Saturday, June 26, 2010

Big Chair Applies for Liquor License

It's no secret that the owners of Big Chair Coffee have been eying a future where hours are later, beer and wine (or a shot of Bailey's in your coffee) are sold, and the side patio is put to full use as a natural extension of the shop. Until now most of the energy has been put towards becoming established in the neighborhood and getting off their feet.

Well, Big Chair has been open for 5 months and the liquor license application is in the window! Prince of Petworth mentioned the license on his blog, and I commented that, like Bloomingdale's Big Bear, Big Chair is the first non-carry-out food option in the neighborhood and seems to want to be everything to everybody. Certainly negatives to that idea, but in general I tend to think the more establishments the better so long as the place is clean and isn't selling singles in brown paper bags. However, it will certainly be interesting to see how this all plays out.

I'm definitely digging the idea of a Summer Garden. With MLK's not very wide sidewalks, this alley cafe space is prime real estate.

What do you think - is the license a good idea? Do you like the idea of sipping a cab sav under a string of lights in your own neighborhood?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Renovation Central on 1600 Block of V

In the last two years, 4 of the first 5 houses going up the hill on the 1600 block of V Street have been renovated. And they don't look half bad!

1610 V Street, the tan one below, sure looks great with its faux-brick shingle siding gone, its porch restored, and a fresh coat of paint (among other improvements). Before:

And After. Glad to see the old fence was preserved, and some new landscaping put in. Too often these houses are renovated or built, then never graced with any new plants.

The house is currently for sale for a very reasonable (I think way too reasonable) $199,000. Say what? Check the listing Here.

[Update 6/25/10: House is under contract.]

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

New Columns on High Street

So refreshingly awesome. This porch used to be supported with dinky-looking iron columns. Don't the wood ones look great?

I think this house is one of the last Historic Homeowner Grant recipients. Unfortunately the program was chopped off at the knees in last year's budget. I'm hopeful that one day the amazing program will be fully funded.

The Emperor Has No Clothes

2345 MLK Avenue almost complete, and it's quite the eyesore. Designed by Höweler + Yoon Architecture of Boston, the building is an awkward mess of what appears to be the cheapest materials out there. I know that in development situations, the architects are at the mercy of their client's budget, but there are always creative ways to make buildings look good.

Why have I titled this The Emperor Has No Clothes? Because Höweler + Yoon is the partnership of a Harvard architecture professor and an MIT architecture professor. These should be the experts in their field. This is what happens when architecture becomes too much about lofty classroom ideals and theories and not enough about real life context, character, and permanence. I'm a huge fan of contemporary design, but not of design that ignores its surroundings and doesn't add anything to the block.

From the cheap light fixtures to the bubble skylight used as the second story window, to the harsh-looking sliding security gates attached to the storefront, this building screams straight utility without adding any whimsy or depth to the streetscape.

I'm not in the camp of adding buildings and blocks to the historic district simply as a way to get some design review, but buildings like this unfortunately push me that way. We need another solution. A "design review district" perhaps, with regulation as buildings progress to ensure quality craftmanship.

We simply cannot afford to have crap buildings go up if there is any expectation that Anacostia will one day be a much more desirable place to live and work.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Uniontown Update

The building at the corner of MLK and W Street that will soon house Uniontown Bar & Grill is progressing quickly. A couple months ago the exterior was a sad and faded mess. Now check it out:

Painting is almost done, and they're just waiting for the handsome new doors to arrive. The liquor license notifications are posted on the MLK-side windows, and at their second go last week the ANC voted to support a new license at the site. Certainly a milestone for this neighborhood.

Below are some details on the license which show hours of operation and occupancy limits. They are not seeking approval for live music, but then again this is meant to be a sports bar / restaurant, so not really a big cultural loss.

As you can see, the mural on the W Street side of the building is now painted over. It had been there for a couple decades, but nobody had any record of the artist, and it depicted pretty dated scenes. I like the clean look of the paint, but am also not opposed to something classy coming sometime in the future. ...or maybe just some good signage for the bar.

doesn't the storefront look awesome?

The interior is mostly designed and is currently awaiting building permits. If everything goes smoothly, Uniontown hopes to open sometimes in the next three months. (if H Street establishments are any indication, I know that opening dates can sometimes extend further than the owners hope. Rest assured, the owner here is very eager to open!)

Friday, June 4, 2010

so I'm moving "a few blocks away"

In full neighborhood blogger disclosure, I have to be honest about this or else it will somehow get awkward: I'm moving out of my house in Anacostia. Not because I don't believe in this neighborhood, not because I don't absolutely love my house, and not because I was scared away by some kids who waved guns at me a few months back.

I live in a four bedroom house, and all three of my roommates are moving out for various reasons (school and otherwise), so rather than trying to find a bunch of new people, I'm renting the whole thing out and relocating to The Closest Residential Building to Anacostia (in the Navy Yard Near Southeast).

Truth is, I love Anacostia to death (don't test me on that one). I just didn't feel like living in a big house and feeling burdened by being the "landlord roomate" with a bunch of people I find on Craigslist. And at this stage, Anacostia doesn't have a very diverse housing stock outside of new condos and old houses.

I will still be in Anacostia every day restoring houses, working with ARCH and others to revitalize MLK and Good Hope, and just kind of pretending that the move never happened.

So, I'm sure this is all too much information, but people can get nasty online and like to invent motives. The blog will continue. The love will continue. I can see Anacostia from my apartment. It's all good.

the governess of Valley Place

Anacostia is filled with two types of houses: gorgeous houses that have been lovingly restored, and gorgeous houses that haven't. Valley Place is no exception, and this houses is a complete standout.

I love the Americana vibe from the flag

flowers are everywhere ... landscaping has such a huge impact!

Kudos to the owners for really investing on the block. I know this corner has had an unfair share of break-ins recently, but I truly believe that the more we fix the broken windows (literal and otherwise) in this neighborhood, the less that will happen.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Flip't: It's Finally Finished

the brand-spankin-new-yet-still-old-looking exterior as viewed from U Street SE

[Editor's Note: been wondering why I've been off the blogging recently? Well, here's my excuse. Sometimes you gotta get off the screen and make neighborhood changes the old fashioned way. Enjoy - and if you know someone looking to buy, send 'em this way!]

It took seven long months to finish this place, but it’s finally done. For some reason it’s always the last few things on the renovation checklist that end up being the most gruelingly difficult to finish. Even though I swore this would never happen again after it did during my own home renovation, my general contractor ran off with a couple thousand before finishing the job, so I had to squeeze out the final touches on my own.

the side of the house BEFORE (yikes)

With each project I do, I keep learning that you pay for what you get. If you’re pinching pennies, you have to be extra careful about the quality of work completed and how the contractors are managing your money. As much as I don’t enjoy micromanaging people, it’s a total must – especially on tight-budget projects – to take charge.

the side of the house AFTER ... loving how Charlston-esque it feels

Take the interior paint, for example. Absolutely grueling. Why? Because my contractor made the assumption that I wanted the entire house the exact same color. When I agreed to only do one color on the walls as a way to save money, somehow that translated to painting the ceilings and the trim the same linen color. To be honest, after countless similar episodes throughout the project, it was almost a relief when he left the job.

The interior of the house is totally new. Nothing original from its humble c. 1890-1905 birth year remains. So, I chose a dark stain for the red oak floors because I wanted to give the house a rich, oozing with history feel. Not to be fake about anything, but to restore some dignity to this home that had it all stolen away over time. Matte black doorknobs offer a crisp contrast to the white doors. Crown molding is made of three separate pieces of trim and makes the transition from wall to ceiling all the more graceful.

The 22 karat gold house numbers in a font created in the first decade of the 20th century give the house presence and legitimacy (expensive but totally worth it. Monumental Graphics of Hyattsville did the install and this was his first residential installation east of the Anacostia). It’s these details that really make the house pop. Would it sell without them? Maybe, but that’s not always the point.

I found a great mirror for the half bath on Craigslist. After searching high and low for something in my price range that looked decent, all I was coming up with was matchy pieces from Lowe’s and Home Depot. Ick. (allow me a gag, I shop at those places all the time) But, happily, I found a retiree in Takoma Village (super awesome lady who lived in the co-housing development) who had bought this windowpane mirror at Eastern Market but was downsizing and moving to San Francisco. Perfection, I thought, because it was what this house is all about: old meets new.

Enter my favorite place in the house, the kitchen. Doesn’t it look great? If I could do it all over again I’d probably make the wall cabinet doors on either side of the sink solid wood. I love the glass, as well as the in-cabinet lights, but people typically like hiding things in their cabinets more than they like displaying them.

I found the amazing farmhouse table at Miss Pixie’s on 14th Street. I wanted to have an island-like feature, so opted for a table with handsome pendant lights overhead. A casual place to sit is always welcome in the kitchen.

the hall bathroom (tub is just out of frame)

I’ve always liked it when bathrooms have unique themes. Nothing cheesy like Under the Sea or something … but some prefer the “all bathrooms in the house are one style” approach and that’s just not me. For the upstairs hall bath, I opted for a custom black and white tile design on the floor (very labor intensive, as each black hex has to be inserted into the already glued-together white sheets) and a classic white carrera marble countertop. The faucets, knobs, and lights all sport white porcelain accents on shiny chrome. It’s a clean look.

the view into the master suite ... stairwell is to the left

As much as I would have loved to totally stage this house, I’m not sprouting money (yet), so you’ll have to imagine the complementary shower curtains and freshly rolled towels.

the master bath

For the master bath I went with a travertine-look porcelain tile on the floor, with a tumbled travertine accent in the shower. Mirrors and vanity are dark cherry. I’ll be honest, I think this bathroom would look better in a different paint color. It comes across as a calm, sort of sophisticated look, but isn’t the most exciting of combinations. Fortunately painting is the easiest thing (for the next owner) to do.

So that’s it, folks. Crossing my fingers the right buyer comes along shortly. It’s been fun meeting the visitors: young couple from Adams Morgan, home-schooling mom from Woodley Park, young family from Hillcrest, and even a government contracting firm looking to locate near St. Elizabeths.

looking towards U Street BEFORE

This has been one heck of a project but a really rewarding one. Here’s the Redfin listing one more time: 1214 U Street SE

looking towards U Street AFTER

Thanks so much for reading! Ciao!

Click Here for the entire Flip't series on Prince of Petworth
Click Here for the project write-up on Urban Turf