French tire manufacture and restaurant critic Michelin released its much-anticipated guide to Washington restaurants. No restaurants earned the top three-star rating, but three restaurants earned two stars, nine earned one star, and 19 restaurants, three of which are nearby, earned “Bib Gourmand” status for their “exceptional good food at moderate prices.”
LeDroit’s very own Royal (501 Florida Avenue NW) earned Bib Gourmand status. I frequently visit the royal for breakfast on weekends. Their coffee is decent and the breakfast pastries and arepas are great. A friend in West End routine visits for breakfast.
Red Hen (1822 First Street NW), just one block east of LeDroit Park, is another Bib Gourmand venue and is one of my favorite dinner spots. The menu is Italian and the pasta is deliciously fresh. Red Hen can get crowded, but you can often squeeze yourself around its peninsular bar, where you may eat dinner and drink.
If you’re looking for eclectic Chinese-French fusion, walk over to Kyirisan (1924 8th Street NW), one block west of LeDroit Park. The Tim Ma restaurant opened in March and the Post’s Tom Sietsema gave it a good review.
The nearest starred restaurants are the excellent Dabney (122 Blagden Alley NW) and Kinship (1015 7th Street NW), both near the Convention Center. Such proximity to highly rated restaurants would have been absolutely unthinkable when I moved to LeDroit Park in 2009. How times have changed.
The four mixed-use buildings on Eighth Street near the 9:30 Club are about to open. The quartet is the product of prolific Washington area developer JBG, which recently released the layout of the ground-floor retail tenants. The retail spaces include small retail shops, a few restaurants, a small movie theater, and art galleries.
The Shay is a duo of apartments on the 700 and 800 blocks of Florida Avenue NW. Retailers include
- Riide – A DC-based electric bike company (9th Street)
- Serv U Liquors – A liquor store that previous stood on the development site (9th Street)
- Warby Parker – Purveyor of hip spectacles (9th Street & Florida Avenue)
- Aesop – An Australian retailer of sustainable skincare, haircare and other personal care products (800 b/o Florida Avenue)
- Chrome – A San Francisco-based bike bag purveyor (800 b/o Florida Avenue)
- Le Labo – A French perfumery (800 b/o Florida Avenue)
- Benrus – A Rhode Island-based clothing retailer (800 b/o Florida Avenue)
- Steven Alan – Casual clothing for men and women (8th Street & Florida Avenue)
- An unnamed restaurant from Tim Ma, owner of Water & Wall in Arlington and Maple Ave. in Vienna (8th Street)
- Frank & Oak – A hip, Montréal-based men’s clothing retailer (8th Street)
- Glen’s Garden Market – The second location of this DC-based grocer will also serve beer. (8th Street)
- Compass Coffee – The second location for the coffee shop that currently operates on 7th Street in Shaw (8th Street)
- Read Wall – DC-based menswear retailer selling knits, outerwear, custom suits, and neckware (8th Street)
- Lettie Gooch – A clothing boutique moving from U Street (8th Street)
- Kit and Ace – A retailer selling clothes made of a sturdier cashmere (8th Street & Florida Avenue)
JBG is still actively leasing three retail bays. The Shay’s grand opening is today from 6 pm to 9 pm.
Just north on Eighth Street at V Street, JBG has sold numerous condos at 2030 8th Street and has nearly completed the larger Atlantic Plumbing apartments on the north side of V Street. The company has released the retail layout of both buildings.
The retailers include
- Hazel (probably) – A new restaurant from Neighborhood Restaurant Group, which currently owns Birch & Barley and Bluejacket (V Street)
- Declaration Pizza – A new pizza shop from the owners of Lincoln and Teddy & the Bully Bar (8th & V Streets)
- Landmark Theatre – A theater featuring independent films in six small-screen mini-theaters (V Street)
- An unnamed ramen restaurant from the people behind Daikaya in Chinatown (8th & V Streets)
- Tasty Burger – The first DC-area location of this Boston-based burger chain (8th Street)
- Bazaar Spices – The second location for this independently owned herbs and spice shop, which also sells at Union Market (8th Street)
- Cherry Blossom Creative – A graphic-design studio that will also offer original works for retail purchase (8th Street)
- Foundry Gallery – An artist-run gallery that will move from Dupont Circle (8th Street)
- Typecase Industries – A locally-based letterpress and design studio (8th Street)
- Washington Project for the Arts – The headquarters for a non-profit arts support organization (8th Street)
All shops will be open by the end of the year.
Local grocer Glen’s Garden Market will open a second location on Florida Avenue just west of LeDroit Park. Glen’s first store, which replaced the “Secret” Safeway on 20th Street in Dupont several years ago, is a small market specializing in locally grown food.
The new location in the new Shay apartment building at 8th Street and Florida Avenue will only cover 2,100 square feet. Unlike the Dupont location, the new space will forgo the pizza oven and smoker, but will cordon off an area for a beer garden, presumably on the spacious 8th Street front.
Read the City Paper story for the full details.
New shops are opening just west of LeDroit Park. Prolific Washington area developer JBG is nearing completion of the four buildings it is constructing just west of Georgia Avenue. Warby Parker, Compass Coffee, and restaurants from the people behind Birch & Barley and Daikaya will open soon.
The buildings, you may recall, have been in progress for several years. The northern two buildings, Atlantic Plumbing and 2030 8th Street sit on 8th Street on either side of V Street NW. The northern building, Atlantic Plumbing, is a 375-unit apartment building with ground-floor retail and a six-screen movie theater. The smaller southern building, 2030 8th Street is a 62-unit condo building.
The WBJ summed up the retail summed up the retailers coming to Atlantic Plumbing:
- Landmark Theatre – Six-screen theater featuring independent films.
- Hazel (probably) – A new restaurant from Neighborhood Restaurant Group, which currently owns Birch & Barley and Bluejacket.
- An unnamed ramen restaurant from the people behind Daikaya in Chinatown.
- Bazaar Spices – The second location for this independently owned herbs and spice shop, which also sells at Union Market.
- Cherry Blossom Creative – A graphic-design studio that will also offer original works for retail purchase.
- Foundry Gallery – An artist-run gallery that will move from Dupont Circle.
- Declaration Pizza – A new pizza shop from the owners of Lincoln and Teddy & the Bully Bar.
- Tasty Burger – The first DC-area location of this Boston-based burger chain.
- Typecase Industries – A locally-based letterpress and design studio.
- Washington Project for the Arts – The headquarters for a non-profit arts support organization.
On the 700 and 800 blocks of Florida Avenue, JBG is nearing completion of the two buildings, called the Shay, it has constructed above the Metro tunnel. Back in 2011, I documented the protracted saga to redevelop these two parcels. Though JBG had considered offering one of the buildings as condos, it has since chosen to keep both buildings as rentals, delivering a total of 336 apartments.
The WBJ reports the following retailers for the Shay:
- Warby Parker – Purveyor of hip spectacles.
- Freehand – A restaurant from Tim Ma, owner of Water & Wall in Arlington and Maple Ave. in Vienna.
- Compass Coffee – The second location for the coffee shop that currently operates on 7th Street in Shaw.
- Aesop – An Austrialian retailer of sustainable skincare, haircare and other personal care products.
- Benrus – The second U.S. locaiton of this watchmaker.
- Kit and Ace – Luxury clothing retailer.
- Read Wall – D.C.-based menswear retailer selling knits, outerwear, custom suits, and neckware.
- Steven Alan – Casual clothing for men and women.
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.
|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|
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.
Chuck Brown, the Godfather of Go-go, died on May 16. That night a crowd of fans celebrated his life and mourned his death in front of the Howard Theatre.
Brown’s viewing will be held at the Howard Theatre on Tuesday, May 29, from 11 am to 10 pm. To accomodate the expected crown of mourners, DDOT will close several streets to private automobiles on Tuesday. T Street from 7th Street to Florida Avenue will close from 3 am to midnight. The following streets will close from 9:30 am to midnight:
- T Street between 9th Street and Florida Avenue
- 7th Street between Florida Avenue and S Street
- 8th Street between Florida Avenue and S Street
- Wiltberger Street between T Street and S Street
You may still walk or bike along these streets, but if you’re driving, it will be best to avoid the area.
The JBG apartment project on the 700 and 800 blocks of Florida Avenue NW moved forward last week when the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) gave partial approval to the project. The modernist design will likely have to endure a few more refinements before the board grants its final approval for the site.
Building alterations, additions, demolitions, and construction in historic districts are subject to review by the Historic Preservation Review Board. Since the site sits in the U Street Historic District, it must also gain HPRB approval before it can receive building permits.
Though we are supporters of historic preservation, we can see why this extra level of review frustrates builders and property owners. The main problem is that historic review requires property owners, architects, and developers to adjust their designs based on subjective judgments of historic compatibility.
The historic review process is less predictable that the typical building process, which simply requires that a builder meet unambiguous zoning regulations and building codes. For instance, the JBG site is zoned C-2-B, which permits residential projects to rise to 65 feet or to rise to 70 feet if they include affordable housing.
Distances are easy and unambiguous measurements, but how does one determine if a proposed design is historically compatible?
As in most cases where subjectivity needs analysis, you can easily define the extreme cases. The Weaver Building (HUD’s headquarters) is undoubtedly incompatible with the Victorian rowhouse architecture of the U Street area. Likewise, a good number of preservationists despise projects that attempt precise replication of historic structures. The right answers lies somewhere between aping historic forms and shunnig them all together.
Modernism, a 20th century invention, can work well in historic districts if done right and Miller Hull has worked to refine its designs to pass HPRB muster.
Though the HPRB asked for further refinement that will have to go to the board again, the board did support the design on six features so far:
- Relocation of the front, original section of 1933-35 9th Street to the southern portion of the site, adjacent to the row of similarly-sized and scaled historic buildings, and removal of the later rear additions
- Reconfiguration of the alley on the western parcel to exit on 9th Street
- Subdivision to allow lot combination on both the west and east sites
- Overall site organization of the new construction
- Height and massing along Florida Avenue
- General architectural direction, subject to further development and material selection.
Here are the concept designs the board reviewed when it reached this decision:
Few things rile up neighbors like liquor licenses. Just outside LeDroit Park at 8th and T Streets, a proposal for a new restaurant, All Souls, has elicited the ire of several neighbors. The objectors, though small in number, are trying to stop a local restaurateur from turning a vacant storefront, pictured above, into a community asset. Much of this opposition is unwise and unwarranted and will hold back neighborhood improvement. We have heard the objections to All Souls for several months and would like to see this restaurant finally come to fruition.
While some objections, particularly regarding outdoor noise late into the night, are certainly reasonable, a few objectors have damaged their own credibility with an array of spurious objections.
The first of such complaints is that a restaurant serving alcohol across the street from an elementary school is unsavory. This is a red herring. Restaurants cannot serve alcohol to 10-year-olds and the main business of restaurants is at night, several hours after school has ended. The restaurateur has agreed to not serve alcohol before 5 pm.
The most ludicrous objection we heard is that patrons on the patio on 8th Street (along the blank wall in the photo above) will leer into a neighboring house. This is another red herring as drawing one’s window blinds or curtains can easily solve this problem.
Another objection is that a restaurant is inappropriate for what one objector alleged is a “residential street”. This is not entirely true. Most of the 1900 block of 8th Street is actually in a commercial zone C-2-B, which is intended for commercial uses, but also allows residential uses.
The restaurant site is surrounded by a residential zone (R-4) on three sides. Nonetheless, all zones have boundaries in which differing uses abut each other. It is the responsibility of residents to research and understand the zoning implications of where they live. It is also important for residents to understand their limitations in dictating how other people lawfully use their own property.
The restaurant building, as marked in the map below, is zoned for commercial uses (C-2-A), which permits restaurants as a matter of right. The law is very clear in this case that a restaurant is permitted in this location. The issuance of the alcohol license, which is necessary for any reastaurant to survive financially, is not by right, but must be requested. Thus, it is only in the alcohol license that the objectors have a viable case to block the business.
All Souls will improve the quality of life in several ways. It will provide a sit-down restaurant, something we consider a desirable neighborhood amenity. It will provide more eyes on the street to deter crime. Drug dealers and criminals at 7th & T Streets will feel less confident in their criminality when they see that there are numerous witnesses at sidewalk tables 100 feet away.
Most importantly, the conversion of a vacant property (pictured to the right) into a vibrant, occupied use improves the impression of the neighborhood. People rightly look upon vacant and abandoned space negatively. They look at active, lively restaurants positively. All Souls will improve the image of the neighborhood by improving the quality of life.
Let’s hope the unreasonable objections of a few don’t derail a potential community asset that we suspect the silent majority supports.
The monthly meeting of ANC1B will be on Thursday, December 2 at 7pm in the Reeves Building at Fourteenth and U Streets NW. Here are some of the highlights from the agenda:
The commission will likely support the zoning relief application for 2221 14th Street NW (image above). In a rare residential foray, Douglas Development seeks to build a condo building at the southeast corner of Fourteenth Street and Florida Avenue. The company is seeking support for several variances and special exceptions, mostly regarding the roof structure, rear setback, and parking requirements. View the designs and zoning application.
The commission is also likely to lend its support to the Arts District Branding Project, which is developing graphic banners (sample at right) to hang from lights posts along Fourteenth Street and U Street. The banner is part of a $200,000 city-funded branding project to enhance the marketing and identity of the arts district that stretches along Fourteenth Street from Rhode Island Avenue to Florida Avenue and along U Street from Seventeenth Street to Seventh Street.
DDOT prefers that private groups obtain ANC support before the agency permits groups to hang banners on poles for 90 – 180 days. After the 180-day term, the banners remain up until another group wishes to use the poles or until the group removes them.
Also on the agenda is the District-owned Parcel 39 at the southwest corner of Eighth and T Streets in Shaw. The site is currently a parking lot, but Mayor Fenty, in the waning days of his mayoralty, is seeking to sell the lot to a development team with plans to construct a four-unit condo building. The sale price, or proposed sales price, has not yet been disclosed.
Two licensees are looking to modify their licenses:
Alero Restaurant & Lounge (1301 U Street) looks to amend its Class C license to include a 44-seat sidewalk café serving alcohol from 11:30 am to 1 am Sunday through Saturday.
Nearby, the Islander Caribbean Restaurant & Lounge (1201 U Street) wants to extend its hours and expand to the second floor. Currently their hours are Sunday 10 am- 2 am and Thursday-Saturday 10 am-2 am. They propose these new hours: Sunday through Saturday, 6 am-4 am with alcohol served Sunday 10 am-2 am, Monday-Thursday 8 am-2 am, and Friday – Saturday 8 am-3 am.
The commission will likely renew the following licenses as a formality:
- Duffy’s Irish Restaurant (2106 Vermont Avenue)
- Hominy/Bohemian Caverns (2001 11th Street)
- Dickson Wine (903 U Street)
- Velvet Lounge (915 U Street)
- Indulj (1208 U Street)
- Desperados Pizza (1342 U Street)
- Patty Boom Boom (1359 U Street)
- Marvin (2007 14th Street)
- The Gibson (2009 14th Street)
- Café Collage (1346 T Street)
- Jin (2017 14th Street)