Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Clybourne Park at Woolly Mammoth Theatre

Part of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company's marketing and community engagement campaign for their current production of Clybourne Park has been to enlist neighborhood bloggers to see the show and answer the question:

Frankly, yes it is.

Clybourne Park is the story of a bungalow in the fictional inner-ring suburb of Chicago by the same name. The first half of the show takes place in 1959, and the plot centers around a middle-aged white couple who are moving out of the house to a new home in a further-out suburb. Tensions rise when the Clybourne Park neighbors discover that the family who is moving into the couple's old house is black.

The second half takes place in 2009, when the neighborhood is transitioning from the predominantly black neighborhood it became in the 1960s into a more diverse neighborhood with a Whole Foods. The conflict in the second act? The young white couple that bought the bungalow wants to tear it down and build a larger house, despite protestations by the preservation-focused neighborhood association.

Granted, Anacostia doesn't have a Whole Foods (yet), but the story mirrors the changes that are happening here. Racial accusations, the ever-controversial topic of "gentrification", and neighborhood development character are part of conversations I hear and am part of every week. What should Anacostia become? Who gets to stay? How will its built legacies and histories be preserved?

Like Clybourne Park, Anacostia (Historic Anacostia / Uniontown) was an all-white neighborhood until the 1960s. Its businesses and housing stock saw major declines in the second part of the 20th century. And like in Clybourne Park, today there are many people and organizations here in Anacostia that are interested in seeing the neighborhood develop into something that recognizes history, respects its buildings, and fuses new with old.

If you like the place you live, the people you are used to seeing, and the routines you are used to walking, it's easy to be afraid of the unfamiliar. Clybourne Park, the play, doesn't answer the tough questions about gentrification, racial stereotypes, etc, but it poses them in such a way that makes you want to talk. I think that's the best kind of art.

Want to see Clybourne Park for yourself? Readers of And Now, Anacostia can see any performance of Clybourne Park for only $15. Use this numeric code 789 when arranging tickets. Reservations can be made online, over the phone (202-393-3939), or in person (641 D Street NW, Washington, DC). Clybourne Park runs through April 17th.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Updated Flip't on Prince of Petworth

to read the latest about my U Street SE house renovation, Click Here

Interested in purchasing the house? Click Here for the listing!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spring Has Sprung!

I love seeing people planting things in the neighborhood. There are no nurseries or garden centers on this side of the Anacostia River (yet, although Ginkgo Gardens and Frager's are just a couple minutes away on Capitol Hill), so it's great to see people going out of their way to spruce up their yards. Spring!

Don't forget about Casey Trees' $50 rebate if you buy and plant a new tree in DC. Click Here for details.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bar & Grill coming to MLK Ave!

We. Have. Arrived. (or at least with this news we're further along) With a tentative opening of summer 2010, Uniontown Bar & Grill will be the neighborhood's first sit-down non-coffee watering hole.

Its location at 2200 MLK Avenue is within a block of both the Gallery at Vivid Solutions (digital photolab, gallery) and Big Chair Coffee. The building might not look like much now, but don't worry, it's just the before picture for what will be a pretty great project. Despite some complications with the TIF financing the owners were awarded in 2008, the restoration will finally move forward, bringing it back to the future (old design, modern functionality).

What it used to look like:

What it will look like (but probably with different colors):

Tentative Food Menu:
Crab Dip
Chips & Salsa
Popcorn Shrimp
Catfish Pieces
Gourmet Grilled Cheese
Maryland Style Crab cake
Tuna Melt
Turkey Burger
Signature Burger
Roast Turkey Sandwich
Chicken Salad Sandwich
Cajun Chicken Sandwich
House Salad
Caesar Salad
Green Salad
Baked Potato Soup
Seafood Gumbo
Sides: Fries, Salad, or Sweet Potato Fries
The local entrepreneur opening Uniontown Bar & Grill decided on Anacostia because of its strong population of daytime workers with no place to relax with a cold one after work, as well as the exciting promise of Homeland Security moving close by. The restaurant bar will have a total seating capacity of 153 spread across a large bar, booth seating, and tables. Woohoo!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

unacceptable home "improvements"

Fortunately, a large part of the Anacostia neighborhood is a designated historic district. This means that exterior renovations and new buildings have to follow certain guidelines (e.g. no vinyl windows and siding on visible elevations, no chain link, etc), and designs have to fit within the context of the historic district's "period of significance". For Anacostia, that period is roughly between 1850 and 1930.

Prolem is, not everyone pays attention to the rules. They claim ignorance of its existence (despite that fact being made clear whenever property is purchased), financial hardship, or just recklessly make improvements hoping nobody will notice. (I'll admit, even I used the wrong windows the first time ... still wood, but wrong historic period in the windowpane design)

2024 14th Street SE, with illegal new windows that now must be replaced

So when someone tries to pull a fast one and does all the wrong things, people notice. 2024 14th Street SE is a great example. Owner lets the house go to rot. Doesn't care that his tenants are living in terrible conditions as long as he is getting paid. House catches on fire. Tenants safe, but now house is officially unlivable. Owner starts renovation, but uses standard size vinyl windows and doors. Owner has illegally done this before, too. I call up historic preservation (on speed-dial at this point) and make a report. Stop work order issued.

new windows carelessly fit into old trim and framing

With the stop work order came a letter from the DC Office of Historic Preservation. Excerpts: are required by the DC Preservation Law to replace the pre existing (illegally installed) vinyl windows on your home damaged by your recent fire with 1 over 1 wood windows that are sized to fit the original historic openings. Vinyl replacements are not acceptable or allowable. No reduction in overall size to use standard catalogue windows is acceptable. The windows need to be sized according to the original historic fabric.

...Finally please remember that ANY work done on the exterior of the building MUST be approved by our office as part of your required permits and prior to your implementing the work. Any work implemented on the exterior of the building with-out permits may result in additional fines and penalties. ...
Historic districts exist for a reason. They are like little jewel-boxes of neighborhood and architectural history. The rules are there to make sure that the neighborhood is preserved with integrity, and that the neighbors who do it right aren't brought down by the ones who do it wrong. If you suspect that someone within the district has disregarded the rules, please email me or our Historic Preservation Office representative Michael Beidler (

I know it can seem cruel, especially in less-rich areas, to enforce these things. But most of the time it's the out-of-town landlords that don't follow the rules. For Anacostia to really become a nice place, everyone needs to value the way it looks and the way it is improved.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Vote for Anacostia as Best Up-and-Coming Neighorhood!

Today is the last day to vote in the City Paper's "Best of DC" poll. You know about Anacostia: it's starting to take shape, it's got some great character, and it's on the verge of something pretty cool.

Click Here to vote! (for those of you in feed readers)

And yes, thank you The Advoc8te of competing (and very complimentary) neighborhood Congress Heights for giving me the idea!

Friday, March 12, 2010

THREE at Honfleur & Vivid Galleries Opening Tonight!

Exhibitions Open 3/12/10 @ 7pm in Historic Anacostia

In Honfleur’s main gallery, Three features paintings by artists Wesley Clark, Lance Wiggs & Jonathan Royce. The work by this younger cadre of local abstract painters features intense color, experimental techniques and an overarching predilection for the art of layering. Stop-action video and works on canvas, panel and found objects will be included.

Honfleur’s upstairs exhibition space will highlight a new body of portraiture in the solo show Now And Then. John K. Lawson returns to Anacostia with his signature collaged encaustic works using salvaged materials.

The Gallery at Vivid Solutions presents Brad Ulreich’s large-format renderings in La Femme da Vine hit upon a topic long targeted in the canon of art history, the depiction of the female body. Digitally fusing imagery from anatomical drawings, fetishism, renaissance masterworks, and spiritual images, these women are a revamped take on classical imagery of madonnas and venuses.

Honfleur Gallery
is located at 1241 Good Hope Road SE, and Vivid Solutions at 2208 MLK Avenue SE. Come on out!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Anacostia Neighborhood Library Progress

The new library at 1800 Good Hope Road is nearing completion! I think it's going to look fine, though I question the heavy use of concrete block (starting to get sick of it over here...) and stainless steel panels. The landscaping around this building will, if done well, make all the difference.

the view up Good Hope Road looking northeast

the view looking west, down Good Hope. Notice the "beacon" tower that will be lit up

U.S. Embassy in Iraq? Nope, just the side view of the library. Again, landscaping will be Key

I like this bright green more than I thought I would. It lends a playful crown to the heavy parts of the building

this large oak tree was saved in the west yard, which will also include a new rain garden

Completion is still estimated for this spring. Can't wait to take full advantage of this neighborhood amenity (said like a true son of a librarian)!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sunbelt Rentals Coming to 2204 MLK

Here's some retail news for ya: Sunbelt Rentals, a construction equipment rental store, recently signed a one year lease at 2204 MLK Avenue. The owners had been holding out for a restaurant user, but decided to fill the space in the meantime.

This will be a good use for all the construction that is going on in the neighborhood. Plus, the more recognizable retail that moves into Anacostia, the more likely it is that other retailers give us a chance.

Monday, March 1, 2010

2345 MLK Rendering Reveal

Boston-based architects Höweler + Yoon sent me an updated rendering of their project at 2345 MLK Ave:

"I updated the older rendering. Its not a polished rendering, but it gives you a sense of the scale and materials. Cement board panels on the ground floor. Corrugated metal panel on the upper volume. The concrete masonry units are only on the partition wall that abuts the neighbor, for fire code reasons."
I like some parts of it and think it misses the mark elsewhere. I loved the old rendering, pre-community meetings where people apparently hated it. What do you think?