August 22, 2012 - 10:46 am

Video from the mayor’s presser on recent flooding

The mayor’s news conference on the establishment of an anti-flooding task force drew a lot of media attention. All the local affiliates covered it:

Watch the videos below.
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August 21, 2012 - 1:12 pm

Marc Morgan’s ANC campaign kicks off tomorrow at Shaw’s Tavern

Shaw's TavernMarc Morgan, currently the President of the LeDroit Park Civic Association, is running for the ANC seat that covers most of LeDroit Park. Mr. Morgan’s campaign kicks off tomorrow, Wednesday, August 22, from 6 pm to 9 pm at Shaw’s Tavern (6th Street and Florida Avenue NW). Everyone is welcome to attend.

Local notables in attendance include our current commissioner, Myla Moss, who has chosen not to seek reelection, and Patrick Mara, who is the Ward 1 member of the State Board of Education. Come on out, meet your neighbors, and meet the candidate.

The event is open to the public.

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August 21, 2012 - 11:12 am

Marc Morgan running for LeDroit Park’s ANC seat

Marc Morgan, President of the LeDroit Park Civic Association, is running unopposed for ANC 1B01, the seat that covers most of LeDroit Park. Myla Moss, our current ANC commissioner, has decided to retire from the seat she has held since January 2005.

Since I serve as Mr. Morgan’s campaign chair, I will share with you reasons you should vote for him in November.

For the past two years, Marc Morgan has served as President of the LeDroit Park Civic Association and has worked to bring the residents of the neighborhood together by hosting a mix of social activities and informational programs. Additionally, Mr. Morgan has been a strong advocate for the neighborhood by lobbying District agencies, including the DC Housing Authority, DC Water, and the District Department of Transportation, to better respond to problems facing residents in LeDroit Park.

For example, Mr. Morgan coordinated meetings between the residents of the Kelly Miller apartments and the DC Housing Authority to address crime, building deterioration, and youth engagement.

Last fall Mr. Morgan also coordinated the first annual LeDroit Park Oktoberfest, a neighborhood celebration that highlighted LeDroit Park’s diversity and offered activities for residents of all ages. Additionally, he has created a monthly neighborhood happy hour that provides neighbors an opportunity to meet and talk in a relaxed setting.

More recently, Mr. Morgan has work with the Metropolitan Police Department to address crime in LeDroit Park. Mr. Morgan continually pushes for increased police presence and responsiveness. Mr. Morgan also advocates measures to prevent crime and has consulted local residents and businesses to identify and report suspicious activity.

Within the next few weeks, he plans to roll out a new initiative that calls for increased police presence, identification of criminal hotspots, and crime prevention education in both LeDroit Park and Bloomingdale. The overall objective is to reassure residents that LeDroit Park and Bloomingdale are safe, thriving neighborhoods.

Outside of community activism, Mr. Morgan is the Director of Development for the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE), a non-profit dedicated to promoting the use of renewable energy.

Morgan has been a resident of Ward 1 for over 12 years and has spent the last 4 years in LeDroit Park. For more information, you can visit his website or Facebook page.

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September 01, 2010 - 8:25 am

Three Projects Break Ground This Week

We’re back from our half-month vacation and LeDroit Park and Shaw are about to see some construction action starting today.

Wednesday, September 1 – 10:30 am

Just when we thought construction on the park on the site of the old Gage-Eckington School would begin, along came the parks scandal last October. Then in March, Harry Thomas Jr. (D – Ward 5) tried to prevent the mayor from appropriating money to the park project; he then reversed himself after an avalanche of constituent criticism.  The new contract was ready to go until Councilmember Marion Barry (D – Ward 8) put a hold on the contract in late July.  Mr. Barry’s delay procedure just expired and the mayor’s office will host a groundbreaking ceremony today at 10:30 am at Third and Elm Streets.

3:00 pm

Over in Shaw, the two block site currently occupied by Giant and a crumbling old market façade is about to start its journey to become a vibrant mixed-use development.  Join the Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), Mayor Adrian Fenty (D), Council Chairman Vincent Gray (D), Councilmember Jack Evans (D – Ward 2) and Councilmember Kwame Brown (D – at large) for the groundbreaking.

Thursday, September 2 – 10:45 am

After years of planning and promises, construction on the Howard Theatre begins in earnest.  Join the developer, ANC Commissioner Myla Moss, and other notables for the official groundbreaking.

We’re relieved to see these long-promised projects finally moving forward to construction.

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August 07, 2010 - 8:43 am

Howard Theatre Brochure Subsidy

An early image of the Howard Theatre

The most contentious issue at Thursday’s meeting of ANC1B was the proposal to grant $4,000 to subsidize the groundbreaking celebration of the Howard Theater on August 22 and the proposal to spend $1,000 to purchase an advertisement in the celebration’s commemorative brochure.  Commissioners Brianne Nadeau (1B05 – Meridian Hill) and Sedrick Muhammad (1B03 – Cardozo) were particularly opposed.  Ms. Nadeau was displeased with the idea of a general subsidy for the event without knowing exactly for what items and services the money would be spent.  Mr. Muhammad didn’t think a one-time event warranted so much public money.

The ANC narrowly approved the $5,000 grant 4 to 3 (vote tally below) and then took up a grant application for the Banneker City Little League, which sought $3,000 to subsidize a little league for neighborhood children.  The commission approved the grant request without much ado.

As for $5,000 grant for the groundbreaking ceremony and the brochures, the votes were as follows:

Voting yea:

  • Ms. Myla Moss (1B01 – LeDroit Park)
  • Mr. Peter Raia (1B02 – U Street)
  • Mr. Eddie Ferrer (1B10 – North of Howard)
  • Ms. E. Gail Anderson Holness (1B11 – Southern Howard University & Southern Pleasant Plains)

Voting nay:

  • Mr. Sedrick Muhammad (1B03 – Cardozo)
  • Ms. Brianne Nadeau (1B05 – Meridian Hill)
  • Ms. Rosemary Akinmboni (1B08 – Southern Columbia Heights)

(See a map of the single-member districts in ANC1B)

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April 08, 2010 - 7:18 pm

Eyes (and Feet) on the Street

Carriage House

Meet your neighbors and catalog trouble spots. LeDroit Park residents will gather at Anna Cooper Circle on Thursday, April 15, for an alleyway walk-through. The purpose is to alert our ANC Commissioner Myla Moss, Councilmember Jim Graham, and our accompanying MPD officer of any inadequate lighting conditions or other features that may attract crime to our alleys.

The organizer tells us, “while the safety walk has a serious purpose, it’s also a great way to meet your neighbors and find out more about LeDroit Park.”

LeDroit Park Safety Walk
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Meet at Anna Cooper Circle at 7 pm

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April 05, 2010 - 12:58 am

1922 Third Street Inches Forward, ANC Notwithstanding

On Thursday evening, Mr. Grant Epstein of Community Three Development presented his latest revision for his concept for 1922 Third Street.  Some of the more notable changes include the reduction of the rear addition (above), the reconstruction of a demolished fence wall beside the carriage house (above), and a reduction of the massing of the side townhouse (below).

ANC1B’s Design Review Committee— of which I am a member— carefully reviewed the original concept and recommended several specific design revisions to the developer to reconcile the needs of historic preservation with the economic viability of redevelopment.  After the committee drafted its recommendations, Mr. Epstein alerted the committee and ANC of his latest revision, which the committee found satisfactorily addressed the historic context concerns.

Despite the committee’s recommendation for approval of the latest concept, ANC Commissioner Myla Moss (1B01 – LeDroit Park) said that she wholeheartedly applauded Mr. Epstein’s diligence, but would withhold her support because the design was “not totally there.”  Specifically Ms. Moss wanted to know about a rear-yard zoning issue and how the proposed side townhouse would obstruct the view from the indented side window of the adjacent Thompson property.

Mr. Epstein seemed frustrated and one of the other commissioners asked whether it was appropriate for the ANC to consider any matter beyond historic preservation.  The ANC voted to take no further action and to let its existing opposition stand.

In an email to us, Mr. Epstein wrote

We found it very odd that the Commission chose to oppose the ANC Design Committee’s recommendation of approval, especially when the resultant collaborative effort provided a holistic resolution to a very complicated set of constraints on this specific site. In our experience, the Historic Preservation Review Board is looking for the ANC to comment about conceptual historic compatibility and the remaining issues raised by the assenting Commissioners seemed very detail-oriented. There are typically thousands of detailed issues that arise when renovating a historic structure, some we know about at this stage, yet many that don’t surface until later stages in the project. This is specifically why the process is designed as such – concept review first, then detail refinement.

Despite the ANC’s official opposition, the Historic Preservation Review Board will hear the concept proposal on Thursday, April 22 at 10 am at One Judiciary Square (441 Fourth Street NW), Room 220 South and will decide whether the concept is historically acceptable.

In the meantime, browse the concept floor plans:



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March 13, 2010 - 2:02 pm

Shaw Fits and Starts

Broadcast Center One as viewed from the CVS at 7th & T Streets

When climbing the escalator out of the Shaw Metro’s north entrance, one emerges between Seventh Street on the left and a vacant field on the right.  The vacant field has been set for renewal with a plan going back several years.  In January, when we first started writing about the project, Radio One was still planning to move its headquarters to the site and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) was considering space there, too.

At the February ANC1B meeting, the development team’s lawyer stated that the combination of UNCF and Radio One would require a reduction in the number of apartments from 180 to 133.  With Radio One unceremoniously backing out, the number is now restored to 180.  In January, the amount of retail space was reported to be 22,000 square feet.  Now that UNCF plans to occupy 5,000 square feet on the ground floor for an outreach center, the retail component may have changed.

Two weeks ago we reported that Radio One had snubbed Shaw and decided to stay put in Lanham, possibly putting the project in jeopardy.  Luckily, UNCF, in offering to purchase half of the 100,000 square feet of office space, provides a sufficient commitment to get the project further financing.

The following table illustrates the changes in the project since the beginning of the year and reflects numbers gleaned from various sources.

Radio One Radio One + UNCF UNCF
Office Space (sq ft) 96,000 160,000 100,000
Housing units 180 133 180

On Friday, the WBJ reported that UNCF’s chief had formally testified before the D.C. Council seeking a $3.8-million property tax break and a $710,000 grant to move to Shaw.  LeDroit Park’s ANC commissioner Myla Moss (ANC1B01) testified in support of the legislation, which will be taken up by the full council in April.  If approved, the development team promises (yet again) to break ground in August.

One casualty of the proposed move is the Howard Theater, already delayed and crumbling under the elements.  The $710,000 relocation grant would come from money set aside for the theater’s revival.

IMG_4585

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March 07, 2010 - 11:59 am

More Details on 1922 Third Street

Third & U Sts NW
Carriage House

At Thursday’s monthly meeting of ANC1B, Grant Epstein, president of Capitol Hill-based Community Three Development, presented his proposal for 1922 Third Street, a project we wrote about a few days ago.

His proposal calls for renovating the main house (top right) and carriage house (bottom right) and for constructing a connecting section as well as a new townhouse.  Because the lot is 13,600 square feet, the R-4 zoning code permits multi-unit apartments with the maximum number of units set to the lot area divided by 900.  Although Mr. Epstein proposes 14 units, the zoning code actually permits 15 units by right (13,600 / 900 = 15.1).

Since LeDroit Park is a historic district, most exterior renovations and all new construction within the district’s boundaries must undergo a review process that begins with the Historic Preservation Office (HPO), which is tasked with ensuring that such projects preserve, match, or enhance the historic character of the neighborhood.  Ay, there’s the rub: historic character means different things to different people.

Even if the standards for historic preservation are themselves nebulous, the process itself is designed with a good deal of transparency.  Mr. Epstein’s proposal must be approved by the city’s Historic Preservation Review Board, which holds a public hearing during which the applicant presents the plan, the HPO staff present their report, and ANC representatives, community groups, and interested citizens may testify either way on the plan.  The board then approves the project, rejects it, or approves it with conditions.

Mr. Epstein stated that he has consulted with HPO staff to refine his proposal to satisfy their interpretation of historic preservation suitable for LeDroit Park.  We say “their interpretation” not to be snarky, but rather to remind readers that what constitutes historically appropriate is often a subjective matter of taste and judgment.  The past, much like the present, is a collection of different stories, styles, and attitudes.  Sometimes there is no one right answer in preservation matters, especially in a neighborhood featuring the Victorian, Queen Anne, Italianate, Second Empire, Gothic Revival, and Spanish Colonial styles among others.

At the ANC meeting and in discussions with residents, we have gleaned the following concerns in addition to many thumbs-up.

1922 Third Street concept, east face on Third Street

Height

Commissioner Myla Moss (ANC1B01 – LeDroit Park), expressed concern that the proposed townhouse (the middle building in the drawing above) was too tall for the row of neighboring townhouses.  Mr. Epstein replied that the added height of the building was in fact the suggestion of HPO staff.  Their reasoning, Mr. Espstein stated, is that in Washington, end-unit rowhouses have typically been more prominent than the intervening houses.  The prominence was typically marked by extra size, extra height, and extra ornamentation.  The added height, Mr. Epstein asserted, is in keeping with an end-unit rowhouse.  He also noted that many other buildings on the street are taller than what he proposes.

1922 Third Street concept, north face on U Street

Parking

Others expressed concern that the addition of 14 homes on the site would overwhelm the adjacent streets with parked cars since the proposal includes only four parking spaces (one in the carriage house and three in the new adjacent structure pictured above).  Mr. Epstein replied that he originally proposed five spaces, but HPO staff suggested that he reduce the number to four so as not to overwhelm a historic structure with an abundance of car parking.  Since fewer people owned cars back then, historic architecture is less car-obsessed than today’s buildings— notice how few driveways and garages you’ll find in Georgetown compared to any neighborhood built in the last 60 years.

Mr. Epstein stated that a way to discourage new residents from owning cars was to reduce the amount of available on-site parking.  There was at least one skeptical guffaw from the audience, though the reality will likely depend on a variety of factors. Mr. Epstein suspects the project will attract residents more inclined to live car-less.

Commissioner Thomas Smith (ANC1B09), an architect, asked what features besides reduced on-site parking Mr. Epstein would incorporate to discourage car ownership.  Mr. Epstein had none, but was open to considering bike storage and car-sharing.

Use

One resident expressed concern that converting what was once a single-family house (before it became a rooming house in the 1970s) into a multi-unit condo building could itself contradict LeDroit Park’s original intent as a country suburb of single-family homes.

Other Details

In response to our question, Mr. Epstein stated that he intended to follow the city’s new inclusionary zoning regulations, which would translate to one of the fourteen units being set aside for a buyer of modest means.

We also noted to Mr. Epstein that though the rowhouse is intended to be an ornamental end-unit— an “exclamation mark” at the end of a row, as he put it— the side of the townhouse, as illustrated in his drawing above, lacks the adornment typical of end-unit rowhouses.  Mr. Epstein stated that there was some debate on the issue, still unresolved, as to whether the side of the rowhouse should fully serve as the “exclamation mark” or serve as  “canvas” upon which to view the original 1880s structure.

Mr. Epstein also explained the dire condition of the house and carriage house.  The main house was entirely gutted of its original interior and years of neglect have left a damaged foundation and ample mold.  The carriage house (pictured at the top of this post) is itself crumbling from the weight of the recent replacement roof.  Both structures require a significant investment of money to rehabilitate.  The investment of money required as well as the uncertain historic review process both make the project something that Mr. Epstein says few developers would touch.

* * *

As a tactical measure to postpone the HPRB’s review of the proposal, the ANC voted to oppose the concept until the developer could present his proposal to the LeDroit Park Civic Association and the ANC’s newly formed design review committee.  The ANC will likely address the matter again at the April meeting.

If you’re interested in learning more about the proposal or expressing your concerns or support, feel free to attend any of the following meetings:

  • ANC1B Design Committee – Tuesday, March 16 at 6:30 pm at 733 Euclid Street NW.
  • LeDroit Park Civic Association – Tuesday, March 23 at 7 pm at the Florida Avenue Baptist Church, 6th & Bohrer Streets.
  • ANC1B – Thursday, April 1 at 7 pm on the second floor of the Reeves Building, 14th & U Streets.
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January 09, 2010 - 2:30 pm

Good Morning, Shaw

Broadcast Center One as viewed from the CVS at 7th & T Streets

The Block of Blight is one step closer to renewal. Ellis Development Group, which is also restoring the Howard Theater, plans to build 100,000 square feet of office space for Lanham-based Radio One and TV One, along with 22,000 square feet of retail space and 200 condos at the Shaw Metro’s northern entrance. The project, Broadcast Center One (pictured above), was supposed to break ground in September, but obviously it has been delayed.

The project may be one step closer to construction, though. In October the Washington Business Journal reported that the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) was considering leasing some office space in the project. On Thursday, our ANC Commissioner Myla Moss (ANC1B01) confirmed that UNCF had inked a deal to lease some of the space. It’s easier for a developer to secure financing and start construction the more signed leases they have beforehand.

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