Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why Clybourne Park matters

As you may know, Woolly Mammoth Theatre is in the midst of a second run of Bruce Norris' play Clybourne Park. If you didn't catch it the first time around, (before it picked up the Pulitzer Prize for Drama), now through August 14 is your chance.

The theatre also runs a great blog containing thoughts from the people who are involved in the production of the play. A recent post from Rachel Grossman, Woolly's connectivity director, illustrates how the play's themes relate to Brightwood and many other neighborhoods in DC, and how the play can encourage further dialogue about the changes that are taking place in the city:

The Washington, DC area is undergoing a mind-bogglingly rapid economic growth and development, and is simultaneously experiencing a striking shift in population (both as result of and in response to the former). Right on their coattails is a significant, potentially seismic, cultural shift in the city which is heard foreshadowed in phrases like “Chocolate City is going vanilla” and “Chocolate City is melting.” As the face of our city changes—architecturally, economically, and, quite literally, of the faces of the people who live here—a charge is building up with few ways to productively release it widely and publically. I would argue that this is because we lack a shared experience, common ground and neutral territory on which to meet and engage in open dialogue. For many, Clybourne Park is that shared experience and provides us perspective from which to begin conversation.

In 13 years of leading discussions following theatrical performances, I have yet to see a show that primes people to talk intimately in a room of strangers about heated topics like race and gentrification as
Clybourne Park. It is the “perfect storm” of connectivity: linking audience members with one another and the artists through the work of art. During the initial run in March and April 2010, I was humbled by the willingness of audiences to speak from the heart sharing deeply personal stories and beliefs of the “way the world works” which were suddenly questioned. The outpouring of conversation led to the decision to create opportunity for dialogue after every performance of the remount.

15 months after the initial run, the landscape in DC has shifted—from the change in DC’s mayoral seat to the shifting racial makeup of the city’s citizenry. We’ll be engaging with
Clybourne Park this time from a different starting point. What shape will the conversation take in the theatre? Only the next four weeks will tell. Can it have an impact on the city’s larger capacity to dialogue about race and gentrification? We hope so.

So if you ask me why this show matters, to me or to Woolly... Sure, it is a Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Of course, the production is hilarious and poignant. Yes, we expect many people to purchase tickets. But it matters because it models as a function that theatre could play in this city and in American society. It unites citizens in the pleasurable act of collective imagining, while also challenging us to examine innermost portions of ourselves as individuals, a community, a nation.

Grossman has organized a series of post-performance forums for audience exchanges with various artists, scholars, journalists, and community activists that have been sparking interesting discussions and are well worth attending.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Details on yesterday's 70 bus collision in 5700 block of Georgia Avenue

WJLA has details on the collision between a southbound 70 bus and a car in the 5700 block of Georgia Avenue on Saturday afternoon. Apparently the car was exiting the Express Car Wash and hit the bus. Four people were injured. According to the report, the car's driver was at fault and will be charged by MPD.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Man brandishes gun; MPD officers shoot in self-defense last night near Colorado & Missouri Aves.

From MPD 4D Commander Kimberly Chisley Missouri:

Units were investigating a man with a gun call near Missouri Ave and Colorado Ave NW around 10pm. An adult male was located brandishing a shotgun and pointed the weapon in the direction of officers. The officers discharged their service firearms striking the male. The male was transported to an area hospital for treatment of a non-life threatening injury and is being charged with assault. The officers were not injured. The 5800 blk of 13th St NW and the 1200. Blk of Missouri Ave are temporarily closed to vehicular traffic as the investigation continues.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Video: Respect DC Coalition's musical flash mob at Laurel Walmart

The Respect DC Coalition has been working to ensure that Walmart agrees to a Community Benefits Agreement in DC. Walmart has so far not agreed to do so (representatives from Walmart have in fact evaded questions about CBAs at several community meetings I've attended).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Call for artists: new installation projects planned for vacant Georgia Avenue spaces

Here's something exciting I've been working on.

Anyone who spends any time on or around Georgia Avenue knows that it has lots of vacant storefronts, many with large (or large-ish) display windows, right? So a couple of the community and business development groups in the area got together and started discussing ways to spruce up the Avenue by allowing local artists to use those vacant storefronts for installations. (For a prototype, see District Modular at 3216 GA Ave.)

This call is for the initial phase of the project, which will consist of just one window (located at 2702 Georgia Avenue) and will serve as a model for the larger-scale project we're planning for the future.

Please share this post with friends in the visual arts community.


The community is providing an opportunity for artists to participate in the Georgia Avenue Window Walk, a project inviting local artists to create installations on vacant properties along Georgia Avenue:

CALL FOR ENTRIES: Georgia Avenue Window Walk - Installment 1
NOTIFICATION: September 19, 2011
EXHIBITION LOCATION: The window display case at 2702 Georgia Avenue NW, DC 20001 (on
the corner of Georgia Avenue and Fairmont Streets NW, adjacent to retail business, The Guild)

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 vacant storefront spaces along the Georgia Avenue Corridor. The works on view will comprise of visual art and educational installations by local artists, organizations and youth groups. The projects on display will tie back to the Georgia Avenue community, culture, or its history in some way.

Note: This call is for the first window installation which will act a model for the larger scale project.

ELIGIBILITY ( Open to individual artists or organizations)
- This call is open to artists who live or work in DC and organizations located in DC
- Applicants must be at least 18 years old (if working with a youth group, lead applicant must be at least 18 years old).
- Submissions for site-specific installations in all media are welcome including (but not limited to) painting, sculpture, installation, street art, photography, educational installations, wheat-pasting, mural, digital art, and video art.

Proposals will be reviewed by a committee consisting of members of the community, business owners, the building owners, and project leaders. Proposals not selected for this window may be kept on file for review as other window opportunities arise. The selected project will be warded a stipend of $200. Selected applicant(s) will be notified on September 19, 2011 and the nstallation must be completed by October 14, 2011.

An info session will be held on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at 6:30pm at the Emergence Community Arts Collective, 733 Euclid St NW DC.

For more information, see the Call to Artists online
You can also call (202) 462-2285 or email GeorgiaAveWindowWalk at gmail dot com

How should the outdoor public space at the new Takoma Education Center be used?

An email from ANC Commissioner Sara Green:


The design and reconstruction of the Takoma Educational Center (Piney Branch and Dahlia Streets, NW) continues following its devastating December 2010 fire.

Workers are now beginning to build a completely new interior for grades pre-K through eight, with special spaces for the school’s performing arts and special education curricula. The Office of Public Education Facilities Management, the city agency responsible for the project, has committed to completing the construction in December 2011 for occupancy in January 2012!

Please let me know if there are traffic or other problems due to the construction. The project managers have committed to resolving them.

So far, the design team has focused on the school’s interior. However, decisions have not been made about the field, parking lot, courtyard, Highland Street area and other exterior spaces – the area that the community uses the most. Would you please share your views about priorities for these spaces?

Currently, the community has access to most of the exterior space, including the playground, field and courtyard. And the landscaped Highland Street side of the school is basically an unused space.

What changes would you make to the exterior spaces? What kinds of new facilities and uses would you add? Should this public access continue? What kinds of public uses are most important? Should some outdoor areas be restricted for school use only and when should these restrictions take place?


Email Sara Green with your ideas (or post your ideas in the comments). I already voiced my opinion that we need a place where dogs can play off-leash safely and legally.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

La Villa Pizzeria opens at 4632 14 St. NW

Thanks to those who sent me emails about La Villa Pizzeria, which quietly opened at the corner of 14th and Crittenden last week. It has takeout and delivery, but there is counter seating as well. Additionally, there's a very large patio area along Crittenden that has potential to be a great seating area (if they could level out the slant running toward 14th Street...sitting on a slanted patio could be awkward, after all).

The menu consists of pizza, calzones, sandwiches, and appetizers. I had the grilled vegetable wrap yesterday, and it was delicious (the kalamata olives and the fact that the wrap was smothered in melted feta upped the deliciousness factor infinitely). I haven't tried the pizza yet; if you've tried it, let us know what you think.

I'm really happy to have new pizza options coming to the neighborhood.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Brightwood Park gets an infoshop

Before the Dream City Collective came along, the District had been without an honest-to-goodness infoshop for several years, as places like the Brian McKenzie Infoshop and the Peoples’ Media Center had closed down in the late 2000s.

After a few years of nomadic existence, tabling at events but having no space to call its own, Dream City filled that void by setting up shop at a space on Monroe Street in Columbia Heights in February of 2011. Just a few short months later, however, the space changed ownership and Dream City was summarily ousted.

Losing space often means the end for collectives like Dream City. Fortunately for them, Fhar Miess, Bike House member and proprietor of Sumoud Cycle Works, and his partner had recently purchased 5525 Illinois Avenue NW with the intent of using the lower level for bike frame building. Miess had a vision for using the building’s main floor for community events, and when he found out that Dream City was in need of a space, a new collaboration was born.

Dream City held their first event at 5525 Illinois Avenue in early July. Collective member Vallan told me they intend to have events several times a month, including two movie nights (on the first and third Wednesday of the month) and two “open days”, during which community members are invited to stop by, hang out, peruse Dream City’s reading materials, and enjoy a coffee or a lime spritzer (I had a lime spritzer when I was there and it was scrumptious). Vallan says that he and the other collective members aim to make Dream City “a hub, and a space for the promotion of grassroots projects.”

The Dream City Collective is open to new ideas and new projects. You can reach them through Facebook or through their blog. Or stop by on their next Open Day: Saturday, July 30 from 12 noon through 8pm

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mayor Gray on WTOP: no bus garage at Walter Reed

Mayor Gray received a question during WTOP's "Ask the Mayor" call-in program this morning about whether he would support the construction of a bus garage at the redeveloped Walter Reed site. In short: his answer is no. Below is a partial transcript of Mayor Gray's comments from WTOP:

"Given the enormous value of the Walter Reed property, I don't support putting a bus garage there.

"Millions of business dollars leave D.C. every year, and here we have an opportunity to retain some of that.

"The Walter Reed property is a real jewel."

He added that the Friendship Heights and Upper 14th Street communities could present their cases for moving the Northern and Western bus garages out of their neighborhoods, but that the land at Walter Reed is too valuable to be turned into industrial use.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Just in case you're wondering how to use Parkmobile to pay parking meters...

Signs have been installed on Georgia Avenue to assist you with the process.

Registering online and/or downloading one of the mobile apps is the easiest way to use Parkmobile, in my experience.  Nice to not have to worry about running back to a meter to feed it with coins; if you know that time is running out on your meter, just use the app to add money or call 1-877-727-5758.

Three Stars Brewing signs lease on Chillum Place NW

The news we've been waiting for!  Three Stars Brewing Company president Dave Coleman tells me that he's signed the lease for their space at 6400 Chillum Place NW (down the block from the Lamond Riggs post office). Dave says that Three Stars is going to be a production brewery without an onsite pub (which is sure to be disappointing news for neighborhood beer lovers), however they tentatively have plans to build out a tasting room.  Three Stars recently purchased a ton of brewing equipment (check out the photos here) and is aiming for an opening date in the mid-to-late fall of 2011. Cheers!

Gray being lobbied to build bus garage on Walter Reed site

Remember David Alpert's proposal to build a bus garage on the soon-to-be-redeveloped Walter Reed site?  Well, it's coming back to haunt us.

When that piece was posted, almost exactly a year ago,  I wrote it off as a pipe dream.  But apparently Tommy Wells, along with Tom Downs of the WMATA board, has been lobbying Mayor Gray to make this into a reality.  The proposed bus garage would be enormous, large enough to accommodate all of the buses currently housed at the Northern garage (on 14th Street between Buchanan and Decatur) and the Western garage (on Wisconsin Avenue above the Friendship Heights Metro station). 

The Walter Reed site is a tremendous opportunity for Ward 4's growth; let's not diminish opportunities by sticking a bus garage there.  As Alpert said, "Who wants a bus garage? Nobody wants one in their neighborhood."

Alice Giancola, a member of the Walter Reed Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA), said that the LRA will oppose this plan as a group.  However it would be helpful for individual citizens to send emails to Mayor Gray ( and city administrator Allen Lew ( to let them know that we'd prefer to stick with the plan of building an attractive retail/residential center on that land.

Friday, July 8, 2011

LEDC presents gentrification tour of Brightwood Park and Columbia Heights, Monday 7/11

From the Latino Economic Development Corporation:

Reality Tour to Show Results of Gentrification and Community Organizing in Columbia Heights and Brightwood Park

On Monday, July 11th, residents of Columbia Heights and Brightwood Park will open their homes to share stories of their struggles to preserve affordable housing in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. Washington, D.C. is the only city in the country with a unique law (the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, or TOPA) that gives tenants the right to determine what happens to their apartment building when it is for sale. The Before and After Neighborhood Tour will visit four multi-family buildings (two where residents utilized TOPA to buy their buildings and convert them into affordable cooperatives, and two apartment buildings where tenants are trying to purchase) to meet with residents and hear their unique stories. DC’s tenant purchase program is one of the major focuses of this year’s Fourth Annual Citywide Tenant Town Hall, on Saturday, July 16th at 2:30 pm at First Trinity Lutheran Church (309 E St NW, near Judiciary Square).

WHAT: Before and After Neighborhood Tour

BEFORE: Hear from tenants who live in run-down apartment buildings that are for sale and who are organizing to prevent their displacement in gentrifying neighborhoods.

AFTER: See newly renovated, affordable housing co-ops where long-term neighborhood residents are now owners!

1st stop: 710 Jefferson St NW
2nd stop: Brightwood Gardens Cooperative – 941 Longfellow St NW
3rd stop: 1333 Euclid St NW
4th stop: Quest Cooperative – 1428 Euclid St NW

WHEN: Monday, July 11th, 5 to 7 PM
Meet at 710 Jefferson St NW at 5 pm; we’ll walk to 941 Longfellow St NW (2 blocks),
then drive to 1333 Euclid St NW (or meet there at 6 PM), then walk to 1428 Euclid St NW (1 block).

WHO: Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), Save Our Safety Net, 710 Jefferson St NW Tenants’ Association, Brightwood Gardens Cooperative Association, 1333 Euclid St NW Tenants’ Association, Quest Cooperative Association

Friday, July 1, 2011

ANC4B's resolution on proposed Walmart development submitted to Office of Planning, along with subcommittee reports

This is ANC4B's finalized resolution on the proposed Walmart development at Georgia and Missouri Avenues. It, along with ANC4B's Commmittee on Square 2086's reports, has been submitted to the Office of Planning for review.

WalmartResolution6-27-11Adopted (3)

First meeting of Walter Reed LRA in a long time held last night; State Dept. says it will build chancery center on its portion

The first meeting of the Walter Reed Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA) since the announcement that the land formerly designated to the General Services Administration will now be granted to the District of Columbia was held last night. A representative from Perkins+Will, the Chicago-based architecture firm that's serving as master planner for the site, emphasized that the District gaining all of the Georgia Avenue frontage, particularly the upper northwestern corner of the site, opens new opportunities for both development and street connectivity. The series of community meetings/workshops on the redevelopment of Walter Reed held last spring will recommence next month, as the gaining of the 30+ acres of land will provide more opportunities for community input.

A representative from the U.S. Army said that the Army intends to meet the planned closing date of September 15, despite the fact that some have called for the closure to be delayed. The new boundaries between the District's portion of the site and the State Department's portion will be officially published in July. After closure, ten federally-appointed resident caretakers will be onsite to assist with the transition process.

A representative from the State Department discussed the department's plans for its portion of the land: a chancery center, similar to the one on Van Ness Street NW between Connecticut Avenue and Reno Road. He said that some chanceries would most likely relocate to Walter Reed from older embassy buildings on Massachusetts Avenue, giving them the opportunity to modernize. These plans raised many concerns for members of the LRA...will it be like a blockade cutting off the neighborhood, which countries would be represented, what security measures are in place? The State Department rep couldn't give concrete answers to most questions as the plans are in the very beginning stages.

Perkins+Will emphasized that the new chancery center will also enhance development opportunities, as officials at the chanceries will want and need easy access to amenities.