Thursday, February 24, 2011

What's the Story, Maple View Glory?

The grand manse at 1220 Maple View Place SE is one of the worst vacant/blighted property offenders in the neighborhood.

the house is literally a big ol' Do Not Enter for the neighborhood

Look past the boarded-up windows, the flaking paint, and the general sense of pure abandonment, it's a completely beautiful house that deserves so much more. Located at the corner of Maple View and Mount View, the house will eventually succumb to the elements if something isn't done to save it.

check out the awesome detail work

The house, built sometime between 1880 and 1905, is a great example of the Queen Ann Victorian architecture found mostly in the south end of the neighborhood (Maple View Place, Mount View Place, and High Street, with a few exceptions): protruding bays, curved windows, both shingle and clapboard siding, and grand porches.

its location on the corner makes its abandonment all the more obvious

So what gives? Why is the owner (New Rhode Island LLC), who currently owes $98,100.93 in back taxes on the house, letting the property just fall apart? And why isn't the city stepping in to do something about it? The owner's address on Rhode Island Avenue NE is currently a print shop with no knowledge of the house, but I was told that mail still comes there for the LLC and is never picked up.

check out the (potentially) awesome sleeping porch on the second floor

The house is consistently listed in the city's tax sales, and nobody has paid taxes since the 2007 tax year. At what point does the city just take the property and give it to someone who will fix it up? Come on now.

Update: I've dug a little deeper and discovered that the agent for the LLC is listed as Daryl Dudley of NE DC. From a quick google search, it looks like he is part of a real estate management company called Dudley Pro Realty on Rhode Island Avenue. After speaking with a co-owner Cornelius Dudley, it sounds like they are not making any efforts to rectify the situation.

Click Here for a Washington City Paper article on the owner

Friday, February 18, 2011

New House on W Street

Another new house is sprouting up on the 1500 block of W Street, just a half block up from the Frederick Douglass estate. This house also went through the Historic Anacostia Design Review Committee, so it'll be interesting to see how the exterior finishes turn out.

We (back when I was still living in the neighborhood and co-chair of the committee) suggested that the builder - who also built the new white houses on 14th Street last summer - add more windows the the back of the house, but that didn't happen.

Also, the house extends to the property line on both sides, which is why there are no windows there.

It's a unique block, because only one side of the street (the side the house is on) is within the historic district. Just across the street are some pretty bombed out looking apartments and a vinyl behemoth at one end. And hey, it's just about three blocks up from Uniontown Bar & Grill!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Anacostia, in my experience.

My reaction to NPR's Morning Edition story yesterday. The segment, titled "D.C., Long 'Chocolate City,' Becoming More Vanilla", was written by Alex Kellogg, and is available in audio and article version by clicking the linked text.

Mr. Kellogg’s story was a dishonest portrayal of the changes that are happening in Anacostia. First, his evidence that black people are being forced out is based entirely on the story of one man who chose to buy a larger and more expensive house in PG County than one he was considering near Anacostia. Second, he attempts to prove that Anacostia is becoming “more vanilla” by talking about one white person, me – and I don’t even live there anymore. On a personal note, I was disappointed that he chose to sensationalize my move out of Anacostia, which had absolutely nothing to do with the much-reported-on break-in that occurred at my 2009 holiday party – in fact, I moved eight months later, was very transparent about my reasons for doing so, and am still working (and hosting parties) in the Anacostia neighborhood.

If Mr. Kellogg were interested in writing honestly about what’s going on in Anacostia, I’d suggest he step back from the canned story that’s been told before about every other neighborhood, look around, and realize a few key points he missed the first time: Anacostia, and the River East community in general, is becoming more and more economically diverse, but mostly at the hands and monthly mortgage payments of black professionals, not white ones. Check out the Historic Anacostia Block Association or River East Emerging Leaders, and you will see a very impressive mix of people, the majority of whom are black. Patronize Anacostia’s newest businesses, Big Chair Coffee and Uniontown Bar & Grill and you will meet the friendly (and black) owners. Take in a meeting of the Friends of Logan Park/Old Market House Square, a group run out of St. Philip the Evangelist Episcopal Church that is working to rebuild the park at the heart of Historic Anacostia – something that will surely add to the look and feel of the neighborhood and make it more attractive – and you’ll find that most of the members involved in this effort, although quite age diverse, are black. But hold on. Pause. Are we really still getting worked up about skin color?

White people are moving into Anacostia. So are black people. So are Asian people, Middle Eastern people, gay people, straight people, and every other mix. And good for them for believing in a neighborhood in spite of its challenges, and for meeting its hurdles head on and its new amenities with a sense of excitement. And good for the countless residents who have stayed in the neighborhood through its worst times, many of whom are glad to see signs of progress. A few months after I moved into Anacostia, my next-door neighbor – an amazing woman who raised her family in the house adjoining mine, and for years dealt with heavy drug activity and physical neglect next door – told me “you know, this is the first summer in a long time that I’ve felt comfortable sitting on my front porch.” If that’s the kind of change that’s coming to Anacostia, then amen and hallelujah.

for more, read WAMU 88.5's blog DCentric: And Now, Another View of Anacostia, from David Garber, Greater Greater Washington's GGW discusses: Gentrification in Anacostia, part 1, and We Love DC's NPR’s take on Anacostia: Whitey Is Coming

Monday, February 14, 2011

Anacostia on NPR's Morning Edition - Update

Set your radio dials to NPR's Morning Edition (88.5 in DC) tomorrow morning at 6:20AM and 8:20AM to hear a segment about population shifts in DC, with a special focus on the Anacostia neighborhood. I was interviewed along with Charles Wilson, Natasha Dasher from Uniontown, Stan Voudrie of Four Points development, and others.

I hope the story accurately depicts some of the changes taking place, but also get the feeling it might skew towards "black people are being forced into PG County" ... to which I usually reply, in general terms: 1) Most of the people moving to Anacostia are black. 2) If you can afford to buy in PG, you can afford to buy in Anacostia. Sure, there are trade-offs, but give me a break.

Update, with links: I see that the reporter insisted I "left the neighborhood after a 2009 incident where 15 friends were robbed at gunpoint" -- so not true (I left eight months after the incident for much less exciting reasons), and a fact that I clarified for him multiple times.

Click Here to read the written aricle or listen to the story

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Uniontown Glows in the Washington Post

The front page of the Metro section in today's Washington Post is a keeper. The headline, "Every neighborhood needs a 'Cheers' and maybe this can be ours", speaks to the hope and excitement surrounding the new restaurant and bar - the first of its kind in Historic Anacostia, and one of a growing stream of businesses catering to the winds of change blowing east of the river.

One of the great things about diversifying the business offerings in the neighborhood is that residents don't have to cross the river for every amenity.
"Uniontown has brought people out that many of us didn't even know lived in this neighborhood," said Greta Fuller, an Anacostia Advisory Neighborhood Commission member. "And those people are hungry to come out and spend their money. We have jobs. We have homes. We are positive. And when you walk into Uniontown, those are the people you see."
For the neighborhood to be truly sustainable, vacant storefronts need filled, residents need places to congregate, and there have to be reasons to stay or visit. For Anacostia, Uniontown is a big step in that direction.

Sure, Uniontown is still working out kinks, and being one of the only places like it in the neighborhood, the lunchtime rush can get a little crazy. Big Chair Coffee - which now also serves alcoholic drinks - certainly has competition. But in this case, competition is a good thing, and I think Uniontown is a great pioneer for the kinds of businesses this neighborhood can expect to see more of.

Uniontown Bar & Grill is located at 2200 MLK Avenue, at the corner of W and MLK SE, about a 5 minute walk from the Anacostia Metro

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Capital Bikeshare in Anacostia

DC's newest form of public transportation, Capital Bikeshare, opened in September of last year and has been picking up speed as a truly hot new option for getting around. Year-long memberships are just $75, and but there are also month and day memberships available.

As long as there are convenient stations, Bikeshare is a great way to get from point A to point B, especially on one-way trips, without having to deal with bike storage.

There are three Capital Bikeshare stations in Anacostia:

at the corner of MLK and Good Hope...

across from the Anacostia Metro on Howard Road...

and at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library

View Larger Map

I think the current station locations are a good start - but also think that it would be helpful to have one at the corner of MLK and W Street. What do you think? Any other suggested stops? What are your thoughts about this new transportation option?

Good Reads: Why is Capital Bikeshare usage low east of the river? on Greater Greater Washington,
and Biking While Black in the Washington City Paper

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Super Bowl @ Big Chair & Uniontown

Just a heads up, both Uniontown and Big Chair will be showing the Super Bowl this Sunday. Big Chair is now set up to serve alcohol, so let the business competition (this is a good thing) and the games begin!