Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gangland: ANC5A

The History Channel's show Gangland focuses on gang issues in cities
across America.
  This past Sunday morning a 23 year old CUA student was attacked as he got off the metro in Brookland.  The graduate student was being followed by a group of teens as he was walking away from the station.  After alerting the youths that he was aware they were following him, one member of the group tackled him to the ground.  This was the end of the confrontation, and no money or personal items were taken.  This comes on the heels of a CUA student being shot and killed near Petworth, and throws salt in a wound that has not yet begun to heal.
  Youth incidents are not new to the Brookland Metro Station, or ANC5A as a whole.  Kids have often been witnessed tagging benches or signs, as well as knocking over garbage cans and other items around the neighborhood.  This is the first assault to take place at the station in quite some time.  However, recently there has been an increase in what appears to be teen gang activity in the neighborhood (and the city as a whole).  Most notably the tagging of cars and trees on and around Providence Hospital (some rep'ing the Riggs Park Crew and Big 30). 
  While gang activity  in DC is nothing new, and even the "Riggs Park Crew" is not a new entity (2004 blog posting appraising the DC gang situation), the city lacks the strong presence of the national gangs.  Most gang activity in the District is perpetrated by smaller neighborhood street gangs, and recently groups of 15-19 year old teens.  Although these small neighborhood street gangs are usually preoccupied by beefs with other gangs, the teen groups seem to be far less introverted and secretive with their activity.  This increase in (what appears to be) gang and youth related criminal activity in the neighborhood is disturbing, and should not be overlooked by authorities.  The proportion of violent crimes committed by teens in DC is alarmingly high.  While there does seem to be a recent decrease in the use of weapons in these incidents, they are none the less still taking place.  What the police and neighborhood leadership are doing to quickly and efficiently address these issues is not clear.  But perhaps the emphasis in the media should be focused more on what can be done to help curb youth violence in the District, rather than focusing on the personality differences between two major mayoral candidates that hold fairly similar platforms.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Brookland, The District's Craft Beer HQ?

  There is no hotter trend in the country right now than the home and craft brewing movement.  A month doesn't go by where the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News doesn't run an article on a group of old friends whose love of suds has turned into a budding business.  Often these small batch, craft or artisan (a word we think is thrown around way too much these days) brewers are responsible for creating some of the most uniquely inspiring beers available.  It seemed that this country wide trend, however, was skipping over DC. 
  The Nation's Capitol has no shortage of brew pubs and beer spots (i.e. Cap City, District Chop House etc...), but a true brewery has been absent from the landscape...until recently.  The much publicized start up, DC Brau, has pumped life into a DC Beer scene that has laid dormant since the Heurich's ceased production in the late 50's.  As the buzz around DC Brau gradually turns into a dull roar (and deservedly so...the promise is all too exciting), it seems that the emerging beer culture sprouting in Brookland is going unnoticed. 
Mount St. Sepulchre
  Known more for it's plethora of Roman Catholic institutions, hence the "Little Rome" moniker, Brookland is not the first name that comes to mind when you think of brewing.  This may be changing!  The active home brewing movement seems to be growing each year, with more and more residents deciding to take the plunge into back yard fermentation chemistry.  This however, is not what qualifies Brookland to be the new home of brewing in the District.  This distinction is being formed by two fledgling brewing operations, one by a Brookland resident, that could move the quite neighborhood into the brewing spotlight.
  Brookland resident Nathan Zeender has turned his passion for beer into more than just a simple home brew operation.  DesJardin Brewing is a small batch brewing operation taking place in NE, that attempts to bring traditional monastic brewing to life in DC.  What makes Nathan's endavour more unique is that he is utilizing ingridents he cultivates himself on the grounds of Mount St. Sepulchre Franciscan Monastery (if you have never visited the monastery it is a must for any DC'ite)  He has planted and maintained a decent sized crop of hops as well as several bee hives to use in his creations.  While this fermentation endeavor has gotten some press, there is yet another newly announced operation that could bring even more attention to Brookland.
Enter Chocolate City Beer.  The name itself causes people to do a double take and look a little harder.  The brew operation named after the 80's era moniker for the District has just laid down roots in Brookland (ok technically Edgewood but who's really keeping track) in the last two weeks.  The brewery was the brain child of friends Ben Matz, Jay Irizarry and Brian Flanagan and was originally slated to be located in Anacostia.  The brew team however, has just signed a lease and began renovating a property at the head of the Metropolitan Branch Trail. The former Stone Cutting facility (then briefly occupied by a machinist), appears to ooze cool.   The planned micro, err...nano, brewery will look to distribute it's products regionally and hopefully have a nice tap room for tasting.
Chocolate City's Location in Brookland
  One thing is for sure, between DC Brau and what is taking place in Brookland, the brewing scene is alive and well in the District.  Only time will tell, however, whether the "Little Rome" moniker will be replaced with "Little Milwaukee!"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New Mural Going Up In Brookland

A new mural has been started on the side of Brookland Cafe/Inn on 12 St. NE.  The mural will definitely add some character and color to the developing street scape. Many residents are excited to see this mural go up and add to the distinctive aesthetic that Brookland already has.  However, some locals are not too thrilled with the way mural is turning out and question how well it represents the community.

What do you think of the 12th St. Mural?

Monday, August 16, 2010

CUA South Campus Redevelopment Advances

As we continue working our way through the twist and turns or ANC5A redevelopment, next on the list is Abdo Development's Brookland/CUA project.  Interestingly enough, as we began to dig in and get updates, CUA must have read out minds and made a release via their website on the projects status.  So rather then duplicate work, and mostly out of sheer laziness, here is the article for you reading pleasure.
"The redevelopment of Catholic University’s South Campus into a vibrant mixed-use, transit-oriented community advances with today’s announcement that Abdo Development has teamed with The Bozzuto Group, a Washington D.C. area-based residential real estate company, and Pritzker Realty Group, a Chicago-based real estate investment company, to finance the project.
“I am so pleased to welcome The Bozzuto Group and Pritzker Realty Group to the partnership that The Catholic University of America initiated earlier with Abdo Development,” said CUA President John H. Garvey.
“The redevelopment of the university’s South Campus — so important to CUA’s long-held goal of transforming the gateway to the heart of our university — has moved another step closer to fruition. These two new partners will bring an added dimension of expertise and resources to the effort, making us even more confident about the positive changes that await CUA and its neighbors.”
Jim Abdo, president and CEO of Abdo Development, said, “We are thrilled to have secured financing for our Catholic University redevelopment project. Through this partnership, we will achieve our vision of creating a new community made up of vibrant residential housing, artist studios and community space, as well as a main street with eclectic, local retail — all just minutes from the emerging 12th Street retail district and three Metro stops from Union Station.”

The multi-phase development is located on five city blocks in Washington, D.C.’s Brookland neighborhood, adjacent to the Brookland-CUA Metrorail station and just three miles north of the U.S. Capitol. The community will ultimately consist of a progressive mix of uses: approximately 720 residential units, 45 townhomes, 83,000 square feet of street-level retail, 15,000 square feet of artist studio space, a 3,000 square-foot community arts center, and 850 parking spaces.
Approved plans also include streetscape and hardscape improvements that will greatly improve the South Campus’s walkability, creating a lively, pedestrian-friendly atmosphere and significantly improving traffic patterns and pedestrian crossings along Michigan Avenue.
“We couldn’t be more delighted to be a part of the team working with Abdo Development and Catholic University to move this tremendous project forward,” said Tom Bozzuto, CEO of The Bozzuto Group. “Jim has created a great project, in a terrific location, and we are honored that he’s asked us to co-develop, build, and ultimately manage the community.”
Penny Pritzker, CEO of Pritzker Realty Group, noted that “The Catholic University South Campus redevelopment project is a prime example of mixed-use, transit-oriented, urban infill development. Coupled with Washington, D.C.’s favorable supply/demand outlook and the nation’s lowest unemployment rate, we are confident that this is a remarkably sound investment. We very much look forward to working with Catholic University, Abdo and Bozzuto to create a dynamic new community for the Brookland neighborhood.”
The development, scheduled to break ground by the end of next year, represents the first equity commitment by the recently-formed $75 million Bozzuto/Pritzker Realty Group joint venture."

Courtesy of  CUA Public Affairs (http://publicaffairs.cua.edu/releases/2010/10SouthCampusDevelTeam.cfm)

Friday, August 13, 2010

CCDC Construction Update

CCDC, the newest announced construction project in the local area, is proving to be the most rapidly advancing of the set.  With it's doors scheduled to open in the Fall of 2010 for classes to begin, the face lift of the Backus Building is progressing along nicely.  Classrooms that once taught the pre-teens of DC their educational building blocks, are being completely gutted to make way for state of the art teaching tools for Associate Degree candidates.
A room that could train the Districts nurses, undergoes major surgery
1970's era security windows are being popped out left and right, completely changing the facade of the seasoned institution.
1970's windows hustle on out.
New operable windows will shed new light on potential Construction Degree Recipients
Contractor vehicles and dumpsters full of debris show the progress being made. Not even the monsoon's that rolled through the area yesterday could hamper their efforts.
Construction well underway
Windows dropping like they're hot.
A new entrance is next on the list. Hopefully the old school security doors will give way to a modern entry way with a welcoming feel.
Bad picture, but you get the idea...better one to come soon, we promise :/

Open in only a few months, the new CCDC Backus Campus will be the crowning achievement of the area redevelopment.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ft. Totten Square: Back to Square One

Fort Totten Square...what was supposed to be the first of the major redevelopment projects completed in ANC 5A, now looks to be in a permanent holding pattern.  The proposed redevelopment project was planned for the10+ acre site at the intersection of Riggs and South Dakota, at the former location of the Tiger Market Shopping Center.  The once promising, and grand, plan was going to convert the quite community into a new metro centered hot spot.  In fact, the current traffic pattern redesign for the Riggs Rd. and South Dakota Ave. intersection was conceived in response to the needs of the potential development
  In summer of 2007 the property was vacated, fences went up and the new advertisements proclaiming the arrival of the monstrous mixed-use facility were up and running.  Throughout 2009, several local news outlets reported on the acquisition of several city owned parcels adjacent to the lot, an old apartment complex was demolished...things were moving along quickly.  However, just as fast as the project seemed to be moving forward it suddenly came to a screeching halt.  As the economic state of the country became more uncertain, so did the economic future of the Ft. Totten Square project.
  Enter today, almost a full year since planned ground breaking and the massive lot sits vacant...ignored.  After speaking with Ward 5 Neighborhood Planner Deborah Kemp regarding the construction near the site, it was revealed that "The developers (Lowe Enterprises) have had difficulty getting financing during this challenging economic times.  The equipment and activity that you see is related to the reconfiguration of the intersection at Riggs Road and South Dakota Avenue."  Further evidence was recently made available online through real estate broker Cassidy Turley's website, where the following is stated:

"Cassidy & Pinkard Colliers is seeking an equity recapitalization for the Fort Totten Square project located at the intersection of Riggs Road and South Dakota Avenue in Northeast Washington. The Fort Totten Square project represents a unique and rare opportunity to develop a successful large scale residential and retail development at a strategic Metro station location in Washington, DC. The 10-acre urban mixed-use development will include 850 residential units and 100,000sf of service retail, including a full-size grocery store. The much needed grocery and other service retail which will accompany the residential project will also serve new and pending developments by Clark, Cafritz, K. Hovnanian, and others in the immediate neighborhood. As the largest mixed-use development in the area, Fort Totten Square is a landmark project in a high-growth market that is quickly attracting large scale residential and retail development due to the significant paths of development progressing along the Red, Yellow, and Green Metro lines as well as North Capitol Street."

  So as the investment group seeks to find new sources of capitol, the site sits ignored...decaying...becoming an eyesore.  Rather then being the centerpiece of the new community, it is a blight that reflects poorly on the hard working and proud residents of this neighborhood.

Monday, August 9, 2010

ANC 5A03 Community Meeting Tomorrow

Do you live in Single member District ANC 5A03?  Maybe you want an update on the UDC Community College Project or current crime stats in Ward 5?  Want to meet some other citizens from ANC 5A?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then tomorrow night we have something for you!!!  Angel Alston (5A03 Neighborhood Representative) will be holding a Community Meeting tomorrow night (8/10/10) at the North Michigan Park Rec Center from 6:30 - 8 PM. Come out and meet the voice of District 5A03 to the City Council, and get the low down on things going on in the neighborhood...we'll be there for sure also!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

MGM Roast Beef with a side of politics

MGM Roast Beef has flexed their might in the NE food world with their amazing hand carved sandwiches and excellent breakfast platters.  However, the newest challenger for the DC sandwich crown is flexing their muscles in a different ring...the political one.  Tomorrow, August 5th, MGM will be hosting a fund raiser for DC City Council Member Harry "Tommy" Thomas Jr's re-election campaign.  The event will run from 6:30 until 8 PM and will feature complementary hors d'oeuvres, beer and wine. Councilman Thomas is currently running for re-election as the Ward 5 Representative of the DC City Council, and is currently the favored candidate to win the seat.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

National Night Out

Get out and meet local law enforcement tonight around the city!  ANC 5A is part of the 4th and 5th District.

Fire in the Sky!

Photo of the 8/2/10 Coronal Mass Ejection From
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory
Departing from our traditional coverage of local events, The Totten Life has decided to take on a global...err...galactic topic. CORONAL MASS EJECTIONS (we are totally nerding out right now).  A coronal mass ejection is basically the sun "burping" (for lack of a better word), and violently releasing plasma and other materials from the surface of the sun.  Now, this enormous solar storm is not simply a solar event that has little impact on us earthlings.  The CME, once initiated travels at speeds close to one million miles per hour and if timed right (as in this case), will impact earth in about 2-3 days. 
  Now don't go and worry just yet...this isn't Armageddon.  The earth's magnetic field acts as a shield to protect us from most of the radiation and magnetic impact. However, for particularly violent CME's and solar storms, we can be impacted...not physically but technologically.  The initial signs a CME is impacting earth is the appearance of  very intense aurora (like the famous Northern Lights) across the globe.  This aurora is basically the visual evidence of the trillions of watts of power created when the CME comes into contact with the magnetosphere (magnetic field surrounding the earth) protecting our delicate bodies.  Once the aurora begin, the next impact could be on our telecommunications system.  As satellites orbiting earth get bombarded with electromagnetic waves, we could experience temporary comunication loss or even see equipment  permanently damaged.  For extremely violent CME's, scientists theorize a potential impact on our power grid, causing long term black outs due to power surges overwhelming our aging infrastructure (as many might be unaware our electric gird in the US and Canada is completely integrated, so potentially a massive surge in one area could trickle down the line blowing transformers we don't have replacements for). 
  Now will this gloom and doom scenario play out in the upcoming days?  Most likely not.  This is a fairly small CME, and will probably only create an amazing light shows for us in the northern hemisphere.  Scientists think that tonight and tomorrow night will be prime viewing time for the Aurora across the Northern United States (mot likely we won't be able to see anything due to the forecasted cloud cover).  However, don't go blowing this off just yet!  The sun operates on an 11 year cycle of surface activity, in which we are currently heading towards the peak of activity.  What this means is these solar flames,storms and CME's may become more common. This doesn't mean the end of the world (or does it), but it does make for some interesting office talk!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Deer Oh Deer!!!

  Living in a major metropolitan area affords little interaction with wild animals...not including the all too common rodent scurrying out from trash cans.  The District, however, is dealing with an animal problem that seems to be popping up in other cities (including Detroit and New York City)...White Tail Deer!  While many residents of Chevy Chase and neighborhoods near Rock Creek Park are used to seeing deer on a regular basis, the sighting's outside the heavily wooded sections of DC were nearly non-existent.  The past two summers, however, have shown a change in the typical range of the deer population in the City.  In August of 2009, several local news outlets reported on the recent explosion of the once negligible White Tail Deer population in Rock Creek Park.  The "Summer of the Deer" was capped off by deer encounters in a Silver Spring grocery store, as well as the now infamous doe that leaped into the lion's den ar the National Zoo.  However, it seemed as though much of N.E. DC was spared run-ins with the antlered terrors.  This is true no longer.
Deer at Ft. Totten Metro 7/20/10
   Starting as early as late April of 2010, deer began to make, what were thought to be extremely rare, appearances in and around the Ft. Totten Metro, Ft. Bunker Hill, and Queens Chapel.  As spring ran into summer, it seemed as if the sightings became an almost weekly event in much of the ANC 5A area.  Looking at aerial maps of the city shows how the lightly wooded strip park that runs from CUA right up through Queens Chapel and into Maryland lacks any connection to Rock Creek Park.  The same goes for an aerial view of Ft. Bunker Hill, which is almost an island of green alone in the suburban neighborhood of Brookland.  This means that deer are traversing through extremely urban neighborhoods in order to make it to their new homes in NE.  As common sense would dictate...this is not a very safe combination for any party involved. 
  Many residents enjoy walking through the park areas and encountering an animal often associated with the country.  However, the issues associated with a growing population of deer in a heavily urban area were quickly realized.  In late May, a deer was struck and killed on South Dakota Ave. causing a twocar accident that shut down the street for two hours.  Several homes in the area also report disappearing flowers (impatiens seem to be candy for the invading hordes) as they look to find new foraging grounds.  As the deer become more acclimated to interacting with humans, they also have a tendency to become non-responsive or even aggressive towards them.
Aerial Map of ANC 5A
  Any time you see the increase of an animal population, there is the  inevitable outcome of an increased presence of their predators.  "What would possibly prey on deer in the city ?" you may ask yourself.  The answer is simple...Coyotes!!  Many people don't associate Coyotes with the east coast, but area biologists now place the Coyote population in the DMV area over 1200.  Often a quiet night in Rock Creek Park is pierced by the howl of the wild canine.  As the deer population in the city increases, so will the potential for Coyote predation...and not just on deer (evidence of which can often be seen in Rock Creek).  Northern Virginia has seen an increase of coyote attacks on house pets as well as humans in past years, and it is no coincidence that this appears to be proportional with the increased deer population.
  The National Parks Service, which administers much of the green space in the city, is in a tough spot.  Culling the population seems to be necessary but very unpopular.  The question remains at how do you decrease a wild animal population in an major metropolitan area?  Suggestions have been numerous, and ranged from sharpshooters in RCP to catch and relocation programs.  Perhaps DC can take a note from the play book of Helena, MT (yes, we did suggest for the nations capital to follow suit with Montana) or even the booming mecca of Oshkosh, WI!  No matter what the ultimate solution is, the city needs to act soon before the negative impacts of deer interactions with humans become too great.