It looks like 2013 will be a harvest year for LeDroit Park residents as two new grocery stores open nearby. DCist broke the news that Trader Joe’s will open a store at the Louis building now under construction at the southwest corner of 14th and U.
Located at just under a mile’s walk from Anna J. Cooper Circle, the new store will provide another grocery option to area residents.
TJ’s prices are competitive with many other stores and the TJ’s specializes in unusual and somewhat exotic foods in addition to the usual staples. TJ’s main weakness lies in its produce selection, which, judging from experiences at the Trader Joe’s in the West End, is limited.
The store’s opening next year will also be accompanied by the opening of the 60,000 square-foot Giant at the CityMarket project at 7th and P Streets in Shaw. Once these two projects open, all the major grocery store chains in the area will be located no more than 1.1 mi. from LeDroit Park.
|Giant (opening 2013)||7th & P Streets NW||0.6|
|Trader Joe’s (opening 2013)||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|
Even still I dream of a full-service grocery store opening up at the long-stalled Howard Town Center project at Georgia Avenue and V Street. The project, in the planning stages for many years, has been perpetually delayed by disagreements between Howard University and its development partner.
The UPO building on Rhode Island Avenue used to be a Safeway many years ago. The site is large enough to be redeveloped into a modern, urban grocery store if parking is placed underground. In fact the second floor could house UPO’s offices.
Until those dreams come true, the nearest full-service grocery stores are a long, but manageable walk.
A neighbor pointed us to this poignant video footage of the riots that occurred 44 years ago here in Washington after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.
Contrary to popular belief, suburban flight and urban disinvestment were already well-underway by 1968. The destruction that occurred in American cities that year was not the cause of urban decay; it merely accelerated a pre-existing, post-war urban decline. Most middle-class Americans, regardless of race, do not want to live or shop in a war zone, after all. Thus DC’s commercial districts quickly declined.
The riots that year were a mixed result: they meaningfully displayed frustration at systematized racism in American society, but they also destroyed the essential businesses in DC’s majority-black neighborhoods.
The sociology of the matter is controversial, but it’s important we review accounts of the history just to know what happened.
Look carefully at video and you’ll recognize 7th Street in Shaw, U Street, and 14th Street. Washington was never the same after April 1968.
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)
Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) will address the monthly meeting of ANC 1B on Thursday at 7 pm at the Reeves Center at Fourteenth and U Streets NW. Following the mayor will be Councilmember Kwame Brown (D – at large), who is running for chair of the DC Council.
In other news, a new Mexican restaurant at 1819 Fourteenth Street, next to the Black Cat, is applying for a liquor license. They plan to host 99 seats in the summer garden, 14 seats on the sidewalk, and 161 seats inside. Though the property appears to be a modest 20 feet wide, it’s very deep and the “summer garden” is probably liquor license-speak for “roof deck”.
Closer to LeDroit Park, Howard Theatre Restoration Inc., the non-profit about to break ground on the Howard Theatre renovations this month, will request a $5,000 grant for the Jazz Man statue we wrote about earlier.
Update: We received word yesterday that the mayor has canceled his appearance.
At last night’s monthly meeting of ANC1B, Councilmember Jim Graham (D – Ward 1) suggested that the neighborhood could “benefit from discussion” of a liquor license moratorium on U Street. While the U Street corridor has experienced significant growth in the number of restaurants and bars over the past ten years, not everyone is happy with the revival. The bar scene, in the midst of a dense neighborhood is bound to create conflict especially as the corridor becomes a regional destination for bar-goers.
In fact one of the attractive features of U Street is that its bars have not become as raucous and overcrowded as those in Adams-Morgan. Part of the reason is that U Street attracts a different crowd (read: fewer college students) and includes more restaurants than actual bars. Furthermore, U Street stretches 0.8 miles (from Ninth to Seventeenth Streets) compared to Adams-Morgan’s 0.4 mi (along Eighteenth Street from U Street to Columbia Road). In reality the main bar strip of Adams-Morgan is packed into the 0.2 miles between Kalorama and Columbia Roads. That’s only one-fourth the length of the U Street corridor.
We know Adams-Morgan and U Street is no Adams-Morgan.
A moratorium on U Street would freeze the supply of available bar and restaurant space without alleviating the demand. In other words, a moratorium would eventually pack the existing venues. Customers will be stuck with the same selection of venues and would suffer higher prices and larger crowds at each venue.
Furthermore, we argue that this issue is already being addressed through two other avenues. First, the ANC is careful to review liquor licenses and doesn’t hesitate to strongarm restaurateurs and barkeeps into so-called “voluntary agreements” that stipulate a variety of restrictions. These restrictions aim to maintain the livability triumvirate of “peace, order, and quiet” so that neighbors can sleep without a cacophony of throbbing music, boisterous drunks, and gun shots. The process is not perfect, but neighbors are legally entitled to input and negotiation.
Second, the liquor issue is already being addressed by proxy of the zoning code. As we reported before, no more than 25% (soon to be raised to 50%) of street frontage along Fourteenth Street and U Street within the Uptown Arts Overlay zone can be devoted to food establishments. Since restaurants make much of their money by serving alcohol, the raising of the cap to 50%, an increase with significant, though not universal, community support, implies the acceptability of a commensurate increase in liquor licenses.
* * *
In other news, the ANC voted unanimously to approve the renewal of Class C restaurant liquor licenses for the following businesses:
- Shashemene Ethiopian Restaurant – 1909 Ninth Street NW
- Ambassador Restaurant – 1907 Ninth Street NW
- Zula Restaurant – 1933 Ninth Street NW
- Sala Thai – 1301 U Street NW
- Vinoteca – 1940 Eleventh Street NW
- Red Lounge – 2013 Fourteenth Street NW
- Gori Café – 1119 V Street NW
- La Carbonara – 1926 Ninth Street NW
- El Sol de America – 1930 Ninth Street NW
- Salina Restaurant – 1936 Ninth Street NW
- Chix – 2019 Eleventh Street NW
- Masa14 – 1825 Fourteenth Street NW (rooftop license modifications are a separate matter)
- Source – 1835 Fourteenth Street NW
- Prince Hall Freemason & Eastern Star Charitable Foundation – 1000 U Street NW
- Islander Caribbean Restaurant & Lounge – 1201 U Street NW
- The Saloon – 1205-1207 U Street NW
- Ulah Bistro – 1214 U Street NW
- Lincoln Theater – 1215 U Street NW
- Café Nema-Momo’s – 1334 U Street NW
- Dynasty Ethiopian Restaurant – 2210 Fourteenth Street NW
The ANC voted to withdraw its protest and enter into a voluntary agreement with Mesobe Restaurant (1853 Seventh Street NW). The commissioners voted to protest the renewal of Expo Restaurant and Nightclub (1928 Ninth Street NW) on account of noise and trash. They aim to draft a voluntary agreement with Expo. The commission decided to take no action on the renewal of licenses for Yegna (1920 Ninth Street NW) and Eatonville (2121 Fourteenth Street NW).
Amendments to the zoning code usually proceed at a snail’s pace, but when DCRA recently announced that it would no longer permit any new restaurants along Fourteenth and U Streets, the MidCity Business Association, with the support of other neighborhood groups, demanded an immediate change.
The District government is listening. The Office of Planning (OP) is poised to hold a hearing on Monday, April 26th to lift the maximum restaurant street frontage restriction from 25% to 50% of the total frontage along Fourteenth and U Streets within the overlay (shaded in red below).
View U-14th-Florida-9th Arts Overlay in a larger map
The proposed amendment will also adjust how the limit is calculated. Currently the limit applies to and is calculated from all properties fronting U and Fourteenth Streets within the zone. (These frontages are marked in red above.)
OP proposes not only to raise the limit to 50%, but also to calculate it per “block-face” rather than as the aggregate of all blocks together. For instance, on the 1300 block of U Street, restaurants will be limited to 50% of frontage on the south side of the street and 50% of frontage on the north side of the street.
OP also proposes to “clarify” the existing regulation so that “[a]n eating and drinking establishments not located on the ground (street) level of a building shall not count towards the 50% limit.” The ground-level exemption will also apply above- and below-street entrances.
OP also proposes another clarification to stipulate that the limit only applies to lots fronting Fourteenth Street and U Street within the overlay; the existing wording is ambiguous as to whether the restriction applies only to these two streets or to all lots within the entire zone.
Once the 50% limit is reached on a block-face, OP proposes stricter requirements for exemptions.
Check out the full proposed amendment:
Are there too many restaurants, bars, and cafés on U Street and Fourteenth Street? According to the zoning code, the answer is yes.
View U-14th-Florida-9th Arts Overlay in a larger map
The Uptown Arts Overlay District (shaded in red above) covers much of the commercial areas on U Street and Fourteenth Street (and some side streets) and limits eating establishments in the zone to 25% of the linear frontage as measured along Fourteenth and U Streets in the zone (red lines above). The original purpose of the limitation was to prevent the area from becoming “overrun” with restaurants, thus crowding out other non-eating establishments.
DCRA recently finished surveying the zone and found that the area is a mere 12.6 feet short of hitting the 25% limit, meaning that DCRA will not issue new Certificates of Occupancy or Building Permits for restaurants unless they receive zoning variances. Variances takes months to approve and aren’t guaranteed. Now opening even a modest café will require much more time and money and may require hiring a lawyer to apply for zoning variances.
The MidCity Business Association is upset and is demanding a zoning text amendment to raise the limit from 25% to 50%. Their fury directed at DCRA is unwarranted, though, as the agency must enforce zoning laws.
MidCity, though, has a lot of support on its side. Last year the three ANCs in the overlay, 2B, 2F, and 1B, as well as the Logan Circle Community Association and the U Street Neighborhood Association all supported increasing the limit from 25% to 50%. Though the changes to the Uptown Arts Overlay were expected to be included as part of the District’s city-wide zoning rewrite, DCRA’s recent decision, combined with the fact that the city-wide zoning rewrite is over a year away, have given new urgency to an immediate text amendment.
Now it is the time to act. As Greater Greater Washington (GGW) explains, zoning amendments typically originate from either the Zoning Commission or the Office of Planning, but an ANC or ordinary citizen can propose a text amendment, too. The Zoning Commission, if it decides to take up the matter, would hold a hearing and decided whether to approve the amendment.
Limiting the space devoted to eating establishments allows for more space devoted to neighborhood-serving retail such as dry cleaners, grocery stores, furniture stores, and clothing stores. Even still, restaurants serve residents, too, and the 25% limit is too low. Seventeenth Street in Dupont, as GGW explains, enjoys a sufficient variety of neighborhood-serving retail stores even though frontage devoted to eating establishments far exceeds 25%.
The Overlay extends as far east as the Howard Theater and even down Ninth Street’s Little Ethiopia. If the 25% rule holds, don’t expect any new restaurants to open up there, either. [see update below]
What do you think? Should the District allow more eating establishments in the area?
Update: We emailed the Office of the Zoning Administrator for clarification, and we stand corrected: “The 25% restriction only applies to businesses within the subset of 900-1400 blocks of U St NW and the 1300-2200 blocks of 14th St NW; so a potential restaurant on 9th St NW would be able to proceed without seeking BZA relief.”
Meghan Conklin, the ANC commissioner for single-member district (SMD) 1B06 has resigned for health reasons. If you live within 1B06, bounded by Euclid, Fourteenth, Belmont, and Fifteenth Streets NW, you may want to consider running to represent your neighborhood.
View ANC1B in a larger map
The monthly meeting of ANC1B will be held on Thursday, March 4 at 7 pm on the second floor of the Reeves Building at Fourteenth and U Streets.
Highlights include the presentation of the conceptual design for 1922 Third Street in LeDroit Park and a liquor license application for a hamburger restaurant called Standard to occupy the former Garden District (1801 Fourteenth Street).
Snowpocalypse 2: Electric Boogaloo and other matters kept us too busy to follow up on the February meeting of ANC1B, so here is the belated report of the highlights.
The owner of 1916 Ninth Street requested a variance to allow him to use the house as an art gallery. His description of the renovation included achieving LEED Platinum certification for the old rowhouse.
The owner of 321 T Street sought and received ANC support for his conceptual design of his proposed renovations to the rowhouse on T Street here in LeDroit Park. The owner had presented the plan at the previous LeDroit Park Civic Association meeting and didn’t receive any opposition.
Finally, a lawyer representing Media Center One (a.k.a. Broadcast Center One) (pictured above) requested and received approval for a two-year extension for the planned unit development (PUD) application for the project. The developer’s representative blamed the financial markets (of course), sympathized with the community’s “development fatigue” and said that the project was moving forward thanks to the successful leasing of office space to the United Negro College Fund in addition to Radio One.
The reconfigured project will remain largely the same, except 50,000 square feet of apartment space will become office space. That means the project will include 133 apartments instead of 180 and will include 160,000 square feet of offices instead of 110,000 square feet.
Groundbreaking is now set for June or July 2010.
On the liquor front, Ulah Bistro received the ANC’s assent to host DJs and jazz bands Sunday through Thursday nights 9 pm to 1:30 am and Friday and Saturday nights 9 pm to 2:30 am. Ulah is one of the few licensees in the U Street area without a voluntary agreement.
The proprietors for Bella (900 Florida Avenue NW) did not show up and the ANC protested their request for a license.
Finally, the proprietor of Masa 14 (1825 Fourteenth Street) presented the most contentious proposal of the night, requesting that their liquor license extend to their proposed roof deck (see the drawings) permitting them to sell alcohol Sunday through Thursday 8 am to 2 am and Friday and Saturday 8 am to 3 am. Some neighbors voiced concern that the roof deck would create too much noise and doubted that a place described as restaurant would need to serve alcohol so late into the night. The ANC voted to protest the application until the owner and the ANC could come to a voluntary agreement. [Clarification: the ANC typically protests all new liquor licenses as a tactical move to goad applicants to reach what is called a “voluntary agreement” (VA) with the ANC. These voluntary agreements are less permissive than the District’s standing liquor laws.]
The next meeting is set for Thursday, March 4, 2010, at 7 pm on the second floor of the Reeves Building at Fourteenth and U Streets.