Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Southwest May Have Three Circulator Routes by 2024

DC Circulator service to Southwest will be restored and enhanced if proposed changes by DDOT are approved (the DC Council already approved funding for a 1.4-mile westward extension of the Union Station – Navy Yard route along M Street to the Waterfront Metro to begin operations in FY 2015). Last week, DDOT released the DC Circulator Transit Development Plan for the next 10 years that shows a total of three Circulator lines that could service Southwest by 2024. Aside from the aforementioned extension, the Convention Center – Southwest Waterfront route would be restored in Phase II by FY 2020 (it was discontinued in 2011 and replaced by the 74 Bus) and a new route would connect Dupont Circle to Southwest via 17th Street, NW and Maine Avenue during Phase III by FY 2024. These new (and restored) lines would coincide with the opening of The Wharf and other planned development in Southwest. 

It is estimated that ridership will increase by nearly 14% with the Southwest extension of the Union Station – Navy Yard route; however, ridership along this route is currently the lowest of the five existing Circulator routes. This route extension (along with two others) did not meet several key Circulator performance metrics, but it will still move forward since it was already funded by the DC Council. DDOT will be evaluating whether the Near SE/Navy Yard/Capitol Riverfront area can support year-round Saturday service and year-round service after 7pm on the Union Station – Navy Yard route, which would benefit Southwest once this line is extended to the west. Currently, service hours vary depending on the time of year; there is no plan to offer Sunday service on this route. 

Of the three lines proposed for Southwest, ridership projections for the new Dupont Circle – Southwest Waterfront route are highest. Over 1.2 million annual riders are expected on the new route, compared to 762,000 riders for the restored Convention Center – Southwest Waterfront route. 

During the public engagement process earlier in the year, there were six pop-up events across the city where surveys were collected, in addition to online surveys. Of the six pop-up events, the most responses were collected at the Waterfront Metro station pop-up, garnering 15% of all survey responses. More than half of the respondents to the survey indicated that the Southwest Waterfront should be served next by the Circulator – the most of any location, followed by U Street Corridor/Shaw/Howard University. 

Other new routes are planned as well in other parts of the city – one would connect Columbia Heights to Brookland and NoMa, while another would go from the National Mall to Union Station, as well as extensions of existing lines. Circulator fares would increase to $1.50 on SmarTrip and $2.00 cash from the current fare of $1.00. 

The DC Circulator Transit Development Plan is open for public comment until November 7. A Semi-Annual Open House on October 20 from 6-8pm will provide residents the opportunity to weigh in on the plan. It will be located at Pinstripes in Georgetown (1064 Wisconsin Avenue, NW).  In addition, comments may be submitted by clicking on the contact us link located on the DC Circulator website. For more information on the TDP, contact Circe Torruellas or call 202-671-2847.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Upcoming Events

There will be an Open House/Community Information forum tomorrow evening hosted by representatives from the District government, DC United, and developer Akridge to discuss the pending agreement to build a new soccer stadium for the team at a site in Buzzard Point. The Open House follows a forum hosted by SWNA earlier this month. At the SWNA-hosted forum, consultants stated that the existing housing north of the stadium site will be preserved and development in Buzzard Point will be oriented toward Potomac Avenue to connect the area with the rest of the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood east of South Capitol Street. According to the media advisory for tomorrow’s Open House, this is an opportunity for community members to receive the very latest planning updates and answers to any questions they may have about the project, all in an informal setting. Representatives, government officials and key consultants will be available to discuss planned traffic operations, housing, environmental clean-up, jobs, contracting and more. Capital Business and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute have articles describing a Community Benefits Agreement that the CBCC is negotiating with the city and DC United - the major component being a $5 million community fund to support recreational and educational programming for the community’s youth. Tomorrow’s Open House will be held at 100 M Street, SE, 8th Floor from 6-8pm. 

Rendering courtesy of DC United

The fourth annual SW ArtsFest will take place from October 2-5 at venues across Southwest. Events include (e)merge Art Fair, art installations at Nonuments Park, The Shoplifters at Arena Stage, the G40 art show at Blind Whino, and Pumpkin Lantern Palooza at The Wharf. Check the SW ArtsFest website for more information on which venues will be available and when. 

Image courtesy of SW ArtsFest

There will be a mayoral forum on Monday, October 6 at 7pm at Arena Stage, sponsored by ANC6D, SWNA, and the Navy Yard Civic Association. The forum will cover topics of importance to those who live south of the freeway and west of the Anacostia River. The moderator will be Shannon Vaughn, editor-in-chief of The Southwester. Vaughn hosted the Mayoral Forum that was held ahead of the April 1 primary. 

DC’s local chapter of DOCOMOMO, an international preservationist organization, is hosting a guided tour of modernist architecture in Southwest on Saturday, October 11. The press release states the following: The event will begin at 1:30 pm at Arena Stage with an introductory talk by Dr. Richard Longstreth of George Washington University, followed by two walking tours and a reception in the roof-top Club Room at the Chloethiel Woodard Smith-designed Harbour Square, which overlooks the Potomac River. The tour will also include access to unique interior spaces of the neighborhood's most noted projects, including Arena Stage, Waterfront Tower and River Park. Tickets are $15 for students, $25 for members of the DC Preservation League and DOCOMOMO-US/DC, and $35 for non-members.

The next DC Job Fair, hosted by Arena Stage and Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells' office will be held on Friday, October 17 at Arena Stage from 10am - 2pm. This year's event will feature a new partnership with the Office of Returning Citizens Affairs, which provides support and services to previously incarcerated individuals - the fair will be targeted toward these individuals. According to the press release for the event, recruiting companies committed so far include Big Bus Tours, Bread for the City, Building Futures, DC Central Kitchen, Fort Myer Construction Corporation, Giant Food, Harris Teeter, Specialty Hospital & Nursing Center of Washington, and the U.S. Postal Service.
ANC 6D will have their next monthly meeting on Monday, October 20 at 7pm. The meeting will be held in Near SE/Navy Yard/Capitol Riverfront at 200 I Street, SE.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

'The Shoplifters' Begin Arena's 65th Anniversary Season

The 2014-15 season at Arena Stage is underway with a new comedy from Canadian playwright Morris Panych called The Shoplifters. The four-person cast is led by Tony Award-nominee Jayne Houdyshell as Alma, Delaney Williams who portrays Otto, Jenna Sokolowski as Phyllis and Adi Stein as Dom. As the title of the play implies, it is about a seasoned shoplifter, who along with an accomplice are caught by a rookie security guard. The ensuing dialogue between the four characters reveals societal differences (and similarities) between the haves and have-nots through humor. At about 90 minutes (including intermission), the show goes by very quickly. Although at times it felt like some of the jokes seemed a bit forced, overall I enjoyed The Shoplifters – all four cast members delivered strong performances. My main question is: how many days do those steaks used in the show last before they need to be replaced?  (they are actually fake)

A day after seeing the show, I saw Houdyshell at the Waterfront Station Safeway and was tempted to tell her not to use the five-finger discount, but I resisted the urge to do so. If you’re looking for a good laugh and have 90 minutes to spare, I’d recommend seeing The Shoplifters. Tickets for The Shoplifters are from $45 to $90 and the show will run at the Kreeger Theater until October 19. Unfortunately, Southwest Night already passed for this production since it was on September 9. 

Photo taken by Teresa Wood, courtesy of Arena Stage

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

SW Dog Park is Complete

A new dog park at Lansburgh Park, located along Delaware Avenue is now open for use. After several years of fundraising by the PAWS of Southwest, the 10,000 square-foot off-leash Lansburgh Dog Park was recently completed by the Department of General Services and will operate as a Department of Parks and Recreation facility. There are two fenced off areas - a 2,000 square-foot area for small dogs and 8,000 square feet for large dogs; each section has water stations. There are also seating areas for dog owners to relax and watch their canine companions play.

The Lansburgh Dog Park is open from 7am to 9pm Monday - Friday and 8am to 9pm Saturday - Sunday and holidays. All dogs using a dog park must be licensed and registered in the District of Columbia. All dogs are required by law to be vaccinated and registered. All dogs must display a Dog Park Registration Tag, and other tags as required by law. There is a limit of 22 dogs in the dog park at any time.

Lansburgh Park has received several improvements in the past two years.  Last year, the run down tennis courts were replaced with basketball courts and the SW Gardens group received a grant from Fiskars to transform a portion of the park into a community garden. The PAWS of Southwest and the SW Gardens group are both fiduciary subsidiaries of SWNA, which announced that a second grant was recently awarded to the group in order to expand the garden with more raised beds.

'Nonuments Park' Comes to Waterfront Station

The empty, District-owned lot north of CVS at Waterfront Station has been transformed into 'Nonuments Park', which made its debut in Southwest earlier this month. 'Nonuments Park' was designed by artist Lance M. Fung and is one of the components of The 5x5 Project, a city-wide endeavor displaying temporary art installations. The following photos show the different components of 'Nonuments Park.' The placement of 33 trees in a "sinuous line" by Peter Hutchinson (see above photo) separate the different artist installations on the site while the mounds of dirt concept by Eliza Naranjo Morse and Nora Naranjo Morse will change daily over the course of a month - people will dress up in costumes representing different aspects of American culture while digging, which "empowers each of us to face personal and social challenges."

Another section of the park features a sculpture garden in the likeness of Southwest resident Alpha Lillstrom, designed by Jennifer Wen Ma. According to The 5 x 5 Project webpage on Nonuments Park, "community member Alpha Lillstrom was chosen by lottery for the portrait, paying homage to a citizen whose deeds are not necessarily grand in the scheme of human history, but whose challenges are still heroic in the arduous struggles of daily life."

The pink shipping container with the word "Peep" spray painted on it was designed by Jonathan Fung and has holes cut into it. A look inside reveals photos of children - victims of human trafficing from around the world as well a sewing machines, since many of these children are forced to work in sweatshops.  

The tall white structures are called "Migration", which is meant to represent "a home threatened, yet resilient in the face of displacement and climate change." The nests designed by Cameron  Hockenson also represent neighborhoods in Washington DC that are changing due to gentrification. 

Scattered throughout the park are monumental seating areas that are the product of the "Mud Dance" that occurred last month, which were designed by Michael Koliner.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Former SEU Campus Building's Days are Numbered


A raze permit was filed by the Graduate School USA for 501 I Street in May, which is the former Southeastern University campus building. The raze permit was filed to see whether any historic preservation groups would try to landmark the building; however, at the June ANC meeting, the commissioners voted to oppose the permit because no plan had been formally presented for what would replace the building. 

Spurred by the raze permit application, the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly (SWNA) filed a historic landmark application for the property in July. According to the landmark application, the building was first constructed in 1948 for the Metropolitan Police Boys Club No. 4 with a brick exterior in a smaller footprint than its current state. The building was one of the few that survived urban renewal. Then in 1961, The Hawthorne School (a private co-ed high school) purchased the building, expanded it to the north & south, and clad it in concrete in a brutalist design done by Charles Goodman, the same architect that designed River Park Cooperative Homes. The school was the first private school to be built in an urban renewal area. Eventually, declining enrollment and financial difficulties at the school caused the sale of the property to Southeastern University, which operated at the site until 2009. 

Currently, the campus is owned by Graduate School USA and is vacant. Upkeep of the grounds around the building has been deferred with tall weeds sprouting around in spots. The campus is under contract to the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) who has plans to joint venture with developer Erkiletian to build a nine-story building with approximately 155 residential units (a portion of the units will be set aside for actors, interns and affordable housing under Inclusionary Zoning), as well as rehearsal space, a black-box theater, a costume and set equipment fabrication shop, and the administrative headquarters for the Company. Most of STC’s operations will be located below-grade. STC has been looking for several years for a location to consolidate its back-of-the-house operations, which are scattered across leased space in the District. After several false starts with other proposals, the Company came across 501 I Street and placed it under contract. A zoning change would be needed for the property in order to build what STC and Erkiletian have initially planned. A historic landmark designation for the property would scuttle STC’s plans. 

SWNA hosted a neighborhood forum on the project on July 28 at Arena Stage. At the forum, Cecille Chen from SWNA gave a presentation on the history of the building, followed by additional remarks on the social implications of the Hawthorne School and SEU by Dr. Marjorie Lightman. Afterwards, STC’s managing director Chris Jennings explained the Company’s plans for the project and current involvement in the community, which was followed by a question and answer period. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Lease Signings at L'Enfant Plaza

Four new restaurants have signed leases in the revamped retail center at L'Enfant Plaza according to an article in the Washington Business Journal.  The latest lease signings include two concepts new to the Washington region - Pie Five, a Dallas-based fast casual pizzeria and Green Beans Coffee, which started out operating near military bases in foreign countries. The other restaurants are Jamba Juice and California Tortilla.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Soccer Stadium Forurm Tonight!

This was mentioned on my Twitter feed, but there will be a forum hosted by SWNA this evening at Arena Stage, starting at 7pm to discuss the proposed soccer stadium in Buzzard Point for DC United.  Members of the DC Council and the ANC will be present, as well as representatives from DC United, the Gray Administration, and the CBCC, which is working on a Community Benefits Agreement for the stadium.

Rendering courtesy of DC United

Monday, September 8, 2014

Wharf Construction Update

At tonight’s ANC 6D meeting, representatives from Hoffman-Madison Waterfront provided an update on progress at The Wharf. Construction began in April on phase one, which covers the area from 7th Street to the Maine Avenue Fish Market. Following is a summary of the latest on construction: 

Demolition is about 75% complete along the 700 to 900 block of Water Street, including Zanzibar, the Kastles Stadium site, and Phillips Flagship. Work on the marina side is eight weeks ahead of schedule with piles completed for the new Capital Yacht Club and work underway for the Transit Pier and District Pier. About 8-10 piles are driven into the Washington Channel per week, with about 130 piles needed to complete pier construction. 

Meanwhile, demolition will begin later this month at St. Augustine’s Church and a large storm drain will be relocated before construction begins in late October to early November on a 108-unit condo building. Construction of the new church will begin in early 2015 and Waterfront Park will begin construction in the spring of 2015. The church and park will be completed around the same time – the first quarter of 2016. The large Copper Beech tree on the church’s property will be relocated to the site of the Maine Lobsterman statue in the future Waterfront Park to the south. The statue will be put in storage until phase one of The Wharf is complete and will be reinstalled near the Maine Avenue Fish Market. 

The former Channel Inn will soon be the temporary home for the Capital Yacht Club, The Wharf’s marketing center, space for master planner Perkins Eastman, the construction office for Clark, and the corporate offices for PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette. In addition, the cafeteria space will be converted to a café operated by the proprietors of Jenny’s Asian Fusion restaurant. Jenny’s Asian Fusion will close on September 28 from its current location on the waterfront and will relocate to a smaller café space at the Channel Inn sometime in December. 

Over by the fish market, a new parking lot will open by mid-October, which should alleviate some of the parking issues on the east side closer to the Channel Inn. Also, pedestrian and bike access will soon be diverted from the south side of Maine Avenue to the north side between 7th and 9th streets. The construction team will soon begin posting weekly updates of their traffic control plan.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Playground Construction Date Near at Randall

If you’re a kid in Southwest, play options in the neighborhood have improved recently and will soon get even better. After more than a year of delays, the Randall Recreation Center playground at South Capitol and I streets will become the latest District playground to be revamped under DPR’s Play DC initiative when construction begins later this month. In addition to the Randall playground, the King-Greenleaf Recreation Center playground will also be renovated this fall. Last month, the 3rd & I Street Park adjacent to the Southwest branch library was renovated and a playground was added. In the last two years, a playground was added at Syphax Gardens and the play equipment at Amidon-Bowen Elementary was replaced. 

The renovations at Randall will cost over $1 million to complete and will begin on September 15 with completion before the end of the year. Improvements include: new playground equipment for all ages, renovation of the existing basketball/tennis courts, removal of asphalt and brick walls and installation of a new splash park and seating areas in the plaza area fronting I Street, a skate park, walking path, adult exercise equipment, drinking fountains, picnic & game tables, security lighting, fencing, landscaping and gates. The park funding had been in limbo since 2013 when KIPP unsuccessfully lobbied to build a charter school on the site. Subsequently, the Office of Planning conducted the Southwest Neighborhood Plan, whose final recommendations should be released this fall. 

Rendering courtesy of DPR

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Few Quick Labor Day Items: Doggie Day Swim, Wells' SW Office Hours, M Street Yoga Opens ths Week, Waterfront Academy Starts Classes, Wharf's Search for $$

DPR and the Department of Health will host the sixth annual DPR Doggie Day Swim on Saturday, September 6 from 12pm to 4pm. One of the pool facilities that will participate is Randall Pool at South Capitol and I streets. Admission is free; however, all dogs must have a valid, DOH-issued DC dog license to enter the pool. Licenses will be issued on site, however dog owners must have all the required documentation (proof of rabies and distemper vaccinations; and proof of spaying/neutering) and fee payment. Only money orders or personal checks are accepted (no credit cards nor cash), made payable to "DC Treasurer." The cost of the license is $15 for dogs that are spayed/neutered and $50 for non-spayed/neutered dogs. 

Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells will not have September Southwest Office Hours since the Council is in recess until September 15. The next Southwest Office Hours will be on Thursday, October 2 from 8am to 9:30am at the Southwest Safeway (1100 4th Street). 

M Street Yoga will finally start offering classes next week on the ground floor of Carrollsburg, a Condominium’s North Building at 300 M Street. Ahead of the start of classes on Thursday, there will be an Open House on Wednesday, September 3 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. The studio’s website recently went live, where classes can be scheduled. 

Waterfront Academy, the new dual immersion Montessori school opening this fall at 60 I Street, has hired its teaching staff for the 2014-15 school year. Karina Trejo will serve as the Spanish Montessori Primary Guide; Garry Robert will be the Bilingual Catechist; and Concepcion Roque will be the Primary Assistant Catechist. The trio joins Head of School Rebeca Shakleford. The first day of school will be on Tuesday, September 2 and the Grand Opening will take place on October 2 at 6:30pm. 

Photo courtesy of Waterfront Academy (foto cortesía de Waterfront Academy) 

An article in Capital Business profiles Amer Hammour, executive chairman of Madison Marquette, one of the developers of The Wharf. The article mentions how Hammour had to travel around the world to find financing for the project. From the article: 
One colossal Chinese firm expressed interest, and after Hammour and Hoffman made their pitch, the chairman declared that instead of investing he would buy the entire waterfront and build a five-story shopping center. “He happens to be one of the richest guys in the world, period,” Hammour said. “And he comes in and makes it clear that, you know, he’s going to own this project. And then talks about what he wants to do with the project, which is completely unrealistic. We had to explain to him that, to build a Chinese-like shopping center like that on the Potomac might not be a great idea.”
Imagine the reaction if that idea went anywhere...