Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Christmas Party Hold-Up

Picture it with me ... Friday Night. Midnight, maybe a few minutes past. My roommates and I were hosting our annual Santa Costia party, but it was snowing outside so the numbers were dwindling and only about 35 people remained. The iPod-con-speakers was playing holiday and party favorites, and Home Alone was muted on the TV. Christmas lights, garlands, ribbon-wrapped columns, the works. General merriment all around.

Then Bam!, the front door swung open and four guys, early twenties, in ski goggles and scarves barged in, one waving a handgun (the other three concealing theirs). Turned out they had already robbed some guests on the porch, and even pistol-whipped one in the head. They start yelling "Empty your f***ing pockets!" and "give us everything!"

Freeze the frame and take a step back - this is Anacostia, sure, but this is not the neighborhood I've come to feel really safe in over the past two years. I know almost everyone on my block - and if it hadn't been snowing there would have been a handful of people hanging out and I'm fairly certain the break-in wouldn't have happened. They have my back, and, presumably, I have theirs. Then again, maybe someone I don't know alerted their friends of the glittering target house. Lots of people who usually never come to the neighborhood. Lots of potential goods.

Unpause. "Give us everything!" was their repeated demand. By now most of the party-goers have either escaped out the back door and over fences or are huddled in the corners of the living room floor in varying states of purse and wallet-handing and fear-induced body freeze, only their eyes moving across the scene.

This is my house and these were my guests, so I did my best to take control of the situation by confronting the gunman. "What are you doing?? Everyone just calm down", to which he yell-replied something like "No we taking Everything!" [editor's note: gunman was a broken record with the "We taking Everything" line] and knocked the drink out of my hand with his gun.

Me: "Dude, put your gun down." Him, while lifting his gun: "You want me to put a bullet in your f***ing skull? Give me Everything!" Me, not giving him anything: "Are you serious? This is a Christmas party." The gunman, wearing a purple houndstooth scarf, ski goggles, and gray jeans, thought for a second then asked me where the liquor was.

I think he had the wrong idea about who he was robbing, because this had been a "bring your favorite beverage" party, so the mix included more peppermint schnapps hot chocolate, rosemary martinis, and homebrewed honey wheats than the Grey Goose I'm sure he was hoping for. I held up a few bottles, offering up the Pimm's (my most sacred, the British lawn drink value of which he did not recognize) and a few plastic-bottled tequilas. Unimpressed, the gunman walked back to the front of the house and with the other three left through the front door. His last words as he exited were, like some cornball line from a movie: "Merry Christmas, Bitches!"

In all, about fifteen people had their stuff stolen. The iPod had been ripped from its cord so there was no soundtrack to the frantic 911-calling that ensued. A couple of housemates and guests had called the police from the backyard so they arrived within a couple minutes, and after hearing each victim's testimony and dusting the liquor for prints, left at around 4:45AM. (The next morning I received kind emails from both Police Chief Lanier and Assistant Chief Groomes) Fortunately, aside from the pistol-whip, nobody was hurt, and everyone made it home safely in the deepening snow.

There isn't a lot of analysis that can really be done at this point. It happened. It was completely unexpected, and it's over. Two of the guys got into a car at the top of the block, so there's no telling where they are from or where they went. As the night unfolded I was most frustrated that this happened in the presence of my guests, and that they would no doubt think differently about a neighborhood that they had grown comfortable with. And frustrated that my own trust had been breached.

But the thing is, if that incident was typical of the neighborhood, I would have left a long time ago. On my way to the Metro yesterday with two housemates we were invited to play snow football, got a tour of soon-to-open Big Chair Coffee, and engaged in an impromptu snowball fight in front of the Morgan Family Fish Fry. Today, the neighbors on my block banded together to shovel out the snow-marshmallow looking cars. These are the people that live in my neighborhood. It ain't perfect, but it's pretty okay most of the time.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Flip't on Prince of Petworth, Part II

Part two of Flip't, my feature on Prince of Petworth that is documenting the renovation and sale of a house I am redoing on U Street SE in Historic Anacostia is up. Click Here to read it.

I love this photo for many reasons (honesty check - mostly for the man with the pipe) ... but with the U Street House at the center, it really shows how close it is to MLK Ave, future streetcars, and existing retail.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Under Contract: 1357 Good Hope Road

1357 Good Hope Road, the historic building (oldest existing building on Good Hope past 13th Street ... corner market since Douglass' day) many of us feared would meet with the wrecking ball, is under contract. The sale is expected to go through this week (fingers crossed).

it really is a bookend / gateway to the historic district. totally worth saving.

Rumor has it that a tech company from Virginia will restore the building as its new headquarters. The company is relocating to Anacostia to be close to the new Department of Homeland Security / Coast Guard HQ at St. Elizabeths just up MLK Ave.

This (potential) sale marks one of the first concrete examples of the economic development domino effect of Homeland Security on our neighborhood.

from the Warehouse Supermarket ... love how long 1357 is and the staggered windows (here's hoping 1st floor windows are restored)

Very Good News for Anacostia and for the larger DC pro-preservation community. ... if in fact this news is as certain as I hope.

photos by DG-rad

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Yesterday's Turkey Giveaway

Yesterday morning the new Industrial Bank teamed up with DaVita and the American Kidney Fund to pass out over 200 turkeys to people who stood in line to get one.

I don't know why, but my first instinct was to feel kinda bitter about yet another charitable "we're so great because we're doing something in Anacostia" event. But people need turkeys, and someone was nice enough to give them away. This is a Good thing. Simple as that.

Sometimes it's easy to brush away the reality that despite all the positive changes around here and the big plans for everything that there's still a significant low-income population over here. Here's to a better attitude.

photo courtesy of BP Communications

Saturday, November 14, 2009

but before everyone gets Too excited...

turns out that those renderings are a few years old, that it will only be 2 stories (as opposed to the five inter-stacked stories seen below), and will be a bit more modest in design. I guess neighbors freaked when it was originally proposed.

I'll update when I get more information.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Let the MLK transformation begin!

the blog DC Metrocentric totally scooped me on this, but there is a great new building under construction at 2345 MLK Ave, about a block from the Anacostia metro station.

looking north on MLK Ave

inside one of the uber-chic residential units

The building will be completely mixed use: retail on the ground floor, with medical offices and residences above. Obviously this building is not in the historic district, but it looks like it will be a really cool addition to the neighborhood. I love it when developers don't skimp on architecture, and this design by Boston's Höweler + Yoon is pretty stunning.

It's projects like this that are going to lift Anacostia. Big cheer.

Click Here to see some of architect Eric Höweler's photos of the site preparation earlier this week

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

check it: Flip't on Prince of Petworth

This is last week's "news", but I've started a new feature on the blog Prince of Petworth called Flip't. It will chronicle the renovation and sale of a house I am flipping on U Street SE here in Historic Anacostia.

The first post got quite the response, with a lively discussion in the comments about gentrification and renovation. I'll point you in the direction of Prince of Petworth next time I update so you can get in on the ground floor. Until then, enjoy.

Click Here
to read the first edition of Flip't.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

FotoWeek Starts Tomorrow in Anacostia

FotoWeek DC starts tomorrow night, folks, and Anacostia is the where the exciting stuff is happening. Check out this great poster for all the details ... with some more details below.

Click to Enlarge

Friday Night @ 7:30,
2204 MLK Ave SE

Tickets Still Available! Silent Auction + Reception hosted by Senator Al and Franni Franken to celebrate the kick-off of DCFotoWeek in Anacostia and the opening of Owen Franken : A Photography Retrospective. The Senator will be drawing his famous free-hand map of the US to be auctioned off during the event. Tickets are $25 - email or call 202-365-8392.

A preview of Owen Franken's, "A Photography Retrospective" at The Gallery at Vivid Solutions is free and will open at 6:30 pm.

Saturday, November 7 - Saturday, November 14:
(all openings at 7PM on the 7th)

Honfleur Gallery, 1241 Good Hope Road SE

Women Photojournalists of Washington: Including works by Astrid Riecken, Allison Shelley, Abby Greenawalt, Ashely Twiggs, Algerina Perna, Amanda Lucidon, Andrea Bruce, Carol Guzy, Gabriela Bulisova, Jamie Rose, Katie Falkenberg, Laura Pohl, Melina Mara, Sarah L. Voisin, and Yanina Manolova.

Alternative Art Space, 2200 MLK Ave SE

BK Adams' and Steven M. Cummings' I AM ART: Presenting an experimental installation with interactive components.

Gallery at Vivid Solutions, 2208 MLK Ave SE

Owen Franken, A Photography Retrospective: Owen has traveled to over 100 countries and covered everything from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the culture of food and wine in his home city of Paris.

This is a great excuse to check out Anacostia for the first or the hundredth time. Come on over!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Streetcar Meeting Tonight - come support!

So it turns out that certain adjacent neighborhoods and some local organizations are advocating Against the streetcar alignment on MLK. Tonight there is a Ward 8 Streetcar meeting and we need you out there to vocally support this important project. I don't know about you, but this added connectivity is one of the reasons I moved to Anacostia to begin with.

Monday, November 2 from 7-8:30 P.M.
Savoy Elementary School
2400 Shannon Place, SE
the meeting will consist of display boards, maps, information about the proposed system, and opportunities for participants to speak individually with and ask questions of project team members. The open houses are open to the public, and no RSVP is necessary.

For further information, please visit or contact the project hotline at (703)682-5060.
Please go!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Salvation Army building finally opens

This morning was the grand opening of the Solomon G. Brown Corps Community Center at MLK Avenue. Although its exterior design has proved controversial in the neighborhood, it really does look great inside and seems like it should be a good addition to Anacostia.

the monstrous ... or beautiful building, depending on your perspective on those sorts of things

the front lobby - accessible from both the parking garage and MLK

The ceremony was held on the 3rd and 4th Floors in the main sanctuary / meeting room, which makes up the slanted portion of the Morris Rd / MLK facade.

looking down from the 4th floor balcony

yes, there was actually an audience. Here a member of the design team is showing off the complicated ceiling

Ahh, the penthouse. The best part. Killer views and even a "walking track". Kind of funny to imagine people just walking along this red figure eight ... but hey, go for it.

the red eight, and the cinder blocks that don't look all that great

Yep. We have good views. Come on over.

The 5th floor is dedicated to Spirit Health and Wellness, which is actually a really nice gym. Spirit will be opening on December 2, and will be open from 5AM - 10PM weekdays, with slightly adjusted weekend hours. Includes aerobics room, nice locker rooms, and an impressive array of bright clean new equipment.

tons of treadmills, elipticals, and bikes, with TVs AND inspiring views

the free weight section

So yeah. Check it out. Sometimes it's easy to complain that most of the new development here has been in the form of public-use type buildings: community centers, schools (not complaining), libraries, etc. But these are the foundational things that are starting to really bring Anacostia into the Now / Future we all want. I'll give a woot to that.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

great-looking display windows on MLK!

well, the Savoy School is pretty much totally done now and it looks really fantastic. The new building along MLK is sharp and has some great display windows for art and history exhibits.

looking directly North across MLK

One of the windows is already programmed with images of the Savoy School renovation and expansion project, and the other will get something from the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum:

Looking forward to seeing what they put in...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Streetcar Tracks Coming Towards the Costia

after many years, the streetcar tracks are finally being installed along Firth Sterling Avenue in Barry Farm ... soon to wind towards the Metro station then into Anacostia.

how exciting are new tracks?! my generation has barely ever seen this happen.

On the left, observe a young professional walking on a dirt sidewalk from the Metro to the Anacostia Naval Station / Bolling Air Force Base. She will pretty definitely be a rider on the new line.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Saturday Morning

this freshly painted house looks fantastic:

love the green and red combo, and the changes really show the life-giving value of sprucing up the facade. porch tiles going on now...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Industrial Bank opening soon!

I haven't covered this story much, but a branch of Industrial Bank is about to open in the Anacostia Gateway building at the corner of MLK and Good Hope. It is the first retailer to open in the building, which is still waiting for one more ground floor tenant.

the sign is now above the ATMs in the front room

the interior is very yellow, but pretty sleek

a few historical images of other Industrial Banks are printed on glass as room dividers

another view of the lobby, facing Good Hope Road

ever wanted to see the guts of an ATM?

Although there are many things besides a bank that we hope to see open in downtown Anacostia, this is a great first step. Having good-looking and established retailers set up shop here shows others that it's an okay place to be.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

*goodlinks: expect the unexpected

vacant home on W Street SE - ready for revival

A Class 4 tax rate for blight? via Washington Business Journal
the DC Council recently lowered the vacant property tax rate from $10 per $100 of assessed value to $5. But Ward 4 councilwoman Bowser is fighting to recognize the benefit of a higher tax: property owners are finally acting.

Art Monk and Charles Mann Sell Former City Property for Millions, Bail On Anacostia Job Training Center, via Washington City Paper
for many years the Good Samaritan Foundation has been promising to open a job training center in the old Carver Theater on MLK Ave near the metro station. Now its former-Redskins founders have sold the building to Howard Road Academy. Another school on our main street within a block from Metro?

And We've Got Tracks, via Barry Farm (re)Mixed
the Anacostia Streetcar Line is finally under construction, and tracks are actually being laid on Firth Sterling Avenue now. Nobody yet knows if this will be a boon for the neighborhood, but my fingers are crossed that investors and developers see this exciting new form of transportation as reason to start building.

11th Street Bridge Under Troubled Wires, via DC Mud
it's no secret that overhead wires aren't allowed in the Federal City, but now the National Capital Planning Commission is threatening to disallow wires crossing the new 11th Street Bridges, arguing that they might interrupt important views to the city's monumental core.

Waterfront Precidents
, via City Block
following up on a discussion about narrowing the Anacostia River to encourage more urban development on both sides, this blogger explores urban waterfronts around the world and compares their features to our own waterway.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Anacostia Neighborhood Library a'Rising

construction workers at the library's "beacon"

Work on the new Anacostia Neighborhood Library is well underway, with what looks like most of the steel structure already in place. One of my worries was that this was going to seem like a small building for the site and that it might not be big enough for the geographical area it has to serve. Seeing it in person helped change that - its 20,000 SF in two stories is definitely not small.

the view from Good Hope Road - kind of obscured by the fence

from the alley between Good Hope and U Place SE

from U Place SE, looking southwest

another shot, more straight-on, from Good Hope

Taking into consideration the promised-but-stalled buildings projects over here, it's pretty great seeing something really rising. Projected opening is Fall 2010.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Piedmont Blues Tonight @ Honfleur

Come out to the Honfleur Gallery this evening at 7PM to kick off the fall arts season with Piedmont Blues and dedication of a new installation light sculpture on the gallery's cornice. The new neon public art piece by DC light sculptor Craig Kraft is entitled Anacoeti, and was created as a site-specific installation acting as a beacon of light and color for Honfleur. The sculpture, funded by a grant from the DC Commission for the Arts and Humanities, and will be lit and dedicated during the concert intermission.

Phil Wiggins, a leading exponent of the Piedmont Blues, will perform live at the gallery at 7pm. Joined by blues musician and activist Rick Franklin, under the name of “Wiggins and Friends”, the duo exemplifies this local blues style - specifically the Piedmont-style guitar.

Tickets ($10) are available at the gallery; 1241 Good Hope Road SE, by telephone at 202-580-5972, or on the web. The current exhibit is East of the River, the third annual exhibition hightlighting artists from wards 7 and 8 and will be on view from August 1st to October 15th. For further inquiries, please contact Briony Evans Hynson, Creative Director at 202-536-8994 or

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

GSA Breaks ground on St. E's Campus!

This morning was the groundbreaking for the new consolidated headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard at the West Campus of St. Elizabeths in Ward 8. In attendance were Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Senator Liberman, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, Mayor Adrian Fenty, Councilman Barry, and GSA Administrator Paul F. Prouty.

It was raining, but the boarded-up campus was alive with U.S.-manufactured government vehicles and the excitement that this. is. finally. being. built!

local and federal leadership breaks ground on Homeland Security campus

Senator Joseph Lieberman, I - Connecticut

Napolitano and Norton talk with the news media

Overall it was a great event. All the public officials spoke at the podium, each highlighting different benefits and challenges associated with bringing the mega-project to Ward 8:

  • Lieberman connected DHS' history with that of the Roosevelt's Pentagon, and noted that this is the largest building project (aside from Eisenhower's highways, I assume) since the Pentagon.

  • Napolitano was excited to have a consolidated headquarters - and expressed gratitude for how much simpler holding meetings and bringing connectivity and community to the Department will be.

  • CM Barry highlighted the project's importance to Ward 8 and the neighborhoods immediately surrounding the new HQ. He called attention to the hardships associated with living and working in Ward 8, but, citing Psalm 30:5, said that "We could go on and on about the weeping. But this is the morning for Ward 8."

the first building - Coast Guard - viewed from the River

Exciting times. Ward 8 is on the rise.

Paris on the Anacostia - Today on Kojo

the first segment of today's Kojo Nnamdi show is titled Paris on the Anacostia: A Provocative Idea for DC's Waterfront. From the WAMU site:
It's an amazingly ambitious proposal by a set of architects trained to imagine the future as it could be. Join Kojo to explore a newly unveiled plan - more than four years in the making - to NARROW the Anacostia River, and remake Washington's Waterfront, with the goal of bringing in new businesses, training new workers, and completely changing the relationship between folks East and West of the River.
The show airs today at 12:23 PM on NPR, and will be available online Here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Banana Tree coming to MLK Ave

the former abandoned car lot at MLK and Maple View is in progress to become The Banana Tree, a fruit and vegetable market by the founder of the Funky Flea Market in Northeast DC.

So far the lot has been cleared and the small building on site painted a bright green and yellow. When I spoke with the owner (a vegan), he said he was inspired by the lack of healthy food options in the neighborhood and plans to source his products from Maryland and Virginia farms.

Opening is projected for March 2010 when the next produce season begins.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

(Anacostia's own) BK Adams at CityVista Busboys

Next Saturday our very own artist in residence BK Adams' work will be featured at the 5th and K NW Busboys and Poets.

Click to Enlarge

BK is the guy in the background

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

FIOS comes here first

the first FIOS box in the District ... 19th Street SE in Fairlawn

This morning Mayor Fenty, Councilwoman Cheh, Verizon officials, and the Chief Technology Officer met in Fairlawn to officially activate the first FIOS cable in the District of Columbia. And it came east of the river first.

the officials lined up to press the button at the same time that somehow fused the necessary cables together

after the button-pressing, Verizon technicians did the real work...

Fenty and Cheh celebrate!

Bringing FIOS to the District is a big deal because it means increased options for cable, phone, and internet. It's fiber-optic broadband, which brings us up to speed with neighboring suburban jurisdictions, and makes DC that much more attractive for those interested in moving in.

The first neighborhoods to get it will be Barry Farm, Brightwood, Columbia Heights, Crestwood, Fairlawn, Fort Stanton, Friendship Heights, Historic Anacostia, Petworth, Shepherd Park, Sheridan, Tenleytown, Van Ness and Woodley Park.

Click Here for Verizon's press release and more info the technology