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.