Thursday, October 27, 2011

Turning the Page.

I started this blog in the summer of 2007, about a month before buying a house in the neighborhood. Inspired by other neighborhood blogs across the city, I wanted to provide a casual and visual place for others to see Anacostia the way I was starting to see it, and hoped it would help push forth a counterpoint to the generally-accepted belief that Anacostia was a scary place with nothing to offer, that you only found yourself in if you slept through your Metro stop or got lost on 295.

 During my three years living in Anacostia, the change often seemed so incremental that sometimes I'd have to look up before and after pictures to remind myself that it was even happening. But it was. Houses on every block were restored. Trees were planted. Friday night art openings at Honfleur and Vivid hosted more and more newbies and outsiders checking out the neighborhood. Seeing it as something other than the stereotypes. A coffee shop opened, then a neighborhood bar opened. For the first time in a long time, neighbors, visitors, and workers had places to grab a bite or a drink in this part of town. Without buying it through bullet-proof glass. Sounds so simple, but it was a seachange.

 For a neighborhood with a gorgeous housing stock, Metro, Circulator, and Bikeshare access, two main streets, beautiful spring blossoms, river frontage, and that je ne sais quoi embodied in things like block association Christmas caroling, the front porch neighbor-waving culture, and the beacon of historic leadership and values that is the Frederick Douglass Estate, what Anacostia has always needed is just people and institutions to help boost it that next step up from where it already is. And the momentum for that, it seems, is finally building.

 Is Anacostia there? Nope. Abandoned houses pockmark its streets. Barbed-wired-in parking lots mar the downtown areas that will, hopefully, one day be the neighborhood's center. People, places, and plans have and will disappoint. The overall vision isn't where it needs to be, and ward leadership still brings down the broader area that could otherwise be a lighthouse of positive and progressive change. 

My friend and Anacostia cheerleader Nikki Peele said once that Anacostia isn't the next U Street, or the next Adams Morgan, or the next H Street. Whatever happens in Anacostia will turn it into the next Anacostia. It's unique. It has its own architecture, its own history, and an awesomely passionate class of eager residents that just want it to develop into an inclusive, amenity-filled, and good-looking neighborhood.

 For the people living in Anacostia who are packing out Uniontown Bar & Grill every night, filling up Historic Anacostia Block Association meetings, and hoping a few more decent places open up shop in the neighborhood, Barracks Row is close, but MLK Ave? That's closer. More general and lifestyle amenities are needed, and as more businesses take a chance and succeed, more will come. More art shows will happen. More houses will get their grooves back. More infrastructural, architectural, heck -- maybe even political -- changes will take place.

Which is why in a lot of ways it kills me, as someone who has really loved this role, to admit/realize/say outloud/think about the fact that it's time to turn the page on Ye Olde Anacostia Blog. But truthfully, this "turning of the page" for me has been a while coming.

 "At crucial moments of choice, most of the business of choosing is already over." It's an Iris Murdoch quotation that my dad has, ever since I was a kid, reminded me of. We can hem, haw, and deliberate all we want, but usually we've already -- whether in plan or action -- made up our minds. When I moved out of Anacostia and into the Near Southeast/Navy Yard neighborhood in summer 2010, I knew things would change for me and the blog. And then, almost as soon as I moved, I ran for and was elected ANC Commissioner -- not something I had planned to do before moving, but government-level change-making was always something that interested me and so I dove in head first. As a result, my first neighborhood advocacy priority has shifted across the river.

 Until now, I've kept up the blog because I know it's still a resource. Some of my favorite emails are the ones from people saying they've read the blog and are interested in moving to or buying in the neighborhood. Or from people finally feeling like their home turf is being celebrated. But I'm no longer a first responder in Anacostia. At this point, I don't "happen upon" those incremental changes, or attend the neighborhood and Ward 8 meetings like I used to. Without being there day in and day out, I've lost a large part of the voice that made this blog the resource it once was.

Anacostia hasn't stopped moving forward. People keep on moving in, fixing up houses and filling condos, thinking up creative ideas, and communicating with each other on new channels. New construction is finally coming to the neighborhood. I'm even hearing talk of ethnic restaurants and community food co-ops. What, in Anacostia? Yuupp.

This isn't my goodbye to Anacostia. It's my recognition that at this stage, in order to be an effective advocate for anywhere, I can't be the voice for everywhere. I'm in love with DC -- with neighborhoods east and west of the Anacostia River -- and I promise to keep doing everything in my power to knit these incredible places together even more.

Thank you so much to all of you who have engaged with the blog and the neighborhood, and for giving me the opportunity to talk about a place I like a whole heck of a lot. Anacostia, you'll always make me weak at the knees.

How to stay connected: 

Blogs: East Shop Live Anacostia, The Art of Ward 8, Anacostia Yogi, DC Minnie (Minnesota Ave), Congress Heights on the Rise.

Historic Anacostia Google Group: Click Here

People to follow on Twitter: ESLAnacostia, AnacostiaYogi, TheAdvoc8te, UniontownBar, HonfleurGallery, FirstHomeDC, TheDCHive.

Realtor who knows the neighborhood: Darrin Davis.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Anacostia's Newest Mural - What Do You Think?

Designed and painted by Bryan Conner, Anacostia's newest mural sits at the intersection of MLK Ave and U Street SE. It is bright, hopeful, and looks professionally done. It has cherry blossoms, a great MLK quotation, and buzzwords signaling what is important to the neighborhood: nurturing, community, light, culture, and respect.

the mural fades from being highly detailed to simple line drawings...

artist Bryan Conner spraying the final finishing touches...

I love the pop of the cherry blossoms...

the view from across the street...

I like this quotation because it really represents what's going on in the neighborhood: a growing dedication to seeing it develop into a place that it inclusive, beautiful, and bright. What do you think of the new mural?

(And remember what this spot used to look like?)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A TreeHouse Grows in Austin

Anacostia isn't Austin. But there are always lessons and best practices and cool things that can brought and taught from place to place. TreeHouse, simply, is the "Whole Foods / green version of Home Depot" (but not quite as big as the other big boxes) and just opened last week in Austin, Texas. The company was founded by a friend of mine who used to live in DC, so fingers are crossed that he'd be interested in one day bringing his concept back east.

The store is certainly filling a niche. People want homes that don't poison them, that are made with sustainably sourced and harvested materials, and that can be maintained with earth-friendlier products than what are found at most places.

Check it out:

great logo, solar panels on top, what's not to love?

this is what makes the store pretty awesome.

Got a question in need of a solution?

quantity and diversity: what you do not get at the other big boxes...

tile made from recycled toilets? yes, please.

again -- it's all green.

another view of the general feel of the store...

how cool is it that they tell you to ask honest questions about their products?

plant selection chosen for climate suitability and nativeness.

What do you think? I know the first store just opened two days ago, but is this a concept that needs to spread?

(Thanks to my awesome parents who snapped these photos!)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Guest Post: Time for a New Ward 8

By Anonymous

After another weekend of trash cleanup behind my fellow Anacostans, I have to say that some are simply too trashy, have no regard for public appearance, and simply purchase, eat, and dispose on the spot. I have seen everything from tires, to bicycles to items too unsanitary to mention. It's never "everybody," but it is certainly "somebody." After a year on the Historic side, observing, cleaning, contacting authorities, attending meetings, seeing outcomes, etc., it seems the community is on one page, yet elected officials and decision-makers are on another. How are we defining progress? Believe it or not, for some, more social services is progress. For others, it is more of the same.

My issue borders on the behavioral. Dirty is just plain dirty. Foul language is just plain foul language. A negative outlook and blaming society, is simply a negative outlook that continues to blame society. It seems, some prefer to keep it this way. I think we need better council representaiton. I don't hate Barry, but after years and years and years of representing Ward 8, I think we need somebody who can interact with other council members in a more progressive way. We need new blood, new ideas, and simply new waysof doing things. Other wards have issues too, and our council is just plain jacked up. DC politics is a joke in my opinion and elected officials undermine their effectiveness by creating an atmospehere of mistrust over a series of missteps, financial and otherwise. Good luck pushing statehood...

I respect all individuals, but things were moving under Fenty and at least he was decisive. Under Gray, we've had nothing but scandals and issues surrounding his vetting process. With the drama, what is he really accomplishing? Will he take a stand on the11th st bridge project? Can he help produce the 1.5 million to install streetcar tracks so that we avoid a disastrous short-term decision? It's hard to keep any progressive momentum going in DC. 4 years is not enough time to let initiatives play out, when you take transition into account. Throw in a couple of scandals, and we have "Amateur Night at the Apollo". You have to impress quickly....or out comes the sandman.

I think residents personalize things too much in this city, at the expense of looking at things objectively. In Ward 8, the uneducated simply outnumber the educated. Not that education is everything, but politicians play residents. People in a neglected part of town come out against the very transportation initiaitives that are designed to increase access to points west. How smart is that? I don't think anybody will open businesses, thereby increasing jobs in an area inundated with too many social services, resulting in people out on the street. Like I'm really going to take my wife and kids to a sit-down restaurant in that type of environment? Despite being walkable, we NEVER walk to the library. It's not just about the access. It's also about the experience. Walkability is not just about distance. People with families don't want their kids constantly seeing liquor stores and laundromats and people out doing nothing, standing around, wasting time, when we need workers to compete in a global environment. Local security impacts national security....

Lastly, I am all for neighborhood meetings and participation. I consider it a civic duty. However, it seems various "officials" and business leaders show up, produce great looking renderings, listen to the community, and hear great ideas, but to no avail. If the people who care enough to show up, who actually own property, pay taxes, clean up where the city doesn't, etc. are voicing one direction, why does it always seem that decisions are being made against the wishes of those who are actually investing the time, energy and resources? Why are secret deals going down resulting in more social services on Good Hope Road? Why do we get Save-A-Lot, when we clearly said we wanted something of higher quality. We already have Safeway and Giant in ward 8. Why are these decisions kept secret, where we find out about them afterwards. For all the meetings we have, Ward 8 is not a very transparent place....

What this says to me is that people aren't taking us seriously. When I say "us" I mean the people who are trying to make a positive difference in improving our community, regardless of socio-economic or educational status. There should be one Ward 8. In reality, this means doing things differently. I am not a Barry hater, but I am a realist. I just think political officials higher up - and on the council - in that environment, will never really take Ward 8 seriously, until we elect somebody to represent us on the council who brings a more progressive approach. It's a new day in the economy, the country and the city, and it's time for Ward 8 to catch up. Otherwise, we will continue to be the land of the lost in a city where the other wards are embracing progress. We have to move away from this divide and conquer community set-up. For example, I live in historic Anacostia, but most forces against Ward 8 tend to group our neighborhoods together. Therefore, I believe Ward 8 has to take a more collective and unified approach on common initiatives and challenges in order to affect the type of change that is needed.

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free..."

This post was originally sent by an Anacostia resident as an email to the Historic Anacostia Google Group mailing list. To request inclusion into the Google Group, follow the instructions on the Google Group page.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Circulator Comes to Anacostia!

You've probably heard the buzz or seen the big red busses zipping through the neighborhood, but Anacostia gained a pretty big new public transportation amenity this week: The Circulator.

Click to Enlarge
The new Circulator route goes from Skyland / Hillcrest, down Good Hope Road, down MLK Avenue, then across to the Navy Yard, Barracks Row, and Harris Teeter.

To download the full route map and brochure, Click Here.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Art & Jazz TONIGHT at Honfleur. Be there.

Come to Honfleur Gallery for events starting at 7pm tonight. THE CONNECTION is a free jazz performance by Butch Warren and Freddie Redd, and will be accompanied by a photographic slide show by Antoine Sanfuentes. A poetry reading by local DC poet, Fred Joiner, will also happen in between sets.

Also check out the new works by Cuban mixed-media artist Gustavo Díaz Sosa. Art show opens at 7. Jazz starts at 8.

For more information, check out Honfleur Gallery's website. Be there for the goodness.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cedar Hill Gets HPRB Approval

Another step! The Cedar Hill townhouse/condo project at the corner of W and 13th Streets is on track to finally start construction... soon.

On W Street looking towards 13th.

"The Board approved the design in concept, with delegation to staff of further review, with the conditions that the V Street building be limited to two stories of height; the applicant satisfactorily address the issues raised in the staff report; and that the applicant careful revise and develop the balcony details on the Type 2 houses, the stairs, the siding on the Type 3 houses, and the width of the alley and the continuation of the 13th Street sidewalk and vegetation along it."

Still awaiting word from Stan Voudrie of Four Points, LLC as to when exactly this will start. Last I heard, the HPRB approval was one of the final steps before construction.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Progress at Environmental Design & Construction

Although there's still work to be done, progress is definitely being made at the Environmental Design & Construction headquarters project at MLK and Good Hope. I love how the red brick building is being brought back to its storefront look after being boarded up for so long!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Satellite Dishes: Not Out Front, Please

It truly is exciting seeing all the renovations going on in Anacostia -- each one makes such an important difference on the neighborhood's blocks. But...

It ain't cool, or allowed, to install satellite dishes on the front of a house.

When you get DirecTV or another dish service, the installers will try to install it on a surface that is easiest for them. However, they will install in the back or on the main roof if you ask for it.

These houses on W Street are a prime example:

For the sake of the historic district - and your own pocketbook (remember, the city city can fine for violations against the historic district) - please make sure to have dishes installed on the back of the house or on the roof, far enough back so that it isn't visible from the street. Thanks!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Renovations on Chester & W Streets

There are a lot more renovations happening now it seems than in the past couple years...

Something's going on here ... not sure what exactly.

This house on W Street between 13th and Chester is finally getting a facade restoration!

Love when the old siding comes off and the wood is revealed...

a new old porch!

It's the little things that are making a big difference...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

H Street Does Chalk...

...this Will happen in Anacostia someday...

as seen at the H Street NW Chalk Walk today

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The MLK Ave/MLK Drive Confusion

In July of this year, the DC Council voted in favor of renaming the haphazard stretch between the new MLK Memorial on the Tidal Basin and Anacostia "Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive." Not Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, which already exists in Anacostia and elsewhere in Ward 8, but Martin Luther King Drive.

at the corner of MLK Ave/Drive and Good Hope Road

at the corner of 13th/onramp and Good Hope Road/MLK Drive..?

But as you can see above, where exactly MLK Avenue ends and MLK Drive begins is a bit confusing. Are there sections of MLK Avenue that are also MLK Drive? Are there parts of Good Hope Road, a street that intersects with MLK Avenue, also now MLK Drive? Confusing! (and redundant...)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

MLK / Good Hope Public Art Survey

Art by committee often ends up being kinda watered down. But, since they're asking for community input, take a minute to give your thoughts on what might be done at the corner of MLK and Good Hope where the empty lot is now.

As I've mentioned before [see this blog post], I'd like to see a chalkboard of some sort asking the community a question. For example, something as simple as "If you owned this lot, what would you put here?" or "Love letters to Anacostia" then just paint lines for people to write their responses on. I can almost guarantee that that would be more interesting than another mural or artistic fence.

But, since I'm not the one deciding, check out this presentation on some potential ideas for the site:
1201-1203 Good Hope Rd Public Art

Then take this survey asking what Anacostia means to you and what you would like to see at the site. If you like the chalkboard idea, make sure to support it! :)

Reminder: this is a temporary installation. Do we really want to waste city money on something elaborate? The end goal here is to develop the site.

Monday, September 5, 2011

188 New Apartments Coming to Good Hope Road

The Washington Post just broke the news that Chapman Development - the same company that developed the Grays at Pennsvania Avenue (AKA the Yes! Organic Market building) has purchased Murphey's Auto Body Shop and (you may want to sit down for this) plans to develop 188 apartments (by right, without zoning changes) on the site, along with 25-30,000 square feet of ground floor retail. As a comparison, the Yes! Organic building is only 118 units.

The site, located between 17th and 18th Streets on Good Hope Road, sits across the street from the Anacostia UPO and Bread for the City, and is just one building down from the Anacostia Neighborhood Library.

Yes, folks, development is finally hitting Good Hope Road (!!!), which has so much potential as it is bookended by the heart of Historic Anacostia and the more affluent and also-redeveloping Hillcrest neighborhood.

My first thoughts:

(1) This will be a precedent-setting development for the neighborhood. Because it is the first large-scale redevelopment in this part of the neighborhood, it it will set the bar for design and quality. It is hugely important that the neighborhood make known that we will accept nothing less than excellent.

(2) The article mentions that the developer might build it out as a senior-living building. Is this something the neighborhood wants or needs more of? If so/not, this needs to be made clear.

(3) As you can see, there are a lof of above-ground wires on this section of Good Hope. Some communities in the DC area have specified that with new development, wires should be undergrounded. Is this something the neighborhood wants to pursue/ask for?

Read the article in its entirety HERE.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Art Behind the Art - Friday at Blank Space SE

Come out to Blank Space SE tonight at 7pm for the opening of a week-long exhibition showcasing behind-the-scenes photography from local film productions. Refreshments by Cotton’s Gourmet.

Blank Space SE is located at 1922 Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Saturday: Chuck Brown at Vivid Solutions

The Gallery at Vivid Solutions welcomes Chuck Brown, the Godfather of Go-Go, to view (Un)Lock It: the Percussive People in the Go-Go Pocket, on Saturday, August 20th from 1-3pm. The exhibition of photographs by Thomas Sayers Ellis documents the current history of Go-Go, a non stop music indigenous to the Washington, D.C. area, which began with the release of Chuck’s now classic “Bustin’ Loose.” Mr. Ellis is a former Go-Go percussionist and professor of Creative Writing at Sarah Lawrence College.

Thomas will conduct a short live interview with the Godfather of Go-Go in the gallery. “I’ve interviewed Chuck Brown before and have been in numerous private and public settings over the years with him but interviewing him about his presence as a photographic symbol for a genre of music that he created, well, that’s quite different and a dream come true!” says Ellis.

After the interview, Chuck will sign photographs taken by Mr. Ellis, which will be available to the public for sale.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Old Market House Square Update

Renovations at Old Market House Square on 14th Street between U and V are almost complete. Most notable are the new streetlights, new walkways, new grass, new amazingly comfortable bench courtesy of the TKF Foundation, and the brick sidewalk fixes surrounding the square.

Still coming are chess tables, Old Market House Square signage and community board, and I believe some plantings courtesy of the Anacostia Garden Club. Have you been through the square yet?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Three Art Openings Tonight in Anacostia

Short version: Go to to Vivid from 6-8 and Honfleur from 7-9.
Always a good time.

Long version: (from press release)

For the fifth year running, artists rooted in Wards 7 and 8 will be featured in Honfleur Gallery’s juried East of the River exhibition, with an opening reception on August 5th from 7-9pm. The exhibition includes photography and illustration. Artist Jonathan Edwards uses cartoon style illustrations to explore serious themes of contemporary urban African-American experience. Jon Malis’ large scale prints are based on his research in the medical archives of St. Elizabeth’s hospital. Larger-than-life cross sections of brains are a chilling yet alluring reminder of the hospital’s history and impact in Southeast Washington. Lark Catoe-Emerson and Deborah Terry’s explorations in abstract photography range from the intimacy of human skin to the landscape of the urban environment. Marlon Normon, who first learned photography at Ward 8’s ARCH Training Center, engages the natural world on a macro level. Poet and photographer Danielle Scruggs’ studies of self-image in text and image round out the collection. The six artists were selected by an esteemed panel of judges including Renee Stout (renowned DC artist), Stephen Bennett Phillips (Federal Reserve) and Susanna Raab (Smithsonian‘s Anacostia Community Museum). East of the River runs from August 5- Sepetember 9th 2011.

Upstairs at Honfleur Gallery, 61, an installation-based exhibition on mapping of time and place by resident artist Mei Mei Chang, is based on her two-month (sixty-one day) residency in Anacostia. Using traditional artists materials such as ink, paint and paper paired with more nontraditional drawing materials such as colored tape, yarn and packing wrap, Chang expands the concept of drawing from the paper’s surface to the architectural limits of the gallery. Exhibition runs August 5- Sepetember 9th 2011.

(Un)Lock It: the Percussive People in the Go-Go Pocket, a collection of photographs taken in Washington, D.C. by poet and photographer Thomas Sayers Ellis (author of The Maverick Room and Skin, Inc.), opens at The Gallery at Vivid Solutions the same evening with a reception from 6-8pm. Mr. Ellis was born and raised in Washington, D.C. and began taking his camera to area Go-Go’s while he was a percussionist in the Petworth Band in the 80s. Ellis portrays the lives of local legends like Chuck Brown and Little Benny with intimate respect and fascination. (Un)lock it: the Percussive People in the Go-Go Pocket will be open to the public from August 5th to October 7th 2011. Gallery hours are 12-5, Tuesdays through Friday and 11-5 on Saturdays.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Anacostia's New Circulator Route

DCist reports that DDOT has revealed its first east of the river Circulator route, and that it's going to zip from Hillcrest through the eastern edge of Anacostia, through Barracks Row, to Potomac Avenue (Harris Teeter). This new line is scheduled to start running on October 3.

Click to Enlarge

What do you think? Is this an improvement over what we have now?

See also: DCentric's "D.C. Circulator Going East of the River in October"

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Must Read: "The New Face of Anacostia"

and yes, DC gov still needs to step in to save that house

By now I hope most have seen the Washington Post article that came out online yesterday afternoon as well as the shortened cover story in today's Washington Post Express. Titled "The New Face of Anacostia: Black professionals are leading a charge of gentrification across the neighborhood," the article is a refreshing look at the changes taking place here.

Of course, there is a diversity of colors and creeds moving into the neighborhood, but the article picks up on the reality that the majority of the new and upwardly mobile residents of Anacostia, to this point, are black. Does the race thing really matter? Maybe not. But it at least turns the tables on the otherwise typically very "whites movin' in = gentrification" conversation.

Nice to see this article after such an epic NPR fail earlier in the year...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Inspiration: Corner of MLK & Good Hope

This is what I want to see at the newly-empty lot at the corner of MLK and Good Hope. Here are some great examples from around the country:

in Fairbanks, Alaska -- what a cool way to get community input! Photo from this great Fast Company article.

I mean, you can't go wrong. Found this while traveling through Boulder, Colorado.

This is in New Orleans, by Candy Chang, the same artist as the Alaska one. Love it.

How perfectly would this fit in Anacostia? See more details here.

What do you think? Wouldn't this be 100% perfect for the empty lot at the corner of MLK and Good Hope? Set up a couple chalkboards, paint a question or two... would probably cost about 300 bucks. Who's in?

Monday, July 25, 2011

1357 Good Hope Loses the Whitewash

The story of 1357 Good Hope Road continues... not that this is really a dramatic turn. Actually, I think it looks pretty good. The owners, a tech buildout firm that was supposed to relocate to the building from Clarendon, is apparently still deciding if they'll occupy the building or if they want to try to sell it mid-renovation. Not gonna call it a restoration, as it's pretty awkward.

viewed from 14th and Good Hope looking into Historic Anacostia

my favorite side -- I love how how the building just keeps going back

the fan above the side door is the only original window remaining in the building

I mean, could the entrance be any more awkward? Nothing much to get excited about.

Crossing my fingers that someone moves into the building -- at this point I'd almost rather someone else just buy the property in the hopes that maybe they'd try to redignify it a bit.