Friday, March 26, 2010

Riggs Rd and South Dakota Intersection Update

Finally some information from the District regarding the road construction at the intersection of Riggs and South Dakota!  Deborah Crain Kemp, the Ward 5 Neighborhood Planner for the District's Office of Planning, was nice enough to give us a breakdown of the major roadway reconstruction.
  Originally slated to coincide with the construction of the Ft. Totten Square Site, the plan is to transform the unique intersection into that of a standard 4-way style.  Currently the intersection utilizes highway-eseque entrance and exit lanes to get traffic on and off of South Dakota and Riggs.  This combined with the extremely large footprint of the intersection, leads to some very unique rounds of Frogger that pedestrians need to play.  There is also an issue with poor signage and lack of crosswalks allowing safe traversing by pedestrians.  The other major issue seems to be poor traffic light timing leading to some major backups down Riggs and into Maryland in the mornings, and a complete lack of overhead street lamps.
  DDOT's plan will initially relocate utilities, and then focus on road widening and reconstructions.  The new curb and utility pole locatoins have already been determined, and indicate much wider streets heading into and out of the intersection. Not only will the new plan create a much more commuter friendly intersection, it is also attempting to modernize and beautify the area as well.  All new crosswalks, crossing and traffic signals, granite curbs, handicap accessible sidewalks (finally) and street lamps (similar to the ones found on 12st. in Brookland) will be installed.  The plan also expands the green space of the area, and plans are in place to increase the number of trees and also allow for bike racks and actual multi-space parking meters (similar to the green boxes found throughout the city).
  This ten million dollar, eighteen month project currently underway is already causing major traffic issues at the intersection.  DDOT's plan to keep one lane of traffic open on each street at all times, however, does not allow for the timely passage of this volume of traffic.  Combine this with the temporary, but necessary, total closure of the intersection for logistic reasons and you have a real nightmare.  The best advice to anyone having to take this route is...stay away for at least one year.  Take either New Hampshire down to Military, or cut through Brookland...the added travel will not only save you some time, but aggravation as well.

“This isn’t a high speed highway interchange, it’s the intersection of two neighborhood streets.  That will be reflected in the improvements DDOT is making, and those improvements will complement the exciting mixed-use development that is taking place in this community.”
-Mayor Adrian Fenty-

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Yes They Can: The CUA Presedential Search Continues

CUA has released it's March update on their search to find a new University President (Click Me!).  The current CUA President, Reverend David M. O'Connell, is the 14th president for the institution and has been in the position since 1998.  Announcing his resignation in October of 2009, O'Connell has increased enrollment an amazing 23 percent, to 6,768 students. The Brookland campus has expanded from 127 to 193 acres through the addition of a state of the art athletic complex, new dorms and Legal College expansion.  The Universities relationship with the surrounding community was also strengthened under O'Connell.  The search is expected to end in the comming months, as the candidate pool continues to be withered down. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Construction Delays: Brokland Elementary To Stay Closed

 More delays and lack of funding has caused the renovation of Brookland Elementary to remain incomplete.  DC Chancelor of Schools Michelle Rhee, closed the community school adjacent to Turkey Thicket in 2008 for modernization.  The construction was supposed to be complete in order to accept students in the coming school year.  However, budget issues and construction delays have led to an indefinite delay in the reopening date.  The $200 Million capital revitilization project to renovate aging schools has been impacted by decreasing tax revenue and the country wide recession.  The massive school revitalization project has currently balloned to an outrageous $1 Billion...with no end in sight.   Students who had attended Brookland Elementary are currently enrolled in the cramped and aging  Bunker Hill Elementary on Michigan Ave.  For more information the Washington Post had a great article on the sad state of affairs cause by school construction czar Allen Y. Lew.

Divinely Decadent...Simply Delicious

   The daffodils and tulips emerging from the soil, the Cherry Blossom Festival a week away and a new pastry shop opening in Brookland...what a fitting start to spring.  After stumbling upon the grand opening of Divinely Decadent Desserts a few weeks ago, time was finally made to try out the wares of the NE Sweet Shop.  Tucked away in the recently renovated brick row houses on the corner of Evarts and 12 St's NE, sits the unassuming and quaint store front of Divinely Decadent.
  Although in it's early stages of operation, one can feel not only the passion but the possibilities of the shop immediately upon entering the door.  Greeted by a friendly and knowledgeable staff composed of mostly the friends and family of Carlynn Fuller, the cozy cafe atmosphere makes one feel as if they are stopping by a neighbors kitchen for a cup of coffee rather than going to a bakery.  The display case and counter area draws your eyes immediately with a cacophony of color and smells.  A look at the hand drawn menu on the wall immediately gives you a deeper understanding of the motive force behind Carlynn's entrepreneurial spirit.  With treats named after family and friends who either inspired the confection or simply couldn't get enough, it is obvious that the ingredient that makes these sweets so decadent is simply love. The love of family, friends, spirituality and community.
    After sampling Aunt Ella's German Chocolate Cupcake (with icing made from scratch daily that you could practically bathe in) Mark's Carrot Cake and Michelle's Cheesecake Tarts (with fresh strawberries to top) we were sold. Maybe it was the extremely high quality of their product , or "Michelle" behind the counter singing the praises of not only her her namesake tart  but the shop itself, but there was no way to avoid it...this place was VERY GOOD.  Not just good in the sense of "my grandmother makes good cupcakes" good...but rather professional grade good.  We would put this little shop in Brookland up against all the Cake Loves, Georgetown Cupcakes and Hello Cupcakes in DC any day of the week.  We may be somewhat geographically biased...but if you don't believe us try it, we dare you.
  Carlynn doesn't plan on simply owning a cupcake shop however. "She (Carlynn) plans on adding coffee and espresso to the menu, as well as displaying and selling art from some of the local galleries in Anacostia in the near future" as Michelle eagerly informed us. Once the shop starts operating on a 5-7 day a week schedule, more seating and tables will be added to finish off the cafe atmosphere.  This will transform D.D.D. into a  relaxing spot to grab some coffee and a pastry, enjoy local art or even have a cupcake named after you.  Yes that's right...if you have an idea for a new flavor, Carlynn does take requests.  And who knows, if it is a hit you may see your name immortalized in divinely decadent cupcake history for years to come! Enjoy.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

When you Say Goodbye, I Say Hello: The Brookland Dessert Shop Shuffle

It is always sad to see a promising enterprise leave a neighborhood.  Since August of 2009, the Murphy Sister's Capital City Cheesecake (has) cunningly concocted custom cheesecake creations (sorry...we sure do love a good alliteration every now and then).   Operating out of the vacant Island Jim's kitchen for the past few months, the Brookland natives have turned their passion for cheesecakes into a thriving local enterprise.  However, the time finally came when they could no longer operate as an online entity without it's own kitchen and shop.  The Murphy's announced that Capital City Cheesecake will be moving to a new store front location on nearby Main Street Takoma Park, taking up residence in the former Savory Cafe location.  "To fill that yawning, tri-level space in downtown Takoma Park, the Murphy sisters are looking to expand their offerings beyond the miniature and classic cheesecakes on which they’ve made their reputation. They plan to add sugar cookies, vegan cheesecakes, and (naturally) cupcakes, which seems to be the new generation’s drug of choice." (Washington City Paper).  Although CCC never really came to fruition as a true Brookland Main Street pastry shop, it is good to know they aren't moving too far away and will be growing their business in a positive way.

   However, as the old adage goes, when one door closes another one opens.  Behind this door, lies Divinely Decadent Desserts (don't worry one alliteration is more than enough).  Opened last weekend (almost unreported), the new local sweets shop is owned by DC resident Carlynn Fuller and located at 2703 12th Street, NE next to the Menkiti Groups office.  Boasting a menu ranging from cupcakes and brownies to cakes and pies, each item is painstakingly created from scratch using original recipes.  With prices competitive to those of other local pastry and dessert shops, D.D.D. should find a more than ample market in the community.  Although the Grand Opening was held March 6th, D.D.D. is not currently open on a regular schedule.  The dessert shop expects to be operating on a normal schedule in the coming weeks, but for now it's schedule for the first week is:
Friday - 11:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.
Saturday - 11:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.
Sunday - 12:30 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.
As D.D.D. gets more established we look forward to the new and exciting offerings of Ms. Fuller, and hope her shop will have a long and beneficial relationship with the Brookland Community.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sping Has Sprung: Ft. Totten Community Garden

Finally signs that spring is really here!  Although Meteorological Spring has already come (March 1 was the Spring Equinox), this is the first day to truly feel like spring in the DC area.  Another surefire way of knowing it is Spring is the arrival of busy Gardeners at the Ft.Totten Community Garden.  Located just behind the Mamie D. Lee  School and the Ft. Totten Metro Station, the large unfenced parcel of land is busily being worked by local green thumbs.  Already sprouts and plant shoots can be seen penetrating the dark soil, and in only a few months time will bare the fruits (or vegetables) of their labor.  With a community shed, tools for use, access to water and larger than normal city garden plots it is truely a hidden treasure. Since the land resides inside the Ft. Totten Civil War Defense National Park, it is administered by the National Parks Service.  Inquiries about obtaining a plot  should be directed to :

Rock Creek Park
3545 Williamsburg Lane N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20015
Telephone: 202-895-6000
Visitor Information: 202-895-6070
Fax: 202-895-6015

"In springtime, the only pretty ring time
Birds sing, hey ding
A-ding, a-ding
Sweet lovers love the spring--"

As You Like It
William Shakespeare

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Upper NW/NE Office of Planning Newsletter

The DC Office of Planning released their Winter 2010 Newsletter. Since the Office of Planning does such a good job promoting this newsletter we're sure there is no need to post it, but just in case here it is:

It can also be found right HERE.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Providence Hospital: Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

Ahh of the eternal public health hot topics. And while we can debate and argue about whether or not smoking should be outlawed in restaurants and bars, or whether cigarettes should be taxed higher, that is not the point of this blog. Most of society can, however, agree that smoking in places like schools and hospitals is generally taboo or at least frowned upon. However, this seems to be lost on the staff and employees of Providence Hospital—ironically named “Washington’s First Tobacco Free Campus.”
  On any given day, at almost any time, employees can be seen puffing away standing next to the sign proclaiming the hospital a Tobacco Free Campus. The often scrub clad employees can be seen piping away in little cohorts, looking like the Marlboro Man after completing a successful lung surgery. Now technically, the area that employees utilize for smoking is not on the hospital's property (but, we’re literally talking inches away). They usually stand on the publicly owned sidewalk, directly next to the “Smoke Free” sign, and next to the doors of the emergency room and driveway for ambulances. As a “100% Tobacco Free” campus, the ban is supposed to include the facility, grounds, and even parking lots.
  However, the hypocrisy is all too evident, and the message being sent to the public by this display is not a good one. How can a doctor council a patient suffering from emphysema or lung cancer on the dangers of smoking, when immediately after being discharged they can bum a smoke directly outside the emergency room doors from a nurse of orderly. Now this may roam into the realm of personal accountability vs. government intervention...however, that is not the purpose of this article. Neither is the irony of doctors and health care workers who smoke (although, admittedly hard to ignore!).
  As with everything on this blog, the point is to raise awareness. Providence Hospital, as it wishes to be, acts as an ambassador for this community. In 2007, when Providence became the first hospital in Washington DC to sign on as a “100% smoke free campus,” they took pride in the policy and claimed to vehemently defend and enforce. They even began offering smoking cessation programs for their employees. Providence Administrators worried that “the sight of staff, visitors or others outside smoking whether on break or en route to their cars, diminished the hospital's cessation efforts,” and that by the hospital “looking the other way [it] implied tacit approval.” It appears that they must have especially worried about the appearance of staff smoking outside the hospital—and yet, driving by on any given day, it is almost completely staff and not patients heeding the call of cigarettes.  
  Clearly implementation of the policy has not been, and never could have been, an easy task. But, in all honesty, it doesn’t really seem as if they are making any effort. Is the Hospital Administration already tired of trying after just a few years? Well then, take down your huge blue signs proclaiming your virtuous no smoking policy!!! Why allow your staff to day after day stand next to the sign puffing away almost defiantly. It devalues anything your staff tells patients they should be doing to improve their health. Not to mention, the vast piles of cigarette butts that litter the ground surrounding the hospital have yet to be taken care...especially since part of the ban was supposed to save money on grounds maintenance of such butts. I think the community would agree on a whole that this is NOT the proper representation of their neighborhood, and not a good image for a Hospital.

  Above : People actally smoking on Hospital Grounds 
*pictures intentionally pixelated to prevent identification*
**Thanks to Caribou for help with writing and the idea for the story**  

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ft. Totten Square Awakens: Welcome to Gridlock Central

Signs of the times...literally. Driving down South Dakota Ave. approaching the Riggs Rd. intersection, commuters are now greeted with a new and dreaded sight. That of large mobile rust orange construction signs, with their flashing messages touting "CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! Road Construction Beginning On Or About 3/8/2010." Proceed a little further down the street and on the triangle parcel of land (recently sold by the District Govt) separating the intersection, sits what appears to be some kind of modern art display. In reality it is a massive collection of "Road Work Ahead" "Detour" and "Caution" signs piled high, ready and waiting to be deployed across the intersection.
Not to be confused with the recently announced Art Place at Ft. Totten, the Ft. Totten Square project is possibly the most publicized and long awaited addition to the Ft. Totten landscape. The massive Lowe/Jacksophie project, initially announced in 2006 as "The Dakotas," is a three phase project that will reside on three separate parcels of land surrounding the Riggs Rd./South Dakota Ave. intersection. The first being Ft. Totten Square, will be on the largest lot which is currently occupied by the a vacant strip mall once housing the "Tiger Market" on Riggs Rd. The second phase, named Dakota Pointe, will reside on the (currently vacant) parcel of land on South Dakota which abuts to the Exxon station and previously had a small three level apartment complex residing on it. Finally the third phase would be on the triangle parcel of land recently sold to t he investment group by the City for $80M dollars this past year. The total plan currently calls for 898 residential units, along with 94,000 square feet of retail space, including a grocery store. The grocery store specification should be especially interesting considering the Cafritz Foundation's Art Place at Ft. Totten also calls for a grocery store to anchor their retail space. It seems to be a real life version of the Game Show Network's "Supermarket Sweep!"
Considering that the Tiger Market lot has been unoccupied for two-plus years, and the phase two lot (next to the Exxon Station) has been completely vacant for over a year and a half, the construction should pick up fairly quickly. A warning not to be taken lightly, particularly considering that the Art Place project seems to be gearing up for a start date in the coming months (don't forget about the UDC Conversion plan of Bertie Backus either). This could make for an interesting pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic pattern in the coming months, err...years.

"Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs
Blockin' up the scenery, breakin' my mind

Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign"

-Five Man Electrical Band

Monday, March 1, 2010

Lost at the Supermarket: 7-11 Opens at Ft. Totten Metro

So, the long awaited opening of the new 7-11 at the Ft. Totten Metro station has finally happened. Finally, local residents won't have to trek across the city to get their Slurpee, Taquito and Hot Dog fix. Although the 7-11 does not sell alcoholic beverages, per DC ABC Law, they do carry all the other usual suspects the convenience store chain is known for. The store is located directly across the parking lot from the Metro entrance under the Ft.Totten Station Apartments. Hopefully this is the first of many soon to come retail locations in the neighborhood. So to you Ft. Totten I say, enjoy yourselves.