Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Scare Tactics, Part 1

A young woman reached out to me a couple months ago about her interest in moving to Anacostia. I get these emails frequently, and try to be as honest as I can about the neighborhood, its potential, and why I think it's a good investment. This particular person ended up buying a house and is getting really excited about moving in.

However, the usually-untold story in cases like hers (and mine, and probably many of you who have recently moved to Anacostia or neighborhoods like it), is that her friends have now taken it upon themselves to convince her to back out of the deal. Here's one email, from a DC cop friend of hers:

[Please read with a Huge grain of salt, as clearly this person is more concerned with statistics than with any kind of nuanced understanding of the neighborhood.]
I don't want to preach, pile-on, or come across in a negative way, as I am sure [person's name] has been trying to get you to reconsider, but I would feel bad if I did not offer my opinion on you plans to move.

The area you are moving to is bad, and it is not getting better. After they changed the section 8 housing rules a few years back, and forced many of the criminals who were in subsidized housing out (into PG), there was a brief decrease in crime. That was short-lived and now crime is rebounding, with no anticipation of any similar programs to provide such relief again. But even at it's best, that area was still the worst.

I am sure you are aware that 7D has the highest frequency of car-jackings, stolen cars, home invasions, domestic violence, sexual assaults, shootings, etc, but you should also know that many of the crimes throughout the city are linked back to people from your neighborhood. And you will be viewed as a target, someone with money, valuables, a car (an old car that is easy to steal). Those hood-rats will see you as someone they can beat down quickly, or intimidate, and take whatever they want. It happens every day.

The only reason any other areas have comparable stats is because of club zones (drunken crimes), and reporting differences. Much of the crime, probably the majority of it, is not reported. It happens everywhere but the lack of crime reporting is notoriously high in 7D. Simply put, many residents hate the police down there, and don't call them (for a number of reasons I wont get into). There are some bad people down there, who think in ways that you don't understand.

I am sure the people who want to sell that house are giving you a distorted view of the area. They obviously don't have your best interest at heart. And anyone who would encourage you to move there is either ignorant of the reality of the area, or they don't give a shit about you. Some people want to see the glass half full, and be optimistic about the area turning around, with development, Homeland Sec. moving in, etc., but those people are idiots. That area will not turn around, the subsidies maintain the status quo. The only people who truly know the reality of crime are criminals, police, and victims. I'm telling you, you are on your way to learning about crime.

I could go on and on, but you have to let the information in. It sounds like your mind is made up, but I beg you to reconsider. I have no reason to bullshit you, I have no stake in your decision aside from the fact that I don't want to see you hurt. You must ask yourself if any of your other influences may have an angle that you are not yet aware of. There are plenty of other options, and deals to be had, please back out.
I remember when I first bought in Anacostia, I had friends that never even came to see the house. The fear was too deep. Of course, after being there for a few years, I was able to turn a lot of those perceptions around ... but the fear is still alive in a lot of people. Is this experience similar to yours? What's the proper response?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Apartments for Good Hope Road

After years of redevelopment limbo, construction is finally underway on the Art Deco building at 15th and Good Hope Road. I noticed that new windows were going in (and glad to see that they are good looking windows), so peeked inside and learned that it will be a mixed-use residential building.

no word on what the other uses will be, but likely ground-floor retail or office space

despite being just outside the historic district, I hope further efforts are made to protect and highlight the Art Deco design

the residential units will be on the second floor, with a few on the first floor on this back half of the building (technically 1916 15th St)

the interior is being gutted now, but it appears that general layout is being preserved

this permit is only for interior demolition

Although the permit I saw was just for interior demo, it shows that there will be 11 residential units, and that the building will remain mixed-use. Here's hoping that the building ends up looking great!

RSVP: SANTA COSTIA this Saturday

Please mark your calendars for this Saturday evening. I am hosting my annual holiday party at Honfleur Gallery this year, and I would love for you to attend. As it is technically a private (with security) event, you must RSVP to dggarber[at]gmail.com to get on the list!

Click to Enlarge

Thanks to Glacéau Vitamin Water, Flying Dog Ale, and ReadySetDC.com for sponsoring this year's event, which will feature a special performance by Joseph LMS of the Intangible Collective, a New York City-based consortium of slam poetry and spoken word artists.

Suggested donation of $5 goes towards the leadership and academic training of Anacostia teens at FLY Youth DC

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Signage in the Neighborhood

New signage has been appearing up and down MLK Avenue ... some good-looking, some not-so-amazing-looking.

Branding and signage is one of the most valuable things a business can invest in. On one side of the coin, people often like the underdog "we don't care about things like that" businesses. They're good because they're good, not because they have flashy signage. But when it's presented to them, people tend to appreciate creativity and a sense of legitimacy when they're looking to patronize a business. Here are a few new examples:

Uniontown's conservative lettering brings a new sense of heft to the corner of W and MLK. The kind of "sense of history" and "this is a real business" heft the neighborhood needs to build on.

the hive is open for business and has some new window decals that show off the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of the shared business center.

and the entrance flag sign...

ANC 8-A's offices adjacent to Big Chair went for a much more utilitarian look. The information is there, and as quasi-boring as it is, it kinda fits with the simple art deco of the building.

While I don't think it's the end of the world (and I don't 100% mind it), there's something a little too "Clip Art" about the new Big Chair signage. At this point I'm just glad it doesn't light up.

What do you think? Could the neighborhood be doing better, or is this a good standard to keep up?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

the Food Truck mini-party

this morning, DC Slices, Red Hook Lobster Pound, and Curbside Cupcakes all made it out to Historic Anacostia. And they all had eager and excited customers!

Red Hook Lobster Pound chilling in front of Vivid Solutions

Curbside Cupcakes took the spot in front of Uniontown

DC Slices was hiding out set up on V Street just off MLK

Note to office workers and residents: Shhh, if you keep this up, retailers might learn the Anacostia secret and actually move in to take advantage of your business!

Food Truck Party TODAY at the Big Chair

you may have seen this on twitter or facebook, but if you're in the neighborhood Wednesday morning, DC Slices, Red Hook Lobster Pound, and Curbside Cupcakes are all making their first stops of the day at the Big Chair (MLK Ave & V Streets SE) starting at around 10:30AM! I know, kinda early, but show them some love!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Uniontown Bar & Grill Update

Curious about what's going on behind the paper at Uniontown Bar & Grill? I got the tour of 2200 MLK's exciting retail space today, and it's starting to look like a real restaurant/bar inside.

the "Uniontown Bar & Grill" lettering is coming soon

Interior construction is happening really quickly, and they are hoping to be finished with the build-out within the next few weeks. As you can see, the bar is built, but still needs its chocolatey-brown granite counters and surface finishes.

Natasha, the owner, points out where the banquette and table seating will be all the way along the far wall. The space will essentially be one long set of tables against the wall, the bar on the left, and a few stools and high tables at the front windows.

The kitchen equipment will come in when all the interior finish work is complete, but the space in back is getting ready.

As you can see, the bar is definitely the prominent feature of the room ... but it will be interesting to see how that changes when the upholstered high-back bench seating is built into the far wall.

After seeing the space today I am encouraged that the restaurant/bar is actually coming to the neighborhood. Will update as soon as there is a tentative opening date! For more about Uniontown, check out the website: www.UtownDC.com

Friday, December 3, 2010

W Street Townhomes & Condos Financed!

It's been a long time coming, but Four Points' W Street townhomes and condos project (likely to be called something like Cedar Hill Row) has finally received financing! Stan Voudrie of Four Points, the developer, gave me the good news today that his company has entered into a joint venture partnership with a publicly-traded regional homebuilder to begin construction in 2011. Final building permits still need to be issued, and a formal announcement about the deal is expected early next week.

a slightly outdated aerial rendering - Click to Enlarge

Located the corner of W Street SE and 13th Street SE, the development is the first significant new-construction residential project in Historic Anacostia, and is on the same block as Big Chair Coffee and the under-construction Uniontown Bar & Grill. The project is comprised of 32 condo units, 7 townhouses, and a rebuilt single-family home that will replicate a structure that sat on the site until it was demolished last year.

This is amazing news for the neighborhood because until now one of its greatest deficiencies is its lack of housing diversity. You either buy a condo in an old mid-century low-rise apartment building conversion, a total fixer-upper, or a houseflip (and those aren't all bad ... wink wink). People like options, and this project will help fill in some of the gaps.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cool video of Honfleur during Fotoweek

I happened across this video on twitter, and its a stylized but good view of what art shows are typically like at Honfleur Gallery.

video courtesy of TreeHouse Concepts

Thursday, November 11, 2010

FOTOWEEK at Honfleur // Poetry at Blank Space Tonight

FOTOWEEK is back, and Historic Anacostia's Honfleur Gallery is hosting a show called "Likeness" at their space at 1241 Good Hope Road.

The exhibition includes twenty artists (ten photographers + ten visual/street artists) with an end result of ten original portraits + ten interpretations of that portrait.

Come out tonight from 6-8PM for the opening reception.

While you're in the neighborhood, stop by the new Blank Space for the Intersections Poetry Series reading by Rachel Eliza Griffiths at 7PM at 1922 MLK Ave, just around the corner.

FOTOWEEK is November 6- 13. Honfleur Gallery and The Gallery at Vivid Solutions have extended hours all week! Hours: Thursday November 11 12-9PM, Friday November 12 12-8PM and Saturday Nov 13 11-5PM.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Big K Site Visioning Meeting Tonight

The Big K Site (you know, the giant block with four very horrible looking buildings on it - two of which have amazing restoration potential) on MLK Avenue between Maple View Place and Morris Street, was recently purchased by the DC Department of Housing and Community Development. They want your help envisioning the future of the site:

Click to Enlarge

My priority for the site is that the two large estate homes closer to the corner of MLK and Maple View are fully restored and repurposed as either office space, restaurant use, or some cultural use. This block is the southwestern gateway to the Anacostia Historic District, so we need to make sure it makes a statement that respects what is there now and also inspires better-looking development elsewhere in the neighborhood.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Anacostia on Bones

Last night, the FOX television show "Bones" aired an episode, part of which was about a detective wanting to pursue a lead in Anacostia. The opening dialogue of the episode shows a very typical outsider understanding of the Anacostia neighborhood. Clearly, there is still much to do to challenge and change assumptions.

Hannah: What do you know about Anacostia?

Booth: It's a neighborhood about a mile and a half from here: seedy, prostitution, lots of gangs, bad activity ... why?

Sweets: Anacostia? That’s a really tough part of town.

Booth: Not compared to downtown Kabul, it’s not.

Brennan: Or the surface of Venus, which is covered by clouds of sulfuric acid and hundreds of active mega-volcanoes. What?! We are talking about tough neighborhoods!

What do you think? What will it take to get the local and national media to stop scaring people? I think the neighborhood is on the right track, and am confident in its transformation ... but I represent a very small percentage of people out there.

It's gonna be a step by step process combining community building, new buildings, good role models, and investment of all kinds to get Anacostia off the "bad neighborhood name-drop" list. Have hope.

image courtesy of Real is Just a Matter of Perception

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Curbside Cupcakes on MLK!

Cupcakes in Anacostia. It actually happened. Yesterday. Curbside Cupcakes finally made its way to MLK Avenue in the heart of Historic Anacostia yesterday morning after being in operation in the city for almost a year.

Fortunately, people were lined up and excited about the food truck, so I hope it will come back! Despite being only a year old, Curbside Cupcakes is one of the oldest in the city's fast-growing fleet of hip, delicious, and brightly colored food trucks serving everything from Korean BBQ tacos to Maine lobster rolls. I know Anacostia's daytime population would be ecstatic to see more of the trucks cross the river!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sunbelt Rentals Build-Out Begins

Sunbelt Rentals, the national chain equipment rental brand, is finally building out its space at 2204 Martin Luther King Avenue. The store will rent out construction equipment, and is wisely locating themselves in one of the most under construction areas of the city.

Before the lease was executed, the space had been used for private parties and had a really great raw feel. Despite the loss of exposed brick and (intentional) graffiti, it'll be nice to have a well-run business operating here.

there won't be many exterior improvements other than a new sign and rebuilt iron fence

the space is divided into two sections - the storefront and ...

... the back warehouse and storage area

For anyone who would rather see something more exciting move in - I understand - but, this is a good step towards showing other retailers that this is an acceptable place to locate businesses. And with the "build it and they will come" track the neighborhood is currently growing on, facilitating that "build" stage is pretty important.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Progress at the Hive

Anacostia's own shared business center The Hive is opening later this month and it's already looking much better inside. Brick has been exposed, drywall is up, and flooring is about to go in.

the exterior will be restored in phase 2 early next year

work inside the the first floor's central hallway

upstairs common area / lounge, and the kitchen

looking into the upstairs conference room

what remains of the building's cool old features is being saved

Oh you know, just another step in the transformation of historic Anacostia. More people working downtown = more businesses opening up = more people want to live there.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Hive - Coming This Month

The Hive is coming to main street Anacostia (2027 MLK), and it's opening later this month. What is it? The name says a lot: a place buzzing with creative energy. More specifically, The Hive is a creative and shared workspace for freelancers, satellite offices, and small businesses.

Why join? A lot of you work for yourself yet don't have a great place to "legitimize" the business side of it. Having a place where you can fax & print, hold meetings, and get out of the house is an important way to boost business.

What's available at The Hive? (all services not available at all membership levels)
• Professional Receptionist
• Phone with voicemail
• Free High Speed cable Internet access
• 16 hours a Month Free Conference Room Access
• Fully equipped break area
• Video Conferencing Capability
• Mail and package delivery
• Receiving e-faxes and local e-fax sending
• Dedicated off Street car parking at monthly rate of $75. Hybrid cars $60 a month
Space at The Hive is available at three levels: Full Member (private offices, only one still available), Shared Space, and Virtual Memberships.

Full Member - ($525-575/month)
This option works for individuals and companies who need a dedicated work space, but do not need a full office suite. This option provides the general infrastructure for an organization to carry out its day-to-day operations. Full members have 24-hour, 7-days-a-week, and 365-days a year use of the facility.

Shared Space - ($400/month)
The shared member option is for those who spend a good portion of time outside of the office, yet also require an office space. With this option, individuals or organizations have a desk space and a voicemail. Shared members have 24/7/365 access to the building.

Virtual Member - ($250/month)
The virtual option is for professionals with full-time jobs or those that work out of their homes and but are interested in having a space as a receiving point for packages and mail as well as a company meeting point. Virtual Members may use the common areas and resources) of The Hive.

For more information, download the full Hive membership info page here and go to the Hive's not-quite-ready website at www.theDChive.com

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Anacostia on Aljazeera

This summer, Aljazeera English filmed a documentary feature on the changes coming east of the Anacostia River, specifically in the Anacostia and Barry Farm neighborhoods (although there is some footage of Congress Heights as well).

The feature, called "There Goes the Neighborhood", is an interesting look into the current state of Anacostia, and shows it from a few different angles and perspectives (including my own) on different sides of the economic and racial spectrum.

What do you think? Is this an honest portrayal of these communities?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

EDC HQ Expansion Finally Underway

The headquarters expansion project for Environmental Design & Construction (on Good Hope Road just below MLK) has finally started back up! The company had outgrown its current building on the site, so acquired the two adjacent historic structures and is now working to completely restore the exteriors and build it out as one space on the inside.

you can see where they have begun connecting the two buildings on the inside

my favorite signage mural, which will be preserved as an interior wall

the back of both buildings will be restored/rebuilt along MLK

I love projects like this because they are exactly the type of development that will bring Anacostia into a greener and functional future. Here's a professional company that has chosen Anacostia as its home base, and is retrofitting existing vacant buildings to do so.

The Rippeteau Architects-designed project is expected to receive a LEED Silver certification.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Eat ★ Shop ★ Live : Anacostia

Today was reSPIN Public Relations, ARCH Development, and DHCD's Big Reveal of Historic Anacostia's new "Eat ★ Shop ★ Live : ANACOSTIA" marketing campaign. Meant to bring new legitimacy, branding, and connectivity to Anacostia's somewhat scattered but very lively group of main street businesses, the campaign has been heralded as "the biggest thing to happen in Anacostia since the Big Chair". And that's big.

The brainchild of Nikki Peele, a Ward 8 entrepreneur who also runs the blog Congress Heights on the Rise and has been a force in recent years towards a renewed image and perception of communities east of the Anacostia River, ESL:A is is the first major event for Peele's firm reSPIN PR, a company she began earlier this year to help outside companies and agencies market their visions, plans, and wares in the typically misunderstood River East half of DC.

ESL:A is similar to a Business Improvement District in that local businesses pay to participate, but is free rather than there being any sort of levied tax on the owners. Businesses are given marketing and inclusion into the membership program designed to build their customer base. Window decals and flags mark the participating local shops and eateries, and customers are able to flash keytags to receive discounts.

I think this is a great idea. It has a clean brand, it brings a fresh life and unity to Anacostia businesses, and it enables increased patronage from people who might typically pass these places by.

On a somewhat unrelated note - two of Anacostia's newest spots were advertised at the event: The Hive, a shared office & creative work space (post coming soon); and Blank Space, a new "permanent pop-up gallery" that will be rentable for privately sponsored shows.

Come on out and Eat ★ Shop ★ Live : ANACOSTIA. Seriously.

For more, check out TBD's article on the Big Reveal - with some more background and interviews.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

opening up 1357 Good Hope

1357 is now completely gutted and cleaned, and the exterior is starting to show new signs of life. Long-ago boarded up windows are finally going in!

ghost remains of old first floor windows and doors

Unfortunately, not all the first floor windows are being opened up. I am thankful, however, that the new owners - a high-tech firm that recently redid the White House's Situation Room - decided not to demolish the building, as it is one of (if not The) oldest commercial buildings left on Good Hope Road.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New Deli Coming to MLK and V Street

I was walking around the neighborhood the other day and ran into some news about 2026 MLK Avenue, the building just to the left of Fireside Restaurant: a new deli and convenience store called 2nd Chance is moving in.

The owner wants to differentiate from other options in the neighborhood, so it will be interesting to see if their sandwiches and "convenience" items are different from those offered at other places just up the block.

From what I understand, permits are being sought for interior improvements, and the owner is open to the idea of not using bulletproof glass inside (although apparently had a bad experience at another shop he owns in the District).