is that they are in negotiations with the Anacostia Square people (AEDC and Douglas Development) to be included in their redevelopment of the block.

photo courtesy of the Washington DC Historical Society

As this photo from 1949 shows, the beige building used to be the Anacostia Uniform House. It served the Navy Yard across the river, which really reinforces the history that this was a neighborhood largely founded and built for the workers over there. It's too bad that that legacy is basically lost, as nothing in Anacostia today serves that community.

PS - how awesome was that taller building with the balcony ...sadly now lost.

i've always liked this house

it has a very nautical-meets-new-england-coast feel.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

the new downtown

if you aren't prepared to see the big bold plans for what is coming to those massive parking lots and warehouses along and behind MLK Avenue, you might want to click the Back button now. What you are about to see is will completely transform the look, feel, and life of downtown Anacostia as we know it.

these plans (Click Here for description) by Four Points LLC and the Curtis Companies are from their PUD application, which is available for public viewing at the department of zoning. The developers are seeking approval for approximately 855,000 square feet of offices, 500 residential units, 165,000 square feet of retail, an eight- to 10-screen movie theater, and a grocery store.

Click on images to view larger

aerial of site, Now:

aerial of site, Future:

notice the realligned V Street!

general building uses:

ground-floor retail:

At present, the development is planned to happen in two phases. The first phase includes everything south of W Street, and the second phase will involve everything north of W, including the demolition of the existing Anacostia Professional Buildings.

phase 1:

The Buildings

Note: architectural drawings are conceptual, and the final designs for each building will likely be shopped out to separate architects after zoning approval.

corner of MLK and Chicago Street:

and in its place, residential over retail:

just south of MLK & W now:

and in a few years, offices over retail:

the same location, but looking south from W Street:


between Shannon Place and Railroad Ave, from W:

and in the future, offices over retail:

this building is the proposed location of a grocery store, which would likely be on two levels

same location, but from Railroad Ave looking east:

unfortunately it is physically impossible to stand far enough back for some of these shots to be completely accurate


corner of Railroad Ave and public alley just before Chicago Street:

planned for residential over parking and retail:

current view from Shannon Place, looking east:

future, all-residential building:

this warehouse, now home of the MPD's Evidence Warehouse:

redeveloped into office space:

from Chicago Street looking north:

new townhouses will be located on an alley just behind those houses:

And some interesting perspective renderings...

looking down MLK from intersection with Pleasant St:


and looking down W Street from MLK:

the same view, Future:

notice the relocated Big Chair

The project has been submitted to zoning, where the general concept is awaiting approval. Clearly this is a huge undertaking, and I will stay on top of any and all public meetings or opportunities for comment as this moves forward.

Anacostia Streetcar Meeting

If you are interested in the Anacostia Streetcar Demonstration line and the future of streetcars in the District, this is an important meeting to attend.

Monday, July 14, 2008 at 11:00 A.M.
Council Room 412, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham is hosting a meeting to discuss questions related to the importance and funding for streetcars from the Anacostia Metro station to Bolling Air Force Base. The meeting will also have implications for streetcar lines on MLK and throughout the city.
Hope to see you there!

My personal opinion? While I am completely all for streetcars in every section of this city, and am glad that the plans include tracks over here (part of the reason I moved here), I am not convinced that the Metro to Bolling AFB line is the best first streetcar line. I know that the line will get used, but think that building almost any of the other lines (MLK, for example ...or H Street NE) would be a more guaranteed success that would better show the city the true necessity and success potential of the streetcar investment.

That said, I think that this demonstration line will be among the easiest to build, since some of the tracks already exist and it will mostly follow a path that is very open and available to be built on.

Friday, July 11, 2008

New Retail & Restaurants

It has been rumored for a little while now, but this article in the Washington Business Journal gives the news a little bit more credibility.

We heard in February that Four Points LLC had begun plans to transform the Curtis Companies' office buildings and parking lots on MLK Avenue in downtown Anacostia into a massive mixed-use development (stay tuned for more on that in the next few days). Turns out Curtis also owned many of the older retail buildings along MLK, and that Four Points is working with them to reignite and redevelop all of their real estate in Anacostia.

With plans for over 1.5 million square feet of redevelopment just across the street, Four Points wants to fill all of their existing retail buildings with stores and eateries before the other projects deliver. That way, the corridor will be more attractive and much more alive than it is right now.

Announced today are three new retail / restaurant possibilities:

Fat Face Bar-B-Que, a bbq joint with a menu honed from generations of North Carolina recipes, to be located at 2204 MLK Ave.

a sporting goods and clothing store, to be located at 2200 MLK Ave. Reminder, please restore this building to original amazingness. Thanks.

Jazz ‘N Soul CafĂ©, with live music, cocktails and sit-down eating, possibly opening on Shannon Place between U and V Streets, or at an undisclosed location along MLK Ave.

photos and graphic by DG-rad