Thursday, March 31, 2011

More on Saturday's Great Day of Service

As mentioned previously, Saturday is the North Columbia Heights Civic Association's Great Day of Service, which includes a ton of yard sales around the neighborhood. However, there's also a lot more you can do, including a neighborhood cleanup, community service fair, clothing donations, artists and more:
Weather permitting, here is the final schedule for Saturday, April 2nd. If there are any changes / updates, they will be posted on

– 9:30 A.M. to 11:30 A.M.: Neighborhood Clean-Up sponsored by NCHCA. Meet and pick-up supplies on 11th between Park and Monroe. Please bring your own gloves if you have them! Volunteers at the clean-up get 25% off brunch at Meridian Pint at a post clean-up community brunch.

– 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.: Community Service Fair at the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza. Organizations present include, among others, LIFT-DC, Bloombars, CH Community Marketplace, CH Great Day ofService, The Family Place, Thrive DC, Greater DC Cares, Community of Hope, NWCHCA, NCHCA, For Love of Children, local churches that emphasize service projects.

– 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.: 826DC has two events at the Civic Plaza: (1) Poets of every age, beginner and expert, are invited to add a limerick, haiku, iambic pentameter, or modern rhythms to the branches of the hallowed Poetree. Be inspired by your surroundings! All poems are welcome. (2) Aspiring cartoonists! Come wield your pens, markers and crayons, and let 826DC volunteers guide your cartooning talents into comic strip templates. Think outside the box, but draw inside the lines!

– 11:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.: Donate home goods and clothing at the Civic Plaza to benefit Community of Hope and AMVETS. Please bring the following goods: and

– 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.: Bloombars artists, working with local youth they are mentoring, will be painting a community mural at the Giant Grocery. Drop by and watch, as well as participate in chalkings outside the Giant.

– Local bands will be performing at the Civic Plaza at the following times: 10:00 A.M. to 12:30 P.M.: West Market Trio; 1:00 P.M. to 1:30 P.M.: Chris Bacon; 2:00 P.M. to 2:45 P.M.: Lady Pcoq & the Plumes; 3:15 P.M. to close: Gringo.

– 9:30 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.: Don't forget to drop by the neighborhood community yard sales all around Columbia Heights, sponsored by Columbia Heights Day. More info here:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Artists needed for this year's Columbia Heights Community Marketplace

The Community Marketplace on the Civic Plaza starts May 7th, and they're looking for artists and artisans to sell their wares. If you're interested or know anybody who might be, here's the application, and the deadline is 5 pm on April 22. It's also on their website and Facebook page.

This year's market will have 18 food producers, double last year's total, and more artists and entertainment. I'm looking forward to it.

Tons of yard sales, donate to charity, and more this Saturday

The North Columbia Heights Civic Association and the folks behind Columbia Heights Day are hosting a cool event on Saturday. As part of the NCHCA's Great Day of Service, there's going to be a community-wide yard sale with over 40 people holding their own sales around the neighborhood. In addition, there's a dropoff point for clothes and home goods which will go to Community of Hope. The press release is below, and at the bottom is a map of the yard sales. It sounds awesome. The Great Day of Service includes a number of non-profits which will have tables on the Civic Plaza to talk about their organizations.

Saturday, April 2 — Columbia Heights Community Yard Sale

Shop at more than 40 neighborhood sales or donate items to benefit local charities

WASHINGTON, DC — The Columbia Heights Day Initiative (CHDI) — the grassroots nonprofit that presents the popular neighborhood festival every summer — is having its second annual Community Yard Sale & Spring Clean on Saturday, April 2.

Neighbors, apartment buildings and homeowners are having more 40 yard sales throughout the Columbia Heights. Shop for great deals and explore the neighborhood from 10 am to 4 pm this Saturday.

Yard sale locations and details are listed on a Google Map at

As part of the North Columbia Heights Civic Association’s “Great Day of Service” [], CHDI is also collecting donations of home goods and clothing at the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza from 10 am – 4 pm. The donations will benefit Community of Hope, a neighborhood group that works to improve the health and quality of life of low-income, homeless, and underserved families and individuals in DC. Click through to review suggested items to donate — Items will also be collected for Amvets —

WHAT:            Columbia Heights Community Yard Sale & Spring Clean

WHEN:            Saturday, April 2
                        10 am to 4 pm
WHERE:            throughout Columbia Heights
Google Map of yard sales —
            Activities and donation site — Columbia Heights Civic Plaza — 14th & Park & Kenyon NW

CONTACT:            Columbia Heights Day Initiative

View 2011 Spring Clean Locations in a larger map

Want to join a CSA (and get food from a farm?)

Want to get food from an organic farm? Earth Spring Farm, located in Pennsylvania, is accepting signups for their CSA, community supported agriculture. Basically you sign up and pay and they deliver a box of food each week to a number of places around town, including Petworth and Mt. Pleasant. Then you go pick it up and eat!

You can get a small or big box of vegetables, plus you can choose to add fruit, cheese, meat, milk or eggs, and what you actually receive varies by season. Their website has a lot more about how it works, and here are the FAQs.

Some friends in the neighborhood joined one before and really enjoyed it, and they're often small and advertised only by word-of-mouth, so it can be hard to find one.

Pretty cool idea. Let me know in the comments if you've done a CSA before and what you think.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Is Columbia Heights kid-friendly?

Just received an email from a reader with a baby who is asking about the neighborhood's kid-friendliness. I know there are events, like the Singing Lizard events at Sticky Fingers and things like parents' happy hours at Wonderland, but no having a kid myself I don't know for sure. Can those of you with kiddos say what you think in the comments? Here's the email:
I see there a some real estate deals around DC USA. My wife and I don't know to much about the neighborhood. We go there a few times a year to go to Target for our supplies or out to eat with friends.
We are primarily concerned with the safety of the neighborhood.  How safe is it for my wife and baby to walk around at night?  Is there a lot of young families in the area? Is the closet park to take kids to Meridian Hill?
One other concern we have which you mentioned on your blog is that one thing we love about DC is that its not the burbs and you have so many non chain options.  If we did move to C.H. it's like we are moving into chain central.  It kind of turns us off and are nervous it would turn others off when we go to resale.
Your thoughts? I would assume it's ok to walk around with your kid until maybe 10 pm, and depending on where you are, but again, I'm a guy and I don't have a kid.

For more kid-related posts, check out my kids tag.

POTUS at Bell school: Is Columbia Heights the Obamas' favorite neighborhood?

The Obamas seem to really like our neighborhood. The President was in our neighborhood yesterday, giving a speech at Bell Multicultural High School, part of the Columbia Heights Education Campus at 16th and Irving.

This marks by my count the 6th time the President and/or the First Lady have been in the neighborhood, plus he mentioned Pete's Apizza in one of his speeches. You can make the argument that Columbia Heights is the favorite DC hood of the Obamas (aside from downtown, maybe.) Suck it, other neighborhoods!

This event was a town hall hosted by Spanish-language TV network Univision, and the President "wooed Latinos" and answered questions about standardized tests. It sounds like some fun was had as well when he was asked by the moderator about his use of technology:
RAMOS: Do you have an iPad?
OBAMA: I do have an iPad.
RAMOS: Your own computer?
OBAMA: I’ve got my own computer.
RAMOS: Very well.
OBAMA: I mean, Jorge, I’m the president of the United States. You think I’ve got to go borrow somebody’s computer? “Hey, man, can I borrow your computer?”
Previously Obama signed a bill with Michelle at Tubman School, visited the Columbia Heights Youth Club with the First Lady, visited a charter school, also with Michelle, the First Lady went to the Upper Cardozo health center and jumped rope at Bell, and the President worked out at the Washington Sports Club, hence the above photoshop. And of course the President's mention of Pete's.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Progress on Sherman Avenue streetscape improvements

I walked by Sherman Avenue the other day and noticed that the improvements are underway. Here at Sherman and Euclid you can see they've done some work on the island, which will eventually look like the second image.

They've also fixed up some of the sidewalks, tree boxes, and drains, many of which were cracked and busted before.

Here's the full rundown, which is all supposed to be finished in July, 2012:
  • Reconstruction of pavement between Barry Place and Park Road
  • Widening of sidewalks; new granite curbs and gutters where needed
  • Reconstruction of wheelchair ramps to comply with ADA requirements
  • Construction of a “Green” median with trees and low maintenance shrubs, ornamental grasses and perennials
  • Provide special higher visibility pedestrian crosswalks, new traffic signals and streetlights to improve pedestrian safety. The inclusion of curb bump-outs at intersections and the new median provide a shorter crossing distance for pedestrians
  • Utility upgrades include the installation of a new water main, service leads and meters
  • Streetscape features to include trash receptacles, bike racks, tree protection (fences)
  • Wider travel lanes “Sharrow” to allow room for bicyclists
DDOT has a website for the project so you can see more about it.

Parking meter prices going up -- use DCUSA instead?

If you're going to be parking in metered spots in our neighborhood, make sure to bring lots of money. DDOT is thinking of raising rates from $6 to $8.50 for three hours. They're also raising the rates around the Nationals' stadium.

It looks like the city is trying to push people to park in the DCUSA parking garage, which costs the city $2.1 million a year to run and is rarely anywhere near being full -- rates there are only $1.50 $4 for the same amount of time. A DDOT spokesperson also cites the 1300 block of Park Road as an example of why rates should go up -- there are always cars parked outside the Giant, and according to him that block only has 6 legals spots while DDOT has counted up to 45 cars parked there. Six spots can't be correct though, unless they mean 6 outside the Giant -- there are a bunch all along the block -- just look at Google Maps.

Hopefully this won't affect retail in the neighborhood. They'll need to make it well-known that you can park in DCUSA. I would assume it won't affect people in the neighborhood too much, since odds are we won't be driving in.

Photo from DDOT's website

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fast Gourmet, a sandwich shop in a gas station, is awesome

When you think of food at a gas station, it's either hot dogs on the rolling things, questionable stuff in a rotating heater, or Cheetohs and Funyuns. Fast Gourmet, however, is a delicious sandwich shop inside the Lowest Price gas station at 14th and W. And it's not delicious because it's surprising to have decent food in a gas station, it's legitimately good.

While the outside looks like any gas station, the interior could be a sandwich shop anywhere downtown: it's fairly modern and has 6 tables and 15 seats total, including some seats at a counter, plus a flat screen TV showing soccer.

The menu is big too: there are 22 sandwiches and wraps ranging from $8 to $17 (for a fancy Milanesa and Black Forest ham sandwich) but most are at the lower end of the spectrum. Sandwiches all come with thin French fries, which are pretty tasty. There's also rotisserie chicken, salads, sides (the beer-battered egglplant sounds good) and coolers of drinks.

I got the Chivito, the Uruguayan sandwich which the City Paper gave an award to recently. The owners are from Uruguay and they obviously know how to do it right. It was big and delicious. The sandwich has good bread and is pressed like a Cuban sandwich (which is also on the menu), and has tenderloin, ham, mozzarella, bacon, eggs, chopped green olives, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and escabeche, which is a tasty vinegar-based marinade. The sandwich was $12 but was completely worth it. It's a meal. I've also heard the meatball sandwich is good and there's a lot of others that sound good too.

Because of the unusual location, I asked if they planed to open any other locations, but the guy behind the counter said probably not, but they did plan to do more with the menu. Judging by the crowd, about 10 people there at 7:30 pm, they won't need to move anytime soon.

I highly recommend it. It could make for a good stop on the way home from work and they're open late too, until 11 pm and weekdays and 5 am (!) on Friday and Saturday. If only there were bars near there, it would make for an awesome late night, post-going out spot. And if you don't want to take my word for it, it's got 4.5 stars and glowing reviews on Yelp. Me gusta Fast Gourmet.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

On small businesses and DCUSA, part 1: rent & set-asides

As readers know, I've been concerned a bit about all the chains coming into DCUSA. I'm going to write a few posts about the issues, and this is the first. Stay tuned for more.

Thanks to Jim Graham I got in touch with Robert Moore of the Development Corporation of Columbia Heights, which among other things, works with renting in DCUSA. I asked him about small businesses in the building.

Contrary to a recent comment on this blog, which said the building wasn't designed for small businesses, Moore says there was a setaside program organized by the DC government: "Space plans were and still are prepared indicating the specific spaces for the set aside program. The DCUSA set aside space program includes a 30% rent reduction for local, neighborhood and minority businesses seeking to lease space."

Moore said it works like this: a business submits a detailed business plan and application from DCCH, with specifics on location, size, and how much money they have. He said two businesses have taken advantage of the deal: Senor Chicken on Park Road and the IHOP (which is a local franchise). The other set-aside spots are vacant.

As for why more small, local businesses haven't moved in:
We have responded to any number of small businesses interested in leasing in DCUSA. For the most part, the buildings spaces are a bit too large for most start up businesses. Financing the costs of build out also is too costly for many small tenants and lenders have not been interested in making business loans for start ups. We remain aggressively interested in assisting small businesses.
That's too bad, but let's hope they do keep looking. There are still some open spaces: see the original floor plan to give you an idea of those spaces (note that this floor plan is years old, so lots of the tenants are different.)

This is just part 1 of this series. More to come.

City Paper's Best of 2011: Weird stuff, but Columbia Heights is in there a bit

The City Paper has their annual best of issue, but they must have gotten tired of the usual list of things, because the categories are pretty random: for example, Best Uruguayan Sandwich, Best Fashion Accessory Donned by Tweed Riders, and Best Circle that Should be a Rectangle.

But despite that, our neighborhood makes the cut. For one, Fast Gourmet at 14th and W, a sandwich place in a gas station, wins that Best Uruguayan Sandwich award. I'm going tonight! The Chipotle near the Civic Plaza gets Best Restaurant for a Cross Section of DC, which is certainly true, and Room 11 gets props for their draft beer. The CVS self-checkout registers (in general) get an award, but the ones at our CVS seem to be broken most of the time, while Best Sign Georgia Avenue Retail is Hurting goes to the "joyous reception to CVS" at 3642 Georgia Ave. Public pools (like Banneker) get an award, and Past Tense Yoga's date night wins one too: Best Alternative to Couples Therapy. Of course, they forgot one category: Best Columbia Heights Blog with Columbia Heights in the Title.

It's a random list but is a fun read. There's a handy map too, at the bottom.

National Marathon coming through the neighborhood on Saturday: street closures in the AM

The National Marathon is this Saturday, and the route goes through a lot of central DC, including through Columbia Heights. The course (here's a map) comes from Dupont up Columbia Road to Harvard, then along McMillan Reservoir on Howard's campus, back down North Capitol

I saw this sign above today at 14th and Harvard. Might be fun to sit out and watch the runners go by. There will be some street closures that morning, including Columbia Road in Adams Morgan and Harvard from 16th to 5th Streets, from 7 am to about 9 am. I guess that means you'll need to get up early if you want to see folks run by.

Pretty cool that they're not just downtown, around the monuments and such. Hopefully nobody hands them coffee like Kramer did that one time (see #4).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

DSW shoe store, Modell's Sporting Goods coming to DCUSA?

Some possibilities for new retail at DCUSA: the folks at the Heights Life noticed job ads for DSW in Columbia Heights -- except there is no DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse) in Columbia Heights, so maybe there's one coming. That led to the City Paper saying DCUSA is "shoe central." Here's DSW's website. Shoe fans, you excited about this?

And there's more: a commenter on the post about Lane Bryant closing said an employee told them that Modell's Sporting Goods will be opening in the soon-to-be vacant space. Probably not good news for Nash's Sporting Goods, a small business (they have 2 locations) in the Tivoli Building.

You could argue that if Nash's goes out of business, that's their problem, survival of the fittest, and I think Modell's is an ok store, but as usual I'm concerned about every suburban chain coming to Columbia Heights. I don't want to live in Germantown, I want to live in DC. Is it just me?

I plan to write more about the chain vs. local issue in a few days, including about the small business benefits they have at DCUSA, so stay tuned.

Good news: Emily Hershenson has been found

Emily Hershenson, who was reported missing yesterday, was found early this morning on the National Mall. Don't have any more details, but it's great she was found.

Meridian Hill Park fountains are now on!

If this doesn't say Spring, I don't know what does. I've heard that the Meridian Hill Park fountains are on full blast. They were sort of dribbling this Saturday. Nice to see that, it always makes for a nice atmosphere with the tumbling water.

Photo by NCinDC from 2008

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Missing woman: Emily Hershenson

UPDATE: She has been found.

Recently received this email about Emily Harter Hershenson, an Adams Morgan resident who has been missing since yesterday.
Emily has been missing for over 24 hours. She is 5'8" and approx. 150 lbs. Trim, athletic build, short brown hair. She was last seen on 3/21 at 9am on the 42 bus northbound. I know all of you are avid public transit riders, so please keep your eye out for her. She lives in Adams Morgan with her husband and her baby girl, Mirabelle. Any information you have would be helpful. We've made a page to gather all info, and I'm attaching a photo and phone number:  202-680-4181
Also call the police if you know anything about her or think you might have seen her. 

A poster in the Facebook group says they've reported it to MPD and have contacted the Park Police and Uniformed Secret Service.

There's more photos on the Facebook page.

DC Bocce expands to Wonderland

DC Bocce, the coed league (which full disclosure, I play in on U Street) has a new Columbia Heights league, this time with Wonderland being the sponsor bar. The actual games will be at Tubman School on Tuesdays, with beer deals after for league people.

Bocce is fun stuff, I just hope the bar doesn't get too crowded on game nights -- I believe this is the first league to have Wonderland as their bar.

Previously the Columbia Heights league played near Looking Glass, which was the league bar.

They're having a happy hour at Looking Glass on Thursday to kick it off if you want to go talk to the organizers.

Lane Bryant in DCUSA closing

Got an email from a reader today who received a post card from Lane Bryant saying they're closing. As a guy I obviously never shopped there, but I rarely saw people inside it.  No word on what's may replace it. Let's hope it's something we're missing.

For that matter, I don't see many folks at the other retail spots facing 14th, like Staples, the Vitamin Shoppe (which I didn't think would last when it opened), the Children's Place, etc.

Did anybody ever go to Lane Bryant? Or the other stores?

(FYI, don't try Google Image Searching "lane bryant" at work, all you get is women in bras.)

Tickets to 826DC's James Franco fundraiser still available

If you'd like to hang out with James Franco and donate some money to 826DC, you still can get a ticket. There's a VIP ticket for $1,000 and a regular one for $250. It's not cheap, but you would be benefiting the kids. The event is March 31 at the Hotel Monaco, 700 F Street NW. (Click the picture for the bigger version.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mass firings of Hispanic workers at Chipotle?

Trouble in the burrito line? Recently a couple of articles came out about mass firings of about 40 Hispanic workers at area Chipotles, including the one in Columbia Heights. A Chipotle spokesperson said they were fired because they weren't legally allowed to work in the country.

Some of the  fired workers claimed they were intimidated and weren't paid what they were owed. Councilmen Jim Graham and Kwame Brown were not happy about the workers' situation and wrote to the company about it threatening investigations. Here's a Chipotle spokesperson's response when I got in touch with them:
The incident to which you are referring stems from an internal review of immigration status of employees at a couple of our Washington, DC restaurants. Last week, we lost about 40 employees at two restaurants having learned that they were not legally authorized to work in this country. While this is certainly a frustrating situation for everyone involved, under the law, we cannot employ anyone who is not legally authorized to work in this country. In this case, many of the employees chose to leave their jobs, others had to be let go. In every case, we have paid the employees everything they are owed, but we can't continue to employ them.
I asked how they were employed in the first place but haven't yet heard back. We'll see what comes of this.

UPDATE from Chipotle in regards to how they were hired in the first place:
Like all companies, we confirm the identity and work authorization of each person we hire, but we must do so without engaging in any discriminatory conduct. We take this responsibility very seriously and have invested extensive time and money in training our managers and human resources teams to review employment eligibility and documentation carefully. But forged documents can be very difficult to recognize. Ultimately, we cannot employ any individual who is not legally authorized to work in this country.

William Jordan on Jim Graham's connections with Donatelli Development

If you've been on one of our neighborhood listserves anytime lately, you've probably seen mainstay William Jordan talking about what he claims are Jim Graham's connections with Donatelli Development, a big local development company.

He recently posted this diagram (click it to see the full size version) which he says details all the connections. Here's his description:

In late Fall 2010 just at the start of Hypothermia Season, the city with the support of CM Graham hastily closed the only bilangual La Casa emergency shelter in the city and kicked out its clients.   Although, the city found apartments for some, most were shipped to shelters as far away as Ward 8 or dumped in the streets.  This was done to allow Donatelli Development to begin construction on its Highland Park Phase II luxury apartment complex in the Spring of 2011.  Of course the question was asked, if construction would not begin until the Spring, why risk the lives of these men by closing the shelter at the start of winter, why would city agencies legally obligated to protect these neighbors, activist, many CBOs, ANCs and citizens sat silently at this injustice?  The basic answer is Donatelli Development needed the homeless out to successfully refinances a portion of its $600M plus portfolio and related politics. Some time ago I attempted to explain the dynamic, but was told my explanation was too complicated and convoluted, I needed pictures.  So, below is the first DRAFT of the inital slide of a series designed to illustrate this dynamic.

The DRAFT diagram below is designed to show connections and relationships.  When the government is involved in development with the priviate sector and public benefits are expected, things can get pretty complicated. Hopefully even for those not interested in justice for our homeless neighbors, as the diagram evolves hopefully this and the series will be helpful.  This is a draft feedback is welcome.

I told him I don't quite follow it and asked if he'll say more about it, and here's his response:
There will be more, the purpose of this is diagram is only to give folk a hint of the complex web of relationships that influence how Columbia Heights got/gets developed. As well the role of government, hinting that the concept of "market rate" in Columbia Heights is kind of nonsense.  In essence everything is significantly subsidized directly and indirectly. The dynamics and relationships are complicated and purposely not transparent.  The problem is that there is no short way to do it.  
I generally don't agree with Jordan, but it's interesting in any case.

Water cleaning underway: your water might taste different

Got this press release from DC Water: your water might taste and smell different for a few days while they're cleaning the pipes.

Spring Cleaning for Water Distribution Pipes to Start March 21
March 15, 2011 -- WASHINGTON, DC – From March 21 through May 2, 2011, the disinfectant in drinking water will temporarily switch from chloramine to chlorine.
This annual change is part of a routine maintenance program to keep the water distribution system in the District of Columbia, Arlington County and Falls Church clean and free of potentially harmful bacteria. A temporary switch to chlorine with system-wide flushing is done to maintain water quality throughout the year. This is standard practice for many water systems that use chloramine during the majority of the year.  
The Washington Aqueduct is the organization responsible for treating drinking water for the District of Columbia, Arlington County, and Falls Church, Virginia.
Individuals and business owners who take special precautions to remove chloramine from tap water, such as dialysis centers, medical facilities and aquatic pet owners, should continue to take the same precautions during the temporary switch to chlorine. Most methods for removing chloramine from tap water are effective in removing chlorine. Individuals with special health concerns should consult with a health care provider on the use of tap water. 
During this time, individuals may notice a change in the taste and smell of drinking water. Local water authorities recommend running the cold water tap for approximately two minutes and refrigerating cold tap water for a few hours to reduce taste and odor. Water filters are also effective in reducing chlorine taste and odor. For more information, please contact the appropriate water authority below.
DC Water: 202-612-3440 (Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.) or 202-612-3400 (24-hour)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Park View history book released, happy hour at the Blue Banana today

Want to read about local history? You're in luck: Kent Boese, author of the great Park View DC blog, has written a book on the neighborhood, part of the Images of America series you may have seen around with lots of old photos and such -- there's a lot of them on various DC neighborhoods.

The book's also for sale on Amazon, and they're having a happy hour with the author tonight at the Blue Banana at 3632 Georgia Ave., NW from 6 to 8 pm.

Can you recommend a gym other than Washington Sports Club?

Just received this email from a reader. Can anyone help them out? What would you suggest?
I've been living here for 4 years and have always been a member of the Washington Sports Club on 14th.  I'm noticing that it's getting more and more crowded there, and the service seems to be getting worse and worse with the packed house.  Do you know of any other gyms potentially coming to the neighborhood?  Not yoga or some gimmick gym, but another competitor to WSC.  Some choice would sure be nice.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

City Paper: Confessions of a black gentrifier

Pretty interesting article in the City Paper about black gentrifiers, and how that fits into gentrification as a whole. It's got a lot to it and covers a lot of ground, with some focus on Columbia Heights. One point it makes is that it's often class rather than race that matters, but it's still different to be a black gentrifier than a white one. There's also some talk about the frontier of safety, with one resident noticing drunk single women with earbuds on Sherman Avenue at 3 am, meaning they probably think that area is now safe. There's also talk about folks from outside the area coming to Wonderland.

Anyway, have a look at let me know your thoughts.

Hiking in Rock Creek Park: forts, bridges, exercise. Recommended!

Last Sunday it was too nice to stay inside, so a friend and I decided to go hiking in Rock Creek Park. The park has a number of trails from Georgetown to Maryland, and a few of them are a short walk from the neighborhood. It was a lot of fun and a nice hike, and along the way we saw rapids, bridges covered in huge rocks, and even a Civil War fort.

The park is interesting because after a few minutes it's much quieter and not at all like the city, but you still have cell phone service and can pick up a cab or go into a neighborhood with a 10-minute walk.

We went down Park Road into the park and attempted to pick up the Valley Trail heading north (here's a map: to see it from their site, click "View Map" below the "Rock Creek Park" text on their website.) Unfortunately we got a little turned around and went up Piney Branch. Eventually we hit the trail, which goes from creek level to bluffs high above it. Our plan was to hike up to Military Road, check out Fort DeRussy, part of the Civil War defenses of Washington, and head back down the Western Ridge Trail on the other side of the park. That was a little too optimistic, as we were tired by the time we crossed the park on Military Road.

In all, we went about 6.5 miles in 3 hours, and it was good exercise. The fort itself is very interesting, it's still quite large with earth parapets and big ditches around it. It was built to guard the valley of Rock Creek. Plaques there say the fort was able to fire cannonballs into Maryland. You may not know that there was a Civil War battle fought in DC, Battle of Fort Stevens at what is today Georgia Avenue and Quackenbos Street (where the Georgia Avenue Thrift Store is today). Fort DeRussy was involved in the battle, firing its cannons across Rock Creek to Fort Stevens, helping to defeat the Confederates.

After that, we walked towards Connecticut Avenue and caught a cab back home. It was the first hike I've taken that ended in a cab ride.

If you wanted to be more aggressive, you probably could go all the way to Maryland. In all, there were some strenuous parts, but nothing as tough as say Shenandoah National Park.

Have you gone hiking in Rock Creek Park? Any suggestions?

UPDATE: Here's how to find the Valley Trail trailhead, from the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club:
     The southern trailhead for Valley Trail is indeed difficult to find and is poorly signed.
In fact, I'm having signs made this spring and summer, and that end of Valley Trail will receive several of them.
    Valley and Western Ridge Trails form an 11 mile loop and connect at Boundary Bridge (on the north end very near the MD/DC border) and Bluff Bridge (at the south end).  There are signs on the west side of Bluff Bridge, but none that mark off where Valley Trail crosses Beach Drive and Park Road.  As one walks north from Bluff Bridge on the east side of Rock Creek (on the sidewalk), look for blue blazes and a post off to the right.  As I recall, they are a few hundred feet away.  Turn right and walk across Beach and Park Roads.  There are blue blazes marking the path.  Once you cross Park Road, continue up the slope.  That's Valley Trail.  Piney Branch Trail goes to the right.  Valley Trail is marked by blue blazes, and they should be in good condition.  So follow those.  Thanks again for writing and enjoy yourself on the trails.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Where to watch March Madness in the neighborhood

It's almost that time again, the beginning of March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament. A few local schools are in, namely Georgetown and George Mason, plus some that are a bit farther afield like Richmond and VCU. And considering it's DC, odds are lots of alums of tourney schools live in our neighborhood. Whether or not your team is in, it's a pretty exciting time in sports.

So where to watch the games? There's a few good possibilities in the neighborhood.
  • Lou's City Bar with its multiple TVs. I wasn't blown away by the place the first time I went, but it was just the first day. Their heated patio is open too, with 42" screens, and they open at 11. Pretty good deal. And if any event was built for a sports bar, this is it.
  • Meridian Pint opens at 11 am as well, and they have TVs downstairs, plus pool tables, shuffleboard, and other games in case your team is getting blown out.
  • Tonic over in Mt. Pleasant also has a number of TVs, plus deals: $4 Sam Adams drafts during games, and if you wear your team jersey during games you get free tots.
  • Blue Banana in Petworth will also be showing the games. Thursday there's 2 free drinks during happy hour and 1/2 price beers all night, and Friday there are Captain Morgan drink specials, plus the Captain will make an appearance.
  • The Heights has a couple TVs, as does Red Rocks, but there probably won't be much room for groups.
Go team.

More on the Greening Initiative: fixing up abandoned houses into public housing

After the recent post on seeing people working at one of the abandoned houses with the city's Greening Initiative sign, I got an email address for Dena Michaelson at the District of Columbia Housing Authority, who sent me a press release about it. Basically, the authority got a grant from HUD to renovate 26 DCHA-owned  abandoned houses around the city, some of which are abandoned, to be used as "scattered site" public housing.

Before you say "oh no, more public housing," for the most part, the scattered site model does very well. There's a lot of research on the benefits of individual houses in neighborhoods both for the residents and the neighborhoods. For example, check out this HUD study. There generally aren't negative impacts either, like crime or dropping property values, as long as the sites are managed and tenants are screened well. It's basically the same idea behind the generally successful HOPE VI program is doing, making mixed income housing, although in HOPE VI's case it's turning big buildings into smaller, more dispersed sites.

Plus there are already varying amounts of subsidized houses in the neighborhood, often done by non-profits. I'm checking to see how much the city runs. (See below for Update.)

This Examiner editorial says this model was tried before unsuccessfully, but it sounds like that was due a lack of emphasis under mayors Sharon Pratt Kelly, Marion Barry, and Anthony Williams rather than because it's a bad plan.

And one could argue that if you want Columbia Heights to continue to be a diverse, mixed-income neighborhood, it's better than having these abandoned houses go to developers and become expensive condos. Of course, that's just one argument.

Your thoughts? Below is the relevant part of the press release from DCHA:
Scattered Sites (5 grants with very similar provisions for different groups of scattered sites)

HUD Funding: $1,927,406      Amount to be leveraged:          $ 192,741        Total Project: $2,120,147

    * Five grants provide funds for the gut rehabilitation of a total of 26 scattered site units throughout Washington DC.
    * These units will be renewed from varying states of repair and disrepair, from structural repairs to the complete replacement of building systems. These units will go from being energy and water wasters to being models of resource and cost efficiency.
    * All materials used in the rehabilitation and repairs will be as healthful, nontoxic, and sustainable-sourced as possible

Scattered site public housing is an old program.  At one point, DCHA owned more than 300 homes scattered throughout the city that housed public housing residents.  It proved to be too disorganized and expensive to maintain all the properties at the level needed to provide safe and secure housing for the residents.  In the ‘90s, DCHA started selling off the individual homes, giving first offers to existing residents in the homes, then to other public housing residents.  Some were sold at market rate to get the funds to fix up others.

We are down to fewer than 60 scattered sites, now.  We submitted a competitive grant request to HUD for ARRA funds, and received the 5 awards for a total of 26 houses.  These are the ones being fixed up, and they will continue to house our residents.  The remaining houses are either rented to public housing residents or being land-banked until we can find funds to fix them up for sale.  Sales will be to low income families or at market rate, depending on our needs. 
Note that "land-banked" means they're owned by DCHA and unoccupied, which I previously called abandoned before I knew they were DCHA-owned. 

Sticky Fingers wins Cupcake Wars TV show

Sticky Fingers is racking up more honors. The vegan bakery on Park, which has also won multiple best vegan bakery and best bakery awards in the city, recently won something else on a bigger scale: best cupcake on Food Network's Cupcake Wars show. The winning cakes were "Gilbert Ganache-fried Cupcakes: Chocolate Seltzer Cupcakes with Ganache, Banana Frosting, and Caramelized Banana" by owner Doron Petersan (pictured). Sounds pretty intense. It's not on their website, but maybe they do it occasionally. Petersan is interviewed on VegNews too.

In any case, always nice to see a local business get some press. Let's hope the tourists don't find out about it and stand in line constantly like at Georgetown Cupcake.

Photo from the Cupcake Wars site.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

City's "Greening Initiative" on abandoned houses underway, whatever that is

A few months ago I noticed a number of these signs going up at abandoned houses around the neighborhood, promising greening thanks to federal stimulus dollars, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It wasn't clear what greening was, nothing seemed to be happening with them, and there wasn't much on it around the web or on DC's website. PoP posted a reader question about it but didn't get much back.

Now, however, at least something is happening. I noticed workers on one of the houses with the signs on Irving Street between 13th and 14th undoing the boards that covered up the windows. It's still unclear what's going on, and they went inside before I could talk to them, but at least something is happening.

Unfortunately he site has no results for "greening initiative," the DC Housing Authority's website seems to be down, and the only thing I can find sort of similar is in Baltimore where they're greening public housing, as in putting in plants and trees and gardens. Maybe that means the city is taking over these abandoned houses and will make them subsidized houses, plus fix up their yards. We'll see.

Where can you get Girl Scout cookies in the neighborhood?

Do you like Girl Scout cookies? Odds are the answer is yes, and thanks to DCist, I learned about this website where you can search for the nearest places cookies will be sold.

For Columbia Heights folks (at least the 20009 and 20010 zip codes) there's only one option left: the Giant at 14th and Park, which will have cookies for sale every Saturday and Sunday except March 26th. Check the calendar for times, which are mostly between 10-2 and 1-4.

You can also buy them from your local troop, but I haven't seen any of them around lately. Know any other spots to get the cookies? I'm a fan of the Samoas and Thin Mints. Girl Scouts always got the good stuff, when I was a Boy Scout all we sold were crummy candy bars.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Want a mural on your business? Ask MuralsDC!

Bloombars mural
Originally uploaded by squidpants
DCist reports on MuralsDC, a partnership between the city's public works department and the Commission on Arts and Humanities, which is looking for businesses to apply for murals to cover graffiti on their buildings. So if you have a business with a graffiti problem, sign up!

There's no cost to the business, and murals are pretty cool anyway -- there's a nice one on the side of BloomBars, for example.

Murals also discourage graffiti taggers, and you can't beat the price. Here's the application -- deadline is April 15. MuralsDC has been featured in the Post and BBC News.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Community Marketplace opens May 7, meeting next Wednesday

The Community Marketplace season is almost upon on us: May 7th is the first day! They're having a meeting to get neighborhood feedback on Wednesday, check it out:

Dear Neighbors,

Please come to the meeting of the CH Community Marketplace Board of Directors on Wednesday, March 16th at 7 p.m. at the Park Triangle Apartment building located at 1375 Kenyon Street, NW.
At the meeting, which is open to the public and includes time for community feedback, you'll learn about plans to expand the Marketplace this season, which begins on Saturday, May 7th at 9 a.m. You'll also hear more about our Youth Garden Project, which just began with students from Chavez Public Charter School and Tubman Elementary School.
We'll also talk about the Marketplace participation in the Columbia Heights Great Day of Service, organized by the North Columbia Heights Civic Association (, on Saturday, April 2nd, starting at 9:30 a.m. on the civic plaza at 14th and Kenyon streets, NW.
In other news, we are happy to report that the Marketplace recently received recognition by the federal government as an independent 501c3, tax-exempt organization.
Hope to see you next Wednesday night at 7.
Happy Friday to everyone from the Marketplace ( team.

First Look at Lou's City Bar: decent

I checked out Lou's City Bar's grand opening list night with some friends, and the verdict was: decent. It's got a very modern interior, sort of like a fancy ski chalet, with lots of TVs. The first thing we noticed was that it's very loud. I hope they put it some dampening, as right now it's very open and most of the interior is wood and metal. It was hard to talk at our table and even harder near the bar.

The table where we sat, in the middle near the front, didn't have great views of the TVs, but for the most part you could easily watch some games.

The food was your basic sports bar food: sandwiches, burgers, sliders. I had the prime rib sliders, which were decent, and a buddy had the prime rib au jus, not bad. Another buddy had the BBLT, which claimed to have double cut, extra thick bacon, but really just had normal-sized bacon. The onion loaf (basically friend onion rings) were fine, and the fries were pretty good. Nothing amazing, nothing bad, but decent sports bar grub. Here's the menu.

Service was friendly but slow, they seemed a bit harried. And they must have run out of wings, because at one point a few guys came through the front door with Giant bags full of wings they must have just bought. Weird they didn't go through a back door. That's probably just first-day jitters (although they've had about a week of soft openings) but we avoided the wings. 

The beer selection was average and kind of expensive -- I had three for $20 -- two Sierra Nevada seasonals and 312, a Chicago beer. I'm getting sick of places with $6 and $7 beers.

In the end, I probably won't go back too often, unless there's some game I want to watch, but it's a suitable sports bar.

PoP has a bunch of photos too.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dine out Thursday for Food and Friends

If you like to eat out or you like helping worthy causes, Thursday is your day. Food and Friends, a nonprofit that delivers meals to people with illnesses like AIDS and cancer, has their Dining Out for Life fundraiser that day. Basically you go to one of the participating restaurants and they'll donate a portion of your bill directly to Food and Friends -- that's it.

Pretty easy, and a few places in the neighborhood are participating, like The Heights, Eatonville, Busboys & Poets, and more. The full list is here.

Food and Friends is always looking for volunteers too. Some of my friends volunteer there and really like it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

There's a hostel in the neighborhood?

View Larger Map

The other day I stumbled onto something random: there's a hostel, the DC Trekker, in our neighborhood, at 1422 Harvard Street NW. Kind of interesting, in that I'm not familiar with any other hostels in DC, except one on 11th Street downtown.

The place seems to be pretty new, insofar as most of the reviews are from 2010 or later and I haven't heard about it before. It's dormitory style (bunk beds) with rates at about $40 a month night. And if you think about it, it's a good spot for a hostel -- near the Metro, bars and restaurants, and shopping. They also rent weekly and monthly.

Might be a good place for friends in town and you don't want them messing up your house. Let's hope this stuff doesn't happen there.

There's also a "bed and basket" in the neighborhood that I've written about before, the Asante Sana.

Mardi Gras at the Red Derby today!

Today is Mardi Gras, aka Fat Tuesday, and the Red Derby is getting into the spirit.

It's the 3rd annual party and they'll have $3 hurricanes and $5 shrimp po' boys, plus the roof deck will be open. There's even a zydeco band music, masks and beads. Sounds pretty fun.

The Derb is at  3718 14th Street NW just north of Spring.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Theft at Five Guys: Be careful with your things

Got this note from a reader: it serves as a reminder that you should always watch your stuff, even if you're somewhere where you wouldn't normally be worried.
I was eating at Five Guys at 14th and Irving earlier tonight and had my wallet stolen out of my purse. Be really, really careful with your belongings while you're out and about. Also wanted to note that both the MPD and the staff at Five Guys were really helpful in dealing with the situation.
The reader noted that MPD later caught the person and they got all their wallet back with the cash, which is good, but still -- be careful!

Lou's City Bar on Irving opens on Thursday

Lou's City Bar, the new sports bar opening next to CommonWealth (RIP) on Irving Street, is set to open Thursday, according to their website. I passed by today Sunday and saw this scene, looks like some people getting trained or sampling the food -- maybe a soft opening?

They're going to have 24 beer taps and 19 TVs, so it sounds like a good spot for March Madness watching. The website also mentions a St. Patrick's Day party.

It looks like they open at 11:30 am every day, so maybe brunch?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

North Columbia Heights Civic Association meeting tonight

Meeting tonight: get there!
The next meeting of the NCHCA will be held on Wednesday, March 2, 2011, at 7:00 p.m. at the Park Triangle Community Room.  Enter the Park Triangle apartment complex on 1375 Kenyon Street NW (right next to the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza), and the doorman will direct you to the meeting spot.

The meeting’s guest speaker will be Akeya Dickson from the Washington Post’s Daily Gripe, to discuss how her blog can be an accountability tool for citizens to have their complaints answered by DC agencies.

This will be a planning meeting during which we (a) vote on proposed revisions to the NCHCA Constitution and Bi-Laws (follow the links to view the proposed versions … there are relatively few proposed changes, and you can see those proposed changes in all capital font in these documents), (b) discuss logistics for the upcoming Great Day of Service, and (c) begin planning our agenda for the rest of 2011.  If you have suggestions for projects you would like to see the NCHCA get involved in, particularly projects you are interested in taking an active role in planning, please drop by the meeting to discuss!  The more specific / realistic / discrete the project suggestion, the better …

On a side note, if you represent a community service organization and you wish to participate in the Great Day of Service, please contact

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dottie Love Wade defeats Gavin Holland for ANC special election: duplicitous campaign material?

According to a comment on this blog from ANC1A chair Bill Brown, Dottie Love Wade defeated Gavin Holland in last night's special election for the vacant ANC 1A11 seat. If you recall, Holland received the most write-in votes in the election after the only candidate on the ballot withdrew -- however, since that withdrawn candidate (Kat Skiles) got more votes overall, the Board of Elections didn't give Holland the win. I endorsed Holland, for what it's worth.

Dottie Love Wade was a former member of the state board of education (sort of like a school board, which sets things like curriculum standards) and was defeated by Patrick Mara for that post in the 2010 election. Wade was the ANC1A chair until 2008 when she resigned to take the school board post. 

However, Wade distributed these flyers, which read "Re-elect Dottie Love Wade." Considering Sandra Scottland has been the commissioner since 2008, they're kind of disingenuous. I guess it worked.

UPDATE: Brown tells me the final vote count was 36-21.