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Ruben Companies Buys Two Exxon Sites on South Capitol Street
Jul 5, 2011 5:36 PM
Deeds have been recorded this afternoon indicating that the Ruben Companies has bought the two empty Exxon lots on South Capitol Street, at I Street SE and K Street SW.
The purchase of the 35,000-square-foot lot at South Capitol and I gives Ruben control of the entire block known as Square 697N; the company picked up the other 47,000 sq ft of the block back in 2009 after developer JPI defaulted on its loan for what was then the site of a Wendy's restaurant.
The other lot Ruben bought from Exxon, just south of the Capitol Skyline Hotel at South Capitol and K streets SW, is about 31,000 square feet and also gives the company control of that entire block, known as Square 648, after Ruben bought the other two lots in 2005 and 2007.
This now makes four sizeable sites that Ruben owns on this three-block stretch of South Capitol Street, since the company also owns 1100 South Capitol St. SE and 1101 South Capitol St. SW across the street, both of which are being marketed as office buildings.
The South Capitol and I Exxon closed down back in 2006, when the station's operator pleaded guilty to fradulently double-billing government contractors more than $120,000.
I don't know any more specifics about the sales at this point, and it's unlikely any buildings will be immediately sprouting on either site. But it is yet another bit of commercial development news that would seem to indicate that the worst of the downswing is past.

Holiday Weekend Events: Baseball, FreedomFest, and More
Jun 29, 2011 10:32 PM
With July 4 being nice enough to fall on a Monday this year, the three-day holiday weekend is particularly chock full of events, with plenty of goings-on in Near Southeast. Here's a rundown. (Though, judging by how sparsely populated my office already is, just on Wednesday, I'm not sure how many people are left in town to read this.) And, for neighborhood residents, even if none of these events are on your dance card, you still might want to be prepared for heavier than normal crowds wandering around.
* For a headstart on the weekend, there's two events on Thursday, June 30. Ryan Zimmerman will host his 2nd annual "Night at the Park" fundraiser for his zIMS Foundation, which raises money for Multiple Sclerosis. It starts at 6 pm, and tickets are still available. Country star Rodney Atkins will be performing, as will David Blaine (for the VIP ticketholders). More details at the official web site.
* A few blocks away, in what could be considered a bit of counterprogramming, the Capitol Riverfront BID's Outdoor Movie Series will be showing "Shakespeare in Love," starting at 8:45 pm at Tingey Plaza behind USDOT.
* On Friday, the weekly Yards Park concert series continues, with rhythm and blues by the group Special Occasion rhythm and blues band Framewerk [my boo-boo, sorry], from 6 to 8 pm.
* The weekend at Nationals Park will be a busy one, starting with Saturday's doubleheader against the Pirates, the first of the Nats' upcoming 11-game homestand leading into the All-Star brealk. The first game (which won't be broadcast on TV, by the way), is at 3:35 pm, with the second game starting at 7:05 pm or later. The $2 tickets are sold out, but tickets bought for Saturday get you in to both games. And, bang zoom, there will be fireworks after the second game, "presented by Marvel Studios' new motion picture Captain America: First Avenger." (Might be interesting to wander to the Yards Park to watch from there, to see if it's a good vantage point.)
Sunday's 1:35 pm Pirates game is also "Nickelodeon Day" at the ballpark, with all sorts of family-friendly activities featuring SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer.
And, on Monday, July 4, the Nats will be hosting the Cubs at 1:05 pm, which will probably be a hot ticket. There's a series of special ticket offers for this "Patriotic Series" game.
See this Nats press release for additional details on all the promotions and festivities.
* Meanwhile, on both Sunday and Monday, the National FreedomFest concert will be in full swing at the Yards Park, from 2 pm to 9 pm on Sunday and 1 pm to 9 pm on Monday. The organizers say there will be more than 40 bands and DJs on five stages, along with food vendors, craft vendors, and more. Tickets start at $25, and are available via the web site, along with more information about the lineup and other details.
(Note that the concert and the baseball, running at the same time, may make finding spaces in the neighborhood surface parking lots a bit tougher than usual.)
I was going to include some other upcoming events in this post, but nobody's reading this anyway, so I'll save those for another time.
As always, if you want continuing updates on these sorts of events, my Near Southeast Businesses/Organizations Twitter list, which are also displayed in a box on the JDLand homepage, will give you all the news and late-breaking tidbits.

Tidbits: ANC Redistricting, Canal History, Greenspace, 8th St. Deal
Jun 29, 2011 1:29 PM
After all the big news of late, downshifting into a Tidbits post doesn't really seem like much fun, and of course if you're following me on Twitter or Facebook (or checking out the Twitter box on the JDLand home page every so often), you've already been alerted to many of these. But, onward:
* If you're wondering how the ANC redistricting process will work (especially since the ward version was so much fun!), here's the official memo on the procedures going forward. As in previous years, ANC single member districts will have populations between 1,900 and 2,100 residents. Census Tract 72, which covers all of Near Southeast and so includes all of ANC 6D07 plus the small number of houses from 7th Street east to 11th that are in ANC 6B04, was counted at 2,794 residents in the 2010 census.
The Office of Planning has the census-block-by-census-block numbers, but, ahem, I don't actually know which blocks are which, though if I had to guess by looking at the numbers and how the blocks are organized, I'd say that 6D07 probably came in at 2,743 and south-of-the-freeway 6B04 at 51. Ish. (Perhaps an ANC version of the GGW Redistricting Game isn't far off!) It isn't enough to split 6D07 into two single member districts, but it also can't stay as is. The question will also loom large as to whether new boundaries will split the neighborhood even more between ANC 6B (Capitol Hill) and 6D (Southwest), or move it all into one or the other. UPDATE: Thanks to IMGoph in the comments, I got a look at the map, and it appears the actual residential split is 2,767 to 27. Read my comment for details. I'll make a map at some point.
UPDATE 2: And here's a quick and dirty map, showing block by block what the census folks recorded the neighborhood's residential population at, as of April 1, 2010. As I mention in the comments, the residential buildings west of 2nd Street SE add up to 2,054 residents, perfectly within the numeric requirements for an SMD. But how SMDs will actually be divvied up is anyone's guess right now, beyond the fact that there's no way the vast bulk of Near Southeast will continue to be in just one SMD.
Council members are supposed to appoint their ward task force members by Friday, with progress reports due on Aug. 1 and Sept. 1. The entire process has to be completed by the end of 2011.
* The Hill is Home has posted the first of a two-part look at the history of the Washington Canal, which used to run along where Canal Park is under construction. (Speaking of which, I grabbed a quick cellphone shot from above the park last week showing the work on the southern block, where the foundation for the pavilion is being built.)
* Housing Complex writes about the deal finally being finalized for Greenspace to move into the empty retail spaces in the 1st Street facade of Nationals Park, creating a "12,000-square-foot center for green building and design." This has been in the works for nearly two years, but even though there was a "launch" of the space on Tuesday (which I didn't hear about until people at the event started live-tweeting it), Housing Complex says that the project won't come to fruition until Greenspace "is able to raise another $600,000 in cash and in-kind contributions, adding up to the $2 million necessary to build out what's currently a blank shell." Perhaps someday, when Florida Rock is built out to the south and later Yards phases along 1st Street are completed, the "real" retail envisioned for this portion of the ballpark will come to pass. Here's the press release on the Greenspace project.
* Madison Marquette, owner of the Blue Castle at 770 M St. SE, has now apparently completed a joint venture deal with local landowners ICP Group for all ICP's various properties on the east side of 8th Street south of the freeway, including the gray building at 8th and Potomac that houses Quizno's and the other properties along the 800 block of Potomac, and others. No news as to what might be done on those blocks, though if the new Marine Barracks site search ever crops back up, a group owning all of the land on Squares 929 and 930 could conceivably submit a proposal for a public-private partnership.
Coming later today, an equally bulleted post highlighting the slew of upcoming events in the neighborhood, both for this holiday weekend and beyond.

Forest City Announces Restaurants at the Yards; Teeter Confirmed
Jun 27, 2011 8:48 AM
A press release went out this morning with the news that so many residents and office workers have been waiting for: the initial list of restaurants that will be opening at the Yards, along with confirmation that Harris Teeter is coming to the building at 401 M Street.
At the Foundry Lofts apartment building currently heading toward completion, there will be a Potbelly, plus Kruba Thai and Sushi, from the operators of Teak Wood Thai and Sushi, Regent Thai, and Galae Thai and Sushi. Both are expected to open in the first quarter of 2012. (Pre-leasing of the residential units is expected to begin in August, with move-ins starting in October.)
The Boilermaker Shops, the 1919-era building nestled between the Foundry Lofts and the US Department of Transportation, will have a number of different offerings:
* There will be Buzz Bakery, a full-service bakery, coffee shop, and "dessert lounge," plus an as-yet-unnamed craft brewery, both operated by the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, the people behind the Evening Star Cafe, Vermilion, Rustico, Tallula, EatBar, Columbia Firehouse, Birch and Barley, and ChurchKey.
* Austin Grill Express, a "casual, funky Tex-Mex restaurant drawing on the experience of Austin Grill to deliver a unique menu and environment."
* BRB ("be right burger").
* Huey's 24/7 Diner, a "classic diner experience." (But will it actually be open 24/7?)
It's expected that Huey's, Austin Grill, and BRB will open in the fall of 2012, with the others in "late 2012."
And, at the 401 M Street residential building (the only one of the three buildings that is 100 percent new construction), a Harris Teeter will be coming to the ground floor, which has been rumored for a number of years but is now finally confirmed. The press release says it will open in 2013, though for that to be the case, they need to start work on the building pretty much, um, now.
More as I get it, and you can read the official press release for additional details. For more on each project, see my Foundry Lofts, Boilermaker Shops, 401 M, and main Yards project pages, or see the official Yards web site. Especially don't miss the photos from the interior of the Boilermaker Shops, which is a space very much unlike anything else in DC.
UPDATE, June 2012: Because this post is linked to in so many places, it's necessary to update that in late June 2012 it was revealed that Austin Grill Express and BRB would not be coming to the Boilermaker Shops after all. However, Willie's Brew and Que sportsbar had been announced as another tenant in late 2011.

Weekend Events: E.T., Concert, Ward 6 Family Day, Blood Drive
Jun 23, 2011 3:14 PM
A few items on the events agenda for this weekend that might be of interest. (And the Green Line is the only subway line that *won't* be having track work this weekend, so you might as well take advantage). The lineup:
* You can actually start your weekend tonight (Thursday), with E.T. as the offering in the Summer Outdoor Movie Series. It's at Tingey Plaza (behind USDOT, at New Jersey and Tingey), starting at either 8:45 pm or sundown (can't ever quite figure out what "8:45 pm/sundown" signifies--whichever comes last?).
* Friday night has the weekly free Yards Park concert, from 6 to 8 pm. This week's act is Jimi Smooth, for your Motown listening pleasure. There will also be BBQ and other food options.
* On Saturday (June 25), Tommy Wells is hosting his annual Ward 6 Family Day, bringing it to the Yards Park for the first time. It's from 1 to 5 pm, and will have free food, live music, and all sorts of activities (including "arts and crafts projects to build boats to race in the water park"). There will also be a Diaper Drive (no, really), accepting both unopened and open packs of diapers. There's more information on Tommy's web site.
* If you want to add some additional community service to your Saturday, either before or after Family Day you can head to Nationals Park for the first of their two summer blood drives. The drive is from 8 am to 4:30 pm in the conference center, and "in exchange for their generous donation, those who donate blood will receive two tickets to a future Nationals game and a limited edition Adam LaRoche t-shirt." Appointments are required: Interested donors should call 1-866-BLOODSAVES (256-6372) or visit inova.org/donateblood, click 'schedule an appointment', then 'donate blood' and enter sponsor code 7665. (The next drive will be on August 27.) Read the Nats press release for more info.
* And the Yards Park events actually spill over into Monday, when at 10 am Mayor Gray will be giving an "update on his job creation and economic development agenda" at the Lumber Shed. (Probably no music or dancing at this one.)

First Details on WC Smith's 880 New Jersey Apartment Project
Jun 20, 2011 5:47 PM
With the DC apartment market continuing to perform strongly (perhaps even too strongly), and with Near Southeast's existing rental buildings continuing to be successful in attracting tenants, it would seem to follow that developers who have been long planning new residential projects in the neighborhood would be making moves to get their projects underway. And that's what's happening with William C. Smith & Co., which has been working on the initial plans for a 13-story, 430-unit apartment building at 880 New Jersey Ave. SE, just south of the freeway on the southwest corner of their Square 737 site that they've owned since 1999.
WCS isn't ready yet to release renderings of the building, though they did show me an early design by Esocoff and Associates (who also designed Onyx and who are working on Akridge's Half Street residential building), showing a brick/masonry structure with a lot of "articulation" (i.e., not a big flat box) and with double-height windows. Some anticipated amenities include an indoor pool as part of its fitness center (which could also have spinning and yoga rooms), in addition to the now-all-but-standard rooftop pool, and a bicycle entrance to a sizeable storage room separate from the three levels of underground parking. There will also be an interior courtyard that the building wraps around.
One amenity that this building won't have is a Whole Foods Grocery store, after that plan collapsed earlier this spring. There will be a small amount of "convenience" retail (1,500 square feet), on the southeast corner of the building.
There are a couple of items that need to happen before construction can get underway, starting with the move of the Department of Public Works out of their site at New Jersey and K to a new location on Okie Street in Northeast, the construction of which can now proceed thanks to the council passing last week emergency technical legislation allowing a portion of Capper PILOT monies to be used for off-site construction (though another bill still has to pass to actually allocate the funds). Then the DC Housing Authority needs to demolish the trash transfer building (a raze application permit having been filed last week), at which point WC Smith will purchase the portion of the trash transfer site that juts across and north of the I Street footprint, as seen at right; the Smith site is on the right side of the photo.
It is hoped that DPW will relocate by early fall and that DCHA will get the site cleared by the end of 2011; WCS is targeting April 2012 for the start of construction on the building itself, with the project expected to take 24 months. (It should be mentioned here that this is not the apartment building planned for the trash transfer site itself; that will be a Capper mixed-income building, with no current start date announced.)
WCS will also be building the new stretch of I Street that will run between 2nd Street and New Jersey Avenue, as well as punching H Street through to New Jersey on the north end of Square 737. (And no, this won't drive out the horse stables nestled under the freeway just north of H.) They are expecting that the new block of I Street will have two travel lanes, two bike lanes, and two parking lanes. And this stretch of New Jersey Avenue will get the wide landscaped sidewalks that are seen in front of the other new developments on the street.
This is the first phase of Smith's plans for Square 737, seen at left from above, back in 2008. While originally the plan had been for two residential buildings and two office buildings, the current realities of both markets have the company looking toward filling the block with apartments, totalling around 1,200 units in four buildings. (And note that the entire four-building project is "matter of right," so there will be no zoning reviews or PUDs.) They are anticipating greater amounts of retail in the two buildings that will front 2nd Street, near Canal Park and across from 225 Virginia.
If you want to see more photos of Square 737 and get additional background, check my project page and previous posts. And, given that Smith's representatives say that they are "very excited to get started" on the development, hopefully renderings of 880 New Jersey and additional details will be available in the next few months.
While this will be William C. Smith's first apartment project in Near Southeast, they have been committed to the neighborhood for a number of years, having constructed 1100 New Jersey Avenue in 2004 (which is where their offices are). They have also been a big player in the creation of Canal Park, and are part of the Capper PUD team as the developers of the planned 250 M Street office building.

Raze Permit Application Filed for Trash Transfer Site
Jun 16, 2011 8:42 AM
Just arrived this morning is a copy of the raze permit application for 900 New Jersey Avenue SE, far better known as the trash transfer site, where the city's Department of Public Works has operated out of for many years. The block is part of the footprint of the Capper/Carrollsburg redevelopment, and is slated to eventually become a 320-ish-unit mixed-income apartment building.
Its demolition will allow for the construction of I Street between 2nd and New Jersey, which also paves the way for William C. Smith to be able to start on its planned residential project just to the north at 800 New Jersey.
The DC Housing Authority will be handling the demolition, which won't happen until a new DPW home is constructed in Northeast, though they are hoping that the move happens before the leaves start to fall. And then there will need to be environmental abatements on the site, which has had trash-related operations on it for a long long time.
And apparently ANC 6D07 commissioner David Garber won't be trying to landmark the smokestack after all. (Read this comments thread for the background on that.)

A Few More Nats Park Photos (Eateries Etc.), and Other Tidbits
Jun 15, 2011 9:29 AM
I wandered down to Nationals Park last night to take in the atmosphere of not only the four new eateries, but also the return of Ryan Zimmerman. It was a healthy crowd (26,700+), and only about half of them seemed to be in line at Shake Shack and the other new food concessions (though by later in the game, the non-Shake Shack options had no lines).
I took another slew of photos (since the original batch from Monday's preview event proved to be pretty popular) mainly trying to get shots of these new "iconic" ballpark features from various angles, along with a few other shots of interest. As you can see in the shot at right, you can look at Blue Smoke and Box Frites with the Yards Park "iconic" pedestrian bridge and Navy Yard riverwalk directly behind, or with an east-of-the-river vista. I also grabbed a view of the progress on the bridge between Diamond Teague Park and Yards Park, my first shots of Das Bullpen, and both the sunset and the moonrise. And they would have all been even better if I had brought the official JDLand DSLR camera and not my less-than-fabulous point-and-shoot. Browse the gallery, and then mock me for leaving in the top of the 7th inning.
Other recently tweeted tidbits:
* The Yards' new Facebook page now includes a 2 1/2-minute virtual tour of what the neighborhood will look like when it's all built out. To see what it looks like now (and what it looked like a few years back), wander through my Yards project page.
* On Sunday morning a group of volunteers descended on the empty lot just east of the Velocity condo building to turn it into a demonstration rain garden. It's a project of the DC chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, and is being funded by REI and the Cohen Companies (developers of the block), among others. They are having a meeting at Velocity on June 20 at 6 pm to discuss the project, and there will be another work day on the site on Saturday, June 25. The project's blog has photos and a lot of details; it's officially named the David Stemper Memorial Rain Garden, in honor of a Surfrider volunteer who passed away in 2010.
* The BID says that the next Truckeroo food truck festival at Half and M SE will be on Friday, July 15.
* Last week CSX sent a letter out to residents who live near Virginia Avenue introducing the plans to rehab the Virginia Avenue Tunnel. (It was probably quite useful for people who don't read JDLand!)

First Look at New Nationals Park Eateries (Shake Shack et al)
Jun 13, 2011 10:45 PM
On Monday night the Nationals unveiled for an invitation crowd the four new concession options brought to Nationals Park by the Union Square Hospitality Group. Shake Shack (which has already taken Dupont Circle by storm), El Verano Taqueria, Blue Smoke Barbecue, and Box Frites are side-by-side along the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk in Center Field, and will be open 2 1/2 hours before every game. (There will also be $5 "happy hour" beer specials on the Scoreboard Walk, starting 2 1/2 hours before every game for the rest of the season.)
The area behind the scoreboard has also been "refreshed," with new furniture, plants, trees, herbs (really!), and synthetic turf to give a "backyard" feel. There are also 14 "shade sails" now erected over the area to help keep fans waiting in line for the new eats from falling over in the heat; the sails are supposed to reduce ambient temps by up to 20 degrees, and also provide UV ray protection of up to nearly 94 percent.
The Nationals are hoping that this revamped spot becomes an "iconic" area at the ballpark, with COO Andy Feffer explaining that the stadium already has "cool clubs," but they are private and not open to everyone as these will be. As for whether they will be able to handle what could be quite a crush of hungry foodie fans, Feffer said "We shall see," while noting that since the USHG folks have existing operations at Citi Field in New York, "if anybody's prepared, these guys are."
And, is there a chance that these four stands could ever open to the public on non-gamedays? Feffer says they've talked about it, and that it's a possibility down the road, when the area's worker-and-resident population expands further.
I took a slew of pictures of the food and signage (two of my favorite photo subjects, even surpassing shots of buildings!). The eateries will open to fans on Tuesday at 4:30, before the 7:05 Nats-Cardinals game. (As always, 400 $5 tickets are available at the box office on game day.) The photo gallery also includes photos of the menus if the suspense is too much to bear.
UPDATE: The Post's Dan Steinberg has more on the new offerings.

Photo Update: 225 Virginia's New Clothes, Townhouses A'Poppin'
Jun 12, 2011 2:53 PM
While the number of photos I took while in Spain and Italy should have been enough to tide me over for quite a while in the camera department, the guilt at not having taken Hood photos since APRIL (!) shoved me out the door on hot and hazy Sunday morning (ick) for a walk around the major activity zone between 2nd and 4th Streets.
The re-dressing of 225 Virginia/200 I/Old Post Plant/Old Star Plant continues, with most of the north face now sporting the building's new look; some windows have even been installed on the east front, facing 3rd Street. It's expected that the exterior work will be done by early 2012, with tenants from three city agencies starting to move in about a year from now. My 225 Virginia project page has a guided tour of the project, or you can take the virtual walk-around-the-block for a bigger batch of before-and-after photos to watch the building's transformation from Big White Monolith to 21st century office building.
In the meantime, work is speeding along at Capitol Quarter, where the block bounded by 3rd, 4th, I, and K (bisected by the soon-to-be-birthed 3rd Place) has construction in all phases, from the nearly completed houses at 3rd and I to the new framing at 4th and I, and foundations now poured at 4th and K. And, as briefly mentioned a few days ago, the trailer that housed the original sales center at 4th and L is now gone. If you just want the short version of Capitol Quarter's second-phase transformation, check out my Capitol Quarter project page, otherwise you can take the virtual walk around the blocks now under construction for a boatload of before-and-afters.
I also took some photos of the northern perimeter of Canal Park, but pictures of fences and digging equipment are never terribly exciting.
As always, remember that the Click to see all available photos of this location. icon on any page gets you to the full batch of photos I've taken at any location. Or, if you're interested in only a certain location, you can use my Photo Archive map to get right to it. The entire set of 178 photos I posted today can be seen all at once, too, if you're so inclined.
(And, as an aside, let me send my huzzahs to Microsoft for getting fixed in IE9 whatever it was in IE8 that would cause the browser to stop displaying local hard drive images after a certain amount of page loads, causing me to having to restart the dang thing eight or nine times during each photo archiving stint. [It's pretty much the only thing I still use IE for.])

Foundry Lofts to Start Pre-Leasing Aug. 15, Open in October
Jun 10, 2011 12:43 PM
Just out from the Foundry Lofts Facebook page, a note saying "Mark your calendars Foundry Lofts fans! Pre-leasing starts August 15th, and we'll be opening this October!"
This is the old Pattern Joiner Shop on the southeast corner of 3rd and Tingey in the Yards, behind the US Department of Transportation building and just north of the Yards Park. Work to transform the 1918 structure into a 170-unit apartment building first began in 2008, but stalled later that year because of funding issues; work then re-started last August when new financing for the affordable housing units in the building was secured.
The building will also have ground-floor retail, with announcements on tenants expected "soon."
My Foundry Lofts page has plenty of additional information, as well as before-and-during photos.
UPDATE: With a hat tip to reader mikescorpio in a different JDLand comment thread, here's the prices that the Foundry Lofts Facebook Info page list: "1-Bedrooms from $2,100s, 2-Bedrooms from $2,700s, Penthouses from $3,400s. Apartments Available October 15, 2011, Penthouses Available December 15, 2011."

Back from Across the Pond; Lots of Tidbits While I Recover
Jun 8, 2011 9:09 AM
I'm back in DC, having spent 11 wonderful days in Madrid, Barcelona, and cruising across the Mediterranean to Pisa, Florence, Rome, the coast south of Naples, and Mallorca. Needless to say, while I checked in on the news back home from time to time and tweeted an item or two if the timing was right, I wasn't following developments closely, and I'm pretty out of the blogging groove at this point. So I'm going to start back slowly with some easy items.
* Redistricting: The city council voted Tuesday to approve a redistricting map that, as expected, keeps Near Southeast in Ward 6. This continues to make Marion Barry extremely unhappy, and the Examiner reports that he'll be "asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to open a Justice Department review of proposed new D.C. ward boundaries because, Barry says, they violate residents' civil rights." There's still a final vote to be had on the plan, probably on June 21. As for the last-minute changes that ended up keeping much of Ward 6 intact (moving Reservation 13 to Ward 7 instead of other areas), you can read Tommy Wells's blog for more details.
* Riverwalk: The Navy Yard announced last week that its portion of the riverwalk along the Anacostia River, running from the 11th Street Bridges to the Yards Park, will now be open from 5:30 am until "official sunset," seven days a week and including holidays; though there will still be closures as needed, which are announced on the Navy Yard Riverwalk Twitter feed. (I admit that I got a bit of a kick passing along this news via Twitter while riding on a train north of Rome.)
* DPW Move: The council passed emergency technical legislation on Tuesday that allows Capper PILOT funds to be used to build a new location for DPW operations in Northeast, which means that they should be moving from the 2nd and K site this fall (before "leaf season").
* Ward 6 Family Day: Tommy Wells's yearly event for Ward 6 residents will be held on Saturday, June 25, and will be at the Yards Park for the first time. It's from 1 to 5 pm, with "free food, live music, games and activities for the whole family as well as raffles featuring gift certificates from local businesses and sporting memorabilia from the Wizards, DC United and Washington Nationals."
* ANC 6D has its next meeting on Monday, June 13, at 7 pm at Arena Stage. The agenda is light on Near Southeast items, with only a resolution by David Garber about Near Southeast bike stations and requests by Cornercopia and Harry's Reserve to be exempted from the ban on the sale of "singles."
* Food Truck Festival: Bo Blair, the owner of the Bullpens and the organizer of Truckeroo on June 3, said in an e-mail that the event was a "massive, incredible success," with somewhere between 17,000 and 18,000 attendees and "zero problems." The next date for the event will be announced soon.
* Construction and Destruction: Construction has stalled on the Little Red Building v2.0 at 2nd and L, which ANC commissioner Garber says is a "building permit issue that is in process of being resolved - construction should start back 'soon.'" Meanwhile, the "re-dressing" of 225 Virginia is well underway, with the new exterior walls being hung on the north side of the building. And if it hasn't already happened, the trailer that was the original sales office for Capitol Quarter is being torn down, since construction of townhouses is now underway on that block. (Photos to come, at some point.)
* The Yards on Facebook/Twitter: I kind of stumbled across these (never saw any announcement about them), but the Yards now has an official Facebook page (which is available on Twitter, too) along with a separate one for the Foundry Lofts (its Twitter account is protected, though).
UPDATE: And, since this just came across Twitter: Dan Steinberg reports that Shake Shack and the other new Nats Park restaurants will open next Tuesday, the beginning of the homestand vs. the Cardinals.

Redistricting Latest; Navy Yard Riverwalk Hours; Singles; A Break
May 26, 2011 5:14 PM
A few tidbits going into the holiday weekend:
* Nothing changed for Near Southeast as a result of Thursday's Redistricting Committee meeting, but it certainly wasn't boring. Tommy Wells took some swipes at Jack Evans, Marion Barry threatened to sue, Harry Thomas, Yvette Alexander, and Muriel Bowser talked about the need for unity, and when committee chair Michael Brown refused to recognize Barry for a second round of statements, the two talked over each other for a number of moments while Phil Mendelson and Jack Evans tried to reach Barry's microphone. Finally, while Barry continued to talk, Evans called the motion, they voted to approve the draft map that keeps Near Southeast in Ward 6 (with some small changes on the Ward 2/Ward 6 border), the hearing ended, and the microphones were shut off. I don't often suggest council hearings for an On Demand Popcorn Special, but if you have an hour (or want to fast forward to the last 10 minutes), it should be available on the OCT web site soon. Here's DCist's report on the hearing, along with Mike DeBonis's pre-hearing post on the "Jackmandering" that has Tommy Wells unhappy. Next up is the public hearing on June 1 at 6 pm, which should be even more festive.
UPDATE: No need to wait! TBD has the video of Barry vs Brown. And here is a short Examiner piece on Barry's lawsuit threat.
* The Washington Navy Yard Riverwalk's Twitter feed announced yesterday that, starting on Tuesday, May 31, their gates will open at 5:30 am instead of the current 8 am. The gates will still close at 5 pm, and this is still Monday through Friday (excluding holidays), and the area can still be closed at the WYN's discretion. The Twitter feed has been good at announcing when closures are planned. Perhaps this expansion on the beginning the day means that further expansions might someday come down the pike?
* Also on June 1, the ANC 6D Alcohol Beverage Committee will be taking up requests from both Cornercopia and Harry's Reserve for exemptions from the ban on selling "singles." The agenda says that this "will cover exemptions for 25 to 70 ounces of beer, NOT single beers from a six-pack, or miniatures, small pints." The meeting is at King Greenleaf Rec Center at 7 pm. Any recommendation to allow the exemptions would then taken up by the full ANC for approval at its monthly meeting on June 13.
And, with that, I'm going to take a bit of a breather. Between the flurry of high-emotion news items over the past few months, the upcoming holiday weekend, and some stuff on the boards in my "real" life, it's a good time to step back for a little while. I expect to be away from blogging all next week, and maybe a little past that. If really big news breaks (and I mean *really* big), I may try to put something up, but I definitely won't be operating at normal warp speed. I may do some not-very-timely Tweeting if I can't bear not to, but I really am going to try to take an actual break. There haven't been many of those in eight-plus years...
In the meantime, feel free to use this spot as an open thread on matters of neighborhood interest. But behave, because I'll still be reading....!

Draft Redistricting Plan Keeps Near Southeast in Ward 6
May 25, 2011 8:32 PM
Within the past hour, council member Michael Brown released the draft redistricting map for the city (available ward by ward). To not bury the lede, as we say in the news biz, Near Southeast and Southwest remain in Ward 6, with no move across the river to Ward 8. And, in what appears to be a last-minute compromise, Eastern High School and Eliot-Hine Middle School remain in Ward 6, while the rest of the Hill East/Rosedale/Kingman Park areas east of 17th Street shift to Ward 7. Ward 6 also loses its half of Penn Quarter to Ward 2, while gaining a portion of Shaw as well as the section of Southwest south of Independence Avenue that had remained in Ward 2. (If you want to see the current Ward 6 boundaries, here they are.) And you can also read the subcommittee report, with all the reasonings behind the moves (and rejected moves).
This is not the final word on the new boundaries--the three-member redistricting committee will be meeting and voting on this on Thursday at 1 pm, and then there is a public hearing scheduled for June 1 at 6 pm. The full council will then vote on June 7. If the council members hear compelling arguments against these boundaries,the draft map can still be amended.
If you are interested in Thursday's redistricting committee meeting, you can watch it on DC Channel 13 or via live-streaming at oct.dc.gov. Plus I'll be following it on Twitter, along with all the other #reDC regulars.
(And apologies to Facebook and Twitter followers who were bombarded with messages tonight as word of the new maps came out. Breaking news can be high-volume sometimes!)
And then, once this is done, the ANC redistricting can begin!
UPDATE: Here's Mike DeBonis's write-up.

Tidbits: Redistricting Latest, Retail, Outdoor Movies, Kittens, Events
May 24, 2011 2:17 PM
News has gotten a little sparse of late, though there's suddenly plenty of little updates and whatnot, some that I've tweeted (and some that I haven't). Sorry that this is a bit of a monster post, but that just means you need to read it all carefully!
* Redistricting: With the redistricting committee's proposed map of redrawn boundaries coming out no later than their meeting at 1 pm on Thursday, news has begun to trickle out of what it will look like. Mike DeBonis reported on Monday that any part of the city west of the Anacostia River being moved to Ward 8 is "off the table," since the split neighborhood of Fairlawn is expected to be moved entirely into Ward 8, which would satisfy the ward's population requirement. (He also lays out some of the other "on the table" moves.) In an "op-ed" today at The Hill is Home, Tommy Wells says that Ward 6's new eastern boundary may be 17th Street NE and SE, moving Hill East and its landmarks (RFK, Eastern High School, Eliot-Hine Middle School, and Reservation 13) into Ward 7. After the committee votes on its map Thursday, there will be a public hearing at 6 pm on June 1, before the entire council votes on the plan on June 7.
* Retail: The big International Council of Shopping Centers' REcon convention is underway in Vegas, and the Post's Jonathan O'Connell is tweeting all the DC-related retailer news, including that Mayor Gray and members of the city council had lunch on Monday with representatives of Forest City, who gave a presentation on The Yards. Will there be an announcement soon on things getting started at the Boilermaker Shops, as Forest City said there would be a few weeks ago? A Post feature on Capitol Hill restaurateur Xavier Cervera mentioned that he has "deals in the works for 400-seat and 140-seat restaurants on the waterfront," the first of which would seem to be the sportsbar rumored for the Boilermaker space. The rumblings below the surface that the official Boilermaker announcement is coming soon continue to be strong (with any opening being at least a year away, since there's a lot of exterior work to be done to the building), but there's been no official announcement of this or any other Boilermaker lease.
* In an Examiner article about Wegman's being wooed for DC's Walter Reed site, it's mentioned that Michael Stevens of the Capitol Riverfront BID and city officials are meeting with AMC Theaters to discuss potential locations. The article describes a possible spot as "First Street, south of M Street and adjacent to Nationals Park." I'm a little skeptical of "First Street", mainly because the big empty lot along First (Nats parking lot F), owned by Willco and slated in the past for a mixed office/residential/retail development, hasn't seemed to be in play for any movement on any development. On the other hand, there's been talk that Akridge has been interested in having a movie theater as part of its Half Street development, also south of M and adjacent to Nationals Park, and construction could be starting there late this year. Either way, nothing is firm.
* Kittehs: Are you looking to adopt a cat? How about a Market Deli-branded kitten? Some residents have captured and spayed/neutered/vaccinated two of them, estimated to be 4-6 months old, and are looking for someone to adopt them. Here's the additional information. (I would have leapt at this, but my two cats, ages 17 and 14, would kill me in my sleep if I brought home new "siblings" for them.)
And, some upcoming events to note:
* The Yards Park folks have passed along the news that the fountains are off all this week for maintenance. No water-based frolicking for you!
* The Capitol Riverfront Outdoor Movie Series gets underway this Thursday (May 26). The theme this summer is Best of the Oscars, and they're starting off with "Casablanca." Movies start at 8:45 pm (or sundown), and there will be food trucks and snacks for sale. The movies have moved back to Tingey Plaza, just south of US DOT at New Jersey and Tingey.
* Harry's Reserve Wine and Spirits at 909 New Jersey is going to be having a free "community cookout" on their courtyard on Friday, May 27 from 5 to 8 pm, and again on Saturday, May 28 from 4:30 to 8 pm. They are doing it to thank the neighborhood for the support they've received since opening. There will be free "high-end" beverage tastings in addition to grilled offerings. The owners also want to pass along that they're getting fresh shipments of a variety of cheeses this week, and that they now have 800 beers in stock.
* Ryan Zimmerman's annual "A Night at the Park" fundraiser is scheduled for June 30, benefitting his ziMS Foundation. Tickets are now on sale, and it's been announced that country star Rodney Atkins is the featured performer.
* The Zoning Commission hearing on allowing Forest City to temporarily use the second floor of the Lumber Shed building as office space has been scheduled for July 7.

Thursday Tidbits: Bike to Work, New Tweeters, Crawfest, 55 M
May 19, 2011 12:26 PM
A roundup:
* Friday is Bike to Work Day, with the Yards Park being one of the morning "pit stops," from 7 to 9 am. If you're interested in joining in the fun, you need to register.
* The Canal Park folks have recently begun using their Twitter account, CanalParkDC. An update on the park's progress was tweeted on Wednesday, though it probably wasn't what park fans want to read: "Rain delays, water in our excavation preventing pouring foundations. Very frustrating!"
* The Navy Yard has created a Twitter feed for its portion of the Anacostia Riverwalk, to alert people to planned closings. This is in addition to the web page they've set up for hours and information about the riverwalk.
(I've added both of these feeds to my Near Southeast Businesses/Organizations Twitter list, which displays all the latest tweets in real time on the JDLand home page, for those of you who have remained blissfully outside of the Twitter vortex.)
* Louisiana State Society is having its Crawfest at the Yards Park on Sunday (May 22), with 4200 pounds of boiled crawfish, 150 pounds of jambalaya, sausage, corn, and potatoes, Abita beer, Louisiana music, and more. Society members get in for $45 per person, while non-members can pay $55 to attend. (Tickets for children 12 and under are $15.)
* DDOT says that its move out of the Reeves Center to Monument Realty's office building at 55 M is almost complete.
* Speaking of 55 M, it was named "Best Urban Office over 150,000 SF" at the NAIOP Maryland/DC 9th Annual Awards of Excellence.

CSX Funding the Virginia Avenue Tunnel, NEPA Process to Begin
May 18, 2011 5:46 PM
CSX announced today that it will be investing $160 million of its own monies in its National Gateway project, with most of that money going toward the funding of the expansion of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel, the 107-year-old structure that runs beneath Virginia Avenue from 2nd Street SE to 12th Street SE. With this decision, the company will start moving toward design and construction of the project, first by going through the NEPA process of environmental impact studies, which apparently is going to be spearheaded by the Federal Highways Administration (with support and assistance from DDOT, according to CSX).
Within the next few months there will be an initial public "scoping" meeting, where the parties lay out exactly what needs to be done with the tunnel and why. After a 30-day comment period expires, an "alternatives" meeting will then be scheduled, and this will be the meeting that residents will be the most interested in, because this will be when the design options for the project will first be made public, and will be the stage where CSX will at last answer the questions that so many people who live on or near Virginia Avenue have wanted answered since this project first really hit the public consciousness in late 2009. (Will the trench be completely uncovered? Will we be able to get into our alley? How will firetrucks service our block? What about noise? What about dust? What about traffic? What about the 6th Street exit off the freeway?) And at a meeting this afternoon, representatives from CSX didn't suddenly decide to answer any of those sorts of questions, deflecting them as ones that will be addressed at the alternatives meeting.
The CSX briefers today emphasized that they feel "sooner is better" for getting the project underway, with the expansion of the Panama Canal launching in early 2015 being one of the drivers of their decision to invest their own dollars rather than continuing to search for federal or state monies to pay for the project. (And, perhaps to ward off an expected line of criticism, they also made sure to mention that using their own money was in no way an attempt to sidestep NEPA.)
There's no firm date as to when construction might begin, owing to the reality that federal reviews don't always happen on a metronome-like timetable, and that then there will be permitting processes and other agency reviews (such as going through the National Capital Planning Commission and the city's historic preservation reviews). But it would seem that spring 2012 would be a likely target time if there are no big roadblocks thrown up, especially given that Panama Canal 2015 date and that CSX says they expect the project to take about three years. With other construction happening at or near the tunnel's path, including the rehab of 225 Virginia, the 11th Street Bridges reconstruction, and perhaps the start of some portion of William C. Smith's mixed-use project at 2nd and H, the very northern portion of the neighborhood will certainly continue to be knee-deep in heavy machinery for a number of years (and CSX says that they are coordinating with those other projects).
If you are just tuning in and aren't up to speed, CSX is wanting to add a second track to the tunnel, ending its status as one of the last (if not the last?) stretch of single track in CSX's east coast operations. They also plan to lower the floor of the tunnel to allow for double-stacked trains, vastly increasing the amount of cargo they can move through their system. (You can read their press release for what they consider to be the benefits of this expansion and all of the $850 million National Gateway project.)
As I've said, there isn't much in the way of specifics as to how exactly the project will be configured, other than we know there will be a parallel track running in an open trench, and that Virginia Avenue itself will be closed, but with bridges across the construction at 3rd, 4th, 7th, and 8th to allow the movement of north-south traffic. (This would mean that vehicles exiting the Southeast Freeway at 6th Street would need to turn north under the freeway to then move toward any final destination.)
My post from a walking tour of the project last July has some of the (few) details so far announced on the project, but focus will now turn to the NEPA public meetings as the point where the real specifics of the project and its impacts will be revealed, and where residents will be able to voice any and all concerns, problems, anger, threats of litigation, etc. Until then, feel free to use the comments here for all that! You can also read my previous CSX posts for more background and details on the project up to now.

Zoning Approvals Given for Temporary Capitol Hill Day School
May 17, 2011 4:25 PM
On Tuesday morning the Board of Zoning Adjustment voted to approve three exceptions and variances that will allow the Capitol Hill Day School to use the currently empty lot at 5th and K streets SE as a temporary location for its operations while its Dent School building at 2nd and South Carolina undergoes renovations.
This move, which has the support of ANC 6D and the Capitol Quarter Homeowners Association, would bring a "modular building" to the site this summer, with the school's expectation that it will return to the Dent building in early 2012.
There will be no on-site parking, but the school is leasing 29 parking spaces in the big parking lot one block to the east, on the site of the old Capper Seniors building (Nats lot "W"). And the Office of Planning report on the application says that DDOT has "agreed to prohibit parking between mid-June 2011 and the end of January 2012 on school days between 7 am and 6 pm on the east side of the block [...] in order to facilitate the drop off and pick up of students." (I'll note that this 7 am start time is one hour earlier than what was announced at the ANC 6D meeting where this plan was discussed.) CHDS representatives also told 6D at that meeting that they will be asking parents coming from north of the freeway to drive south on 4th, turn left on L, and then turn left on 5th to pull into one of their four drop-off spots, where students are then guided out of the cars. (Buses will pull in and out of these spots as well.) The spaces will be available for parking after 6 pm and on weekends and holidays.
There were few questions from the board; Commissioner May did ask whether this plan will negatively impact the long-delayed plans for the new community center to be built on the site. The current requirements placed on the community center project by the Zoning Commission as part of the Capper PUD are that the Housing Authority must apply for a building permit by July 1, 2012, and that construction must begin no later than June 30, 2013, dates which are far enough in the future to not be delayed by the Day School's occupation of the site.
The commission then voted to approve the requested relief; but, after a representative from the city's office of the attorney general raised some concerns, the hearing then devolved into a long technical and legal discussion of defining which conditions of a previous order were being addressed, which I totally admit to bailing out of. But in the end the project was still approved. You can watch the video of the hearing when it's posted if you want more information; and the Office of Planning report is also a very good resource for the zoning issues, plus there's a drawing on page 3 that shows how the temporary building will occupy the lot.
The Day School has a blog with information about the renovation project, and I imagine they'll pass along soon more details about when work will start at 5th and K.

Short Update from Monday Redistricting Meeting; The Schedule
May 17, 2011 9:10 AM
On Monday night there was another residents' meeting on the subject of redistricting, this time with two members of the city council's redistricting committee: Phil Mendelson, for whom this was a third public session in Ward 6 on the subject, and Jack Evans, making his first appearance at a Ward 6 assembly.
As with the other meetings, neither council member tipped a hand as to which sections of the city will be moved to different wards as part of the constitutionally mandated need to standardize the population sizes of the city's eight wards. And as with the other meetings, residents made clear that they very much want to remain in Ward 6. (Has our message gotten through? one resident asked toward the end of the session. Yes, Jack Evans assured him, it certainly has.) But Phil Mendelson stressed once again that no neighborhood wants to move, and that residents in areas other than Ward 6 are equally as vocal about their dissatisfaction--but the boundaries must be redrawn.
Mendelson laid out the upcoming schedule, with the committee's map of proposed changes being made public probably on May 25 for their vote on May 26. A public hearing on the committee's map is expected to be held June 1 at 6 pm, with the full council having its first vote ("first reading") on the bill enacting the new boundaries on June 7. A final vote could come on June 21, or perhaps in early July. UPDATE: Here's a post on Tommy Wells's blog with more information on the schedule and how the public can participate; this post was updated on May 20 changing the public hearing date to June 1.
I was told tonight by an audience member that there is apparently another Ward 6 public meeting on redistricting being held on Wednesday, May 17, in ANC 6B; I don't have any further information on it. (UPDATE: EMMCA has the details.) But having now attended four of these, I think I'm declaring myself #redc'ed out until the council committee's map is made public next week.
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More posts: meetings, redistricting

Late Tuesday Tidbits: Ribbon to Be Cut, Ground to Be Broken
May 10, 2011 10:26 PM
Just a few items to catch up on, though they've already been tweeted (Twitter really is the best friend of a lazy blogger):
* The Navy Yard is having a ceremonial ribbon-cutting for its portion of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail on Wednesday morning (May 11) at 11 am. It was on April 1 that the Navy opened this long-completed but long closed off stretch, which runs from just east of the 11th Street Bridges to the Yards Park, though it is only open from 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday (excluding holidays) and is subject to closure if the Navy deems it necessary. (I finally took my first walk on it from the Yards Park and back recently, though I did it close to closing time and was imagining the hilarity that would have ensued if I had gotten locked in.) This ceremony also dovetails with the start of the BID's Wednesday Lunchtime Concert Series at the park, at 11:30.
* Will from just across the way reports that Camden is having a ceremonial groundbreaking on May 17 for 1345 South Capitol Street, the 276-unit apartment building with ground-floor retail just across from Nationals Park that's been on hold since 2008. Though it's on the Southwest side of the DMZ and therefore in Will's territory (as spelled out in our meticulously negotiated Neighboring Blogger Treaty), I probably won't be able to completely prevent myself from taking photos of the progress from time to time, especially since I have a full set of "befores." But I'll be leaving the bulk of the coverage work to Will.
* The old fogies who were around in the 2004 to 2006 era might remember that a big part of getting the city council to approve the deal to fund and build Nationals Park was the "Community Benefits Fund," which would receive additional ballpark tax money and distribute it to libraries, schools, and other neighborhood developments. But Mike DeBonis reports that Mayor Gray's FY12 budget has a change that essentially makes the mayor and council decide every year whether the fund's money goes to the neighborhood projects or to "other spending priorities" in the city. Citizen groups are unhappy and council members are, too, DeBonis says.
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