Sunday, May 31, 2009

Neighborhood Library - Vote on Interiors

On Monday through Thursday of this week the library will be hosting four "finishing touches" events where residents can see the new designs as well as vote on the new furniture.
Anacostia Interim Library, 1800 Good Hope Road SE
Monday and Wednesday, June 1st and 3rd 5:30 – 6:30 PM
Tuesday and Thursday, June 2nd and 4th Noon – 1:00 PM
Glad to see that construction has started and that we are finally on our way to a new library!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Walking Tours this Weekend!

WalkingTown DC Spring Edition is this weekend! I'm glad to see that the "Anacostia by Bike" and "Anacostia: Ridge and River" bike tours are once again completely booked, but there are still many more available.

The only tours that are truly focused on neighborhoods east of the Anacostia are of Barry Farm and Hillcrest:
Barry Farm, Anacostia
Saturday 10 am - 12 pm
Meet and end at Anacostia Metro station

This visit to Anacostia highlights an area that was once home to thousands of homeless ex-slaves after the Civil War. Secretly purchased by General Oliver O. Howard of the Bureau of Refugees, Freemen, and Abandoned Lands, and the local Barry Family, these 370 acres of land became affluent and nationally known as Frederick Douglass’s sons and other notables lived there. Led by Kalem Umrani and presented by Barry Farm Residents Council.
Hillcrest and “East Washington Heights”
Saturday 2 pm - 4 pm
Meet and end outside Hillcrest Recreation Center
3100 Denver Street, SE

Discover grand boulevards, stately homes, and sprawling parkland in one of Washingtonian Magazine’s “Great Places to Live.” Enjoy city views and the lovely gardens of Hiram and Blaun Eva Brewton. Randle Highlands and Dupont Park comprise what was planned as an upscale 19th-century development called East Washington Heights. Led by WPFW 89.3 FM Latin Flavor host and Ward 7 resident Jim Byers.
For the full weekend schedule with descriptions, Click Here

Click schedule image for PDF of entire weekend:

courtesy of Greater Greater Washington

Regardless of which neighborhoods you pick, these tours are a really great way to learn about neighborhoods around the city that you might not have a reason to visit otherwise. It should be a beautiful weekend for it!

Friday, May 22, 2009

River East gets some positive press

one of my favorite houses on Maple View in Historic Anacostia

The Examiner ran a great article yesterday featuring the River East section of DC (our neck o' the woods). It focuses on the areas revival, its energy, and is a refreshing take on what many of us already know.

Here's an excerpt:

The neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River — Congress Heights, Hillcrest and Anacostia, to name a few — are beginning to provide affordable and accessible housing options only minutes from downtown. Historic row homes, condominiums and town houses set on the rolling hills and bluffs of Southeast feature incredible views of the city, access to Metro and major roadways, and competitive pricing levels.

Homesteaders who have settled into these neighborhoods resent being broadly labeled as in “Anacostia” when things go wrong, and feel slighted by the tag “east of the River,” which sounds to them like “the other side of the tracks.” They refer to the area as “River East,” and the name change has become a rallying cry in their efforts to transform long-held perceptions.

For the full article, Click Here

Thursday, May 21, 2009

a brighter Anacostia (neighborhood and river)

at this point I am pretty confident that the plastic bag bill will pass the DC Council, but this campaign is even broader than that. Some students approached me asking if they could help out with the campaign, and the below image is their work. Please download and use freely.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

the Gateway to get a lot stronger

gotta love the restored storefronts (although these will be all office)

Envoronmental Design & Construction is majorly expanding their headquarters in Anacostia - a pretty encouraging thing for a developing neighborhood like ours. Although they are already located at the foot of Good Hope (with a consulting office on MLK), they recently began work on their expansion into the two adjacent properties, which will fill out the northwestern corner of Anacostia Gateway (the area one block in every direction from the intersection of MLK and Good Hope).

the site, from Good Hope, as it appears today

The site has two fronts: one on Good Hope and the other along MLK. Because of its location directly on the exit into Anacostia from the 11th Street Bridge, it's highly visible and will really improve first impressions. In the model below, the red brick building is the same as the red brick building above. Although the facade is the only part of that building being preserved, the back will be built to match the historic nature of the site.

future view from the MLK side, with views of their new courtyard

One interesting thing to notice is that the mural cuts off, signaling that the beige building used to extend further into what is now MLK Ave. When the right-of-way was constructed, the building was chopped off and given a new facade, which will be given a facelift as part of this project.

could it have been "Bury's", the same guy as from the corner store at W and MLK?

fortunately EDC plans to save the mural as an interior feature on the section that will be located inside the red brick portion

designed by Rippeteau Architects, the new construction is expected to receive a LEED-Silver certification, and will be completed next year.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

workin' on the Italianate Row

two houses on the Italianate Row (on 13th street between W and V ... one of the only longer-than-two townhouse rows in the Costia) are just beginning historic grant work. this one is going from vinylized to wood, with I'm sure a number of other good improvements on the way:

vinyl off...

wood (or is it fiber cement) on...

and the work continues.

Friday, May 15, 2009

1357 Good Hope Heads to Auction

Last call for conscientious developers and investors: 1357 Good Hope, the oldest existing commercial building east of 13th Street, is being auctioned off at 11AM next Wednesday on site. For the auction listing, Click Here

the proposed building for the site: unattractive and totally wrong in the "entrance to the historic district" context. corrugated metal and MLK Salvation Army vibes

I hope that the auction will draw bidders who see the value in the existing structure. However, the sellers are marketing it as a tear-down, pointing out the unfortunate fact that it is not in the existing historic district (it sits directly on the boundary) for why it should be demolished.

the corner entrance from the exterior, all boarded up...

...and the opposite view, looking out from the inside. The tin ceiling is completely intact, many of the original windows remain behind the boards, and the full glass door with sidelights is pretty baller

I had the chance to check out the interior the other day for the first time and fell in love with the place in a completely new way. Here is a building that's been abandoned for a few decades, but hasn't suffered through any catastrophic events or deteriorated aside for a lot of flaking paint. It has two upstairs apartments, and a largely intact first floor store with original detailing.

just inside the 14th street door is this old two-piece phone for calling the apartments on the second floor

the building is only one portion of the property. Also included is this large lot and another building in the rear

I'm not the most hard-core preservationist there is, but certain pieces of the historic fabric of places need to remain in place for there to be a cultural context. If there were other buildings like this in the same location, it would be a different story. Tearing this building down will erase an important gateway to Historic Anacostia.

Crossing my fingers that someone awesome buys this.

See Also: Campaign to Save 1357 Good Hope

Thursday, May 14, 2009

the green roof

in just one year, the green roof on top of Anacostia Gateway (corner of MLK and Good Hope) has really grown!

things to love: the vibrant green sedum and the fact that a ton of urban runoff is being recycled and used naturally rather than collecting pollutants and flowing into the river.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

notes from Charleston

Charleston is the original shabby chic (read: not the tacky kind). its flower boxes and immaculately manicured medians beautify the streets while it's unpolished and underthought elements add sparks of reality and grit. But there needs to be both for the style to succeed: crumbling next to neatly painted, hanging utility lines against crisp stucco, or the remnant long-shadowed staircase in an otherwise well-used and uncluttered alley.

the following is a sampling of what I noticed about Charleston and the ways it succeeds from a design and pedestrian perspective. As always, there are lessons here for Anacostia and anyplace else with an open mind.

the Simple Pleasures

in DC we are pretty used to seeing iron stars as the end bolts to rowhouse support beams. voilĂ : the no-frills version.

the classic entry urn. pretty much always adds a splash of class.

window bars? nope. window fleur-de-lis. creative security.

a roofdeck fit for kings. royal purple, but not sure how I feel about it being completely shaded

ahh, the oft-forgotten house number. As evidenced here, with a little intention and creativity, they can add to the house rather than detract.

so great. and ten thousand times more welcoming and attractive than a backlit box

sample paint colors and bikeability

a brand-new garage with timeless lines

we aren't the only neighborhood under renovation, it seems. black windows, white trim, and light paint is one of my favorite palettes.

the Blooms

Charleston is a city unafraid of flowers*, where wisteria curiously creeps around every corner and almost every window is coupled with an overflowing basket of pure bloom.

(*and shutters, the accidental star of this post. I'm a fan of unadorned modernism, but there's something completely graceful about functional shutters.)

the worn out (from watering) wall under the flower boxes is totally worth it

a place of quiet repose, ...palmetto palms reflected in the windows. Imagine this scene without the bench, the flowers, or the shuters

the Grit

when did it become common to build the exit stairs indoors? this way is much less sugarcoated

the staircase building directly abuts a small two-story alley boutique. Very different scales, yet their juxtaposition isn't jarring.

why bother painting an unintentionally rusticated wall?

here the stairwell gets all the light on an otherwise windowless expanse...

...with incredible character. Are ruins only attractive when surrounded by the pristine?

in most of the city, the utility lines are above ground. I am usually in support of undergrounding when possible, but here again is an example of a workable mix of gritty and good-looking.

like in Lawrence, some lines take the path of alleys

the Steeples

one of Charleston's nicknames is the Holy City due both to the prominence and diversity of church steeples atop the city's otherwise low skyline, as well as the city's history of religious tolerance during the nation's infancy.

South Carolina's state tree: the Palmetto Palm

as cities and neighborhoods change, congregations evolve and often move. In DC, where churches are often exempt from Historic Preservation standards, it's important that the buildings are still valued and preserved.

the Porches

like Anacostia, almost every house in Charleston has a porch.

the iron second-story porch with a New Orleans / Old Europe feel

even some of the new infill houses take this model

The more prevalent kind, however, is the side porch. This allows the house to be closer to the street, and affords porch-sitters a little more privacy than out front:

both houses have two-level porches, but the one on the right has a secure entry to the ground-floor porch via a real front door.

the exterior door to the porch makes it feel more like an outdoor room than a part of the public street

..a sort of escape. I love ferns on porches

the Street

a typical residential street. narrow, but wide enough for any use

streetname embedded in the sidewalk - from a time when the walker's perspective was as important as the driver's

the "rustic + pristine = awesome" formula isn't the only diversity necessary for a visually interesting place. Building and paving material diversity is also key, as evidenced by the mix of stone, brick, and asphalt

a perfectly manicured median (this is actually a photo from Anacostia ... not. Inspiration!)

an untrained rosemary hedge fills the space between sidewalk and house

This isn't the Disneyland version of walkable, front porched America. It's adored for being the real thing. As with most of the country's best pedestrian neighborhoods with the most charming houses and shops, Charleston isn't a cheap place to call home - which is why restoring that same walkability and real-life charm to existing neighborhoods holds so much promise. The ingredients are already here.

photos by DG-rad