Sunday, January 30, 2011

Meeting w/ DDOT tomorrow re: traffic and the proposed Curtis Chevy development. Tell me your concerns.

Tomorrow (Monday) morning, I (along with a group of residents from the immediate area) am meeting with DDOT to discuss traffic mitigation issues as related to the proposed development at Square 2986.

What are your main traffic/parking/transportation concerns? Leave them in the comments, tweet @thbrightwoodian or send to thebrightwoodian @ gmail dot com

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ward 4 gets shafted in terms of economic development assistance, study finds

According to Mike DeBonis and Jonathan O'Connell, these figures from the Office of the Chief Financial Officer's Unified Economic Development Budget Report have been noted by DC Council Chairman Kwame Brown, and he's calling for distributing economic development monies more evenly across the wards. "I think what people want to know now is how do we make the same type of investments in Skyland, Poplar Point, Fort Lincoln and Georgia Avenue," says Brown in the Post piece. Yes, that's exactly what we want to know!

However, the Post piece goes on to mention that "Brown and Mayor Vincent Gray are both from Ward 7, east of the Anacostia River, and Brown said the two would be on the same page bringing incentives east." Hopefully our elected officials in 4 will step up and obtain some economic development love for us.

Read the full report.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Michael Brown speaks to ANC4B regarding Square 2986

Report from yet another highly contentious and emotional community meeting: the monthly meeting of ANC4B, held last night at the Fourth District Headquarters. Special guest was At-large Councilmember Michael Brown.
  • It was standing-room-only. Over 75 people. Not bad! Brown asked those who were in favor of Wal-Mart to raise their hands. Three hands were raised.

  • Something that I hadn’t heard before: Brown said that Wal-Mart initially wanted to open eight stores in the District; one in each ward.

  • Brown won’t state a position on the plans for the Curtis Chevrolet site until the Large Tract Review is submitted, although he understands that opposition in Ward 4 has been very strong (there's even a petition you can sign)

  • He reiterated that the deal between Foulger-Pratt and Wal-Mart is essentially a private business transaction that the city has little control over, because neither company is asking for money from the city. ANC4B02 Commissioner Faith Wheeler asked him what role the council does have. Brown said the council could hold public hearings. The ANC took him up on that, and unanimously called on the city council to hold public hearings on Wal-Mart as soon as possible.

  • On to another topic: 4B also unanimously approved a resolution to support leadership and funding from the DC government for the restoration and development of the historic Takoma Theatre.

There's a bare-bones summary of a long meeting. Others who were in attendance, please feel free to contribute other points in the comments.

Bike House folks brave the Coldest Day of the Year

Last week, an e-mail went out over the Bike House's listserv:

Using Doppler radar, the Farmers' Almanac, and ancient methods of divination, we have discovered that this Saturday may very well be the coldest day of the year (or at least one of them), which can mean only one thing: group ride!

(Organizing a coldest-day-of-the-year group ride is something the Bike House has been discussing for the past several months. And now that I think of it, I believe one of the main champions of the event was Colin, the same Bike Houser who organized the Winter Biking Survival Skills workshop in November. Much thanks to Colin for being such a booster for the cause of winter cycling!)

Well, last Saturday was indeed furiously cold, and an intrepid group of 35 braved it. Reported from Bike House HQ:

On Saturday, 35 bicyclists from the DC area braved 20 degree weather(not counting the wind chill!) for the Bike House's First Annual Coldest Day of the Year Ride. Setting out from the Washington Monument, the riders completed a loop through Arlington and Georgetown which ended at the Lincoln Memorial. Afterwards, some hardy souls continued on, gaining more miles 'in the saddle,' while the rest of the group retired to Capital Hill for mulled cider.

Now that the (probable) coldest day of the year is behind Washington's pedaling pedestrians, and Spring is less than two months away, the city's bike lanes will be seeing more traffic every day. So, ride safe everyone!

Photos: Chris DiGiamo

Monday, January 24, 2011

Details on plans for the new Petworth Safeway

Looks like the reconstruction of the Safeway in Petworth is finally taking shape! Which is nothing short of fantastic.

Also in the news today: Liz Lerman is leaving the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange. So the Takoma venue will now be known as...the Dance Exchange.

Additionally: the Brookland residents who are opposing the proposed mixed-use project by the Metro might want to take a lesson from Brightwood's current dilemma. Careful of what you oppose, or you could end up buying yourselves a Wal-Mart, Brookland. Just sayin.

Coming Spring 2011: recycled bike sculptures and Art in Transit

According to an e-mail sent by the Takoma Public Art/Mural Committee, the three-dimensional piece by artist Sam Gilliam that is to be installed in the Takoma Metro underpass is well on the way to completion, with installation planned for May 2011. This project is being done as part of WMATA's Art in Transit program.

Another interesting, sort-of-transit-related public art project coming to Takoma at around the same time is reCycle:

reCYCLE is a public art exhibit designed to highlight the art, bicycling and recycling cultures of Old Takoma ( Takoma, DC through Takoma Park, MD) by installing interactive and kinetic sculptures, created by area artists using recycled bicycles and spare parts, on the sidewalks of Old Takoma. Approximately 10 sculptures will be commissioned, created and strategically installed in Old Takoma to create a self-guided walking exhibit through the city center.

I was hoping the sculptures would double as bike racks, as they're sorely needed in some parts of Takoma (like the stretch of sidewalk in front of My Little Bistro and Cedar Crossing), but that's apparently not within the scope of this project.

This week's meetings and events

ANC4B monthly meeting
When: Monday, January 24th, 6:30pm
Where: 4th District MPD Community Room, 6001 Georgia Ave. NW
At-Large Councilmember Michael Brown is going to be the guest at this meeting. Please attend and air your questions and concerns about Square 2986 (aka the Curtis Chevrolet site). Also on the agenda: "Request for inclusion of funds in D.C. Capital budget for purchase and renovation of the Takoma Theatre", and a resolution regarding the repair and modernization of the Takoma Education Center.

Square 2986 Large Tract Review Subcommittee meeting
When: Tuesday, January 25, 7pm
Where: Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, 701 Oglethorpe St. NW
A meeting of 4B's subcommittee that is charged with reviewing the Large Tract Review (the LTR has not yet been submitted, but the committee is preparing for it by reading through the previous LTR and identifying potential issues)

Screening of Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price
When: Wednesday, January 26, 6:30-8:30pm
Where: Emery Rec Center, 5701 Georgia Ave. NW
Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price is a documentary film about the effects that Wal-Mart has had on communities and people across the country and the world.

Lobby Day at the Wilson Building
When: Thursday, January 27, 9am-12pm
Where: The John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
The Living Wages, Healthy Communities Coalition is going to spend this day visiting with council members, asking them to support the signing of an enforceable Community Benefits Agreement by Wal-Mart. If you're interested in participating, call Mike Wilson at 202-255-7974.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Photo of suspected Takoma/Brightwood area car vandal

A resident on Venable Pl. has been having car troubles lately, all because of the man pictured above. From the Takoma listserv, January 17:

"One of our SUVs was broken into this afternoon (on Venable Pl) around 3:30pm almost right in front of our door. Many on our street were home and I saw the man in the act as I pulled up and our neighbor also saw him. He got nothing from the vehicle (nothing was there), but it cost $180 and lots of frustration."

And then, on January 19, another e-mail from the same resident:

"That crazy guy was back today around the same time 3:30 looking into our car again! This time we caught him and yelled at him. He ran off, but what's next?"

Finally, this morning:

"Well, the guy extra set of something because he keeps coming down my street at around the same time. We were able to get a picture of him...You don't want to know what he did after he realized we got the picture."

So, keep your eyes peeled for this guy, who is clearly tenacious, not to mention punctual.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Development-related links

Lydia DePillis reports from Tuesday's Brightwood Community Association meeting; Alex Baca gives a rundown of how Brightwood got into this Wal-Mart mess in the first place; and yours truly explains to the Important People that there are indeed advocates for smart growth in Ward 4 (despite what their past experiences have probably led them to believe).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

WBJ op-ed calls for smart development of Square 2986

Richard Layman (who ANC 4B is fortunate to have as chair of its Large Tract Review subcommittee) has an editorial in the most recent edition of the Washington Business Journal that anyone who's concerned about the development of Square 2986 (and future development of the entire Georgia Avenue corridor, for that matter) ought to read. Since it won't be available to non-WBJ subscribers online for another few weeks, I'm printing the text here.


Temper Walmart glee with planning
by Richard Layman
Date: Friday, January 14, 2011, 6:00am EST.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.`s entry into D.C. has been hailed by smart-growth proponents who see it as a sign of suburban-oriented retailers reconsidering the value of urban markets. And it`s been opposed by others, including labor interests fearing that unionized employers such as Safeway and Giant are at risk from Wal-Mart`s hypercompetitive business model, which encompasses low prices and nonunion workers.

Existing zoning at the sites chosen by Wal-Mart allows the sites to be developed with minimal opportunity for planning input. What should matter to most of us ~ and what we can influence ~ is getting the physical form, site planning and mobility right, so that these stores contribute positively to the city`s revitalization, available amenities and quality of life.

Wal-Mart is asking for lease terms of 75 years, so if the development isn`t done right from the outset, suboptimal outcomes will be with us for generations.

The biggest problem with all but one of the proposals is that they are for Walmart-brand stores in the city but not of the city.

The proposals are for retail-only sites, stores that aren`t components of more significant mixed-use projects maximizing the contribution of these sites to revitalization, retail expansion and housing opportunities. In places such as Petworth, Tenleytown, U Street, downtown and Columbia Heights, mixed-use retail projects are helping revitalize the neighborhood and commercial districts.

The proposed Walmart sites are also, with one exception, weakly served by the Metro, so most patrons will drive to shop, burdening already congested streets and failing intersections.

While research shows that suburban Walmart stores are associated with declining property value and crime increases, this doesn`t have to be the case for urban sites. The negative impact from suburban big-box retail is likely more the result of retail-only sites fronted by large wide roads and massive parking lots.

D.C. is still working to get urban form right for big-box retail projects. Only the Best Buy/Container Store development in Tenleytown came with new housing and the Metro -- a triple play.

Developments adjacent to the Rhode Island Metro and in Congress Heights are low-scale retail-only centers with large parking lots not much different from suburban retail centers. The DC USA shopping center in Columbia Heights is different in that it is developed upward not outward, and on top of a Metro station. But it came with a massive parking garage that is only one-third used, and the project isn`t mixed use, lacking housing, entertainment or other uses.

These experiences ought to be lesson enough about how to integrate big-box retail appropriately into large sites and existing commercial districts in D.C. Build upward, include housing and locate and operate stores adjacent to the Metro to reduce automobile trips.

Developers such as Foulger-Pratt, owner of the Georgia Avenue site, should be encouraged to create phased mixed-use development plans, so that sites become more than single-use retail. Underground parking is not enough to maximize the site`s contribution to the city.

The developers should be strongly discouraged from signing agreements giving Wal-Mart exclusive use of the sites, and Wal-Mart should agree to have their stores be part of multistory developments.

A typical Walmart gets 4,000 customers daily ~ that`s 8,000 trips! Retailers at DC USA and Tenleytown Metro likely get at least 50 percent of their customers on foot, by transit or bicycle. That won`t happen in D.C. Walmart stores without top-notch planning. Wal-Mart should be required to mitigate traffic generation by offering delivery services to customers (Home Depot does it in New York), shuttles to nearby transit stations (Ikea does it in Brooklyn), and shifting freight deliveries to overnight hours (even Yes! Grocery does this in D.C.) to minimize congestion.

If Wal-Mart and the respective developers apply a multistory, mixed-use and transit-focused program to their sites ~ with housing ~ then we can say that at least in D.C., Wal-Mart will be executing a truly urban retail strategy. Until then, we shouldn`t be congratulating ourselves on Wal-Mart`s entry into the city.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Two meetings on the proposal for Square 2986 this week

Meeting of the Committee on Square 2986, which will include status reports from the chairs of each of the five subcommittees.
Where: Emery Recreation Center, 5701 Georgia Ave. nW
When: Tuesday, 01/18/11, 6:30-8:00 pm


A special meeting convened by Commissioner Doug Smith, ANC 4B04, to discuss the proposal. Representatives from Wal-Mart and Foulger-Pratt will be present.
Where: 4th District Police HQ, 6001 Georgia Ave. NW
When: Thursday, 01/20/11, 6:30 pm

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lenders are lending again. Could Square 2986 get back on track?

Foulger-Pratt's constant assertion that Wal-Mart is the only feasible project for the Curtis Chevrolet site in the face of the current economic climate is torn apart quite nicely by Richard Layman here. He also points us toward a piece in a commercial real estate trade publication that says the commercial mortgage backed securities financing market is bouncing back. This could help to make the case for a development on the old Curtis Chevrolet lot that is in better harmony with the Great Streets Redevelopment Plan for Upper Georgia Avenue. The Office of Planning's vision for that land is to "create a walkable, multi-modal neighborhood center that offers superior retail and housing choices within a vibrant public realm," -- a vision that just isn't supported by the current proposal. If lenders really are getting back into risk-taking mode, I hope that will enable the developer to get back in sync with the Office of Planning's vision, before a 75-year lease is signed that would prevent the Georgia/Missouri Avenue segment of the Great Streets plan from coming to fruition.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Large Tract Review subcommittee on Square 2986 meets tonight

The initial meeting of the Large Tract Review subcommittee on Square 2986 (aka "the former Curtis Chevrolet site" and "the site of the proposed Wal-Mart") is tonight. Details:

Where: Shepherd Park Library, Meeting Room B, 7420 Georgia Ave. NW
When: Monday, 1/10/11, 7-8:30 pm

Please note that the Large Tract Review for the current proposal has not yet been submitted, but we're planning ahead by reading through and analyzing the documents from the previous proposal. The relevant documents are available here for your perusal.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

It's never too cold to be vigilant.

It seems that some people in our area start their cars, leave them running in order to warm up the engine, and then go elsewhere (like inside the house) while the engine warms up. Not a good idea, people. This behavior has resulted in at least three incidents of auto theft over the past couple of days. ("This morning, our car was stolen in front of our house as my husband and children were approaching to get into it"; "A neighbor on Aspen had a car stolen from their drive a couple of days ago -- same situation, they'd left it to warm up", wrote neighbors on the Shepherd Park and Takoma listservs, respectively.) This in turn prompted Fourth District Commander Kimberly Chisley Missouri to send a notice to the 4D listserv reminding people of how not-a-good-idea this is. Which has in turn resulted in DCist's Aaron Morrissey making fun of us. That's pathetic, folks! We need to be more street smart than this. It's never too cold to be vigilant.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Petworth Library launches oral history project to celebrate its renovation

The renovation of the Petworth Library's building is nearing completion, and the library is looking at a grand reopening date in late February or early March. To celebrate, they're launching an oral history project. From the library's website:

We are recruiting volunteers who can share their memories and experiences of living in Petworth and visiting the Petworth Neighborhood Library. We are compiling oral histories to share with the community at our grand reopening festivities in late February or early March 2011.

Call 202-243-1188 for more information or to schedule an interview session. Visit us in the Petworth Interim Library located in the parking lot of the library under renovation at 4200 Kansas Ave. N.W. or e-mail us at

Pass this info along to the talkative old-time Petworthians that you know.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Revisiting the Upper Georgia Avenue Master Plan

For fun, I've been reading through the Office of Planning's Upper Georgia Avenue Great Streets Redevelopment Plan, released in May of 2008. I'm paying particular attention to the section that deals with Square 2986, aka "the former Curtis Chevrolet Site" and "the site of the proposed Wal-Mart" (the section runs from pages 60 through 65).

Some choice selections that sadly highlight how far away the current proposal is from the Plan's recommendations:

The vision for the Missouri Avenue intersection is to create a walkable, multi-modal neighborhood center that offers superior retail and housing choices within a vibrant public realm.
Improved Retail Offerings: suggestions for additional retail included a movie theater, bookstore, hardware store, child care facility, gym, and sit-down restaurants.
The availability of land, combined with the calculated retail market demand, provides a redevelopment opportunity not found at other sites along the corridor.
The recommended program for the Missouri Avenue area includes restaurant space, a grocery store, an anchor-type retail store, smaller neighborhood-serving retail, and up to 750 new residential units. Accommodating these uses would require a consolidated mixed-use program at the Curtis Chevrolet site or an ambitious scattered site redevelopment initiative.
5900 Block East: The Curtis Chevrolet site, on the east side of the 5900 block of Georgia, has the greatest potential for new development, especially if adjacent parcels can be assembled or
if property owners pursue joint development. The character of the Missouri Avenue area in the future depends on how the site is redeveloped.
Significant redevelopment at the Missouri Avenue opportunity sites will catalyze revitalization throughout the zone and perhaps throughout the corridor. There is a specific set of revitalization strategies that will complement new development and provide short term improvements to the area.
Support Existing Business Organizations. The creation of a thriving neighborhood center can be supported by the work of existing business organizations that provide beautification and business assistance services. The recently established Brightwood Beacon Business Alliance has established a clean team and implemented façade improvement in this zone. It is strongly recommended that funding for façade improvements, business retention programs, clean and safe, and beautification projects be targeted to this zone. As described in the Gateway section, it is also critical to assist existing businesses, particularly west along the 5700 and 5800 blocks, adapt to changing markets and customer bases that often shift with new development. Additional assistance should also be provided to increase the capacity for existing business associations to address the multiple challenges along the corridor. Efforts to coordinate strategies amongst the various Georgia Avenue business associations should also be encouraged through the implementation of this plan.
Stewardship of Historic Resources: The Missouri Avenue area has several structures that may qualify for historic designation; in conjunction with the Brightwood Heritage Trail, this area may become a historic center along the Georgia Avenue corridor. Residents have stressed the importance of balancing the need to preserve historic structures with the need to revitalize the area. This plan encourages the creative adaptive reuse of historic structures in ways that preserve the contributing elements to a structure’s historic character. Designation of
specific historic landmarks should be pursued with the support of the surrounding neighborhoods and elected officials.

The pawn shop is coming, and so are the protests

DCRA went ahead and approved the pawn license at 7301 Georgia Ave. NW despite objections from the surrounding ANCs. ANC 4B has filed an appeal with the City's Office of Administrative Hearings, asking DCRA to reverse its decision.

There will be a demonstration in front of the proposed shop at Georgia and Fern Place this Saturday from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm. Those who are opposed to the shop are encouraged to go, bring signs, be loud, etc.

After all, look at how that pawn shop at 14th and R has decimated the Logan Circle area. Oh wait...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A little bit of Hampden coming to Takoma

View Larger Map

Roz Grigsby of the Old Takoma Business Association informed us in the comments section of my previous post that a home decor store, Trohv, will open at 262 Carroll Street NW (in the old National Children's Center building). Trohv is brought to us by the owners of Red Tree in Baltimore's lovely Hampden neighborhood.

Thanks for the reader tip on this.

We're (close to) getting a microbrewery!

I missed this bit of news in the Post, but it was pointed out on the Takoma neighbhorhood listserv:

Dave Coleman, president of 3 Stars Brewing Co. said he is close to signing a lease on a warehouse "on the D.C. side of Takoma Park." In the meantime, he and partner Mike McGarvey have been testing recipes on a three-gallon pilot brewery in McGarvey's home. Coleman says he hopes to have a 20-barrel brew house operational by August, with his first offering a hoppy, American-style India pale ale to be called District IPA.

There's some speculation as to where in Takoma this warehouse is exactly. Ideas?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Quick wrap-up of meeting to form the Committee on Square 2986

  • What has previously been referred to as "the potential Wal-Mart site" or "the Curtis Chevrolet site" will now be referred to as "Square 2986", as that's what the Office of Zoning calls it, and that's what the site will be called regardless of what happens to get built on it. Hence this committee has been deemed "The Committee on Square 2986".

  • There are five subcommittees:
    1. Large Tract Review, chaired by Richard Layman
    2. Community Benefits Agreements, chaired by Bethany Pointer
    3. Business impact, co-chaired by Taalib-Din Uqdah and Dan Shulman
    4. Outreach, chaired by Renee Bowser
    5. Alternative uses for Square 2986, chaired by Taalib-Din Uqdah

  • Although this committee was created by 4B, the ANC in which the site is physically located, it's important for the community to recognize that the site does indeed sit at the intersection of three ANCs (4A, 4B, and 4C). Those who live in 4A and 4C are welcome and encouraged to serve on the subcommittees.

  • Renee Bowser had some choice words for those who expressed the view that it's not worth searching for alternative uses for the land because it's a matter of right project. In a nutshell, her point was that although the developers have the legal right to do what they want with the site, they don't have the moral or ethical right to do something that may be harmful to the surrounding community, and the community in turn has the right to seek out and ask for alternatives. A group of residents met with Councilmember Bowser last week (full disclosure: I was one of them) and discussed this very issue.

Monday, January 3, 2011

ANC 4B04's special Wal-Mart committee commences tonight

Tonight is the first meeting of the committee that ANC 4B has formed to review the plan for the proposed Wal-Mart. All concerned citizens are invited to take part.

When: 1/3/11, 6:30 pm
Where: Emery Recreation Center, 5701 Georgia Avenue NW

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Classic apartments near Petworth Metro under new ownership and slated for renovation

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The Washington Business Journal reports:

D.C.-based Urban Investment Partners and the Infinity Group of New York bought a 99-unit apartment complex at the Petworth Metro for $8.2 million. New Quin apartments are at 811 Quincy St. and 3800 New Hampshire Ave. NW. The new owners will perform a $4 million makeover starting next month.
Under the renovation by UIP General Contracting Inc., its brick-and-cast concrete façades will be preserved, while the common areas, building systems and individual apartments will be repaired and upgraded.