Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Developer-sponsored Capital Bikeshare station rejected in Takoma

Thanks to the Wash Cycle for pointing out this passage from The Atlantic Cities' piece on developers sponsoring Bikeshare stations:

The builders of a planned apartment complex in D.C.’s Takoma neighborhood also say their offer to sponsor a station was rejected by officials who felt the location was too far off the beaten path.

Since there are only so many apartment complexes in the planning stages in Takoma, I assume this passage refers to the developers of either Ecco Park or the proposed development on Spring Place NW.

I understand why Bikeshare would be hesitant to slap a station in Takoma without building up other nearby sites as well, as Bikeshare needs several stations built relatively close to each other in order to be useable. But I'm sorry to hear that the developers' proposal was dismissed seemingly without considering that Bikeshare will soon be expanding to Montgomery County's Red Line stations. It will be in everyone's best interest for Bikeshare to set up in Takoma, Brightwood, and the rest of Ward 4 in order to provide connections between Montgomery County and the rest of the District. Taking the developers up on their offer seems like it would be good planning for the future.

Update: ANC4B02 Commissioner Sara Green just confirmed that the article is referring to the Spring Place development. She went on to say, "You get to Spring Place by driving down Blair Road (toward the Takoma Metro Station) and making a left on Chestnut just after the light at Piney Branch. Spring Place is the first and only right." If you can follow that, you'll understand that the development is indeed slightly inconvenient to Takoma's main commercial area. I assume the location of that specific development is what turned Bikeshare off, but I've asked them to clarify.

Update 2: Bruce Levin, one of the developers of the Spring Place building, confirms that DDOT is concerned about Spring Place's lack of visibility, at least at this time: "The location is less than ideal as compared to more visible locations at or around the (Metro) station. This could certainly change at a later date. The next and most important step will be to work with DDOT to complete the design of the trail between Spring Place and Cedar, secure funding and complete this section."

Research your house's history with the DCPL's Washingtoniana Division, tonight @ Takoma Library

Tonight at the Takoma Libary, the DC Public Library's Washingtoniana Division staff will be on hand to help you research the history of your DC home.

When: Tuesday, November 29, 7pm
Where: Takoma Park Neighborhood Library, 416 Cedar Street NW

I already know a little bit about my home's history. From the 1930s through the 60s, it was occupied by a man who published Jelly Roll Morton's music; when Morton lived in the District, he would occasionally take the streetcar up from U Street to hang out at my house. Alan Lomax has set foot in my house as well, a fact that pretty much blew me away when I found out about it. Moral of the story: it's worth researching your house's history, because the information you find could surprise you.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Shop local. Especially today.

A message from CM Bowser:


I trust you had an enjoyable Thanksgiving and many of you have kicked off your holiday shopping this weekend.

I hope that you will consider doing some of your holiday shopping with a small business, and a majority of your shopping in the District of Columbia. The money you spend circulates locally and the taxes that you pay help pay for the services we count on in our City.

Just a few thoughts on Ward 4 (or close by) businesses that would love to see you this weekend and other times throughout the year.


If you need more incentive, Think Local First DC has initiated a Shop Outside the Big Box challenge, by which you may win a $2,000 shopping spree by supporting participating small retailers. Further info here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Walmart strikes city-wide Community Benefits Agreement

Read the report by Michael Niebauer in the Washington Business Journal. According to the WBJ's sources, the agreement includes:
  • Wal-Mart will work with the Department of Small and Local Business Development to identify certified business enterprises — small, local, minority owned contractors — who can take on jobs during store construction. The retailers will encourage, but not require, its general contractors to meet a 35 percent CBE goal.
  • Wal-Mart will create and fund a workforce development program with a focus on low-income residents, minorities, at-risk youth, released convicts and veterans.
  • Wal-Mart will open hiring centers in each ward where stores are planned — Wards 4, 5, 6 and 7 — with the expectation of filling a majority of available positions with D.C. residents. It will also hold job fairs and work with the District government to identify candidates.
  • The retailer will not sell guns or ammunition.
  • Wal-Mart will seek out local retailers to provide goods and services within their stores — coffee shops, for example.
  • While Wal-Mart has not agreed to pay a “living wage,” it will pay its employees competitive market salaries as compared to its D.C. competitors.
  • With regard to transportation, Wal-Mart has agreed to install Capital Bikeshare stations, bus shelters and bike racks near its stores, and work with Metro to assess existing bus routes.
  • Community advisory committees, comprised of residents, businesses and nonprofits within 1,000 feet of each store, will be formed and Wal-Mart will meet with them quarterly.
Initital thoughts: Contractors will benefit; I'm certainly not going to complain about the Capital Bikeshare part; and this really seems like the bare minimum.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Petition: let's build a dog park at the Takoma Rec Center

This is a project that's been developing with the Department of Parks and Recreation for a while now. Though we have circulated paper petitions, we could use more signatures, so I'm taking the online route. DC residents, please sign this petition if you're interested in having a dog park built at the Takoma Recreation Center!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wal-Mart takes Fort Totten

Tonight The Washington Post's Nikita Stewart tweeted that Wal-Mart will announce that in addition to its four proposed stores (one of which is to be located at the Curtis Chevrolet site at Georgia and Missouri Avenues NW), it plans to open two more stores in the District: one at the Skyland Town Center in Ward 7, and another at the planned Fort Totten Square development. This brings the Wal-Mart count in Ward 4 up to two -- and they'll be within 1.5 miles of each other.

More details will be available tomorrow morning when Wal-Mart and Mayor Gray make their official announcement.

Rendering of the proposed Fort Totten Square Wal-Mart (JBG)

WARL, Ward 4, and the pit bull dilemma

I've become fond of Dr. Gary Weitzman's Huffington Post DC blog. Weitzman is the CEO of the Washington Animal Rescue League, which is a haven for homeless animals here in Ward 4 (one which you should really visit, if you've never done so). Yesterday's post hit close to home for me, as it focuses on a rescue effort of pit bulls from Baltimore's animal shelter, and my own girl happens to be a pit rescued from Baltimore by WARL.

"Any pits?" I asked our shelter director, Maureen, when she got back from the Baltimore shelter with the transfer animals and was parking our rescue truck in front of the shelter.

She smiled sheepishly at me.

"Oh, no. A bunch of lab mixes and a mixed shepherd or two. And the cutest puppies you ever saw."

I knew what that meant. She had a truck full of pit bulls.

There are two reasons for this: One, we're an urban shelter north of the Mason-Dixon Line. And two, Maureen, like me, loves pit bulls and knows they need our help more than any other animal in this country. Because of the public's misperception of this often gentle, loyal, and intelligent breed -- and due to the absolutely unconscionable breeding for criminally inhumane uses that this breed has endured by the most irresponsible humans among us -- there are just so too many pit bulls for the system to absorb.

Backyard breeding of pit bulls is such a deeply ingrained part of many peoples' lives in Brightwood (and in many other places, of course). A woman on my block told me that she was reluctant to get their family's pit neutered because her son wanted to breed him at least once. Another neighbor stared at me incredulously when I told him that my dog was spayed. "You mean you don't want her to have puppies? Why not?" he asked in all seriousness. I refrained from explaining that she was spayed because I didn't want to contribute to the pet overpopulation problem; it didn't seem as though he would have easily understood that point of view.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Walter Reed reuse planning meeting tomorrow night - register here if you haven't already

If you haven't registered to participate in tomorrow night's Walter Reed reuse planning workshop, you can register here.

When: Tuesday, November 15, 7-9 pm
Where: Tifereth Israel Congregation, 7701 16th Street NW
This is a important opportunity for residents to guide the redevelopment process. Community input will ensure that the reuse plan continues to reflect the needs of residents living in nearby neighborhoods and the city as a whole.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Georgia Avenue's new art in vacant spaces project launches on Sunday

I first wrote about the Georgia Avenue Window Walk project here, and I'm really excited that it's getting off the ground! The pilot project is starting in Pleasant Plains, and we're aiming to get enough owners of vacant spaces involved for the Window Walk to encompass all of the commercial nodes on Georgia Avenue, stretching all the way up to Eastern Avenue.

From the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force:

Please join us on Sunday November 13th from 3-6pm for a launch event for the Georgia Avenue Window Walk and a celebration of the first two window installations by artists, John Grunwell and Emily Sloat Shaw. Meet at Pleasant Plains Workshop at 2608 Georgia Avenue for refreshments and tunes courtesy of DJ Emma Woodhouse starting at 3pm. At 4pm there will be a walking tour with the artists, followed by more merriment at Pleasant Plains Workshop!

The Georgia Avenue Window Walk is a temporary public art project that engages residents, businesses and visitors to the community by placing art installations in existing and vacant storefront spaces along the lower Georgia Avenue Corridor.

Our Objectives:
Improve the look of Georgia Avenue
Connect residents and visitors to historical and cultural aspects of Georgia Avenue
Provide local artists with an opportunity for exposure
Engage community members in a process resulting in positive change
Attract visitors to the area to dine and shop at the existing businesses
Attract new retail to Georgia Avenue

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Uptick in crime in the area surrounding Walter Reed

From the Takoma listserv:

Last night I walked along Dahlia chatting with neighbors. Turns out that there have been several muggings on Dahlia in which a gun was used in the last few weeks.

That combined with the break ins of cars during the broad daylight. Plus the odd experience of catching some guys on my roof a few weeks ago suggests a crime spree in our area.

Frightening, considering that there has been much less in the way of police presence in this area of late. And the closure of Walter Reed has made this area of Georgia strangely quiet day and night, very little foot traffic.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Be an advocate for small business development on Georgia Avenue

Georgia Avenue needs advocates. Here are three upcoming opportunities to meet with community leaders, business owners, residents, and other stakeholders who are concerned with the state of Georgia Avenue:

Small Business Talk with At-Large DC Councilmember Vincent Orange
Monday November 7, 7-8:30PM
Peoples Congregational Church, 4704 13th Street NW (near Decatur St.), Corbin Lounge

Hosted by the Georgia Avenue Economic Development Steering Committee to consider a collaborative process to support and develop small businesses.

Brightwood Community Association meeting
Tuesday, November 8, 7 pm
St. John's United Baptist Church
6343 13 St. NW (intersection of 13th and Tuckerman)

According to the Brightwood Community Association announcement: "As many of us have noticed, there are a number of vacant properties along Georgia Ave in Brightwood. After talking to people on both sides of the Walmart divide, I got the sense that those opposed to Walmart weren't opposed to development, just against Walmart specifically. Those in support of Walmart weren't particularly big fans of Walmart, but just wanted something there instead of nothing. There are other vacant lots and closed stores along Georgia Ave. Some, like the former Blockbuster Video store at 6428 Georgia Avenue, have been empty for quite some time. Before something else comes that forces us to react, we can take the initiative and go after what we want.

"We, as the citizens living in Brightwood, want to play a major role in the development of our local commercial corridor. To that end, the next few meetings are going to be dedicated to bringing in information, gathering ideas from all of you, forming a plan and taking action.

"We've invited the Executive Director of the Old Takoma Business Association, Roz Grigsby, to speak to us about OTBA's methods as a community and an association, what has worked and what hasn't.

"We will also hear from Laine Cidlowski of the Sustainable DC Project, who will share info on the city's new Sustainable Plan launched by the Office of Planning and District Department of the Environment. Laine will discuss how we citizens can get engaged in the process and share some of the sustainable considerations in the Walter Reed redevelopment."

Georgia Avenue Business Association meeting
Thursday, November 17, 7:00 pm
GII Restaurant & Lounge
2632 Georgia Avenue NW

This is the second meeting of this new organization, with the goal of bringing all of Georgia Avenue's business nodes together in order to advocate for creating a stronger business environment for the entire corridor. The first meeting went well, with about a dozen business owners and residents brainstorming ideas. All Georgia Avenue business owners and stakeholders are encouraged to attend, get involved, and help shape this advocacy organization.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The state of Brightwood real estate - November 2011

Time for our monthly look at neighborhood home sales with realtor Eric Brooks...

Active properties on the market in October:
33 properties are for sale now
Ranging from $89,999 to $799,00
2 of these are foreclosed homes and 5 are short sales

Nov 2011 Active

Properties that went under contract in October:
25 homes are currently under contract
These homes should settle over the next 30 days
Ranging from $58,000 to $499,000
4 of these were foreclosed homes and 5 are short sales

Nov 2011 Under Contract

October sold numbers
Only one home sold in the month of October (1363 Rittenhouse Street NW). The asking price was $355K and the seller got that minus a seller subsidy of $9,400.
Note: It's highly unusual for just one home to be sold over the course of a month. I suspect that some of the foreclosures and short sales did not go to settlement due to issues that buyers may have had with these properties -- and that is why we have more houses under contract this month than normal. The market has been tough over the past six months, and rates seem to be staying in the low 4%. When the bulk of distressed properties are off the market, a true recovery will happen.

Nov 2011 Sold

Info provided by Eric Brooks, a Long and Foster Real Estate agent who works to deliver exceptional results for his clients in Brightwood and beyond.
Contact to set up an appointment at 301-986-6476 or