January 27, 2015 - 12:08 pm

Restaurant Costa Brava and Howard Univ. present tonight

300 Block of T Street

The January meeting of the LeDroit Park Civic Association is tonight at 7 pm in the basement of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church (enter at U Street and Bohrer Street).

The owner of Costa Brava (1837 First St NW) will introduce the neighborhood to his new Catalonian restaurant.  I had dinner at the restaurant late last year and I highly recommend it.

Howard University representatives will propose changes to university policy regarding student conduct and public safety:

  • Expanding the area around the campus deemed subject to the reporting of crime statistics.
  • Giving universities broader authority to address student misconduct that takes place off-campus.
  • Giving the Mayor or a university President the ability to request the assistance of other campus police personnel in cases of emergency, thus allowing the Metropolitan Police Department to focus their resources elsewhere.

The meeting will also include the usual committee reports and a community open forum.  Everyone is welcome to attend.

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November 16, 2013 - 8:35 pm

New movie theaters are planned near LeDroit Park

theaters

Two— possibly three— new movie theaters are set to open within a mile of LeDroit Park by 2016.  All will be located within a block or two of Florida Avenue and are easily accessible by foot, bike, and 90s bus.

Atlantic Plumbing site – 800 V Street NW- unknown screens

Prolific developer JBG is starting construction on its Atlantic Plumbing project by the 9:30 Club.  The project includes two mixed-use buildings on 8th Street NW, each on opposing sides of V Street.  The northern building was supposed to include an 11,000-square-foot movie theater, but a September article in the WBJ makes no mention of a theater.  The building will probably open in 2015.

Landmark Theater – New York Avenue & N Street NE- 10 screens

Capitol Point, another JBG mixed-use project, is located on New York Avenue NE near the maddening intersection with Florida Avenue NE.  The mixed-use project is slated to receive a 10-screen Landmark Theater showing foreign and independent films.  The chain currently has a location downtown on E Street and one in Bethesda.  This new theater is scheduled to open in 2016.

Angelika Film Center – Union Market (5th Street & Neal Place NE) – 8 screens

Soon after you pass under the railroad tracks on Florida Avenue NE, Union Market appears embedded in the background on the left.  These blocks constitute a wholesale food market that is slowly being redeveloped.  The new Union Market building has met great success, featuring produce, prepared foods, oysters, meats, and dairy products along with chairs and tables for the impatient.  The market fare is definitely upscale and vendors never shy from the word ‘artisanal’.

The market building’s developer announced it will open an 8-screen Angelika movie theater on an adjacent lot.  Angelika theaters feature foreign and independent films and, as the Post described it, “culinary offerings from former Food Network executives.”  The developer expects the theater to open in 2015.

Are we over-theatered?

Another movie theater is coming to different part of the District.  In the Navy Yard, developer Forest City is planning an upscale 16-screen theater near Nationals Stadium and the Navy Yard Metro.  The theater, at N Place and the future 1½ Street SE (a terrible name for a street), may not open until 2016 or later.

Can’t wait until 2015? There are four existing theaters within a 2.5-mile radius of LeDroit Park as the crow flies.  The Landmark E Street Cinema (1100 block of E Street NW) and the Regal Gallery Place (7th & G Streets NW) are easily accessible from the Green Line, Yellow Line, and 70s buses.  To the west of us, the West End Cinema (23rd & M Streets NW) and the AMC Loews Georgetown (3111 K Street NW) are easily accessible from the G2 bus, whose eastern terminus is LeDroit Park.

Theater Screens Location Opening Distance
Atlantic Plumbing (??) ? 8th & V Sts NW 2015? 0.5 mi
Landmark – Capitol Point 10 New York Ave & N St NE   2016 0.8 mi
Angelika Film Ctr. – Union Mkt. 8 5th St & Neal Pl NE 2015 1.3 mi
Regal Gallery Place 14 7th & G Sts NW open 1.4 mi
Landmark E Street Cinema 8 1100 b/o E St NW open 1.8 mi
West End Cinema 3 23rd & M Sts NW open 2.1 mi
AMC Loews Georgetown 14 3111 K St NW open 2.9 mi
Showplace Icon Theater 16 1½ St & N Pl SE 2016 3.3 mi
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November 06, 2013 - 11:19 am

Shaw Giant reopens Nov. 22

City Market at O

In 16 days the Giant at 7th & O Streets in Shaw will reopen after closing for redevelopment in 2011. The new store occupies 78,000 square feet, making it the largest grocery store in the District, and the closest grocery store to LeDroit Park.

Unlike the previous Giant, which was situated with its back to 9th Street, the new Giant will occupy the former historic market building along 7th Street.  LeDroit residents can easily access the Giant by foot, bike, or the G2 bus, which runs along the north side of the store along P Street on its way between Georgetown and LeDroit Park.

The store is part of a larger development, City Market at O, which includes 182 hotel rooms, 407 market-rate apartments, and 90 affordable apartments for seniors.

Giant isn’t the only store opening soon.  The new Trader Joe’s at 14th & U Streets is set to open early next year.

Store Location Distance (mi)
Giant (opens Nov. 22, 2013) 7th & O Streets NW 0.6
Trader Joe’s (opens early 2014) 14th & U Streets NW 0.9
Safeway 5th & L Streets NW 0.9
Harris Teeter 1st & M Streets NE 1.0
Whole Foods 1400 blk. P Street NW 1.1
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September 06, 2013 - 9:44 am

Three new restaurants and one beer garden open in Shaw

The opening of new restaurants on 14th Street has been prolific enough to merit attention from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.  These papers might want to turn their attention to Shaw, which is seeing three new restaurants and one beer garden open within a two-week period.  All of these new places are within a mile of LeDroit Park.

Dacha

In time for Oktoberfest, Dacha beer garden opened Wednesday at 1600 7th Street to serve a variety of American, German, and Belgian beers.  Dacha, like the Garden District beer garden (née Standard) on 14th Street, will close for the winter.  After Dacha closes for the season, the owners will start construction on a permanent building to house the kitchen and bar.

Dacha is open weekdays from 4 pm to 10:30 pm and on weekends from noon to midnight.

Tomorrow from 2 pm to 3 pm, Mayor Gray is cutting the ribbon for three other restaurants, Mandalay, Thally, and Baby Wale.

Mandalay

After you finish your beer at Dacha, walk two blocks to Mandalay at 1501 9th Street, a site that has been in the works for several years.  Though the building has been finished for some time, the restaurant, which sits on the ground floor, will open Sunday night for dinner.

Mandalay serves Burmese food, including many vegetarian options.  The restaurant will serve eight family-style dishes at seatings at 5:30 pm and 7:30 pm Tuesdays through Sundays.  Bring your wallet, though, as the prix-fixe menu is $40 on weekdays and $50 on weekends.

Thally

If you’re not in the mood for Burmese food, walk two blocks south on 9th Street to Thally (1316 9th Street), which opened last week.  The restaurant, pronounced like ‘tally’, serves “modern American” food.  First course items range from $8 to $10 and include peach and prosciutto soup, fancy BLTs, and crab roulette.  Main course items range from $17 to $28 and include roasted duck, delmonico steak, and rockfish.

Thally is open from 5 pm to 11:30 pm Tuesdays through Sundays.

Baby Wale (I hope that’s not a menu item!)

If you’re more in the mood for wine and snacks, continue walking two blocks south to Baby Wale (1124 9th Street), a project of the Tom Power, who started Corduroy next door.  Baby Wale, which opened last week, is far more casual than its upscale neighbor and serves soups, salads, sandwiches and “upscale bar food”.  As for alcohol, the place serves specialty cocktails, 80 different bottles of wine, and six draft beers.

Baby Wale opens at 5 pm Mondays through Saturdays.

It’s amazing how quickly new restaurants are opening on Shaw’s primary main streets.  Even more food options are on the way as Progression Place’s storefronts continue to fill and as the new Giant opens in November at 7th and O Streets.

3restaurants1beergarden

 

Name Address Distance Cuisine
Dacha 1600 7th St 0.6 mi beer garden
Mandalay 1501 9th St 0.7 mi Burmese
Thally 1316 9th St 0.8 mi Modern American
Baby Wale 1124 9th St 1.0 mi wine and bar food

 

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September 05, 2013 - 8:58 am

The Lincoln Theater is back in business

Lincoln Theatre
Photo by NCinDC on Flickr

The Post reports that music venue owner IMP, which operates the 9:30 Club and Merriweather Post Pavilion, is now managing the District-owned Lincoln Theater.

As we noted before, the Lincoln Theater’s revival in the 1990s failed to measure up to the Howard Theatre’s recent rebirth.  Last year we compared the number of scheduled events at both theaters from May 11 to June 30, 2012. The contrast was stunning as the Howard had announced 51 scheduled events compared to the Lincoln’s paltry five.

The District’s new operator for the Lincoln has already booked comedians Ira Glass and Cheech and Chong, as well as musical performers Janelle Monae, Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, and KT Tunstall for next month.

The Lincoln is just one of four big venues within a mile of LeDroit Park:

Theaters within 1 mile of LeDroit Park

Theater Distance Capacity
Howard Theatre 0.3 mi 600 if seated; 1,000 if standing
9:30 Club 0.6 mi 1,200 standing
Lincoln Theater 0.8 mi 1,225 seated
Black Cat 1.0 mi 700 standing and 200 in the backstage

The Lincoln Theater’s 1,225 fixed seats set the venue apart.  Though this configuration limits the types of acts that will perform, it also guarantees each patron a reserved space.

Check out the Post’s handy comparison chart, including typical headliners and food options for each venue.

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August 14, 2013 - 4:28 pm

More retailers on board for Progression Place

Progression Place’s retail spaces are nearly leased out. Here is a list of what’s coming:

  • Wanda’s—The hair salon that existed before construction started.
  • SiTea— The second location for this Takoma-based tea shop.
  • Bank of America
  • Mockingbird Hill (already open)— Bar specializing in sherry and ham. [Read an earlier post on it]
  • Eat the Rich— Oyster house from the owners of Mockingbird Hill.
  • Sprint— Cell phone store
  • (vacant retail bay)
  • Fishnet— The second location for this Berwyn Heights-based, Mediterranean seafood and sandwich shop.
  • Uprising Muffins
Progression_storefronts

Don’t forget that Right Proper Brewing Company will open around the corner on T Street.

Here is the official leasing prospectus from Streetsense, the project’s retail broker.

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August 07, 2013 - 8:58 am

Construction on Florida Avenue apartments begins next month

Designs for the 700 and 800 blocks of Florida Avenue

Designs for the 700 and 800 blocks of Florida Avenue

Shortly after Labor Day, construction will begin on the two JBG apartment buildings on the former WMATA sites on the 700 and 800 blocks of Florida Avenue.  The project involves constructing two new apartment buildings flanking 8th Street at Florida Avenue.  The project, which already received Historic Preservation Review Board approval, will include 242 apartments above 29,000 square feet of retail.

The buildings, designed by Seattle-based Miller Hull, are six-story structures— five floors of wood stick construction over concrete podiums for the garages and retail areas. This hybrid construction type is cheaper and faster to build than concrete-only highrises.

Construction is expected to take 20 months and should be completed in May 2015.

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July 31, 2013 - 8:17 am

Is something like Eastern Market coming to the U Street area?

The Griffith as seen from Florida Avenue

The Griffith as seen from Florida Avenue

There’s some big news over on Florida Avenue by the 9:30 Club.  The District has chosen the MRP-Ellis Development team to develop 1.45 acres of city-owned land at 965 Florida Avenue.  The site sits on the east side of Florida Avenue at the intersection with Sherman Avenue.  The MRP-Ellis proposal, dubbed The Griffith*, is a 370,000-square-foot building with 35,000 square feet of retail topped with several floors of residential.

I haven’t found the apartment unit count, but the retail component is envisioned as a market somewhat like Union Market and Eastern Market.  Furthermore, The Griffith proposal extends Bryant Street from 8th Street to the intersection of Florida and Sherman Avenues.  East-west connectivity is a goal of the DUKE Small Area Plan and something that the city has been seeking as that area is redeveloped.

Site plan and surrounding streets for The Griffith development

Site plan and surrounding streets for The Griffith development

Part of the story for this award is who didn’t win.  Both MRP-Ellis and JBG competed for the site.  Many people following the competition thought JBG had the upper hand, since it controlled an adjacent site on Florida Avenue (see the big blank area above).  JBG’s plan involved connecting W Street instead of Bryant Street.  The JBG plan also included a Harris Teeter, 125 hotel rooms, 30,000 square feet of office space, 20,000 square feet of retail, 150 condos, 250 apartments, and 200 micro-apartments.

According to the Washington Business Journal, the District preferred The Griffith’s program for several reasons:

What put MRP over the top, according to [the District], was an offer to build more affordable housing, an agreement to submit to the District’s planned-unit development process (ensuring community coordination) and its willingness to pay more for the land.

Don’t expect shovels in the ground just yet.  The details of the deal will have to be finalized and then approved by the Council.  Then the project will go through a Planned Unit Development (PUD) process that involves a few months of community input and zoning hearings during which the developer will likely negotiate a community benefits agreement.  After that’s finished, the permits will need to be approved and construction can finally begin.  It may be four or five years until we see a ribbon-cutting.

In the meantime, JBG may build a smaller project on the land it owns immediately to the south of the awarded site.  No plans have been released, but whatever it is, says JBG, it won’t include a Harris Teeter or a W Street connection.

View the proposals:


* “The Griffith” is an homage to Griffith Stadium, which once stood where Howard University Hospital now stands.

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July 28, 2013 - 11:05 pm

UNCF and restaurants open at the Shaw Metro

UNCF
The much-anticipated Progression Place, the development at the Shaw Metro is nearing completion.  The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) moved into the office building back in October, purchasing half of the 100,000 square feet of office space.  There is no word yet on who the other office tenants will be.

Mockingbird Hill

Not your father’s sherry

The retail spaces are opening up, with sherry bar Mockingbird Hill (1843 7th St NW) taking the lead on June 7th.  Mockingbird Hill is the brainchild of mixologist Derek Brown, his mixologist wife Chantal Tseng, and business partner Angie Salame.  Mr. Brown also owns The Passenger and The Columbia Room on 7th Street opposite the Convention Center.  Ms. Tseng comes to Mockingbird Hill from the Tabard Inn, where she ran the bar.

Mr. Brown and Ms. Tseng are the powerhouse couple in the DC cocktail scene. The husband and wife duo is determined to introduce a sherry craze in the District.  The bar features over 50 types of sherry and offers several types of carved ham.  Mockingbird Hill is inspired by the ham and sherry bars of Spain, but the interior exposes brick and hangs vintage filament bulbs like many of the hip bars around town.

Can Mr. Brown and Ms. Tseng sell enough sherry to people other than British retirees to stay in business?  Only time will tell, but the husband and wife team is also planning two adjacent ventures, including an oyster bar delightfully named Eat the Rich, slated to open at 1839 7th Street next month.  Chesapeake Bay oysters were once abundant and cheap, making 19th century Washington a hotbed of oyster restaurants.

Another business is brewing

Right Proper Brewing Co.

Around the corner at 624 T Street, Nathan Zeender,  John Snedden, and Thor Cheston are fitting out the former Cafe Manowaj space to open the Right Proper brewpub.  The microbrewery will serve Belgian-style ales and sour beers and allow customers to carry out their beers in growlers.

We will update you as we hear about more retail tenants opening in the building.  Until then, admire Right Proper’s storefront copperwork.

Copper

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July 26, 2013 - 4:33 pm

Is Howard University in financial trouble?

Over the past few months, reports have trickled in warning about Howard University’s fiscal health. The news is not good. The school’s enrollment had dropped, its annual Congressional appropriation has fallen, and the hospital is furloughing workers to make up for large losses.  On the bright side, Howard’s capital improvement program is underway and several cranes tower over three active construction projects on the campus (more on that later).

As for fiscal issues, the first warning came in June, when a Howard University trustee warned, “Howard will not be here in three years if we don’t make some crucial decisions now.” Whether the trustee was exaggerating Howard’s fiscal straits due to internal politics remains unknown, but a potential sequester of the university’s Congressional appropriation adds to the unease.

Since its founding in 1867, Howard has received an annual appropriation from Congress much the way state universities receive appropriations from their state legislatures.  The appropriation has remained steady over the past few years, but sequestration is expected to reduce the amount.  Federal funding accounts for a sizable 27% of the university’s operating budget, meaning any change will be noticeable.

Furthermore, the recession, which hit black Americans especially hard, is often cited as a major factor contributing to last year’s 5% enrollment decline, further depriving the university of tuition revenue.  Tuition for the 2013-14 academic year is set for $22,783, excluding housing, a difficult stretch for most families.

In June the university announced it would layoff 75 employees and earlier this month, the hospital announced it will furlough 1,700 staff for eight days.  The hospital has suffered a sharp decline in patients and revenue.

Money problems are nothing new at Howard. In fact, tight university finances are a theme that appears in The Black Apollo of Science, the biography of Ernest Everett Just, a 1920s and ’30s Howard biology professor and LeDroit Park resident.  The university has survived tough times before and it is rare for large universities in the U.S. to shut down.

Some of the bad news is more than just financial.  Late last month, news leaked that the university and its development partner had parted ways on the Howard Town Center project, further delaying the mixed-use development project the university has been planning for years.

Lift every crane and build

But there’s good news, too!  Visit LeDroit Park’s newest Capital Bikeshare station and you’ll spot the cranes that tower over the Howard campus.  In fact, the university is currently constructing three new buildings: two new dorms on 4th Street and an interdisciplinary STEM research building at Georgia Avenue and W Street.

The two dorms at 4th and College Streets NW and 4th and W Streets NW are part of the university’s plan to improve and increase on-campus housing.  By making 4th Street NW a residential spine, the university hopes to keep its students in newer buildings physically close to academic buildings.  The proximity is expected to boost academic performance and the newness of the housing is expected to attract top-performing students.

Here is a photo of the new dorm now under construction at 4th and College Streets NW:
New Dorm

When finished:

Design of the new Howard University dorm at 4th and College Streets NW

Design of the new Howard University dorm at 4th and College Streets NW.

Here is a photo of the new dorm now under construction at 4th and W Streets NW:
Another New Dorm

When finished:

Design for the new Howard dorm at 4th and W Streets NW

Design for the new Howard dorm at 4th and W Streets NW

At Georgia Avenue and W Street, Howard is constructing a new building for STEM research.  The new high-tech facility is expected to boost the university’s research profile and its ability to win research grants that require advanced research facilities. The LeDroit Park Civic Association supported the zoning relief necessary to build this building.

STEM at Howard University

When finished:

Design of Howard University's Interdisciplinary Research Building

Design of Howard University’s Interdisciplinary Research Building

Though the university’s fiscal woes make headlines, several important capital improvements are well underway.

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