Posts about Penn Quarter
Last week, the DC Council redistricting committee issued its proposed boundaries, which included a strange and surprising line between Ward 2 and 6 which moves territory based on the personal and political self-interest of one person, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans.
At-large members Michael Brown and Phil Mendelson have let themselves be complicit in this clear conflict of interest by unquestioningly accepting this line, which has been dubbed a "Jackmander." They should look for objective ways to draw the line fairly rather than letting one colleague pick and choose his own boundaries.
Image by Geoff Hatchard.
In the above map, thick yellow lines represent current ward boundaries. Medium burgundy lines represent tract boundaries. Wards are colored red (1), green (2), purple (5), and blue (6). Areas moved are dark blue (from 2 to 6), dark green (from 6 to 2), and dark purple (from 6 to 5).
To address population changes since the 2000 Census, wards 7 and 8 both had to grow and 2 had to shrink. The most logical change to Ward 8 reunited the Fairlawn neighborhood, and the committee chose that. To grow Ward 7, they made the widely-anticipated yet very unpopular choice to move much of Hill East from Ward 6 to 7. Residents of that area fought against the idea hard, and are expected to continue doing so at a hearing tomorrow.
The bigger surprise came in the boundary between Ward 2 and 6. To make Ward 2 smaller, moving Mount Vernon Square and/or Shaw to Ward 6 was the most logical change. But the committee also made substantial other changes, moving big chunks of the Penn Quarter and Judiciary Square areas from Ward 6 to Ward 2 and the southwest federal buildings from 2 to 6.
This is particularly odd since most of the changes directly contradict principles in the committee report. The report rejects the option of moving Carver-Langston from Ward 5 to 7 because it "draws new neighborhoods into redistricting" and is "not as compact" as the other option.
However, the proposed change draws many new neighborhoods into redistricting and is not as compact. Had the committee only moved the tracts east of 7th Street to Ward 6 and left downtown alone, they would have ended up with a more compact map. Likewise, they could have moved the western Shaw tract and just the Penn Quarter area west of 5th Street and again ended up with a more compact map that affected fewer neighborhoods.
Two alternate Ward 2/6 lines. Left: most compact, affecting fewest neighborhoods. Right: Unifies more Census tracts.
The committee report pats itself on the back for several changes that reunite some split Census tracts. Moving the southwest federal buildings to Ward 6 does make sense, since those are in the same Census tracts as the neighboring parts of Southwest Waterfront and are in ANC 6D. Likewise, the plan moves the small piece of Ward 6's "chimney" northeast of New York and New Jersey Avenues to Ward 5. That also reunifies a Census tract and makes geographic sense.
Why do Census tracts matter? For one, the law requires redistricting to try to keep Census tracts together. The current committee seems to have ignored that dictate. Also, a great deal of data is reported on the Census tract level. When government agencies compute statistics for wards, they save time and money if ward boundaries primarily conform to tracts.
Yet the plan leaves 3 blocks from 9th to 11th between P and O in Ward 2 while moving the rest of tract 49.01 to Ward 6. It moves 2 other blocks from 7th to 9th between N and O into Ward 6 despite not moving any more of tract 49.02. And it grabs an arbitrary-seeming half of tract 59, around Judiciary Square, excluding the small triangle between 5th, H, and Massachusetts.
Jack Evans represents Ward 2, and was the only ward-specific member on the 3-person committee. He always has coveted having downtown in his ward, because of the many businesses in the area. Representing the region gives him fundraising power and some authority over more of the city's activity out of proportion to his ward's size.
Evans even admitted much of this at the markup on Thursday. The boundaries move most of ANC 2C and the Mt. Vernon Square Neighborhood Association (MVSNA) to Ward 6, but circumnavigate the Convention Center. Jack Evans said at the markup, "Nobody has done more for the Convention Center than me."
Convention Center Community Association head Martin Moulton posted this picture, advocating for the Convention Center to be kept with the Shaw neighborhood as it moves to Ward 6:
It seems that the other two members of the committee, at-large councilmembers Michael Brown and Phil Mendelson, simply let Evans draw his own lines. Evans even introduced two amendments during the markup the day after the map was released. Brown and Mendelson simply let them through without discussion or debate, even though one of the amendments as Evans explained it on the dais mistakenly moved part of Ward 1 into Ward 6. Mendelson is usually the most attentive to detail, but that day, he seemed to be napping.
On committees I serve on, such as the WMATA Riders' Advisory Council, many members are extremely careful to avoid doing anything that benefits one member in any way. Members have even been reluctant to do things that might benefit this blog, even though I get no remuneration from the blog and its goals are aligned with those of the RAC. There's just a strong aversion to even allowing an appearance of a conflict.
Having a ward member on the redistricting committee is already a dicey proposition. Members justified it because Evans is the longest-serving member of the Council and has participated in two redistrictings. But it should have been obvious to Brown and Mendelson that they must avoid an appearance, let alone the reality, of letting Evans manipulate the decisions for his own gain.
They should have identified some objective criteria for choosing the 2/6 boundary, whether that's keeping Census tracts whole, or neighborhood associations whole, or changing the fewest blocks, or maximizing the happiness of residents using the metrics in our own Redistricting Game analysis (which they used in the report to justify some changes while making other changes directly contrary to the data).
They should have kept Evans out of that part of it, and decided on the Ward 2 boundaries without giving him an extra voice. Instead, they apparently outsourced all decisions about the 2/6 boundary to Evans himself, oblivious or uncaring about the clear conflict of interest.
Northern Ward 6 contains the rapidly-growing Mount Vernon Triangle, NoMA and H Street areas. These are some of the most dynamic in DC and very likely will see the greatest amount of change in the near term.
Development is coming to the rail yards north of Union Station, a number of vacant lots in NoMa and the Mount Vernon Triangle are getting filled in, a streetcar is coming to H Street, and much more.
Therefore, ANC comissioners in this area, especially 6C on the western half, have had to become rapid experts in zoning. They have generally been very supportive of the projects and of the neighborhood's evolution. However, a number of commissioners, including some excellent ones, are not running again, creating opportunities for significant improvement or regression for these ANCs.
ANC 6C01 extends from the CityVista apartments almost to Union Station. Recent transplant from Southwest Marge Maceda is challenging incumbent Keith Silver. Silver likes to picket, and at a recent forum highlighted four picket protests as his main accomplishments. Sometimes, however, his picketing seems somewhat bizarre, such as when he protested an effort to set up an urban farm in a vacant lot near Walker-Jones Elementary and donate the food grown to the school and a nearby senior center. He also called the new buildings in the district "monstrosities."
Maceda, on the other hand, says she moved to the neighborhood so she could drive less, and looks forward to more sidewalk cafes in the area. She also had encouraging words about the Circulator, the streetcar, and bicycle lanes. We feel Maceda would best work with residents on positive visions as the neighborhood's large surface parking lots evolve into more.
In 6C02, along New Jersey Avenue north of K Street, we support Rob Amos in his challenge to incumbent Mark Dixon. Amos has already served the neighborhood on the board of the Mount Vernon Square Neighborhood Association and as a non-commissioner chair of the ANC 6C zoning committee. He believes in building a more livable and walkable neighborhood.
Dixon has been on the ANC a very long time, and in fact hadn't planned to run again but changed his mind at the last minute. He cares about the community but isn't good at connecting with the newer residents. He doesn't even use email, despite having an ANC email address, and complained at a recent MVSNA forum that he hadn't received any notice of the meeting only to be told it had been sent via email.
Sitting commissioner Anne Phelps is running unopposed in 6C04, which contains most of NoMa from K Street to Dave Thomas Circle and the residential areas to the east, but she deserves special mention as an exemplary commissioner.
Phelps advocated admirably for her neighborhood's needs in a zoning case concerning the Florida Market, across Florida Avenue from the ANC. Tommy Wells subsequently hired Phelps to coordinate advocacy for the H Street streetcar project, a role she has also adeptly filled.
6C05 encompasses Union Station and the residential blocks to the east. It will also contain the Burnham Place development atop the rail yards and a number of upcoming development projects along H Street's western half. Sitting commissioner Tony Richardson has not opposed Burnham Place despite living immediately adjacent to the project, and challengers Brian Cox and Jennifer Zatkowski all seem supportive of the general evolution of Union Station and H Street.
Richardson has experience, Cox brings a youthful energy and zeal for more outreach to members of the community, and Zatkowski has the valuable background of being a small business owner in the neighborhood and mother of smal children. We think any of them would be a fine choice for this district.
Ward 6's westernmost segment is 6C09, covering the blocks around Georgetown Law and Judiciary Square. The longtime commissioner there is not running again. Residents have expressed enthusiasm for Kevin Wilsey, the property manager of a Penn Quarter building and board member of the Downtown Neighborhood Association. During recent liquor license debates, Wilsey worked hard to bring both sides together to an amicable resolution.
His opponent, Leroy-Jacob Smith, had fewer specific neighborhood ideas at a recent forum beyond wanting to do more for the homeless. We support helping the homeless, but ANCs have little influence on citywide social policy.
In 6A01, north of H Street, three candidates are vying for an open seat. We support Adam Healy, who described some excellent reasons to vote for him including strong support of the streetcar.
Fellow candidate Angelia Rice gave a very bland statement that didn't make much of a case for her candidacy, and Lawrence "Russ" Russell wants to make the district more auto-oriented, saying his top priority was making sure residents can park right by their property.
The Hill is Home writer Sharee Lawler has our endorsement (and Tommy Wells') over new resident and Fenty community liaison William Mohring for the open 6A05 seat, around D Street NE from 10th to 16th. Lawler is a member of the 6A Economic Development and Zoning committee currently working to encourage growth on H St NE, and is an advocate for the C Street NE project to calm and reduce traffic.
In 6A07, which covers the Rosedale neighborhood and the northeasternmost edge of Capitol Hill, incumbent Gladys Mack has displayed a less than stellar record on transportation issues. For example, she has opposed the conversion of 17th Street from a one-way thoroughfare into a two-way street because she feels it will double traffic. This is a dangerous street that is sore need of some traffic calming. We endorse challenger Necothia "Nicki" Bowens, president of the Rosedale Citizens' Alliance, which has been pushing for many positive changes in this neighborhood.
Ward 2 has no competitive races west of 15th Street, but along 14th and 7th Streets in its eastern half, a number of challengers are trying to dislodge longtime, entrenched neighborhood powers.
ANC 2B09 covers the southwest corner of 14th and U, and Commissioner Ramon Estrada has formed one-third of the triumvirate exerting the most pressure against new restaurants and bars in the neighborhood. We support Sunit Talapatra, who is challenging Estrada.
Estrada opposed any increase in the ARTS Overlay's limitation of 25% restaurants and bars, and has had a hand in many a liquor license protest. He also has gotten himself into hot water on a few occasions with his flair for creatively interpreting the votes of his ANC. When he was chair of ANC 2B in 2008, he sent a few letters to zoning boards that other commissioners felt took a few liberties with the wording of the resolution they had passed.
Talapatra would represent the district in a more inclusive and collaborative way. He's not in favor of unlimited restaurants and bars by any means, emphasizing his desire to maintain peace, order and quiet, but he also recognizes that 14th and U is a growing neighborhood and that successful businesses, as opposed to vacant storefronts, is best for residents. He walks to and from his office at the Georgetown waterfront most days.
To the south, three of the four seats in Shaw's ANC 2C have contests. 2C has been split for many years between two clear factions. One, which dominated the ANC for many years, is led by former ANC chair Leroy Thorpe, who many charge ran the commission in an opaque way that excluded most residents and catered to the interests of very few.
In 2006, Kevin Chapple beat Thorpe in 2C02 on promises of greater transparency and inclusiveness, but he and ally Alex Padro only had half the votes on the ANC, leading to constant deadlocks. Thorpe has tried to reclaim his seat each year, and this is no exception, using alleged dirty tricks during this campaign and in the past.
The 2008 election unseated another Thorpe ally, 2C04's Barbara Curtis, and there was hope for a new day in ANC 2C. Unfortunately, for reasons that remain mysterious, the new Commissioner Theresa Sule allied herself with remaining old guard member Doris Brooks (scroll down), keeping Brooks as chair and again deadlocking the ANC.
Sule promised new leadership, a Web site, and conversations with the neighborhood, but has not followed through. Facing strong criticism from betrayed supporters, Sule has shut herself off from neighborhood events and email lists.
Rachelle Nigro is the best candidate trying to fulfill the promises Sule made two years ago. She is known as something of a stickler for rules, which this ANC sorely needs to move beyond the fast and loose days of Thorpe and Brooks. Derrick Barrett seems to be a Thorpe ally possibly running to try to split the anti-Sule vote, and Cary Shieh has not been present on the campaign trail or in neighborhood discussions.
Meanwhile, Rickey Williams is running to unseat Brooks herself in 2C03, and has been a very involved member of the Mount Vernon Square association. That district, which encompasses blocks north and south of the square including most of the Penn Quarter, has changed substantially in recent years, and it's time for more residents of the Penn Quarter to get involved in selecting the leadership of their neighborhood.
We hope ANC 2C will develop a clear 3-1 or even 4-0 majority in favor of cleaning up its act and embracing participation by the many new residents as well as longtime ones in this changing part of the city.
In between, in the oddly-shaped 2F06 district from the old convention center to Vermont Avenue northeast of Logan Circle, current commissioner Mike Benardo faces a relatively unknown challenger, Kate McMahon. Bernardo has a good record of responsiveness to constituents and is well liked, while McMahon has not submitted statements to area blogs and has little information on her Web site. We hope she will try to get involved in the neighborhood in other ways.
The property located at 712 E Street was originally constructed in 1918 by Frank L. Wagner and designed by A. B. Mullet and Company. It was a two-story concrete framed building with brick and terra-cotta clad facades. While the building exhibited the influence of Chicago school architecture during the early part of the 20th century, its low building height emphasized the horizontal rather than the vertical that was typical of Chicago. The grade level of the facade was later remodeled in the Art Moderne style.
The space was occupied by the S. S. Kresge Co. into the early 1970s when the Historic American Building Survey images were taken. Shortly after the survey, construction began on the Metro underneath Seventh Street. By February 1987, the buildings were empty and included in the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation's plans for revitalizing the area. Developers were required to present plans preserving and restoring the facades of three buildings Today, Jaleo is in the old S. S. Kresge Co. space, and has been since 1993.
Historic images from Historic American Building Survey, Library of Congress.
Today, Jaleo is in the old S. S. Kresge Co. space, and has been since 1993.
Historic images from Historic American Building Survey, Library of Congress.
This Greek Revival house, built for Hudson Taylor in 1850 at the northeast corner of 9th and D Streets, NW, existed for only 17 years. The chief reasons for its demise were that the neighborhood quickly changed from residential to commercial after the Civil War and the owner sold both his business as a bookseller and his house in 1867 when he retired to Poughkeepsie, New York. The house was quickly razed to reclaim the three city lots it was on for a large structure that would house the city's primary auditorium and the YMCA.
Then (top): Photographed ca. 1900, the Firemen's Insurance Company moved into their new building at 303 Seventh Street, NW in 1882. The building was designed in a restrained Queen Anne style. Rather than using detailing common to the style, the building relies on volumetric complications which adapt well to the shape of the lot.
Then (bottom left): By the late 1960s, the building had lost many of its original features including the dome and cupola.
Now (bottom right): Beautifully restored, the building is now part of the 11 story complex visible behind it, which was begun in 1986 by the development firm of Farr-Jewett.
Here's another image of the state of the building dating to the late 1960s, prior to restoration:
The Raleigh Hotel got its start in 1893 when the Shepherd Centennial Building on the northeast corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 12th Street, NW, was converted from commercial use into the hotel by Washington architect Leon E. Dessez.
The hotel expanded quickly. In 1897 three additional floors were added. In 1898 New York architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh designed a major addition in the center of 12th Street to the north of the original building. The building was enlarged by Hardenbergh again in 1905. By 1911, the original building was considered too dated and razed for Hardenbergh's new, Beaux Arts, thirteen-story main hotel building facing Pennsylvania Avenue.
The builder's demand for height caused Congress to change the height limit for Pennsylvania Avenue from 130 feet to 160 feet in 1910.
The Raleigh was well known for good food, drink, and entertainment. It was equally regarded for the beauty of its architectural details, such as the decoration of the gold-and-white ballroom on the top floor.
It was a prosperous hotel, though it lost some of its business to the Mayflower Hotel when it opened. One of the factors that made the Raleigh such a success was its manager, Curt C. Schiffeler, who managed to create a warm and informal atmosphere that pleased the guests. Schiffeler remained at the Raleigh until he retired in 1954. By then newer hotels were drawing patronage away. The Raleigh was razed ten years later in 1964.
More images below.
reached a deal with the bank trying to shake it down for millions. But it's not home free yet.
Bike rage or columnist rage? WashCycle patiently explains to WTOP's Chris Core that cyclists do, indeed, belong on the road, and that maybe if cyclists seem mad at him, he's passing them too close.
Can we nominate Wells? Councilmember Tommy Wells is seeking nominations for his "2nd Annual Livable, Walkable Community Awards rewarding individuals and organizations that contributed to a livable, walkable community.
Nice rack: New York announces the winner of its bike rack design contest: a big circle. Danish designers created it. What's with those Scandinavians and their design? Tip: Ben Thielen.
Even townhouses can "tower": Wheaton residents are protesting some new townhouses, because there will be 36 instead of the zoned 18. They feel that townhouses (which the article calles "townhomes" despite your linguistic objections), are "incompatible with the neighborhood" and will "tower over" their homes.
Just what the Penn Quarter needs: another blank wall building with no retail, right next to the MLK Library. The architects even drew in a relatively dead street, with only a few scattered pedestrians and more parked cars than people. At least they know what they are going to get. Via DC Metrocentric.
Since this isn't a historic district (unless I'm reading the list wrong), and we don't have any design review outside historic districts, nobody is forcing these types of buildings to engage the street more directly. I'm hoping the zoning review, perhaps the Retail Strategy group, will be able to require retail and/or other active street uses in these commercial districts. Apparently the blankness is because the bottom will be a church, replacing the church that was already there. But since the church is surely profiting greatly from the development on the parcel, requiring an urban-friendly design (and they do exist) and some windows or stores on at least part of the block doesn't seem too much to ask.
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