Greater Greater Washington

I Wish This Were... in Bloomingdale/Eckington/Truxton Circle

Forward-thinking New Orleanians started putting stickers on abandoned buildings and other places they wish were more than they are.

Borrowing the idea, minus the physical tagging of properties, we bring you the first installment of "I Wish This Were...", where GGW contributors imagine a better use for vacant properties and poorly-conceived public spaces in the DC area.

This one focuses on the Bloomingdale, Eckington and Truxton Circle neighborhoods of Northwest and Northeast DC. All photos by the author, who is a Bloomingdale resident.

Local developer Brian Brown almost came to agreement with two restauranteurs to turn this lovely late 19th-century firehouse, at the northwest corner of North Capitol St and Quincy Pl NW, into a 2-story bar and restaurant. Both deals fell through due to lack of financing. Let us hope that a committed investor comes forward.

This site of a former Esso service station at the northwest corner of Florida Ave and North Capitol St NW, behind "Truxton Park," has been vacant for many years as developers have been unwilling to pay to decontaminate the site. A 3 or 4-story affordable apartment building with a neighborhood grocery or shop on the ground floor would be ideally suited for this prime real estate at the junction of two heavily-used Metrobus lines.

The DC government owns this lot at Florida Avenue and Q Street NW and condemned the boarded-up building (which appears to have had retail space) in August 2009. OECD reports that 'affordable housing' is planned here. Homes here should be architecturally similar to the rowhouses to the right (west), perhaps with retail or office space mixed in. The rooftop of a 2-story building here would afford a view of the Capitol and Washington Monument.

The District or a developer should transform this "L'Enfant wedge" at Florida Avenue & R Street NW into a welcoming space similar to the one with the LeDroit Park gate at Florida & T Street NW.

As I recently suggested, imagine this mini-highway decked over to become a tree-lined plaza framing the view of the Capitol dome.

Bloomingdale already boasts some fine examples of smart urban design:


Crispus Attucks Park

Big Bear Cafe

Timor Bodega (locally-owned organic grocery)

Picturesque Victorian rowhouses on tree-lined streets.
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Malcolm Kenton lives in the DC neighborhood of Bloomingdale. Hailing from Greensboro, NC and a graduate of Guilford College, he is a passionate advocate for world-class passenger rail and other forms of sustainable transportation, and for incorporating nature and low-impact design into the urban fabric. The views he expresses on GGW are his own. 

Comments

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I wish I had a pony.

by ChrisW on Dec 12, 2010 1:05 pm • linkreport

I wish everyone that commented on these blogs did more than just make snarky pictures.

by m on Dec 12, 2010 3:46 pm • linkreport

The idea of a deck over ought to as well be applied to the underpass for South Capitol Street beneath M Street.

by Douglas A. Willinger on Dec 12, 2010 9:38 pm • linkreport

This is all within two blocks of my house and I agree with all of it.

by Nate on Dec 13, 2010 12:50 am • linkreport

There needs to be a new organization dedicated to covering these roads, along with properly burying the SW-SE Freeway and taking advantage of the Virginia Avenue CSX Tunnel Project to provide the future eb segment, east of New Jersey Avenue SE.

by Douglas A. Willinger on Dec 13, 2010 12:54 am • linkreport

So write a community plan of your own devising, based on placemaking principles. I presume that the "Main Street" program has closed shop by now...

http://www.pps.org/training/httapa/

by Richard Layman on Dec 13, 2010 8:25 am • linkreport

We live on the unit block of Seaton NW and I love all of these suggestions.

by Chris on Seaton on Dec 13, 2010 8:53 am • linkreport

I dont want " affordable". I want what everyone wants. Nice housing, condo ,etc. I live directly behind that lot on Bates St NW. "Affordable" is the last thing this neighborhood needs.

by Mary on Dec 13, 2010 9:06 am • linkreport

I wish money grew on trees.

by Fritz on Dec 13, 2010 9:30 am • linkreport

@Richard the NCMS program is still up and running.

According to the Bates Civic Assoc, blog, this area may finally have been gifted with a much needed small area plan which should help direct these properties to a better use.

by m on Dec 13, 2010 9:46 am • linkreport

@Mary:
Don't pretend to speak for "everyone", please. You don't.

by Nate on Dec 13, 2010 10:47 am • linkreport

I think these suggestions are interesting, but I also love this neighborhood because it feels like a real neighborhood. If we get high rises with condos, our nice slice of DC could turn into something too trendy for me.

Also...I wish the traffic didn't treat New Jersey Avenue as an on-ramp for 395. Can we have a picture for that?

by Alex on Dec 13, 2010 10:59 am • linkreport

I am not trying to speak for everyone. I merely spoke my opinion. We have more social programs than any other ward, as well as Section 8 housing. This is simply a fact. We do not need any more. Let the other wards have some.

by Mary on Dec 13, 2010 11:02 am • linkreport

Just one last thing. I do like the "neighborhood" feel as well, but this empty spot near the back of my house is an eyesore.
Something nice, ( it doesnt have to be condos) but something, a retail store, perhaps, would be great there. Also, the house next door to that lot is abandoned and I have had to call police several times becuase of vagrants slepping on the back stairs, and people openly urinating in that alley, right in view of passers-by.

Im only hoping that if N. Capitol ever gets on the ball that the space on Fl and Q will becomes something other than,,,empty space.

by Mary on Dec 13, 2010 11:06 am • linkreport

I too live a couple blocks from all these locations & love these ideas. The firehouse is supposed to be starting back up. But I'll believe it when I see it.

by JohnDC on Dec 13, 2010 11:37 am • linkreport

Thanks for all the complements!

@Alex: I wasn't suggesting high-rises on the empty lots, but rather 3 or 4-story buildings that don't look out of place with the rest of the neighborhood. An intersection like Florida & North Capitol, at the intersection of 2 bus lines with frequent service and two (admittedly long) blocks from a Metro station should have a decent assortment of retail.

I, too, like the feel of Bloomingdale as-is and believe such developments around Fla & North Cap would enhance, rather than detract from, this.

Perhaps I should have suggested a mix of affordable & market-rate housing, though the supply will be limited by the small size of the lots and the desire to limit building heights.

by Malcolm K on Dec 13, 2010 11:48 am • linkreport

hmm. the most important thing that could happen for this area is a placemaking plan, not a small area plan. DC doesn't do comprehensive neighborhood plans. A small area plan focuses on development opportunities, but not necessarily placemaking opportunities.

How to extend the opportunities presented by the areas location, the ability to reknit the community through urban design, and recognizing the impact of the New York Ave. metro station and the development opportunities from two directions -- Mount Vernon Triangle/New York Avenue as well as NoMA -- is the way to go.

by Richard Layman on Dec 13, 2010 12:46 pm • linkreport

What is it with all the socialists wanting 'affordable' housing in prime development areas?

Why can't poor people live in the cheap burbs and across the river? Those areas already have affordable housing.

Otherwise, I want a program that hooks _me_ up with affordable housing in Gtown, instead of reality forcing me to live in the Bloomindale hood. I don't see why a bunch of unemployed, unskilled, and usually unmotivated people should be treated so much better.

I'm not saying that they should get no public housing at all - just that it makes no sense at all to keep building it up in high cost areas.

PS. Whoever in DC government is responsible for giving away that firehouse for pennies on the dollar to the investor pretended to redevelop it should be fired/voted-out.

by dc_pub on Dec 13, 2010 3:15 pm • linkreport

@dc_pub.
THANK YOU. Someone else gets it. Ill take the affordable Georgetown housing program too, please...:)

Re: The firehouse. Tell me about it. Prime property that could be fixed up beautifully and kick start N. Capitol's gentrification. If I had the $$ I would have bought it myself.

I don't know know this for a fact, but I wouldnt be surprised if our Mayor- elect had something to do with the fire-house being sold like it was a fire- sale.

Go figure. DC (and our respective neighborhoods) lose again!

by Mary on Dec 13, 2010 3:21 pm • linkreport

If you want to live in Georgetown, get a job that pays you well enough to live in Georgetown. I am sure Bloomingdale will eventually be the yuppie playground you dream of, but of course by then you'll all be married with kids and living out in the suburbs and complaining about how hard life is for car commuters.

by Nate on Dec 13, 2010 4:50 pm • linkreport

nate,
those old standby insults and stereotypes are changing.
empty nesters have already begun moving in.
and there is a baby explosion here. people aren't really leaving the city because they have kids anymore.

and if you are young, you have to be a professional to afford to live here these days.

by ppp on Dec 13, 2010 5:06 pm • linkreport

@Mary
This whole city could do with more affordable housing. By affordable I mean that I wish that I could afford the house that I have lived in for the past 15 years. Not only is rising property taxes and values killing the neighborhood, it is killing the beauty, peace, and quite of the neighborhood.

Having a 10-50% increase in property value is only useful if you plan to sell rather than make Bloomingdale a stable neighborhood to raise a family. Sky-rocketing propert values only benefits the transient population, not stable long-term families.

I like the images and ideas presented in the photos. It would be great if we had neighbors who appreciated the neighborhood for its diversity too.

by gclark on Dec 13, 2010 5:08 pm • linkreport

@ nate

I will not be moving to the burbs or having kids, thanks. I was mugges twice since living here and so beleive in the community that I have not fled to yuppieville, nor do I plan to.

I do not wish to insult anyone but the answer is clear. Economic growth, investing money in the area, so that long term homeowners ( regardless of ethnicity) want to come and live here, buy homes here, and further invest here,spurs growth and is a win- win for everyone.

Subsidized housing, like it or not, is not.

by MAry on Dec 13, 2010 5:17 pm • linkreport

@Nate

That is exactly the point I am trying to make. Why build subsidized housing for anybody anywhere except for the cheapest part of town? It doesn't make sense.

by dc_pub on Dec 13, 2010 5:33 pm • linkreport

@ppp, My point was that these people seem to want all the benefits of living in the city, but to not have to pay either the financial costs of living in Georgetown or similar, or the nuisance costs of living in a less posh neighborhood. You can't have all three. When people of that mindset succeed at pushing all the poor people out, and I don't doubt they will, nobody but the upper class will be able to afford to rent or buy in Bloomingdale anymore either, as has already happened in Adams-Morgan, U Street, Mt Pleasant, and is currently happening in Columbia Heights. But hey, as long as they got theirs, screw the less well-off.

@Mary - Lots of long time residents already own their houses in Bloomingdale/Truxton Circle. I would estimate that 2/3 to 3/4 of the houses on my block are owner-occupied. When you get your way and the property values double, those people aren't going to be able to afford their property taxes anymore and are going to have to sell and move. Then you'll get a bunch of neighbors who don't know each other and don't watch out for each other like the long-time residents do. The only difference is, they'll be white (let's not kid ourselves, they will overwhelmingly be white).

@dc_pub:
What exactly do you think the city did until very recently? How's that been working out?

by Nate on Dec 13, 2010 6:16 pm • linkreport

You NIMBYs really chap my hide. You're so selfish wanting to hog all the Section 8 housing to ourselves. All those folks who'd like to buy a condo instead of renting an apartment? An abomination! Send 'em to Adams Morgan where they can hang out with their own kind. No prosperity for Ward 5! Not in YOUR backyard!

by fish on Dec 14, 2010 12:34 pm • linkreport

@gclark @Nate

I am a homeowner. I have zero intention of selling, ever. Yet I sincerely hope property values go so high that I might think my property taxes are unbearable. That would mean my house would be worth a fortune beyond my wildest dreams. I'd love that "problem" and if you are a homeowner, so would you.

by Wayan on Dec 16, 2010 6:30 am • linkreport

wayan,

as a home owner, i disagree.
sorry. we don't all see it that way. i would like my expenses to be as predictable as possible, and i would like to keep them as low as i can. i do not want to be stressed about my tax payments.

by homeowner on Dec 16, 2010 6:20 pm • linkreport

I remember when the firehouse was a firehouse and the guys there were very friendly. But the cost of running it went on the chopping block and somebody acquired it and half painted it and now it's this mess. It would be grand if it became a fire house again. I'm not so sure about the restaurant idea, due to the parking problems (unless parking could be on the old Esso/Exxon lot!

by Jenifer on Dec 19, 2010 2:38 pm • linkreport

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