Friday, December 31, 2010

Sam Gilliam is relocating his gallery/studio space to 14th & Longfellow

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This is great news for the neighborhood. Artist Sam Gilliam is relocating his gallery/studio space from U Street (his studio there, on the second floor of the same building that Good Wood occupies, was recently sold) to 5507 14th Street NW. Taalib-Din Uqdah, of the 14th Street Uptown Business Association, told me that Gilliam confirmed the new space will open on Monday, January 3.

I'll post more details as I learn them. I'm looking forward to welcoming Gilliam to the neighborhood!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The dialogue with small businesses commences

Last night Councilmember Bowser held the first of several open meetings with Ward 4 small business owners. Present were representatives from Yes! Organic Market, the Missouri Avenue Market, the Korean-American Grocers Association of Greater Washington, the Latino Economic Development Corporation, Colony Liquor, Brightwood Bistro, Sweet Mango Cafe, Jackson-Hewitt, Quality Printers, Crown Bakery, and several others that I failed to scribble down in my notebook.

Bowser stated that regardless of how each particular business owner feels about Wal-Mart (and opinions vary widely among business owners, just as they do among residents), her goal is to negotiate a community benefits agreement that will protect standing businesses should the deal go through, as well as (I hope) make Brightwood and Ward 4 friendly toward new small business development in the future (she mentioned that there are "models that we can look toward in terms of impact mitigation"...I'd like to know more about those models). (I should note here that due to the fact that this is a matter-of-right proposal, Wal-Mart isn't under any obligation to honor a CBA of any kind, and I highly doubt that they would commit to a CBA simply out of the goodness of their little Wal-Mart hearts, which really scares me, but I digress...)

She also mentioned that she is negotiating with the Office of Planning about keeping the mixed-use residential element that Foulger-Pratt had initially planned for the site.

She brought up the well-known dilemma: although there are obviously a lot of people who patronize Georgia Avenue shops, there are also a lot of residents who can't even name a store on Georgia Avenue. She noted that there are basic needs that aren't readily available here. "Where can you buy clothes?" she asked, and the room went silent (that's because I restrained myself from yelling, "The Georgia Avenue Thrift Store, duh! Where about 80% of the 'new' clothing that I've bought since I moved to Brightwood came from! And don't I look fabulous, by the way??").

So what can we do to ensure a palatable business environment here? Various attendees stated ideas: Brightwood needs marketing, and branding; give tax breaks to business owners, not property owners; locate your niche market and cater to it passionately; reinvigorate the Great Streets plan. (Regarding that last point, Bowser mentioned that this can't be done without increasing residential density, and that many Brightwood residents are vehemently opposed to doing so.)

The Beacon Brightwood Business Alliance circulated a questionnaire, aiming to collect data on business owners' thoughts on Wal-Mart's potential impact. I'm looking foward to seeing the results of the survey and seeing how they compare to those of the Latino Economic Development Corporation's survey.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Public meeting with Wal-Mart & Foulger-Pratt tonight @ Bridges Academy

ANC 4B03 Commissioner Monique Michelle Smith has kindly arranged a community forum with representatives from Wal-Mart and Foulger-Pratt this evening. I was hesitating to post it, because both Wal-Mart and Foulger-Pratt were scheduled to attend the ANC 4D meeting yesterday, but they backed out very late in the day, and I'm suspecting a similar flake-out might occur tonight (I'll be sure to update this post if it happens). For now, the details are:

When: Wednesday, December 22, 6:30-8:00 PM

Where: Bridges Academy, 6119 Georgia Avenue NW (same block as the GA Ave. Thrift Store)

"You can't demand fun, high-quality, neighborhood-serving retail without accepting more residents."

At the risk of angering the people who so strongly opposed the mixed-use project for the Curtis Chevrolet site, I'll go on record as saying that I strongly disagree with their stance. Housing Complex boils down the reason quite succinctly.

Here's the bottom line: You can't demand fun, high-quality, neighborhood-serving retail without accepting more residents. Brightwood isn't high-density or high-income enough to support the kinds of things Speaks and Co. are asking for, and when you oppose mixed-use projects, you're just asking for a Walmart.

GGW follows up: Want a Trader Joe's? Then add more residents.

It's simple. Unless your neighborhood is in the process of growing rapidly, it's unlikely to get more retailers and probably not the kind you want. Most of the time, the retail market is close to an equilibrium where the number of retailers matches the demand for retail in that area. Only when a neighborhood is gaining population is the time ripe to add more.

Once upon a time, the commercial corridors thrived without this added housing, except for two factors. First, family sizes were substantially larger, and a typical single-family house might have parents, 3-4 kids and even some relatives living there. Now, family sizes are smaller, but many neighbors also fight proposals to allow basement or garage apartments, even though those would simply restore the numbers of people that the house used to hold.

Second, people shop more online and more in suburban big box centers. That's not going to change. Bringing big box retail into DC, as these Wal-Marts do, might keep more of the tax dollars from big box shopping in DC, but won't create healthy neighborhood shopping corridors.

Neighborhoods can either stay the same size, and see local retail gradually decline as online shopping grows and DC adds big box stores. Or, they can add enough new residents to support new retail options. Most of us prefer the latter. Some people, though, want to stop new residents but also have the retail. That's completely unrealistic.

Blue Banana opens, patrons flock to open bar

Looks like the soft opening of the Blue Banana bar was a resounding success, particularly the open bar hour between 8 and 9 pm (which will be repeated tonight at the same time).

The Blue Banana is located at 3632 Georgia Avenue, just south of the intersection of Georgia and New Hampshire.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Results of Latino Economic Development Corporation's survey of Georgia Ave. small businesses

Last Saturday I canvassed small businesses on Georgia Avenue, along with staff and volunteers from the Latino Economic Development Corporation. We presented business owners and managers with a survey, aiming to find out how they thought the proposed Wal-Mart at Georgia and Missouri Avenues would impact them. We also asked about areas that they felt their businesses needed strengthening. Our target area began at Peabody Street and stretched down to Emerson Street. You can view the results of the survey here.

ANC 4B forms Wal-Mart committee; and an action alert regarding Famous Pawn

ANC 4B is officially forming a committee composed of concerned citizens that will be tasked with scrutinizing all things Wal-Mart. The committee will review the company's proposal as well as the Large Tract Review.

The ANC hopes that people with expertise in certain areas (i.e. architecture, engineering, urban planning, transportation planning) will serve on the committee and/or subcommittees. Interested individuals should drop an e-mail to Jim Irwin at 4B's office, office @


And in case you haven't had enough of controversial businesses that want to locate in our area...

DCRA says that the license for Famous Pawn at 7301 Georgia Ave. is now "in order" to be issued. Commissioner Sara Green sent an e-mail earlier today saying that CM Bowser is asking for a reconsideration and that constituents need to raise hell about it right now in order to be effective. Green issued the following sample letter (e-mail addresses to send it to are at the bottom):

To Our City Government:
We have learned that DCRA is about to issue a pawn license for 7301 Georgia Avenue, NW.

Advisory Neighborhood Commissions 4A and 4B, along with residents and dozens of surrounding businesses and civic associations, including the Takoma DC Neighborhood Association and Concerned Neighbors, Inc., actively oppose this license.

If this license is issued for 7301 Georgia, our small corner of the city will have one-third of the pawnshops in DC! They are already located at 6212 Georgia and 6400 Georgia.

The pawn regulations say a license must promote the "advantage" of the community. Georgia Avenue's chances for revival will be crippled if this license is issued. We aren't a dumping ground! This large concentration of pawnshops discourages the new businesses we want here.

Please reconsider and deny this license.

Send To:
Mayor Fenty: amfenty @
Mayor-Elect Gray: vgray @
City Administrator Neil Albert: NeilAlbert @
City Administrator-Designate Allen Lew: AllenLew@
The entire DC City Council: membersonly @
DCRA Director Linda Argo: linda.argo @
DCRA Director-Designate Nicholas Majett: nicholas.majett @
DCRA Administrator Harold Pettigrew: harold.pettigrew @

Monday, December 20, 2010

Special ANC 4B meeting tonight to discuss Curtis Chevrolet development

Reminder that tonight is the ANC 4B's special meeting devoted to Curtis Chevrolet/Wal-Mart issues. This is the draft agenda:

  • Zoning issue about restricting the Curtis Chevrolet site to commercial only (20 min)
  • Information presentation from Office of Planning about Large Tract Review process (20 min)
  • Wal-Mart community discussion (1 hr...?)
  • Creation of special Wal-Mart committee (20 min)
  • Filling of standing committees (20 min)
  • other regular business as agreed to by unanimous consent

The meeting will begin at 6:30 and could run as late as 9 pm.

Those of you who live outside of 4B but who are still concerned about the development's effect on the surrounding area are encouraged to attend, as a resolution will be discussed that would allow non-4B residents to serve on the committee.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bowser on TBD today; DePuyt asks the big questions

Notes from last night's ANC 4B planning meeting regarding the Curtis Chevrolet site

I attended the ANC 4B planning meeting last night. Present were Commissioners Sara Green, Yvonne Jefferson, Monique Michelle Smith, James Sydnor, and 4B04 Commissioner-Elect Doug Smith, as well as staff assistant Jim Irwin. Thanks to Michele Baskin for taking notes throughout the meeting; her summary follows, and additional notes follow the summary.

Noted by Michele Baskin:

This meeting was simply a planning meeting to set the agenda for the Dec 20 meeting. The agreed upon agenda will be sent out to listserves along with a compiled list of ANC4B commissioner's concerns relating to the Wal-Mart development. As discussed, the agenda will look something like this:
  • Zoning issue about restricting the Curtis Chevrolet site to commercial only (20 min)
  • Information presentation from Office of Planning about Large Tract Review process (20 min)
  • Wal-Mart community discussion (1 hr...?)
  • creation of special Wal-Mart committee (20 min)
  • filling of standing committees (20 min)
  • other regular business as agreed to by unanimous consent
The December 20 meeting will begin at 6:30 and could run as late as 9 pm. A draft resolution was reviewed which stated that the committee would be established at the December 20 meeting with a chairperson appointed by the Commission. The Chairperson will be either a commissioner or a resident. Membership to the committee can either be voted on by the commission or by another process that the commission determines.

Important question yet to be answered: can people outside of 4B serve on the committee? This will depend on the language of the resolution that is adopted. Commissioners did mention that it might not be wise to restrict membership to 4B residents only, as expertise could be lost. But it needs to be specified in the resolution adopted on December 20.

It was suggested to create a special ANC4B listserve for Wal-Mart issues only as well as a website to keep communication flowing to the community from the ANC and the special Wal-Mart committee/sub-committees.

Other notes from the meeting:
James Sydnor expressed concern about jobs in terms of the 600 current DC residents working for Wal-Mart in MD/VA and loss of other retail jobs, and Wal-Mart saturating market. He cited a statistic that Wal-Mart has negative effects on businesses for a four mile radius around it. He said that if that's true, it's bad news for DC businesses, since the four planned Wal-Mart stores are within 5 miles of each other.

Jim Irwin will try to get someone from the Office of Planning to come to the Dec. 20 meeting to talk about the Large Tract Review process. This item will lead off the Dec 20th meeting. Yvonne Jefferson reiterated Muriel Bowser's request for the building to be two-level (either more commercial or mixed-use), with Wal-Mart above and ground-floor spaces set aside for other retail. Sydnor expressed concern that the leases be manageable for small businesses if such a structure were to come to fruition.

Regarding the car barn: contrary to popular belief, it has not been designated a historic site.

Traffic issues were discussed. Sydnor noted that Peabody Street will be affected, it might have to become a one-way street. He also wonders if the new development on Riggs Road near the Fort Totten Metro would be a better fit for Wal-Mart. Jefferson said that a big grocery store is already in the works for that site, and we need to look at the impact this Wal-Mart might have on that large development.

Sara Green said several people have mentioned that the proposal is weak in the area of traffic, and that Wal-Mart knows it. Is 362 parking spaces enough? Will it be open parking or paid parking? Jefferson said the Large Tract Review will address the adequacy of the parking. Jefferson doesn't want to see Wal-Mart move in and put Safeway out of business, rather than providing healthy competition for the Safeway. Green - let's get people with real expertise on the committees -- union people, architects, engineers, etc.; also, let's find out what promises and projects Ward 1 able to get out of Target, and can we use that as leverage to get similar community benefits from Wal-Mart and Foulger-Pratt?

Sara Green pointed out that she's not sure, realistically, what the ANC's role can be in telling a private employer how to handle their workforce. She prefers to concentrate on areas that the ANC can impact, such as traffic, architecture. "We have 'great weight' on the Large Tract Review, but that's it." She understands that many people will consider anything short of stopping the Wal-Mart altogether to be a non-victory, but she also knows that there are a lot of people with power in this city who are determined to make sure Wal-Mart gets its way because their presence will "supposedly increase our tax base". Multiple commissioners reiterated that the LTR process is the only leverage that exists and can be used to slow the process down as long as they stay ahead of Foulger-Pratt.

Wal-Mart has said they will pay $8.75 per hour, which is competitive with other big-box retailers (Best Buy and H&M were cited as examples). Multiple commissioners parroted the Wal-Mart talking point of hiring local Ward 4 residents for jobs (which is only a promise and not enforceable...without a legally binding document, they can do what they want).

Jefferson said the city wants ANC4B to make a resolution for this development. F-P wanted it in January. That is not enough time to review the implications of what a Wal-Mart would mean for our community.

Green: Foulger-Pratt made a deal, and it was a deal between private parties. However, there are a lot of people who feel that F-P should chose a tenant for their site more carefully, and those people need to be heard. Can we pressure Wal-Mart to agree to meet with the community on a monthly process through this process? Can we consider that a "victory"?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fusion celebrates its second anniversary tonight

Fusion restaurant at 4815 Georgia Avenue NW has been open (and serving fantastic food) for two years, and they're celebrating the landmark this evening. Neighbors and fans of the restaurant are invited to swing by starting at 5pm. Go on over, especially if you've never been before.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Two ANC 4B meetings, open to the public, will discuss plan for Curtis Chevrolet site

ANC 4B will hold two meetings within the next week. The topic of both meetings will be how the ANC will proceed regarding the potential development of the Wal-Mart at the Curtis Chevrolet site at Georgia and Missouri Avenues NW. The ANC will plan the formation of committees that will address specific issues of concern to the residents of 4B (the immediate neighbors of the Curtis Chevrolet site). ANC 4B does not normally open planning meetings such as these to the public, but due to the impact that the development of the Curtis Chevrolet site will have on the community, all neighbors are encouraged to attend, discuss their concerns, and participate in the formation of the committees.

Times, dates, and locations are as follows:

First planning meeting:
When: Wednesday, December 15, 6:30pm
Where: Emery Recreation Center, 5701 Georgia Ave. NW (b/w Madison St. & Missouri Ave.)

Second planning meeting:
When: Monday, December 20, 6:30pm
Where: MPD 4th District Community Room, 6001 Georgia Ave. NW (b/w Peabody & Quackenbos Streets)

Monday, December 13, 2010

GSA: We don't want those 30+ acres at Walter Reed after all

More Walter Reed news...GSA has rescinded its claim on a sizeable a chunk of the Walter Reed property, which could mean that the land will be transferred to the District...unless the State Department, which has also expressed interest, elbows in.

D.C. officials are negotiating to acquire more property along Georgia Avenue, where it could add to the 900,000 square feet of housing and 200,000 square feet of shops and restaurants they already plan.

"We're working on what could be a revision of the boundaries," said Jose Sousa, spokesman for the deputy mayor for planning and economic development. "The District obviously has continued interest in maximizing the retail opportunities on Georgia and is engaging its federal partners as to how to make that happen."

Wal-Mart back to sticking its fingers in NYC's pie

From NYT:

Wal-Mart, an inescapable part of the retail landscape just about everywhere except in New York City, twice retreated on efforts to open stores in the city after fierce community opposition.

Now it is back, and mounting an aggressive campaign to crack the country’s largest urban market. Wal-Mart is looking at properties in each of the five boroughs and has hired Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s former campaign manager, Bradley Tusk, to help coordinate its lobbying efforts.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bowser, Norton plan to fight Cardin's Walter Reed proposal

This isn't going down without a fight!

"Delegate Holmes Norton and I spoke directly today; she is on top of the issue," said Councilmember Bowser. "We are both committed to protecting Ward 4 and the community's plans for the redevelopment of Walter Reed. Relocating New Beginnings to the campus is simply inappropriate for a residential area, would scuttle the long-contemplated redevelopment plan, and would undermine the desires of the community." CM Bowser is also working with the Mayor's office and the Office of the Attorney General to oppose Sen. Cardin's efforts.

More on Cardin's request to move juvenile detention center to Walter Reed

More on Maryland Senator Ben Cardin's proposal to move the New Beginnings youth detention center to Walter Reed, from the Post:

"I think the likelihood that this amendment will be considered is not very great," Cardin said in a brief interview Thursday. "But I just want people to understand that this is a continued concern that we have to resolve."

New Beginnings is located in Laurel.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

MD senator wants to move DC juvenile detention center to Walter Reed

Via WBJ:

Cardin wants the District to move the New Beginnings Youth Development Center, currently located in Laurel, to the Walter Reed campus. An amendment Cardin hopes to offer to a pending defense appropriations bill bars the secretary of the Army from accepting or approving a redevelopment plan for Walter Reed that does not provide for the transfer.

It is probably not what the District, or Walter Reed's neighbors, had in mind when they pondered the transformational project on upper Georgia Avenue.


Cardin submitted the amendment Tuesday, but it is unclear whether it will be considered by his senate colleagues. It isn't known yet whether amendments will be accepted to the Fiscal Year 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, a Cardin spokeswoman said, or even when the bill will come up for a vote. But it is absolutely the senator's intention to push the amendment, she said, if given the opportunity.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Foulger-Pratt faces the public, emerges relatively unscathed

To say that the public meeting that was held last night at Emory United Methodist Church's Fellowship Hall was intense would be quite an understatement. That room was on fire.

Most of the 4B commissioners were present; three representatives of Foulger-Pratt, the development company that owns the Curtis Chevrolet site, were present; as were 100+ members of the community, from Brightwood and beyond. Wal-Mart did not send representatives. Foulger-Pratt presented the initial rendering of the planned development: a single-use, single-story structure with one retail tenant. Any possibility of the development being mixed-use with residential, or two-level with multiple retail tenants, was not addressed.

As expected, community members passionately and eloquently voiced their displeasure at the lack of information flow so far from Foulger-Pratt and Wal-Mart. F-P did its best to address those concerns, but ultimately those present came to understand that the community would have very little real input on this privately-funded project.

"Is this a done deal?" That was the question that was repeated by several community members, and after an hour and a half of hemming and hawing an answer was given: no, it's not a done deal (because no lease has been signed). But there is also no "plan b"...if the deal doesn't go through, we could be living with a vacant lot for another half decade (unless those of us who are believers start praying for a miracle bidding war, and those prayers are answered).

Yes, the proposed tenant will bring jobs. "Poverty-level jobs!", asserted one attendee. CM Bowser replied that with so many of her constituents currently out of work, there's little room to argue. "We're all concerned about fair wages, but what about no wages? That's what many residents of DC are facing right now."

One of the central discussions during the Q&A session was the current state of Upper Georgia Avenue. Randall Clarke, past economic development chair of the Brightwood Community Association, made the point that although it's true that Wal-Mart has had negative impacts on neighborhood retail in rural and suburban communities, it's very difficult to gauge how it would impact Brightwood because a) we don't have much of a "main street" to begin with and b) urban format stores are new ventures for Wal-Mart, and we have few other Wal-Mart-ed urban neighborhoods to study and compare ourselves to. Best-case scenario is that a "main street" will develop around the Wal-Mart; worst case is that any smaller businesses will be unsustainable with a Wal-Mart so close by. What about beyond Georgia Avenue; would Wal-Mart's presence cause Kennedy Street to be blighted for another 20 years, or will we see the planned Kennedy Street revitalization project grow? Interesting times ahead, Brightwood.

It's official: Gabe Klein is leaving DDOT

DDOT director Gabe Klein just announced that he will resign effective January 1. According to Mike DeBonis, he said "I think it's probably not a good fit for me going forward," referring, I assume, to working in the Gray administration. DCist's Aaron Morrissey said that Klein feels that DDOT will be less entrepreneurial under Gray, and "not a good fit for me".

You've done wonderful work, Gabe. I know that in your next venture, whatever it may be, you will continue to improve our city.

First look at proposed Georgia Ave. Wal-Mart

Those of you who attended last night's meeting saw this there, but for those of you who were unable to attend, here's the rendering of the plan for the proposed Wal-Mart store at Georgia and Missouri Avenues. I'll write more about the meeting later; for now see Jonathan O'Connell's report in the Post.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Questions posed by CM Bowser to Wal-Mart and Foulger-Pratt

Following is a list of questions and concerns sent yesterday by Muriel Bowser to Wal-Mart and Foulger-Pratt. The questions are good, in my opinion, and cover most of my concerns about the project. Hopefully they'll be answered tonight (as best they can, as no Wal-Mart reps will be at the meeting).

Questions posed by Councilmember Bowser

Timeline: Please discuss your vision regarding meetings with the affected communities to hear from them on design, traffic and parking issues, small business concerns, employee wages and benefits, and community amenities; and how you intend to incorporate their concerns into your design proposal.

Design: You presented a plan that included a 102,000 square foot store (nearly twice the size of our largest Safeway) on one level with Walmart as the only tenant. We think that a two-level design should be considered that would permit the storefront to be animated with small, neighborhood serving retail. We understand that other urban formats are 80,000 square feet, leaving a lot of space for a good-sized neighborhood retailer or restaurant. I understand that the Office of Planning continues to request that you explore a housing component to the site as well. What considerations have been given to potential housing at that site?

Traffic, Parking, Operational Issues: Do you have a traffic study that addresses the following: 1) Access to the underground parking garage and how it will affect the Co-Op, 2) Improvements to the intersection of Georgia and Missouri Avenues, 3) Access of tractor trailers for loading and unloading of store merchandise. We would expect that this study be available for presentation and discussion no later than December 31, 2010.

Community Outreach: It is understood that you will be scheduling meetings throughout Ward 4 as soon as possible. Further, many residents would like to go to the internet for the latest on your proposal. Posting design concepts and traffic and parking studies will help inform Ward 4 residents unable to attend community meetings. Please make presentation materials available online as soon as possible. ANC leaders will reach out to you to emphasize community group meetings that they believe are important to ensure that their constituents are fully engaged in the planning for this important site. It is being encouraged that you engage America Speaks, or a similar organization familiar with Ward 4 residents in implementing a thoughtful Town Hall strategy, such as the one used in the Walter Reed planning process. Should Foulger Pratt and Walmart choose not to employ this proven Ward 4 strategy, Ward 4 leaders indicated their willingness to explore other ways to implement this strategy before weighing in on the Large Tract Review application.

Site Upkeep: We implore you to keep the site up as well as possible. We are concerned about boarded up glass on the main show room, the seemingly semi-permanent tent structures erected to support the flea market. The flea market hours and operations are also a concern.

Redevelopment Plan: Please discuss how this project fits into the proposed Upper Georgia Avenue “Great Streets Redevelopment plan.”

Additionally, ANC 4B Chair Yvonne Jefferson has a proposal for a youth garden project on the site.

Time/location clarification for tonight's public meeting: 7pm, Emory Fellowship Hall

There's been a lot of confusion about this, since the meeting was originally scheduled to be held at the 4th District police headquarters. Then the start time was announced as 6:30 pm. I've received clarification from the Brightwood Community Association on those details:
Where: Emory Fellowship Hall, 6100 Georgia Avenue NW
When: 7:00 pm

100 more CaBi stations planned, but no word on locations

Via WashCycle, DDOT director Gabe Klein said in his online chat last week that 100 more Capital Bikeshare stations are planned and that DDOT already has locations picked out, but no word on where those locations are. DDOT is still encouraging you to send your wish lists for new locations to Capital Bikeshare project manager Chris Holben: chris.holben at

Monday, December 6, 2010

Action items in preparation for tomorrow evening's meeting regarding the Wal-Mart plans

Last night a meeting was held, in which several community members brainstormed ways to slow Foulger-Pratt's development process until there can be sufficient community input about the Wal-Mart plans. About 25 people were in attendance, including commissioners, reps from the UFCW, business people, and residents of the affected neighborhoods. The plans are moving quickly, and your input is very important at this point.

Key items from the discussion:

*The new location for Tuesday's meeting is Emory United Methodist Church's Fellowship Hall, 6100 Georgia Ave NW - please spread the word!

*Our goal at this point is to get the developer, Foulger-Pratt, to halt their Wal-Mart plans until there is sufficient time for community input.

*In addition to inviting friends and neighbors in Ward 4 to Tuesday night's meeting, our other task is to each make 3 calls/e-mails:

1. Since representatives from Foulger-Pratt have claimed that they will not attend the meeting on Tuesday (even though they're the ones who called the meeting to order in the first place!) because they feel that a community meeting is "unnecessary", please write to Dick Knapp at Foulger-Pratt to demand that he or another rep from Foulger-Pratt attend the meeting. dknapp at

2. To Councilmember Muriel Bowser, asking her to make sure Foulger-Pratt attends the meeting, and also to halt the development process until there can be a full independent analysis of traffic and environmental impact and sufficient community review of plans.
Phone: 202-724-8052, or mbowser at

3. To your ANC Commissioner, asking him or her to attend the meeting, and to demand that Foulger-Pratt attends the meeting and halts the process until there can be a full independent analysis of traffic and environmental impact and sufficient community review of plans. For help identifying and contacting your ANC, see this site:

If you have any questions, feel free to write me.

***UPDATE 4:00 pm***
Mr. Knapp has informed me that he will attend the meeting after all. I'm very thankful that he's going to be present.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wal-Mart and Foulger-Pratt reps met with 4A, 4B ANCs last night

I spoke with several commissioners who attended last night's meeting, and came away with some information about the planned development:
  • A presentation of the proposed development was provided, and though I haven't seen the renderings myself, the general consensus seems to be that the building is decent looking and not one of the big-box behemoths of ugliness that Wal-Mart is famous for. The plan does not include saving the historic car barn that is on the Curtis Chevrolet site. I'm not sure if the Historic Preservation Office has the final say on that, but Wal-Mart's stance was clearly stated: they want that car barn gone.

  • Of course traffic issues were raised, but of course neither company has control over the redesign of the intersection of Georgia and Missouri Avenues. That's for DDOT to handle.

  • Access to the underground parking garage will be from Peabody Street. The building will be set back from the street, allowing for 23 feet of sidewalk.

  • According to Commissioner James Sydnor's notes, "A store of this size will require three truck deliveries per day which will access the store from Missouri Ave., with enough room to turn around on site. Consideration will be given to six smaller trucks as an alternative to the three larger trucks. The community may wish to give consideration to six daily deliveries instead of three."

  • One attendant asked if Wal-Mart, Foulger-Pratt or the city had calculated this development's effect on independent businesses, and what would be the corresponding loss in jobs and tax revenue, but received no direct answer.
It's difficult to write about this objectively for the blog when I remain very unconvinced that Wal-Mart is going to be the cure for what ails Upper Georgia Avenue. As I mentioned earlier, Foulger Pratt is attempting to wriggle out of the December 7 meeting that has been planned and wants to consider last night's meeting the "public meeting". Understandable that they don't want to deal with the opposition...after all, many communities have successfully opposed Wal-Mart; so perhaps this plan can be altered, and Brightwood can instead attract a different large retailer, and hopefully one whose labor practices are less abhorrent than Wal-Mart's.

Foulger-Pratt backs out of "unnecessary" Dec. 7 meeting

Foulger-Pratt has opted not to facilitate the community meeting that it announced a few weeks ago. Dick Knapp of Foulger-Pratt, who is in charge of the Curtis Chevrolet site, said he felt it was "unnecessary", because ANCs could pass along the information that was conveyed to them at last night's meeting (I'll post a report on that meeting later today).

I wholeheartedly disagree that it's "unnecessary" for Foulger-Pratt to meet with the community, and I hope they reconsider and send a representative to the December 7 meeting. Now, leadership of the meeting has been turned over to our ANCs. With or without Foulger-Pratt present, it will be an opportunity to voice your concerns about the project.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Location of Dec. 7 meeting with Wal-Mart reps changed to Emory Fellowship Hall

The 4th District Police Headquarters' community room was double-booked, so the public meeting with Wal-Mart and Foulger-Pratt reps has been moved:

When: Tuesday, Dec. 7, 6:30 pm
Where: Emory Fellowship Hall in the Emory United Methodist Church, 6100 Georgia Ave. NW

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

DC Comprehensive Plan amendment recognizes Brightwood's growing age diversity

This Housing Complex post about amendments to the District's Comprehensive Plan contains the following interesting piece of information:

One amendment emphasizes mixed-use development in Brightwood for a diverse population, rather than just senior citizens, whom the Plan had previously emphasized.

Very forward-thinking for the District to recognize that young people do in fact live here, rather than just treating the neighborhood as a huge old folks' home.

The original section of the Comprehensive Plan read as follows:

“The large senior population in the Brightwood area creates the need for additional senior housing and assisted living facilities in this area. The revitalization of Kennedy Street provides an opportunity for such development, possibly combined with retail uses and senior services. A new Wellness Center on the street will provide a potential catalyst for new senior housing."

And the new amendment reads as follows:

"The diverse population in the Brightwood area provides an opportunity to bolster the tenant mix and attract new mixed use development. Because of existing services, such as the recently built Hattie B. Holmes Senior Wellness Center at the 300 block of Kennedy Street, new mixed use development, with street activated uses and mixed income housing above, will catalyze revitalization along the corridor.”

(Tip of the hat to Lydia DePillis for the full amendment.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Man stabbed at Petworth Metro; armed street robbery at 14th & Madison

WTOP reports:

Metro says a man was stabbed while exiting the Georgia Avenue/Petworth station Sunday afternoon.
Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein says the victim was approached by another man at about 4:15 p.m. after passing through the fare gate at the station in Northwest. The suspect then stabbed the man in the neck area.

The man was taken to an area hospital as a Priority 1 transport. D.C. Fire spokesman Pete Piringer said the victim's condition was unknown. Metro Transit Police were investigating the incident.

And from MPD, 6:06am 11/29/10:

Fourth District units are on the scene of an armed robbery at 14th and Madison Sts., NW. The weapon used was a metal pipe. Two suspects attacked the complainant from behind, striking him in the head with the pipe. The stole his wallet and cell phone. The two suspects are described as black males, one is 5’5” wearing a black jacket, the other is 5’7” to 5’8” wearing a blue jacket. The suspects were last seen running from the scene westbound on Madison St., NW. Anyone having information regarding this offense is asked to call the TIP Line at 1-888-919-CRIME.

Friday, November 26, 2010

ANC requests community concerns regarding Wal-Mart; Foulger-Pratt to present initial design plans on Dec. 2

Representatives from Foulger-Pratt, the developer of the Curtis Chevrolet site, will present a first look at the plans for the proposed Wal-Mart store at a meeting with 4B Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners and other community representatives on December 2.

Commissioner James Sydnor, who represents 4B04, the district in which the Curtis Chevrolet site is located, has asked for community members to send their concerns to him before the December 2 meeting.

(At last week's ANC 4B meeting, a neighbor stated that it was appalling that our commissioners learned about Wal-Mart's intentions the same way the majority of District residents did: on the evening news and on the Internet. I agree wholeheartedly. The news was particularly jarring having participated in the very intense community involvement process of the Walter Reed redevelopment team. Hearing that Wal-Mart plans to drop itself into our laps, without requesting community input first, felt invasive after all of the discourse at the Walter Reed planning meetings.)

Please post your concerns here, or e-mail them to thebrightwoodian at, and I will forward them to Commissioner Sydnor before the December 2 meeting. Concerns can be anything from "I'd prefer to not have a Wal-Mart at the Curtis Chevrolet site" to questions about the aesthetics of the building's design to concerns about traffic issues that the project will cause in the neighborhood. Those of you who are unable to attend the larger meeting for the community on December 7 at 7pm at the Fourth District Police station, 6001 Georgia Avenue NW are especially encouraged to respond now.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How well would Wal-Mart assuage the complications it will bring to the neighborhood?

Check out the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force website and read Faraji Whalen's concerns about Wal-Mart's nascent plans for Brightwood. He raises a lot of good points, particularly with regard to how roads and traffic patterns in the immediate area would have to change drastically in order to accommodate a store the size Wal-Mart is planning. What about the loading dock entrance? None of the abutting streets (Georgia, Missouri, 9th, or Peabody) are particularly 18-wheeler-friendly.

Incidentally, the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force is a great organization, composed of concerned citizens and stakeholders, that aims to ensure that the new development along the Georgia Avenue Corridor meets the needs of its residents. The group meets biweekly at different locations along the corridor; meetings are announced via a yahoogroup listserv that I encourage you to join.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pawn bill wins final approval in city council

ANC4B's pawn bill has won final approval from the DC City Council in a unanimous consent vote.

Says Commissioner Sara Green: "During today’s session, Famous Pawn lobbied hard to weaken the 'great weight' provision of the bill. But Council Member Muriel Bowser held firm and prevailed. No amendment was introduced. We also had great support from Council Member Michael Brown, among others...Thank you for your many letters and phone calls. They worked!"

Famous Pawn's application for a pawnbroker license at 7301 Georgia Avenue is still under review by DCRA.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"This is not your father's Wal-Mart": GGW talks to Foulger-Pratt

Dan Malouff has further info on Wal-Mart's plans for Brightwood over at Greater Greater Washington.

He points out that the Curtis Chevy site is fewer than four acres, significantly smaller than the suburban plots of land that Wal-Mart typically occupies, which are 20 acres on average. The store itself will be 102,000 square feet, and it will be vertically built. (For comparison, the bilevel Target store in Columbia Heights is 173,000 square feet.)

The store's entrance will be set back 20-30 feet from the curb, and parking will be below-ground.

Also, he notes:

Unfortunately, the development won't be mixed-use. If Foulger-Pratt would stick a few floors of apartments above the retail uses, that would add new customers for the surrounding businesses and help revitalize central Brightwood as a place to live, not only to shop. It's regrettable that the plan misses such an opportunity.

I personally agree that the lack of mixed-use is indeed regrettable, but that's partially the fault of Brightwoodians themselves, who so strongly opposed the residential aspect of Foulger-Pratt's original plans for the site, that the plans were scrapped. (This was before my time in the neighborhood, so I wasn't around for that whole fiasco, but from what I've heard things got pretty heated.)

Foulger-Pratt will meet with the community on December 7 at 7pm in the Community Room of MPD's Fourth District headquarters, 6001 Georgia Avenue NW, to discuss the building plans.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Even more news regarding Wal-Mart's impending domination of the District

Apparently, the Wal-Mart planned for Georgia and Missouri isn't a small-scale version of the megastore, as the initial report led me to believe. No, the first four stores, including the one bound for the Curtis Chevrolet site, are going to be pretty typical of your average Wal-Mart's size. But wait, there's more! Wal-Mart intends to expand even further into the District by opening the aforementioned small-scale stores, in addition to the four mega-emporiums. Wal-Mart is about to become as ubiquitous as CVS. More here.

"Hawk signal" DDOT pilot program at Georgia Avenue & Hemlock Street

In her excellent piece on the challenges of encouraging walkability and bikability in the District's farther reaches, Lydia DePillis mentions a transportation innovation that's going on in our area that I wasn't even aware of:

Something as simple as letting pedestrians walk before the light turns green for cars can cut pedestrian accidents dramatically, since drivers see people in the crosswalk before turning right. DDOT has installed some 50 of these “leading pedestrian intervals." They’re also piloting what’s called a “hawk signal," for intersections that don’t have a full stoplight, at Georgia Avenue and Hemlock Street NW. A pedestrian pushes the button, and one bulb flashes yellow before another bulb starts flashing red, which means cars stop briefly and it’s safe to cross. For the least busy streets, there’s a simple flashing LED light that pedestrians can activate to notify cars at night.

This isn't an intersection that I use regularly, so I haven't seen it personally. But I'll be taking a walk up there to check it out.

More thoughts on Wal-Mart plans

First, Councilmember Muriel Bowser has released a statement:

Today, Councilmember Bowser responded to news that Walmart intends to locate a retail outlet along an important Ward 4 corridor. “I am very interested to learn more from Walmart executives about their interest in Ward 4,” said Bowser. “The intersection at Georgia and Missouri Avenues represents a huge piece of the Georgia Avenue revitalization puzzle. Any redevelopment at this highly visible, dynamic location must be done thoughtfully and with community outreach.” A previous plan to build a mixed use —housing and retail—project at the former Curtis Chevrolet site was endorsed by Bowser contingent on concessions to the community and to the site’s significance. But, a sluggish economy and a varied neighborhood reaction slowed progress. With the plan aborted, Bowser consistently urged the property owner to keep all options on the table and to move as quickly as possible to develop the property to its most productive, best use. “ It’s important that this vacant lot be put to use, sooner rather than later,” she said. “But more importantly, we have to ensure that Ward 4 residents understand and are comfortable with the effect the store will have on their neighborhoods and local businesses; that residents are informed about traffic flow and parking details, and that they are given the opportunity to learn more about the company’s labor practices,” Bowser said. “And most importantly, the company must make clear its commitment to improving the Brightwood community and all of Ward 4. We look forward to starting that conversation with the company, Ward 4 residents, and our local leaders.”/

It makes me feel a bit better to know that the Wal-Martians will be subject to community input. The news came yesterday in such a hurry that I had envisioned a big box just being plunked down on the site.

There are so many issues to take into consideration. What will be done about that horribly awkward intersection at Georgia/Missouri/Military to facilitate traffic flow? What about the car barn on the site; it's been designated as a historic structure and Foulger-Pratt's plan for its mixed-use development incorporated the car barn's facade; how will Wal-Mart deal with the car barn issue? Is the company amenable to designing a building that won't be a total eyesore?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wal-Mart has its eye on the Curtis Chevrolet site

...for one of its "urban format" stores, according to Mike DeBonis.

The good side to this is that the "urban format" stores sell groceries, which would help to alleviate Ward 4's food desert problem, as Aaron Morrissey points out.

The bad side is that...the site would be taken up by Wal-Mart. Certainly not what I was hoping for (actually, just about the furthest thing I was hoping for).

Fighting off a Wal-Mart was certainly not an issue I was expecting to face when I moved to DC! And we all know that communities that have tried to fight Wal-Mart have been largely unsuccessful. I'll be keeping a close watch on how this plan progresses.

***UPDATE 8:40 pm***
At this point it looks like it's all but confirmed.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

20 new Bikeshare stations coming this spring; send in your location recommendations!

Via WashCycle, I found's
interview with Capital Bikeshare project manager Chris Holben.
In it Holben reveals that 20 more CaBi stations will be added this spring:

There are 100 stations now. What’s the plan for expansion?

We’re looking to add about 20 more this spring and then it’s really more an issue of political will and how the budget looks. I know we’re interested in expanding. I’ve worked for D.C. government for close to 10 years and usually things work very slow here, which is typical for big projects like roads and bridges, so being able to install this many of anything in a month is remarkable. The system is so elegant that you can put down one [station] in an hour, and you flip the switch and it’s online. You bring by a truck an hour later and deliver the bikes.

I asked Holben if DDOT is taking suggestions from citizens for locations for those 20 new stations, and he said indeed they are!

My ideas for expansion into Ward 4:
  • 14th & Colorado
  • Georgia & Missouri
  • Georgia & Piney Branch
  • Takoma Metro station

What's your CaBi station location wish list? Post it here, or send it directly to chris dot holben at dc got gov

Monday, November 15, 2010

Second meeting on Upper 14th Street revitalization to be held Wednesday, 11/17

I attended the first meeting, which was held last month. These are good opportunities to communicate with the Office of Planning and discuss how you'd like to see Upper 14th Street develop in the future.

Where: Kingsbury Day School, 5000 14th St. NW
When: Wednesday, November 14, 7pm

Info from the Office of Planning:

The District of Columbia's Office of Planning is initiating a community planning process with area stakeholders (including residents, ANC4C and ANC4A, neighborhood organizations, Council staff, businesses, property owners, institutions and government agencies) to develop a strategic revitalization strategy for the 14th Street corridor.

The study area includes 14th Street from Spring Road to Longfellow Street with particular focus on the retail nodes of Spring Road to Shepherd Street, Webster Street to Decatur Street and Jefferson Street to Longfellow Street.

The objective of this revitalization plan is to create a more vibrant commercial corridor by strengthening the corridor’s economic environment, creating a sense of place that can be enjoyed by all nearby residents, and to help determine development opportunities for potentially underutilized sites.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mysteries of Rock Creek Park

This rough-hewn little monument was spotted today along the Western Ridge Trail, north of Bingham Drive, near Oregon Avenue NW.

Um. Who is Wilson, and why is he lying in Rock Creek Park?!

My too-vivid imagination is coming up with all sorts of possibilities, but the pragmatic part of my brain wants to know the real deal.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ace Hardware plans are brewing for Georgia Avenue

Park View DC reports that locations are being scouted for an Ace Hardware store on Georgia Avenue.

(Which makes me want to turn cartwheels and do back-handsprings.)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Visiting Chez Aunty Libe

Brightwood is often perceived to have a lack of food options. This is not the case at all. What is lacking is clusters of nouveau/trendy/hype-y restaurants, the types of places that tend to get noticed by your average young DC dweller. But if you take the time to open your eyes and your mind (I don't mean to sound preachy when I say that, even though I know that's exactly how it sounds), you'll find some really interesting places under the radar.

Made my first visit to Chez Aunty Libe the other day. Although it's about a three minute walk from my house, I'd put off going there because I imagined they'd have few choices for someone like me (seeing as I've been eschewing animal flesh for well over half my life). On the strength of the Yelp reviews, one of which is written by a vegetarian, I went. My meal was a plate of red rice with vegetables sauteed with I'm-not-sure-what, and it was delicious. The portion was huge and when I could only finish half of it, the hostess (Aunty Libe?) chided me. "You're not a good eater," she said. I assured her that the meal would be eagerly finished the next day, and it was.

Chez Aunty Libe is at 6115 Georgia Avenue NW.

Cute house (for sale) alert: 704 Underwood St. NW

I have to admit I've walked by this house several times and never taken particular notice of it, but I really like the photo above (as well as the other photos in the listing).

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Terrifying animal, Brightwood rooftop: scary combination

I apologize for the shaky camera work here, but my hands were trembling in fear (I'm sure this beast would have been scarier before Halloween; good thing I only discovered him after the fact). He's on Rittenhouse Street NW.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Crown Bakery celebrates its newly purchased storefront

After ten years of renting a storefront at 5329 Georgia Avenue, Crown Bakery has purchased its own space just up the street, in the 5400 block, and it's quite beautiful. I'd never been before and am mostly unfamiliar with Trinidadian food; I ordered a vegetable roti and a cashew nectar, and the owner kindly treated me to a spinach patty as well. All were absolutely scrumptious.

Crown Bakery is now located at 5409 Georgia Avenue NW.

Don't let the cold stop you from cycling

The good people at the Bike House are holding a workshop/discussion/get-together on Winter Biking Survival Skills.

When: Monday, Nov. 8, at 8pm.
Where: Looking Glass Lounge, 3634 Georgia Avenue NW

Says the Bike House:

On Monday, Nov. 8, at 8pm, The Bike House will be having a meet-up,drink-up, warm-and-toasty autumn turns-to-winter get-together at the Looking Glass Lounge to discuss bicycling through the colder months. Colin, clinic-frequenter, will provide some some structure, visual aides, and take-aways, but overall it will be an opportunity for us toget together socially and share our collective wisdom earned from braving bad weather. All are encouraged to come and participate, but especially those who might have questions about how best to mix bicycles with ice, water, and the dark. If this sounds like your cup of tea, you should email Colin at colin.bortner at gmail dot com right now, before you forget, and he will harangue you to show up. Also, any suggestions, ideas, or criticisms are welcome, and in exchange for nothing more than emailing him your good ideas, you'll receive a better event, and that's value!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Do Ward 4 ANC candidates need to better communicate with their potenial constituents...

...or am I just way more hopelessly out of touch than I thought?

Prior to this election day, I searched for information on who was running to represent my Single Member District, but I found astoundingly little information online. Neither did Greater Greater Washington (see the sixth comment down), which amounted to Ward 4 being left out of its otherwise exhaustively extensive coverage of the ANC races in all of the other wards.

So imagine my surprise when I stood at the voting booth earlier today and saw that there were four people running to represent my SMD. One was the incumbent, the rest were people I had not heard of. None of them had campaigned at my door (that I know of...I admit I'm often not home during the hours I suspect people campaign), nor did they stuff flyers through my mail slot, nor did they post on the Brightwood listserv. So I'd love to know how these people got the word out about themselves (if they did anything at all).

This is my first election cycle as a Ward 4 resident, so perhaps I missed something. Please school me if that's the case, because I definitely don't want that to happen again; I don't think any concerned citizen appreciates surprises at the voting booth!

Construction of the Beacon Center at Georgia Avenue and Quackenbos ready to move forward

Emory Beacon of Light was granted its raze permit last week, and construction of its mixed-use project will begin "shortly". DCMud has the story:

The $30 million development, designed by PGN Architects, will offer 180,000 s.f. of multipurpose housing and various congregational and community facilities. The Beacon Center will supply transitional spaces (24 units) in an effort to aid the homeless work toward permanent residency. Also in the works are 34 units for seniors citizens, 17 units reserved for veterans, and 16 affordable rentals. A college-sized indoor multi-sport gymnasium (basketball and soccer) and rec center will be available to the surrounding community. The aggressive expansion will also feature a full service banquet facility, office space for the church and for lease, senior citizens services (such as optometrist, podiatrist, etc.) and ground-floor retail. Additionally the current sanctuary (doubling as a community theater) will be renovated and expanded to 500 seats. Patrons will have access to roughly 100 underground parking spaces and several rows of bike spaces.


Neighborhood Development Company announces plans for The Vue at 3333 Georgia Ave.

From WBJ, a piece about the Neighborhood Development Company and the Georgia Avenue corridor being DC's "next redevelopment hotspot".

Houses and condos for sale in Brightwood, 02/11/10

Here's a map and list of properties currently for sale in Brightwood. I noticed when I was walking and biking around the neighborhood over the weekend that there's quite a bit to choose from right now.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chief Lanier says to keep your eyes peeled for terrorist threats

From an e-mail:

Over the past few weeks, several media outlets have raised the public’s attention to an increasing, although undefined, terrorist threat.  International terrorist organizations have continued to demonstrate their interest in conducting attacks in the U.S. Of concern for law enforcement is the possibility that a lone individual who associates with or is inspired by extremist groups might try to stage an attack. The threat picture we’re seeing shows an adversary that is evolving and adapting quickly, and determined to strike us at home. We constantly remain on the alert and strive to keep the public informed.

More recently, in September, Inspire, an English language online magazine, reported to be published by the organization Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, released propaganda encouraging its readers to randomly target large public areas in cities, like Washington, DC.  The magazine is aimed at British and American readers and provides instructions and translates messages from Osama bin Laden.  The fall issue of Inspire emphasizes the lone wolf attack methods.  While there have been no confirmed threats, the Metropolitan Police Department is encouraging its residents and visitors to pay close attention to their surroundings and to alert authorities immediately if they see any suspicious activity.

Fortunately, we are empowered to protect ourselves through a number of means.  First, as members of the community, we are able to see things that are out of line from the norm, and then say something about it by calling 911 to report these suspicious actions and events.  In many instances, it is very subtle observations that can make the difference between interceding and stopping a dangerous act, or not.

To that end, as you go about your daily routine, I ask that you remain ever vigilant in your awareness of the following: (1) others who are behaving in an unusual way; (2) strange smells that seem out of sorts [particularly chemical odors]; (3) the delivery of odd looking packages, machines, and devices to you or others around your home or business; and (4) other out-of-the-ordinary actions you happen to see.  Again, whenever you experience these types of suspicious circumstances, please call 911 to report it. 

As an active participant in our city’s efforts to maintain safe and healthy communities, these measures will go along way to promote the principles of the “See Something – Say Something” initiative.

Thank you for your efforts,

Cathy L. Lanier
Chief of Police

Further details on the Bruce Monroe proposal

From WBJ.

The proposals will be discussed at tonight's Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force meeting, 7 pm at the Park View Rec Center (at Otis and Warder). Andre Byers from DMPED will be on hand to answer questions and hear opinions.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Vincent Gray's Ward 4 Town Hall meeting is tonight

People's Congregational Church
4704 13 St. NW
6:30 pm

Final draft of Walter Reed reuse plan is now online

See it in its almost-200-page entirety.

One bid on the Bruce Monroe School site

The Neighborhood Development Company and EYA have put in a bid to develop the site of the old Bruce Monroe School. The site, bound by Georgia Avenue on the west, Columbia Road on the south, and Irving Street on the north, is currently occupied by a temporary park and playground. The developers will be making a presentation at the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force meeting on November 8 from 7-8:30 at the Parkview Recreation Center (Otis and Warder St.) location TBA.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

DC's TIGER II loss isn't necessarily a bad thing

Leave it to The WashCycle to put things into perspective. While I was not happy to hear that the Washington area didn't win any of the TIGER II money that would have gone toward expanding Capital Bikeshare and developing the streetcar system, WashCycle perked me up (a little):

The good news is that the region's leaders considered this important enough to propose for the grant. They did a study showing that it would be incredibly cost-effective, something that advocates can point out when they ask for local governments to fund an expansion. Other good news is that DDOT is committed to finding a way to expand the system in DC.

Let's hope these leaders continue to pursue alternate sources of funding for these transportation projects.

Which reminds me: if you haven't done so already, please send a quick 'thank you' e-mail to Gabe Klein, Adrian Fenty, and Vincent Gray for adopting the District's new Complete Streets Policy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Kickoff strategy meeting on the revitalization of Upper 14th Street tonight

Tonight is the kickoff strategy meeting for the Upper 14th Street revitalization plan.

When: Wednesday, October 20, 6:30-7:45 pm
Where: Powell Elementary School, 1350 Upshur Street NW

Bring your ideas and concerns for the section of 14th Street that runs from Spring Street to Madison Street NW.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Notes from the final Walter Reed redevelopment presentation

A rundown of my experiences there this evening:

  • Most interesting new thing that I learned, which hadn't been mentioned in the other redevelopment meetings, is that the proposed Georgia Avenue streetcar route will turn right at Butternut Street (in front of the Walter Reed site), and terminate at the Takoma Metro station. If this proposed route comes to fruition, it will of course settle the minds of those who are concerned about the site being so far (a whopping five blocks!) from the Metro station. But of course I can see Takoma residents raising all kinds of hell about the streetcar running down Butternut...

  • Although the planning committee has been referring to this as the presentation of the "final" plan, the plan is not quite final. The committee will continue to entertain public comments through at least February 2011.

  • Sitting at my table was a mom who currently lives in Bloomingdale and was bemoaning the lack of playgrounds and other kiddie amenities in her neighborhood. She was looking at the map of the area surrounding Walter Reed provided by the planning committee, pointing to the area between the Fort Stevens Rec Center and Walter Reed, telling her friend that if she lived right there she'd have easy access to both places. People are thinking about moving here on the basis of the Walter Reed redevelopment. I love it!

  • Also seated at my table was an older gentleman who expressed concern that senior citizens would have more difficulty getting to grocery stores, pharmacies, etc. due to the increased traffic that the development will bring to the area. I countered by saying that the new commerce along Georgia that the development will hopefully spark will mean that seniors won't have to go so damn far in the first place to access the services they need. Touché.

  • Over the next few days, the planning committee will post the entire 160-page redevelopment plan on Watch for it!

The Walter Reed site IS Metro-accessible!

Why do so many of the articles and blog posts that mention the new Walter Reed plan claim that the site is Metro-inaccessible when the Takoma Metro station is only five blocks away, down Dahlia Street?

I've attended all of the WR redevelopment meetings, and one point that I've made several times to the planners is that pedestrian access from the Dahlia Street side of the Takoma Metro station should be improved. The reason people think the WR site is soooo far from the Metro is that there isn't an exit that leads straight to Dahlia Street. Adding such an exit onto the current Metro station would make pedestrian access easy, and provide better traffic for the new development at the Walter Reed site.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gillian Clark's long-delayed new restaurant reportedly close to opening

The Examiner reports that Gillian Clark, of Colorado Kitchen fame/notoriety, is aiming to open the Georgia Avenue Meeting House in early 2011 at 3730 Georgia Avenue.

Can you see Georgia Avenue businesses having similar issues in the coming years?

Old clothiers on the re-invented H Street ponder their future...

LRA announces draft plan for Walter Reed

Last night the final Local Redevelopment Authority meeting was held, in which the LRA announced the plan that will be presented for community comment on October 14.

The broad outlines remain similar to the reuse plan proposed back in August, with a few changes: There will be 850 units of housing insteadof 1,000, 200,000 square feet of retail instead of 175,000, and 90,000 suare feet of office space instead of 125,000, making for 2.2 million square feet overall instead of the original 2.4 million square feet. There will be 40 acres of open space, or 65 percent of the total site area.

Nonprofits and educational institutions chosen to be part of the plan are Catholic Charities, the Transitional Housing Corporation, So Others Might Eat, Latin American Montessori Bilingual, and Washington Yu Ying. Read Housing Complex's report from the LRA meeting.

The final plan will be presented to the community on October 14 from 7 to 9 pm at Delano Hall on the Walter Reed campus.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Public meeting this Saturday to discuss violent crimes in Petworth

Following yet another shooting this afternoon, this time in the 4000 block of 4 St. NW, CM Bowser has called a meeting for police and community members:

Oct. 9 from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

St. Gabriel’s Church, School Hall
510 Webster Street, NW

Cathy Lanier, Chief of Police; Kimberly Missouri, Commander, Fourth District; Robert Hildum, Interim Director, Department of Youth and Rehabilitation Services; and Karen Feinstein, Executive Director, Georgia Avenue/Rock Creek East Family Support Collaborative will join me for an in-depth review of recent criminal activity and actions initiated to thwart crime in Petworth. I am also asking MPD to be prepared to discuss block captain training and sign-up for the neighborhood watch program.

Info about this afternoon's shooting, from MPD:

At approximately 430 PM we got a call for sounds of gunshots in 4000 blk of 4th Street NW, when we arrived on the scene there was evidence that a shooting had occurred, there were several shell casings found in the area.  However, no one was reported struck or injured.  The suspect(s) were last seen leaving the scene in a red box style Jeep.  It is not clear how many suspects participated.  We are asking anyone with information to please call 1888 919 CRIME or 202 727-9099

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bryan Weaver's piece on what we need to do to prevent youth violence, hopelessness

A good read.

DDOT applies for Tiger 2 grant to expand CaBi

During DDOT director Gabe Klein's online chat earlier this afternoon, I asked if there was any chance of Capital Bikeshare expanding into Upper Ward 4. Klein said that DDOT had applied for a Tiger 2 grant to add another 1,000 bikes to CaBi's fleet, with the intention of further expanding into DC's neighborhoods.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Arrest made in June 18 Georgia Avenue homicide

An arrest has been made in the homicide that took place on the 5900 block of Georgia Avenue in June. From a press release:


(Washington, DC)-Detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department’s Homicide Branch announced that an arrest has been made in the fatal shooting of Jamal Bell.

On Friday June 18, 2010, at approximately 11:30 PM, officers from the Metropolitan Police Department’s Fourth District were dispatched to the 5900 block of Georgia Avenue, Northwest, to investigate the report of a shooting. Once on the scene, officers found three victims suffering from gunshot wounds, with one of the victims seriously wounded. D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services personnel responded and transported all three of the victims to area hospitals.

One of the victims later succumbed to his wounds and was pronounced dead. He was identified as 16 year old Jamal Bell, of the 5300 block of 1st Street, Northwest. The other two victims’ injuries were not life threatening.

On Thursday, September 30, 2010, detectives from the Homicide Branch arrested and charged 17 year-old Zachary Sims of the 5100 Block of 9th Street, Northwest, as adult with Murder One While Armed, pursuant to a D.C. Superior Court arrest warrant.

Lieutenant Nicholas Breul
Office of Communications

Thursday, September 30, 2010

4807 Georgia Avenue

This space is on Georgia between Decatur and Delafield, same block as Fusion, Moroni & Brother's, and RAS. I'm not sure how long this intriguing window display has been up, but I first noticed it at the beginning of the summer. The building permit in the window says, "Conversion from beauty salon to retail establishment". Interested in knowing what's planned for this; anyone know what's up?

Modern Mobler celebrates grand opening on Upper Georgia Ave.

Image from

The Modern Mobler had its soft opening back in the spring, and now its holding a grand opening celebration, from today through Sunday. There are significant discounts to celebrate. Hours are from 11 am to 7 pm. I stopped by a few days after they soft-opened, and I liked it a lot...the owner is also very into what he's doing. Go support them and help to bring more similar businesses to that stretch of Georgia (which could certainly use them, as we know).

Greenhouse/garden outdoor classroom to be built at Coolidge HS; community volunteers requested

Sounds like a very good thing! From the TakomaDC listserv:

Tuesday, at the Takoma DC Neighborhood Association meeting, the Coolidge High School Alumni Association gave a truly impressive presentation of the Greenhouse Restoration Project. This is part of a longer term - and I mean they are thinking REALLY long term - whole campus beautification plan. And it is quite impressive.

Construction is beginning this week on the first phase of the project: the Greenhouse Garden, which will serve as an outdoor classroom and park. Those of you who havent already seen the plans are gonna be so impressed with when you see how amazing this project is - really! The old greenhouse is located on the south end of the school and the Greenhouse Garden will be just outside of it, taking up much of the space between the school building and Sheridan Street.

A "Community Plant-It Day" will be held on Saturday, October 16 from 10 am to 4 pm. If you'd like to help plant-it, RSVP to Ann Beman, abemanabeman at gmail dot com

While browsing the Coolidge Alumni Association site, I also found an interesting video about the history of the greenhouse at Coolidge:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vincent Gray's town hall meeting for Ward 4 is scheduled for October 26, 6:30 pm

When: Oct. 26 6:30 pm
Where: Peoples Congregational Church, 4704 13th St. NW


The presumptive mayor is holding eight town hall meetings in October, one in each ward of the District. The goal with this "listening tour", his spokespeople say, is to hear citizens' concerns, and to win the support of those who voted for Mayor Fenty. This will be a good opportunity to have Gray's ear and let him know what's most important to you and your community.

The dates and locations of the other town hall meetings are as follows:

Ward 5: Oct. 5, 6:30 pm
Community Academy Public Charter School, 1400 First St. NW

Ward 3: Oct. 7, 6 pm
St. Columba's Episcopal Church, 4201 Albermarle St. NW

Ward 7: Oct. 12, 6:30 pm
Sousa Middle School, 3650 Ely Place SE

Ward 2: Oct. 14, 6:30 pm
School Without Walls, 2130 G St. NW

Ward 1: Oct. 19, 6:30 pm
Columbia Heights Youth Center, 1480 Girard St. NW

Ward 8: Oct. 21, 7 pm
Matthews Memorial Baptist Church, 2616 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE

Ward 6: Oct. 27, 6:30 pm
Eastern High School, 1700 East Capitol St. NE

Al Jazeera English on DC demographic changes

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The closing of Walter Reed and the redevelopment of its land will affect Silver Spring, too

Interesting piece from the Citizens League of Montgomery County on the challenges that the closing/redevelopment of Walter Reed will bring, and the importance of smart development to spur economic vitality, for both SS and DC.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

In the pawn wars, Middle GA Ave's gain is Upper GA Ave's loss

Rendering of The Heights at Georgia Avenue from

The new Heights at Georgia Avenue building at Georgia and Lamont Streets NW will begin construction within the next 60 to 90 days, according to Councilmember Jim Graham.

Graham stated in an e-mail that the Heights will be built on "the current site of a vacant lot and a pawn shop". The pawn shop he refers to is Famous Pawn, which residents of Upper Georgia Avenue know as the shop that is relocating intends to relocate to 7301 Georgia Avenue (at Georgia and Fern Streets NW) following a lengthy struggle to keep them out of the neighborhood led by ANC commissioner Sara Green and championed by Councilmember Bowser. The ANC and other residents of the Upper Georgia Avenue corridor are concerned that the pawn shop's presence there will encourage criminal activity while representing a step back in the neighborhood's progress. Residents understandably are pushing for more savory businesses to open up along the corridor, but I have to note that the presence of Crown Pawnbrokers at 1726 14th Street NW has hardly hurt the development of the 14th Street business corridor between Logan Circle and U Street. Crown seems to be coexisting fairly peacefully with its neighboring businesses and residences...a neighborhood in which The Heights, with its "accessible green roof with fourteen different types of vegetation, photovoltaic panels, passive solar heating and cooling, a central water system and water conserving / Energy Star appliances and fixtures among many other environmentally friendly attributes", would fit nicely.

Developer of Curtis Chevrolet site (still) seeking funding

I placed a call over to Foulger-Pratt to ask if we could expect any movement on development at the Curtis Chevrolet site in the near future. Apparently the developer has been having so much trouble finding financing for its initial plan, which envisioned 399 apartments above 40,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, that they're redesigning the plan to exclude the residential aspect and focus entirely on retail. The developer is hoping this will expedite financing, as lenders are more willing to take chances on retail developments than on mixed-use ones these days.

I'm damn hungry for something to happen at this site. If done right it has so much potential for Brightwood.

Urban Turf features Brightwood

Urban Turf writes about Brightwood and all of its "unhip", inconvenient glory, "but local residents and realtors are fairly certain that in a couple of years, it will be on people’s radar." Consider yourselves warned!

The Brightwoodian is now Twittering

Follow me.

I set up a personal Twitter account eons ago which I've unfortunately failed to put to use. (My first post: "I wonder how much I'll use this thing"; it was also my last post.) I'm hoping The Brightwoodian account will be useful for disseminating news/observations as they happen (that's what Twitter's for, right?).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Petworth narcotics investigation concludes with several arrests

MPD's Fourth District officers have been on quite a roll lately. From the MPD-4D listserv:

As a result of a recent quadruple shooting in the area of 2nd & Upshur nearly two months ago, the Fourth District Vice Unit began a narcotics investigation in the area. The investigation was headed by Vice Officer Edelen of the Fourth District Vice Office. Officer Edelen was able to gain information from confidential informants about a business in the area that was selling cocaine from within. Officer Edelen formulated a plan to attempt and address this problem. Officer Edelen employed the use of an undercover police officer who was able to infiltrate the business and befriend the owners. As a result the Vice Unit was able to purchase on numerous occasions various amounts of cocaine from one of the owners of the business and an employee. The investigation was brought to a conclusion late last night when the vice unit made three arrests and executed a search warrant at the location of the Limeno Bar and Restaurant. The unit seized a substantial amount of cocaine, U.S. Currency and assets including two vehicles.

Commander Missouri has been working tirelessly all day with additional D.C. Government agencies to ensure that the location does not reopen, to include A.B.R.A., Office of Attorney General, and D.C.R.A. Officers Edelen's tireless work on this case and that of the undercover police officer along with the rest of the Fourth District Vice Unit proved extremely valuable. The Fourth District Detectives Office also assisted and worked side by side with us in this investigation.

Go use Capital Bikeshare; Montreal Gazette could use a fact-checker

Happy Car Free DC Day, folks. Even though Capital Bikeshare is woefully underrepresented in our neighborhood (I hope this changes in the near future), I encourage you to celebrate by using the new system.

The closest CaBi station to Brightwood will be at 901 Upshur Street NW. I rode by this morning, and the station is yet to be installed. I'll definitely report when I see movement on it. (EDIT: Another station that's reasonably close to us is slated for 4768 14th St. NW, near the intersection of 14th and Crittenden.)

I also learned via TheWashCycle that Montreal, that bastion of bike-sharing, has reported some pretty major misinformation about Capital Bikeshare via its newspaper, The Gazette:

Most of the bikes -about 1,000 - will be on the streets of Arlington, Va., across the Potomac River from Washington, where 100 bikes will be in service.

Sorry, Gazette, but last I heard the total number of stations planned for the District is 100 (many are operational already; the rest will be rolled out through the month of October) and 14 for Arlington.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Multiple shootings in Brightwood and Petworth

From CM Bowser:

I've been briefed by Chief Lanier and Commander Missouri about the most troubling shootings we've experienced in 4D this week. 
Chief Lanier has made additional police resources available to assist 4D in providing increased visibility and investigating these crimes and preventing others.  It does not appear at this point that the crimes are related.  MPD will continue to post look out information and developments related to the investigations.

Rundown of the incidents, from the MPD-4D listserv:

Sent: Sunday, September 19, 2010 12:20 AM
Units received a call for the sound of gunshots in the 500 blk of Shepherd St NW. Nothing was found. A short time later, 3 shooting victims arrived at an area hospital reporting being shot in the 700 blk of Shepherd. Units are currently on the scene on Shepherd investigating. Lookout is for a dark colored SUV. Anyone with information is asked to call 1-888-919-CRIME.

Sent: Saturday, September 18, 2010 10:40 AM
On today’s date at approximately 4:45 am, Fourth District units received a report of shots being fired in the area of 9th and Decatur Streets, NW.  A few hours later, the Fourth District received a call from an area hospital for a shooting victim.  After being interviewed, it has been determined that the victim, an adult female, was shot while in the area of 9th and Decatur Streets, NW. The victim transported herself to the hospital and is currently being treated for a non life-threatening injury.

Sent: Saturday, September 18, 2010 4:22 AM
Shortly after 2 am on September 19, (sic) 2010, MPD Fourth District units responded for the report of sounds of gunshots in the 100 block of Kennedy Street, NW.  Upon their arrival on scene they discovered an adult male suffering from a gunshot wound to the body.  The male victim was transported to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries.  Shortly thereafter, a second adult male victim arrived at a local hospital, also suffering from gunshot wounds.  He reported that he was also in the 100 block of Kennedy Street when he was shot.  The second victim’s injuries were also non-life threatening.  Fourth District detectives are on the scene investigating the incident.  Anyone with information is asked to call 1-888-919-CRIM[E] or 202-727-9099.

Sent: Friday, September 17, 2010 12:53 AM
> MPD Fourth District units are currently investigating a shooting which just occurred in the 600 block of Longfellow Street, NW. An adult male was found suffering from what appears to be a gunshot wound to the body. The victim was transported to an area hospital for treatment. Anyone with information is asked to call 1-888-919-CRIM[E] or 202-727-9099.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Maureen Dowd on Fort Stevens

Maureen Dowd reminisces about her Brightwoodian childhood in today's NYT, and also opines about the planned development around Fort Stevens.

Friday, September 3, 2010

On Georgia Avenue: lots of new stuff!

Quick rundown of openings, groundbreakings, and other projects happening on Georgia lately:

I've often thought that all of these empty storefronts would make good temporary gallery/performance spaces. Artist Joseph Hale is making it happen. [Housing Complex]

The Restaurant Row on Georgia between Decatur and Delafield continues to grow with the opening of RAS, serving a Jamaican-Ethiopian inspired menu. [POP]

(I'm also very interested in the empty storefront that's right next to currently has a bicycle wheel and a skateboard sitting in the window, but not much else...looks like it could be being used for something interesting...)

The new Senior Wellness Center will open soon, around the same time as Top Spanish Restaurant. [Park View DC]

And of course, further to the south we've had groundbreakings for two long awaited projects. [Housing Complex, TBD]

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Coolidge H.S. football team plays its first game under coach Natalie Randolph tomorrow night

The Coolidge Colts will play the first game of their season tomorrow (Friday) night, which also happens to be their first game played under their new head coach, Natalie Randolph, who is one of few women to head a high school football program.

Friday, August 27
7:00 pm
Calvin Coolidge Colts vs. Archbishop Carroll Lions
Calvin Coolidge High School
6315 5th Street, NW

A couple of questions for Clark Ray regarding public safety

In which I question people who are running for office (in this case, Clark Ray for At-Large Councilmember) in the wake of a series of recent tragedies.

Bwian: Over the weekend, a 31 year old Catholic University student was shot and killed in Petworth. This, along with other recent shootings in the District, has brought attention to your opponent, incumbent Phil Mendelson, and what many perceive to be his soft-on-crime approach. If you were to take Mendelson's place as chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, what would you do differently to curb gun violence in the District?

CR: I would use a three pronged approach to addressing these problems and begin each of the three parts of the approach immediately.
1. I will work with Delegate Eleanor Norton to make sure that the US Parks Department enhances the lighting in the parks they control and then has officers patrolling the parks.
2. I would call an immediate community meeting with the DC Chief of Police and the Park Police to develop a multi-tiered approach and devise a three month action plan to address the specific issues the community has regarding safety in the parks. I would work with the community to monitor impact of the plan and to modify action steps if needed.
3. I will then call another community meeting between the community and police officials to discuss the results of the action plan and to determine what further steps including any potential legislation is needed to protect the residents of the area.
Regarding conversations that I have had with MPD officers – I would want to take a serious look at the District Gun Trafficking Laws – they need to be strengthened – we need to make it harder for guns to come into the city and to be illegally sold in the city.

Bwian: Along similar lines, what are your plans to strengthen the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services? Much of the gun violence in the city has been committed by individuals under the age of 18.

CR:1.I have called on DYRS to immediately release the names of all escapees from facilities their agency controls. These names must be released to the community (while protecting all their constitutional rights) so that the community can assist in apprehending them.
2. I have called for a total review of how we deal with juveniles in the justice system. I believe the courts must have more control over where to sentence violent youth and that for all youth in the system we must provide appropriate education and programs so that these youth don't advance from being juvenile criminals to being adult criminals. There are best practice programs being used across the nation and we have to review them and determine which are appropriate for use. We must at all costs stop what some have called a revolving door but I call an "open" door out of DYRS. Contrary to what the incumbent has said, I believe that there must be a combination of both change in legislation and policy if we are to fully deal with the issues at DYRS.
3. I will hold hearings on these DYRS issues in the communities most impacted by youth crime. I believe that working parents and youth in school must have an opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas and they can't do this if hearings are held only in the Wilson building at 10:00am on a weekday morning.