Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The La Casa shelter and its mural are no more

As part of the plan for the second phase of the Highland Park building on Irving, the La Casa shelter demolished this weekend. As you may recall, the building had a nice mural on it talking about the history and people of the neighborhood. A new shelter will be built behind the new building. John Reinhardt snapped a bunch of good photos of the mural and the building being demolished, two of which are here.

Too bad we're losing a mural, but it sounds like the project will be good overall -- more places to live and retail spots, plus there's going to be another shelter built.


  1. The destruction of the mural accurately reflects the true impact of the relationship between Donatelli Development and this neighborhood is its potential.

    W Jordan

  2. That mural had been deteriorating for a long time; it appears to have been prepared in a manner that was not designed for longevity.

  3. "metaphor not literal"

    However, instead of a greed based condo project what was design for the space reflected more of what the mural represented. The murals deterioration represents the deterioration of the spirit which was making CH something great and special.

    W Jordan

  4. Another William Jordan classic, lamenting the loss of a crummy mural, containing violent imagery. Who wants to walk by a tank pointing its gun at someone every day on the way home from work!

  5. What exactly was making this part of Columbia Heights "great and special," the drunken people who urinated in alleys and harassed women day after day after being released from the utter failure of a dilapidated shelter that used to be in this place? That shelter wasn't solving anything, wasn't doing anyone any favors. The new facility that is replacing the shelter will be worlds better, and hopefully will offer a longer-term solution for the former La Casa residents. Plus, there is more apartment living directly above a metro (which makes all the sense in the world from an urban planning perspective) to boot. This is a win-win project that replaces something which was anything BUT "great" or "special." If you want to express some ire, Mr. Jordan, express some ire at the folks vandalizing and putting graffiti on the beautiful Harriet Tubman Mosaic ... but of course, G-d forbid you should ever criticize anyone but your same tired scapegoats, none of whom are actually responsible for the crime, drugs, shooting, violence, graffiti that have plagued CH for decades ...

  6. The plan was never to keep the shelter as is, so the mural would have to go. However, something new would have replaced the mural, which has been hijacked by greed and self-centered fake civic pride.

    A developer basically takes $8.0M from the neighborhood and we should look the other way and blame the homeless. They are not building the new facility. There is NO MONEY.

    The graffiti on the Tubman Mural is something that this community can control, but the same selfish attitude that allows a Developer to take from the community is the same selfish attitude that places the graffiti and allows it to stay without real action.

    In other words if you don't hold Donatelli and Graham accountable you will never be able to hold those who make do the graffiti accountable.

    W Jordan

  7. William, I am not in favor of some of the tax breaks that have gone to developers in DC, especially retroactive ones. But you keep acting as if this money has been "taken" from taxpayers and given to them. Tax abatements don't operate in that fashion ... in a devastated economy, tax incentives are sometimes needed to encourage / spur development, and they are commonplace in virtually any city trying to attract investment. It is very short-sighted to, as you do, be reflexively opposed to any sort of tax incentive for development that will add a huge amount of money to the city's coffers in the long term. Many pieces of land would be undeveloped or, worse, partially developed and stopped midstream, without tax abatement incentives given the economic situation we are facing. It is not a choice between millions of dollars for the community or for the developer as you so naively portray it (certainly not in all cases) but often a choice between a vacant lot and zero tax revenue, and a developed parcel with living and commercial space, followed by years of millions in taxes down the line.

    You need to take a basic course in logic by the way. You try to relate everything, always, in some grand conspiracy, but there is no connection between Donatelli and, say, someone dealing drugs, or putting graffiti over a school mural, or robbing someone. These activities all occurred in Columbia Heights loooongg before any development occurred, there is simply no causal relationship. The fact is, you will never hold anyone accountable for any crime committed in this community, you will just point the finger at Graham and Donatelli as if somehow, they are the cause of all that ails us, which is too dumb a statement to even be able to begin to respond to. That is the very definition of not holding someone accountable ... the vast majority of problems in Columbia Heights have NOTHING TO DO with the people you constantly moan about, yet you simply given anyone else who harms the community (including yourself, as a divisive, race-baiting presence) a free pass on a completely nonsensical, illogical theory that developers who have nothing to do with crime in the area are to blame.

    From what I understand, the shelter is being built. If it is not built, you can say I told you so, OK? But if it IS built, please, just go away and stop bitching about Donatelli, because the proposed shelter is a MAJOR upgrade and will benefit the homeless, even if you would rather nothing ever improve in the neighborhood and the status quo of what things were like 15 years ago remain indefinitely.

  8. Phase 2 of the Highland Park building will be built behind the new shelter, not the reverse as your article states. The new building will be accessed through the public hallways of the existing building. It will not have street frontage.

    Please consider correcting your article. You imply that the commercial rental building gets street frontage and the shelter gets placed at the back of the lot, as if it were being hidden. Not true. Thanks for your consideration.

  9. Michael, the most recent DC Mud post from 1/31/11 says "The new Highland Park West apartment tower will front Irving Street and be connected to its sibling, both physically and visually, replicating the style of the existing apartments. A new shelter facility will occupy the back portion of the lot, and will stand separately from the apartment buildings."


  10. Andrew -

    Dang if you're not dead right that DC Mud reported that the shelter would be build at the back of the lot. He got that mixed up, though.

    I spoke to Chris Donatelli a couple minutes ago, who said the new apartment building shares street frontage with the shelter approximately 50/50, with the shelter sitting at the front of the lot facing Irving Street, not the back as the DC Mud article states.

    There's a lot of moving parts in the story, so it seems he just got mixed up on that one detail. It is, however, an important one. Implying that the shelter will be shoehorned at the back of the lot, facing the alley, makes the whole project and everyone involved look bad. Since it's not true, we should set the record straight.

    Thanks for all of your coverage of Columbia Heights.

    Mike W.

  11. There is no money in the budget to build the LaCasa SRO its not a low barrier shelter. The construction cost were estimated at about $8 in 2004. The District has ID'd only about $4M and that's not dedicated to this project. It's a bate and switch.

    In particular Donatelli's tax abates are a direct trade-off of neighborhood resources because of how it was done and the politics of such earmarks. The same with Level 2. With the AM Morgan Hotel you can make the arguement that's not a one for one or zero sum.

    Donatelli's abatements where given after the project was complete and after taxes were owed. So, the District in some combination sent them a check and/or waived owed taxes. As well had or will to cut money in FYI 2009,10,11,12 to pay for the abatements.

    In general the city tries to balance at some level what is spent in each Ward particularly when earmarks are involved so its particularly about horse trading. No conspiracy, I've taken the time to learn how this politics works, tracked the horse trading as best I can. So, Ward 1 projects have to be cut to pay for the earmark. I've based what I have posted primarily from the public record. Not even using what I know from other sources.

    Bailing out Donatelli is conservatively costing us about $4M from FYI 09 to 12. This is not included the property given him from the initial LaCasa foot print which is probably valued at 20 units x $400k each or another $8M. Nor Donatelli's efforts to block or move the La Casa project. Or efforts to block the CH Civic Plaza and etc.

    If you read DeBonis' post about the Green Team & Graham you can get a peek at how things work. These other resources work in the same way. Because things are not always done in public, I may have some details off, but I'm pretty close. Anyone who bothers to do the homework knows I'm close. Sure, I have a tough spin on Graham/Donatelli because they have been willing to take things to a whole different level.

    BTW, these abatements trickle down to the retailers of Highland Park. Based on I think what they call thriple net leases the homeless from LaCasa are subisidizing a sports bar.

    I'm not moaning but trying to expose and stop the fleecing of the community I live in and love.

    W Jordan

  12. I kind of like that I don't have to dodge the hobos and their styrofoam cups anymore as I'm walking down Irving. It's nice.

    So I'm hoping the Council and the Illuminati and everyone else in William Jordan's fevered imaginings really have conspired on a "bate" and switch. That would be awesome.

  13. Michael Wilkinson is correct, there will be a community park area where the shelter will be. Highland Park phase II will be behind it. If anything, all this new development over the last few years has improved the lives of the 'locals'. Target, Best Buy, farmers market, and Giant grocery stores are gems to be cherished for a lower SES community in the middle of an urban city that has limited access to transportation. While the racial tension continues, I hope that the CH will be able to figure out a middle ground between Panera and 7-11.

    Highland Park also offers low income housing, making it pretty accessible for all that choose to apply for rental.


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