September 19, 2011 - 11:13 am

Meet your neighbors tonight at Nellie’s

Nellie's at Night by M.V. Jantzen, on Flickr

Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr

Come for drinks, appetizers, and chat with your neighbors tonight from 6 to 8 at Nellie’s (9th & U Streets NW).  The LeDroit Park Civic Association has started organizing monthly happy hours at Nellie’s, whose owner, a LeDroit resident, has kindly donated appetizers and space at the upstairs bar.

The civic association has reached out via Twitter to residents in Bloomingdale and Shaw to join us.

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June 26, 2011 - 7:37 am

Neighborhood meeting Tuesday


Mark your calendars. The LeDroit Park Civic Association’s final meeting before the summer recess is Tuesday at 7pm at the Florida Avenue Baptist Church (enter at the rear on U St).

This month’s agenda:

  • Ward 1 School Board member Patrick Mara
  • Representatives from Metro. Police and Fire to discuss safety/crime
  • A discussion on the Howard University project, and how it will benefit our neighborhood
  • A discussion about the living conditions at Kelly Miller and our call for action to DCHA
  • An update on the new Park
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April 23, 2011 - 12:42 pm

Learn about Howard’s 10 year campus plan on Tuesday

Howard University will present details of its draft campus plan at Tuesday’s meeting of the LeDroit Park Civic Association. The university is required to submit a plan every ten years and the university is currently finishing its draft that it will submit to the Zoning Commission in the coming months. This is your chance to learn about the future of Slowe Hall and Diggs Hall, as well as future dorms on 4th Street and buildings along Georgia Avenue.

Tuesday, April 26 at 7pm in the basement of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church, 623 Florida Ave (enter on U street)

Also on the agenda:

  • Park update— it’s nearly finished!
  • Vote to support the liquor license application of Shaw’s Tavern
  • Nominating committee for the coming civic association elections

All neighbors are encouraged to attend.

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March 22, 2011 - 8:39 am

Dorms, a park, a restaurant, and public safety


Howard University wants to add 1,300 beds on 4th Street, a new restaurant is coming to 6th St and Florida Avenue, the neighborhood watch seeks your input, and the conclusion of park construction are all agenda items at tonight’s Civic Association meeting.

The meeting is open to the public and all neighbors are encouraged to attend.

Tuesday, March 22 at 7 pm
Basement of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church
(enter on U Street)

The civic association will also take open comments from neighbors who wish bring up anything of neighborhood concern.

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March 19, 2011 - 2:16 pm

Howard wants to increase campus housing 28%

Last month Howard University’s Board of Trustees agreed to proceed the planning process to build 1,300 beds of student housing in two new dorms on campus. This marks a 28% increase from the current 4,609 beds the university controls.  This is smart move that will aid academic success and reduce commuting pressure through the surrounding neighborhoods.

View Howard University’s future development in a larger map

The university’s goal is to create a “Freshmen Village” on 4th Street just north of LeDroit Park.  Ms. Maybelle Bennett, Howard’s community outreach director, said that enhancing academic performance and graduation rates is the university’s motivation for concentrating housing and services for new students in Freshmen Village.  Since a student’s first year is critical to a student’s success during an undergraduate career, the university wants, as Ms. Bennett adoringly put it, “to bring our babies home.”

The university will add these two new buildings to their forthcoming campus plan proposal that they will submit to the Zoning Commission in the coming months.  Each university in the District is required to submit a campus plan for the commission’s approval every ten years.

We think this is a smart move on the university’s part and will benefit everyone.

National social benefits

Universities serve a unique social mission: they exist to educate America’s youth.  As such, we must remember that a university’s success is in the national social interest.  The university’s goal of improving academic performance is laudable and its reasonable measures should be supported on social grounds.

Traffic and environmental benefits

Furthermore, by bringing more students onto campus, the university reduces the commuting pressure currently placed on students and the surrounding neighborhoods. More students walking from bed to class means fewer students driving from home to campus.

As it stands today, hundreds of students commute from housing in Prince George’s Plaza alone.  Though most of them probably take the Metro, many will undoubtedly drive on occasion, thus adding traffic and pollution to surrounding neighborhoods.  Carpooling in a Prius still has a greater environmental impact than walking, which is mankind’s oldest, cheapest, cleanest, quietest, and most universal form of transport.

Economic development benefits

With 1,300 more people within a short walk of Florida Avenue, the new dorms will increase the economic viability of the commercial spaces along LeDroit Park’s southern edge.  All of the properties along Florida Avenue are zoned for both residential and commercial use, even though most are solely residences at the moment.  In fact a century ago the 400 block of Florida Avenue (across the street from the Post Office) hosted numerous prominent black-owned businesses and doctors’ offices.

What do you think? Are you supportive of the university’s desire to add more housing on campus?

Ms. Bennett will present the plan for Freshmen Village to the LeDroit Park Civic Association. The meeting is open to the public and residents are encouraged to attend. The meeting will be at 7 pm on Tuesday, March 22 in the basement of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church (enter through the back at U and Bohrer Streets).

November 17, 2010 - 8:52 am

Name the New Park

Park construction is underway, but when the park is ready in the coming months, what should we call it? The ultimate decision is up to the DC Council, but Councilmember Jim Graham (D – Ward 1) has assured us that the Council will strongly consider any three names that neighbors finally settle on.

You can submit your suggestions online. Anyone may submit names and you may submit as many as you like. The LeDroit Park Civic Association will gather the names and allow the public to vote for the names. The top three winners will be forwarded to the Council.

What would you like to call the park?

If we want to honor notable residents, here are a few famous figures from the neighborhood’s history:

  • Walter Washington – 408 T Street – First elected mayor of DC.
  • Paul Laurence Dunbar – 321 U Street – Notable poet.
  • Mary Church Terrell – 326 T Street – Notable civil rights activist.
  • Oscar De Priest – 419 U Street – First black Congressman elected since Reconstruction.

We have excluded Duke Ellington since he lived here for only one year and since he already has several civic works dedicated to him.  We also excluded living people since their histories are still being written.  We also left out Anna J. Cooper since she already has the circle park named after her.

One other deceased person who might merit distinction is Theresa Brown, who died in 2009.  Ms. Brown was instrumental in establishing the LeDroit Park Historic District and protecting the neighborhood’s unique architecture from the wrecking ball.  Without her, the neighborhood we know today may have been turned into parking lots.

Most parks operated by the Department of Parks and Recreation end their names with “Recreation Center”,  a suffix with as much charm as the tax code.  Perhaps Playground, Gardens, Park, or Field would set off our park from other projects.

What would you like to name the park?

September 26, 2010 - 11:39 pm

Civic Association Meets Tuesday at 7pm

Gingerbread on the Cooper House

The LeDroit Park Civic Association will meet on Tuesday, September 28 at 7pm in the basement of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church (623 Florida Avenue NW – enter on U St). All neighbors are welcome and encouraged to attend.

During first week of September, we saw groundbreaking ceremonies for both the park and the Howard Theatre. Construction managers for both projects will present at the Civic Association meeting to detail the construction timeline, address neighborhood questions, and discuss job opportunities for residents.

Also learn about the upcoming LeDroit Park Community Day and the Howard University Homecoming, both set for late October.

Don’t forget to renew your annual membership (or join for the first time) if you haven’t already. Dues are $15 per household ($5 for seniors). You can even pay online!

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June 17, 2010 - 7:09 am

Meet the Ward One Council Candidates

Jim Graham

Marc Morgan

Jeff Smith

Brian Weaver

All four candidates for the Ward One council seat will speak on Tuesday night at the Ward One Candidates Forum in LeDroit Park.  Candidates will speak to and take questions from the public.  Everyone is encouraged to attend.

The candidates for office are Jim Graham (D), Marc Morgan (R), Jeff Smith (D), and Brian Weaver (D).  Messrs Graham, Smith, and Weaver will compete for the Democratic nomination in September.  Mr. Morgan is running unopposed for the Republican nomination so he will face the Democratic nominee in November.

Ward One Candidates Forum
Presented by the LeDroit Park Civic Association
Tuesday, June 22 at 7pm
Basement of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church
623 Florida Ave NW – enter at the back on U Street

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May 24, 2010 - 10:24 pm

Civic Association Meets Tuesday

Anna J. Cooper Circle

The LeDroit Park Civic Association meets tomorrow, Tuesday, May 25 at 7pm in the basement of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church.

  • LeDroit Park-Bloomingdale Heritage Trail update.
  • Columbia Elks Lodge #85, 1844 3rd Street NW—Application for renewal of Retail Class CX club license
  • Gage Eckington Park update.

We hope to see you there.

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March 28, 2010 - 12:05 am

Side Yards and Side Views

1922 Third Street concept, east face on Third Street

At Tuesday’s LeDroit Park Civic Association meeting, the Mr. Grant Epstein presented his proposal for 1922 Third Street, the property we have written about before.  There appeared to be a mix of opinions at the meeting ranging from support to strong opposition.  The most contentious part is by far the proposed townhouse (middle of the picture above).  We’ve outlined most of the main objections before (massing, parking, use) so we won’t rehash them here.

Mr. Epstein estimated the renovation of the main house alone to cost $1.5 million and that the entire project would cost $5-6 million.  Each unit would average around 800 square feet with the additional space devoted to common areas (halls, stairs, etc.).

There was one interesting matter of zoning that needs clarification.  It is currently unknown if the north wall of the existing adjacent townhouse (left, picture above) sits entirely on its own property or if it is a typical party wall with half of the wall on one property and half on the other.

If it is indeed entirely on its own property (abutting, but not crossing, the property line), Mr. Epstein stated that his proposed townhouse would rest on its own wall just up to, and entirely within, his property line.*  If this the case, one neighbor told us that such an arrangement might violate the R-4 zone’s side yard requirement of an eight-foot setback from the side property line.  Are any zoning experts able to clarify this?

The zoning code appears unclear to us.  11 DC Code § 405.3 states

In R-2, R-3, R-4, and R-5 Districts, when a one-family dwelling, flat, or multiple dwelling is erected that does not share a common division wall with an existing building … it shall have a side yard on each resulting free-standing side.

If the existing side wall of the adjacent property is indeed entirely within its own property (even if abutting the property line), is it considered a “common division wall”?  If it can’t be considered such a wall, then this section requires a side yard for the proposed townhouse.  But later on down, § 405.6 states

Except as provided in §§ 405.1 and 405.2 [that both relate to single-family dwellings], a side yard shall not be required in an … R-4 … District.  However, if the yard is provided, it shall be at lease three inches (3 in.) wide per foot of height of the building, but not less than eight feet (8 ft.) wide.

The determining factor appears to be whether the side yard requirement actually hinges on the placement of the neighbor’s side wall— that is, abutting the property line or straddling the property line.

Anyway, one resident also thought it would be useful to color in the side view of the proposed townhouse.  We have replicated his method below (the side of the townhouse is in red, the rear addition in green)

View from U Street. The proposed townhouse in red and the rear addition in green.

Such extensive construction and renovation in a historic district means that the design and permitting process provide many opportunities for public input.  Even if you missed the first three presentations (grayed-out below) you have at least two more public opportunities to comment:

  • ANC1B Meeting – Thursday, March 7
  • ANC1B Design Committee Meeting – Tuesday, March 16
  • LeDroit Park Civic Association – Tuesday, March 23
  • ANC1B Meeting – Thursday, April 1 at 7 pm on the second floor of the Reeves Building, 14th & U Streets.
  • Historic Preservation Review Board (tentative) – Thursday, April 22 at 10 am at One Judiciary Square (441 Fourth Street NW), Room 220 South.

What do you think?  Do you like the plan, oppose the plan, or does your opinion lie somewhere in between?  Leave your comments below; I’m quite sure the developer reads this blog and will be interested to know what you think.

* The developer has not actually bought 1922 Third Street yet.  He has a contingent contract to buy it.