Friday, March 28, 2008

Free Walking Tour of Eckington on April 26!

Someone on the Eckington listserv noticed this cool picture of an Eckington streetcar in the March 2008 issue of the Washingtonian. I subscribe to this magazine so I'm not sure how I missed it!

Anyway, Eckington was selected as a Walkingtown DC Weekend Free Tour this year. So to learn more about Eckington and its history, come take the walking tour on Saturday, April 26, from 1:00-2:30 p.m.. The details are below:

Eckington - 100 Years of Capital Traction

Saturday, April 26

1 - 2:30 pm

Meet outside Florida Avenue exit of New York Avenue Metro Station (Red Line), in front of the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) HQ at the corner of N and 2nd Streets, NE. Tour Ends at the Rhode Island Metro Station (Red Line)

Once a tranquil country estate north of Boundary Road, this neighborhood tells the story of Washington's first electric streetcar and maps the expansion of the city along the famous and well worn tracks along the Metropolitan Branch of the B&O Railroad. Visit the former estate of Joseph Gales, Jr., mayor of Washington and publisher of the National Intelligencer and discover neighborhood architectural styles from late Victorian row houses to industrial warehouses. Led by Brian Kraft and presented by the DC Preservation League and the Eckington Civic Association

Tour will be held again this Fall, Saturday, September 20 same time, same place.

Hubby signed us up to volunteer for National Rebuilding Day that day but I'm hoping to sneak out for a bit and join the tour.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Let's Do Something About North Capitol Street

Last night, I met with several Bloomingdale residents at Nellie's Sports Bar to throw around some ideas on how to improve North Capitol Street. Bloomingdale has a great recap which I'm reposting here:

Last night a group of neighbors, and even some considering moving to our neighborhood, got together at Nellie’s sports bar. The purpose was to meet each other and recognize that all the ideas that we have to improve our neighborhood are shared by many of us. Perhaps we knew that, but it was good to meet each other. FABULOUS IDEAS. Wow. Come join us next time.

To recapture some of the ideas:

1. Most agreed that we would like N. Capital to be organic in its development (no big box stores) . . . we feel that NOMA can take care of the bigger development. Ideally we would like places that we can walk to, that are unique to the neighborhood, and/or fill neighborhood needs. Yoga, community theater space, bars, sit down restaurant, baker, butcher, etc. In a perfect world we would have a movie theater and bookstores . . . and that would indeed be perfect (at least in my world).

2. There is an organization in Adams Morgan called Cool Town Studios. They have identified something called ‘beta communities’ It turns out that a "beta community" project was started in Mt. Vernon Square. Is this something that we would want to consider?

3. one person has a lot of experience in theater. Her suggestions were to contact theater groups in DC (the second largest community theater venue in the country). These organizations are always looking for places to host productions and/or house actors. We could get a list of theaters and start contacting their community outreach (if they exist?) and at a minimum invite them to walk around the neighborhood.

4.Another great idea was to contact the community relations departments of FedEx and XM Radio. Both of these companies benefit from being in this neighborhood and may be interested (and able) to donate money to a neighborhood organization. If you know contacts, start hustling them. :)

5. We should look for other like-minded organizations in our neighborhood so that we are not duplicating efforts. The North Capital Main Street Initiative is one which comes to mind.

6. talk to friends, neighbors, friends of friends . . . people always know someone who knows someone and they may be interested in what we are doing.

7. Think about coming up with more concise ideas about how we could implement some good changes. Do we approach shop keepers to offer solutions on facades (does this mean volunteering to paint a building) . . . do we plant flowers on N. Capital so that people start to notice? North Capital Main Street Initiative may have grant money for these types of things.

8. another idea was advertising the neighborhood. Whether we hire a firm or do it ourselves, we could put together a “North Capitol” website that contains information about residents within Bloomingdale/Eckington, and pictures to remind investors of the amazing panorama that already exists. It could be done with little to no money and could be used as a resume for the neighborhood....anybody know how to create a website? interested?

Think about it. It could be great. It could be fun. Be positive.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

James Bond Film Festival at NoMa Coming this Summer

frozen tropics and bloomingdale has the press release regarding this summer festival.

Organized by the Georgetown Film Festival, the summer-long festival will run from May 8 through August 28, 2008, is free to the public, and will feature 15 of the best Bond flicks from 1962 through 2006. The films will be shown each Thursday night, rain or shine, on the site of the future Washington Gateway at the intersection of Florida and New York Avenues.

Wow, I'm really looking forward to this festival. Not only do I love James Bond, it will be very interesting to see what that intersection will look like teeming with people.

I don't know if Heidi's Brooklyn Deli and Sister's Pizza & Mussels will be open by then. I don't see much activity at their spaces but it definitely would be a prudent idea if they sped up their construction and take advantage of this (as well as Artomatic). I also noticed Pound Coffee is initially going to be open only until 5. I would assume that those hours will be adjusted if there is a certainty that there will be a lot more foot traffic.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Justice Department approves XM-Sirius merger

Area newspapers are reporting that the Justice Department just approved the XM-Sirius merger.

So what does that mean for our neighborhood? Will XM up and leave and consolidate offices in NY? Will they keep both NY and DC locations? This bizjournal article from a year ago has a good overview of the pros and and cons for XM/Sirius to stay in DC, move to NY, or keep facilities in both cities. Since that article came out, much has happened in NoMa (i.e., NPR, DOJ, Harris Teeter leases) which might be factors for XM/Sirius to consider in determining the location of its operations.
I guess if the merger was meant to make both XM and Sirius more competitive and viable, it makes complete sense to me that they would maintain locations in DC and NY. XM already owns their space in DC and real estate is still more affordable in DC than in NY. But of course I'm biased. I'm sure everyone in DC wants XM to stay put.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Five Guys Coming to NoMa

A commentator mentioned that an ATF insider had told him it was Five Guys who would be leasing the last remaining space at the ATF retail area. He was right. According to the biz journal, Capital Retail Group is finalizing plans with the hamburger and fries franchise. I don't eat meat so I'm not terribly excited about a burger joint, I would have much preferred a Thai or Indian place. But I know hubby and most of the DC population LOVE Five Guys so I'll be excited for them.

The article also talks about the potential of NoMa now that several big leases have been signed. In particular, it discusses the challenge of creating the right retail and restaurant mix for an area with diverse real estate ownership. The BID has already formed a retail committee of brokers and developers to address this challenge and perhaps develop a formal strategy. Some of its goals are "to determine how to make retail and restaurant offerings complementary, how to take advantage of certain locations and, essentially, how to build the identity of the neighborhood through its retail and eateries."

I know there are people who hate the label "NoMa" and the whole concept of NoMa (i.e., this post). And perhaps this committee (or a newly formed one) should attempt to acknowledge its former identity as Swampoodle instead of creating a totally new one.

I would never have thought a dozen years ago when I first moved to DC that I would be living in the NE. So NoMa or Swampoodle...I honestly don't care. I'm just happy to see the area being developed.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pound Coffee's Soft Opening Delayed

Pound Coffee is delaying their "soft opening" to Friday, March 28 & Monday, March 31. They will be closed over that weekend however. The "Live" opening will still be on Tuesday, April 1.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Artomatic to be held in Noma

Artomatic is coming to NoMa this May! Artomatic, a traveling art exhibit, will be held from May 9 through June 15, 2008. The events and exhibits will be set up on eight floors of the Capitol Plaza 1 building at 1st and M streets NE. It will also be the biggest Artomatic to date and is expected to attract 50,000 visitors to see work from about 800 artists.

I've been to several Artomatics in the past and I am definitely excited about being able to stroll over to the events and exhibits!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Summer Events Coming to NoMa

According to Bisnow, NoMa will soon be announcing that they are hosting two big cultural and entertainment events this summer, including a film festival. The purpose of the events is acquaint people (beyond the real estate and investment community) with NoMa's rapid development.

I wonder where in NoMa these events will be held. Much of the area still consists of scattered buildings with undeveloped lots in between. Also, I wonder whether these are completely new DC events or events that have been previously hosted elsewhere in DC.

On a side note, someone asked me whether there are any rumors about what will occupy the last 4K SF retail space at the ATF bldg. I speculated that it would be a general merchandise store (like those you typically see in office buildings) but I was wrong. According to the same article, it will be a "well known food service operator" offering a casual dining facility.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

And the grocery store is....Harris Teeter!

Yay! Harris Teeter is moving into Constitution Square! I've been out of town so didn't see this new development until today but it's great news to come home to. We've been hearing a lot of rumors about this and apparently it has been in the works for a while with the city pushing really hard for the grocery store by providing tax incentives and helping with the cost of parking. The 50K SF grocery store is expected to open in winter 2010/2011.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Opening of Pound Coffee Approaching

Pound Coffee's website states they are opening on April Fool's day but they will also have a "soft" opening on Friday, March 21st. According to an email from Khalil to the mailing list:

We are looking at a "soft" opening Friday March 21st and "live" opening about a week later on Tuesday, April 1st. "Soft" opening means we will just open doors without any major fanfare and see who strolls by. "Live" opening means fanfare will be involved. I dare say "hoopla" even. We will reserve the term "Grand Opening" for another time. At that time, we will use the term "hysteria" or "madcap fiasco."

Up Next: Retail Announcements at NoMa

With NPR and the DOJ's huge decisions last week to lease in NoMa, the next big news for NoMa will be retail announcements which are expected during the spring.

These include which “high-end” grocery store will be setting up at Constitution Square, and who will lease the last 4,000 sq feet of retail available at the space ancillary to the ATF building. One NoMa Station is also expected to make an announcement some time in the summer regarding the possible signing of national retailers or local quick service food operators.

Some may also have noticed that the Marriott Courtyard, which is expected to open next year, is now several floors up. The hotel has 10,000 sq feet of retail and is actively targeting a sit down restaurant.

Random Trivia about Peter Nickles

So here's some random trivia about Peter Nickles. DC knows him as Fenty's general counsel and now the Acting Attorney General after Linda Singer resigned. He has a bit of controversy surrounding him since he is the reason why Linda Singer resigned and he apparently isn't a DC resident either although it's a job requirement.

Well, I just read in the March 2008 issue of DC North that he is an ultratriathlon competitor. An ultratriathlon consists of a 6.2 mile ocean swim followed by a 261.4 mile bike ride and ends with a 52.4 mile run! In the article ("Help Wanted...Experience Necessary" by Mark Segraves on page 22), it says he completed the Ultraman World Championship Triathlon in Hawaii twice, at the age of 63 and then at the age of 67!

Although it is a bit of useless trivia, it probably is a good insight as to his personality or perhaps his work ethic. My in-laws have competed in triathlons and I know one other person who has completed an Ironman. The amount of training and commitment needed to do the Ironman is pretty intense so the training involved with an ultratriathlon must be insane! And he did this in his 60s!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Dancing at the 9:30 Club

My blog is turning into NoMa watch so I thought I'd better post something non-NoMa related. Last night, hubby and I went to the 9:30 club to watch the Donnas and the Hives. It's a rare event for me as I only go if it's a band I've grown to like after considerable play time in hubby's car.

It was an awesome concert. I wish I had pics to post up but I only had my crappy phone camera and I still can't figure out how to download that on to the computer. I like the Donnas better so I'll post their pic up.

One thing I did wonder was why no one was dancing to The Donnas. Everyone was of course bobbing their heads to the beat but only a handful, including me, were rocking our bodies to the beat. Hubby says it's because they weren't playing any songs that people knew. And granted, most people were there to see the Hives. But hey, I don't know any of their songs but I still couldn't help dancing to their infectious beats.

Then the Hives got on stage and it became too cramped to do any sort of dancing aside from jumping up and down. It was actually my first time to be so near the stage since I've always been a litle freaked out at being in the middle of any moshing. There was definitely lots of pushing and shoving but I really didn't mind it. The music was great, it was all in good fun, the crowd was really into it, and even polite. I am only five feet tall so I'm always behind someone taller than me. The couple next to us told me I could step in front of them if I wanted to. One other guy told me to stay behind him and I'll be sure to get all the way to the front. So I did. With one hand tightly holding hubby's hand who was behind me the entire time, I went along for the ride and really enjoyed it!

Still pumped up after the concert, we swung by the Saloon on U Street to wind down. Hubby (who has been going to concerts at the 9:30 club for about a dozen years) remarked who would have thought that you could now walk to a bar after seeing a concert at the 9:30 club. We decided to cab home afterwards where a Maryland cabbie tried to charge us $12 to go 10 blocks!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

DOJ is Also Coming to NoMa!

It's turning out to be a great week for NoMa. According to Bisnow, DOJ is also coming to NoMa! The 521K lease will go to Constitution Square which is that big lot directly south of the ATF building. It is expected to be completed in 2010, with DOJ employees moving in early that year. As you may recall, Constitution Square is also being scoped out as the site for a Harris Teeter or some large grocery store.

UPDATED: The Washington Business Journal has also just reported the news. Although Bisnow reports the location at 100 M Street, NE, it appears as if the DOJ building will be specifically located at Two Constitution Square at 145 N Street, NE.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

UPDATED: NPR Moving to NoMa

Back in November, I wrote about how NPR and the Department Justice of were both considering NoMa for new locations. Today, it's been reported that NPR will be moving to a newly built headquarters at 1111 N. Capitol St., NE. I believe NPR's new space, which will consolidate the two locations it currently has in Mt. Vernon Square, will be more than 400,000 square foot. 25,000 square feet of retail is also planned for the new building. A Smithsonian Institution warehouse actually sits on the site right now but the developers are planning to maintain the historical facades (read more here).

Here are more details from the NoMa BID press release and Bisnow. Unfortunately, occupancy is not expected until late 2011 or early 2012. That's a long time away still! On a positive note, DC has agreed to streetscape improvements around the site, which is across from the Northwest One project (formerly Sursum Corda coops).

DOJ also apparently signed its 500,000-square foot consolidation last Friday and the announcement of exactly which site won the lease is expected this week.

With solid commitments of businesses moving into area, I'm definitely hoping more retail and food services seriously start considering our area and taking that plunge.