Author Archive for Stephanie Liotta Atkinson

26
Apr
12

What’s happening here? 3011 RIA

By Stephanie Liotta Atkinson

The DC property sales tax database says that 3009-3011 Rhode Island Avenue NE (Woodridge) sold in March for $1.1 Mil to 3011 RHODE ISLAND AVE LLC (name not helpful). Looks like the liquor store and the adjacent brownfield. I’m crowd-sourcing the recon on this one – gold star for anyone who figures out what’s happening here.

23
Apr
12

Designer selected for RIA’s Woodridge Library

By Stephanie Liotta Atkinson

DC Public Library has selected Wienceck + Associates and Bing Thom Architects to design the new Woodridge Library, at the corner of 18th & RIA NE (see the full press release below). If the library is anything like other projects in Bing Thom’s portfolio, the new Woodridge Library will be a model of extraordinary design, leap-frogging the library from its 1950’s-era book bunker stature to a radiant, light-filled community hub. I believe that good design can inspire all sorts of changes from renewed community engagement to new business development. It’s a lot to pin on a library, but a well-designed public space should raise the tide.

To add some context to your evaluation of DCPL’s selection, Bing Thom is responsible for a library in Surrey, British Columbia, for which it famously solicited neighborhood feedback via Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. Right here in DC, Bing Thom designed Southwest’s Arena Stage.

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Just in case Bing Thom is soliciting advice via local community blogs, my $0.02:

  • build up – take advantage of the air rights
  • Langdon Park borders the library – incorporate views of the park and a veranda for leisurely sitting and reading outdoors
  • Annex the triangle of land between RIA & Hamlin for library use (possibly closing off and redeveloping that small strip of Hamlin Street); give the library a RIA address
  • consider how the neighborhood will use the space beyond traditional library uses: community meetings, small work groups, youth engagement, computer labs, tutoring, job searches/training, community classes
  • consider cross-functionality – business center/incubator, fully-functional cafe space, art showcase/performance space

And, to whom it may concern: libraries and rec centers should remain open longer hours each evening and for the full day on Sundays.

DCPL’s press release:

—————————————-

Dear Woodridge Library Patron,

The DC Public Library has selected the award-winning team of Weinceck+
Associates and Bing Thom Architects to design the new Woodridge
Neighborhood Library. Located at 1801 Hamlin St. NE, the new building
will be the first library in the United States designed by
internationally acclaimed architect Bing Thom.

“We have been fortunate to have talented and internationally
recognized architects design libraries for the District,” said
Ginnie Cooper, chief librarian for the District of Columbia. “With
this architect team, the District’s new libraries will continue to
inspire people in the city’s neighborhoods as well as around the world.”

The design team was selected through a competitive bid process that
involved Library officials and community members. Weinceck + Associates
has worked on a broad range of projects, including housing, schools, and
master planning. The firm also served as the architect of record for
the Francis Gregory and Bellevue libraries. Bing Thom Architects
designed the renovation and expansion of Arena Stage at the Mead Center
for American Theater. In addition, the firm designed the innovative
Surrey City Centre Library in Surrey, British Columbia.

The Library has allocated $1.48 million to the design work. The design
phase is expected to take six to eight months. The community will have
the opportunity to view the designs as they are developed and provide
feedback. The total project cost is estimated to be $16.5 million.

The Woodridge Library opened in 1958. A condition assessment performed
in 2010 found the library to be in need of replacement.

An interim library will open in late 2012 while the Woodridge Library is
being rebuilt. The new Woodridge Library will open in 2015. The new
library will include: space for 80,000 books, CDs, DVDs and other
library materials; 32 public-access computers and free Wi-Fi Internet
access; a large meeting room for up to 100 people and two conference
rooms for up to 14 people.

Like all other library buildings under construction a LEED Silver
Certification is expected. Anacostia, Dorothy I.Height/Benning, Watha
T. Daniel/Shaw and Tenley libraries have received Gold certification
from the U.S. Green Building Certification Institute.

###

George A. Williams, Esq.
Media Relations Manager
DC Public Library
w: (202) 727-1184
m: (202) 596-0345

28
Feb
12

from the WCP: Homeless Veteran Resource Center Coming to RIA

repost from Washington City Paper’s Housing Complex by Lydia DePillis…

Homeless Veteran Resource Center Coming to Rhode Island Avenue NE

Posted by Lydia DePillis on Feb. 17, 2012 at 7:13 am

Revitalization? Maybe. As buzz gets louder along Rhode Island Avenue NE, the neglected commercial corridor has picked up some new enterprises: A marijuana supply store, a chocolate emporium, and now a one-stop-shop for homeless veterans.

Read the whole article HERE.

24
Feb
12

Eat & Smile coming to Woodridge

By Stephanie Liotta Atkinson

Seriously, smile.  There’s more good news for Rhode Island Avenue NE.

One of our very own FoRIA members and Brookland resident, Oliver Friendly, is bringing his boutique catering and guerrilla dining business to the Avenue!  You’re probably wondering what “guerrilla dining” is…

Oliver Friendly is the chef and owner of Eat & Smile Catering, DC’s only entirely locally sourced caterer.  He has forged relationships will local farmers that allow him access to fresh produce, meats, and cheeses, and as a result everything Eat & Smile serves is grown within a 150 mile radius of DC.  Despite the specialty niche, Eat & Smile caters events of all sizes from cocktail parties to weddings (and also provides servers and bar tenders).

Complementing the catering, Friendly is also the chef behind La Table DC, a “guerrilla restaurant holding dinners at roving locations using all local ingredients.”  Guerrilla dining is basically a restaurant minus the fixed location.  But soon there will be no more roving for Friendly!

Like DC’s Chocolate Bar and Bakery, Friendly’s business is already market-tested and successful.  He is now doubling down with a historic storefront space in the Woodridge neighborhood of Rhode Island Avenue NE.  Perhaps this try-it-before-you-buy-it method is going to be the model that renews RIA?  At 2212 Rhode Island Avenue NE (right next to Lace) Friendly will open a full time commercial kitchen for his catering operation, which will also serve as a permanent home for La Table.  Two nights a week the space will open to the public for La Table’s dining experience: a chef’s tasting, where a limited number of guests will be seated for a family style eight course prefix menu at a set price.

Sample La Table menu:
1st
Roasted Cauliflower Soup, Sumac, Bacon Powder, Balsamic
2nd
Salami, Breseola, Duck Liver Mousse, Cornichon, Compressed Pear
3rd
Butterbib Lettuce, Cognac Raisins, Pinenut Brittle, Creme Fraiche Vinaigrette
4th
Confit Baby Goat Shoulder, Swiss Chard, Morels, Pommes Maxine
5th
Grass Fed Rib Eye, Potato Gratin, Spinach, Roasted Garlic Mousseline
6th
Local Cheese Plate
7th
Apple Tart Tatin, Vanilla Whipped Cream, Tonka Bean Caramel
8th
Black Sesame Gelato, Sesame Brittle, Mint Gel

(Speaking of Gelato, Friendly is also part owner of Dolcezza Artisinal Gelato in Dupont (a most insanely delicious gelateria with a hip interior).  I am told that if we pray very hard to the gods of frozen Italian desserts, our prayers may be answered in 2-3 years…)

If all the real estate stars align as planned, Friendly will close on the Woodridge space in March and open to the public in July or August.

14
Feb
12

Woodridge is about to get sweeter

By Stephanie Liotta Atkinson

Woodridge is about to get sweeter.

In May 2011, two storefront properties in the Woodridge Main Street (2026 and 2028 Rhode Island Avenue NE) were purchased by an entity called “DC’s Chocolate Bar and Bakery LLC.”  The owners of the Chocolate Bar, it turns out, are two long-time Woodridge denizens, Dr. and Mrs. Larry and Tahiti McNair.  (If the name sounds familiar, Dr. McNair has a successful dentistry practice on Hamlin.)

In the 2026 RIA retail space Mrs. McNair will open a storefront for her existing organic soaps and skincare products business called Tahitian Treats.  With a BS in Biology and Chemistry, Mrs. McNair personally crafts her own line of hypoallergenic offerings for those with sensitive skin.  Tahitian Treats has been operating online for quite some time, and the Woodridge storefront will be the brick and mortar evolution of an already successful enterprise.  In addition to organic body products, Tahitian Treats will offer seated massage.

Next door in 2028 RIA, the McNairs are planning a veritable Wonkaland for Ward 5’s chocolate lovers.  DC’s Chocolate Bar and Bakery will feature organic chocolates, baked products (including cupcakes and breads), ice cream, smoothies, coffee, and light meals.  At least at the moment, the McNair’s have no plans to serve liquor on the premises (although some of their chocolate products will feature liquors).

Last night I got a peep at the Chocolate Bar’s spectacular design plans.  The McNairs are awaiting a permit to bump out the storefront windows, where they will ultimately install window-facing counter seating.  An entire side wall of the cafe will feature a countertop with stools (think 1950’s malt shop), behind which ice cream and shakes will be served up.  With additional tables, the Chocolate Bar will seat 35.  The McNairs are focused on creating a family-oriented environment suitable for kids and adults.  The tentative hours are 6:30am-9pm.  With the addition of free WiFi, Woodridge residents might actually have our very own place to have a cup of coffee, read the paper, check email, and hang out.  Imagine that?

We can anticipate a grand opening in June.

++————–++

Edit: the above post is edited to reflect the notion (addressed in the comments) that family-friendly does not preclude serving alcohol. I agree that an establishment can do both, and Argonaut is a perfect example.

09
Feb
12

You can testify in favor of economic development on Rhode Island Avenue NE

By Stephanie Liotta Atkinson

On February 21, 2012, 6-9 pm, at Turkey Thicket Recreation Center, Council Chairman Kwame Brown, on behalf of the Council’s Committee of the Whole, will host a Public Oversight Roundtable on Economic Development Projects and Programs in Ward 5.

The public oversight roundtable has two purposes:

  1. to allow the District government witnesses to inform Ward 5 residents about the economic development projects and programs occurring in their neighborhoods, and
  2. to provide an opportunity for Ward 5 residents to testify on economic development matters and recommend areas for improvement.

I plan to testify and will advocate for targeted economic development on Rhode Island Avenue NE.  If you’d like to testify, sign up HERE.  Registration will be open until close of business on Monday, February 20, 2012.  You also need to submit an electronic copy of your testimony (see the FULL NOTICE for details).

Things to think about if you testify on behalf of Rhode Island Avenue NE:

  • Streetscape improvement (provide money for facade improvement, tree-planting, green the medians that separate the lanes, repair cracked sidewalks, add trash cans and planters, replace the gray “cobra” street lamps with the new black lamps and add more lamps, repaint and add more crosswalks, etc).
  • Increase police presence to reduce violent crime, drug-related crime, prostitution, and illegal sign-posting.  Certain RIA business owners report that they won’t improve their facades out of a fear that a spiffy storefront indicates to thugs that the business has money, which will increase robberies.  Reduce crime, incentivize facade improvement.
  • Provide incentives for specialty grocers, restaurants, dry-cleaners, and other neighborhood-serving small businesses to locate on RIA.
  • Find a solution to the RIA parking issue that scares off potential business owners.
  • Create bike lanes on the Avenue and install Bikeshare stations.
  • Provide a more dedicated source of transportation from 4th & RIA to the Woodridge Main Street.  Move us up the street-car wait list. Or add busses.
  • Penalize cab companies that won’t serve Ward 5 residents.
  • Moratorium on auto-related businesses.
  • Improve the pitiful appearance of the RIA gateway at Eastern Ave.
  • Revise the zoning immediately surrounding RIA to allow for increased density.  Encourage developers to build reasonably-sized multi-family buildings along the Avenue (and make sure there’s adequate bus service to get these folks to the metro).

What else should we be advocating for?

Recap
Event: Public Oversight Roundtable on Economic Development Projects and Programs in Ward 5
Date: February 21, 2012
Time: 6-9pm
Location: Turkey Thicket Recreation Center 1100 Michigan Avenue NE, 20017

19
Jan
12

A New Ward 5 Woodridge Library in the Pipeline

By Stephanie Liotta Atkinson

Last night I attended what is sure be the first of many community meetings regarding the reconstruction of the Woodridge Library (1801 Hamlin St NE (corner of RIA and 18th NE)).  If you haven’t mapped out DCPL’s locations recently, allow me to summarize: the Woodridge Library is not remotely near any other library (2.5 miles to Shaw), so if you live in Woodridge, Langdon, Brentwood, or Brookland, you should care about this.

Photo Courtesy of Jaime Fearer

PRESENTERS

  • Chief Librarian, Ginnie Cooper
  • Director of Capital Construction, Jeff Bonvechio
  • Intergovernmental Affairs Officer, Archie Williams
  • Communications and Community Outreach, Martha Saccocio
NOTES 
Back in the early 2000s the powers that be decided that all of DC’s libraries needed to be modernized.  The order of redevelopment and funding for each project was determined by DC Council in 2004-2005.  Woodridge was plopped at the back of the line, and initial plans were to start the modernization effort in 2010.  In the mean time 13 other projects have been undertaken to modernize DCPL facilities in the District.  Enter Mayor Fenty, who pulled funding for the Woodridge renovation in 2010.  Then enter Mayor Gray, who reinstated Woodridge in the capital budget.  So, we’re behind schedule, but at least we’re getting a new library.  Thank you Mayor Gray.
The first step DCPL took was to determine whether Woodridge would get a renovation or a total rebuild.  To make this decision DCPL commissioned a Building Condition Assessment and a Cost-Benefit Analysis.  The assessment scores a library on a scale of 0-100.  The Woodridge Library scored a 24.  In layman’s terms: our library is a hooptie – from the HVAC to the electrical system, to the out-of-date ADA compliance.  Given the remarkably low score, DCPL has decided to demolish the existing library and build a new one.
The Woodridge Library project is budgeted and fully funded at $16.5M (over several years). $12M covers hard construction costs, while the rest goes to design, project management, fixtures, and interim space costs.
Timeline:
  • An RFP was issued on Nov 28 2011.
  • 20 proposals were received by Jan 8 2012.
  • An internal evaluation of the proposals will be conducted and completed by DCPL in February 2012.  From there the top 3-5 firms will be identified.
  • The top firms will be asked to make presentations to DCPL’s evaluation committee in late February/early March.  It’s not exactly clear who is on this committee, but it will include two members of the public.  Sharon Turner, President of the Friends of Woodridge Library, was selected by former Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.  A second person will be selected by Vincent Orange some time next week.
  • Once the committee selects a design contract, that contract will go to the DC Council for approval in mid/late March (it needs approval because the contract is worth more than $1M).
  • The specifics of the design process will be hashed out from spring through late fall, and will involve quite a bit of community engagement (assuming this is done right).
  • In late 2012 or early 2013 the library collection and staff will move to an interim facility.  The facility needs to be 3000-5000 sq/ft and could be a storefront space.  (Hello, Rhode Island Avenue…)  It’s also possible that DCPL will lease a 4200 sq/ft modular space.
  • The construction process will start in Jan 2013 and is predicted to last 15-18 months.
  • If all goes according to plan, expect ribbon cutting by Fall 2014.
Specs:
  • The current building is 19500 sq/ft (gross, counting furnace space, etc.).  The new library is slated to be 22500 sq/ft.  It remains to be seen whether the library will remain one floor or expand upward.  When I asked whether there would be a mixed use component, as has been done in other parts of the city, the notion was pretty much shot down.  (I will still bite some ankles before I let that idea die…)
  • When I asked whether the design will interface with Langdon Park, which forms the southern boundary of the Woodridge Library, DCPL was quite enthusiastic about the idea.
  • The redesign will focus on space that is flexible, welcoming, and open.  Check out the list of “Completed Projects” to get a sense of where we are probably going with the aesthetics.  The new libraries are all modern, airy, and open.
  • Other details:
    • The new building should have a 50 year lifespan (at a minimum)
    • Space for 80K books (minimum)
    • 200+ reader seats
    • Technology: 24 adult computers; 8 for teens; 8 for children
    • Meeting room that can hold at least 100 people (in chairs)
    • 2 conference rooms that will hold 12-16 people (can be reserved thru library webpage)
    • Study rooms (4-6 rooms, hold at least 2 people)
    • Children’s program room
    • Listening system for hearing impaired
    • Will have more plugs so that laptop use is easier
    • The Friends of Woodridge Library space will be significantly reduced to 100-150 sq-ft, which apparently adds $50K to the budget.
      • Sidebar:  Really, seriously?  You can buy a pre-fabbed Home Depot shed of the same dimensions for $2K…
    • The library currently has, and will continue to have, free WiFi, from which you can Skype, etc.
    • Parking is up in the air and will depend on the design proposals.
    • There may be a cafe cart big enough to house two “big” vending machines or a counter for coffee service.
    • The library will have a security system that includes cameras.
  • Sharon Turner pointed out that the library needs a business center type facility (equipped with copy machines, fax, etc.).  I agree with her, especially given Ward 5’s unemployment rate.  I will probably write a separate post on this idea.  DOES and DCPL should consider a joint venture job placement center at the Woodridge Library.

DCPL expressed interest in soliciting feedback at neighborhood meetings, so you can expect to see them around the Ward over the next 6 months.  I will provide updates as details become available.




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