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Author Archives | maggie

Goodbye Ektorp, Ikea Sofa

"Sofa"

Sofa for sale. Actually it’s an Ektorp. (Maggie Barron)

From Maggie Barron. You can reach her at maggie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @rookerysf.

This morning, we said goodbye to our old faithful Ikea sofa, Ektorp. It was the first major piece of furniture that Jesse and I bought together ($200 on Craigslist). It carried us through countless dinner parties, overnight guests, episodes of “30 Rock,” and, yes, a few nights of comfort after some big arguments.

In its place, we have a beautiful Room & Board York sofa bed. It’s the first piece of new, non-Ikea furniture that we’ve ever owned. It’s also the first time I’ve been able to choose the fabric! How far we’ve come!

I posted Ektorp on Craigslist yesterday, after trying to get it to stand up straight for a couple of photos (its slipcover never wanted to fit quite right). I wrote the standard pitch (no cats, no smoking, clean…) but what I wanted to say was, “This couch is awesome and it will be your friend.”

I feared that might drive away the more normal inquiries, though. The photo didn’t quite do it justice. Or maybe it did, which made me feel worse. Had my couch always been so… schlumpy?

Responses came immediately, several from young women who had just moved in with their boyfriends. Ektorp would be their first joint couch, too. It seemed fitting.

Sarah and John ended up buying it — I think I was touched by how excited they were to get their first big piece of furniture, how they thoughtfully tested the cushions, how they tried to make the “big” decision together in a serious way. Jesse and I probably looked exactly the same to the Craigslist people who sold us the couch more than three years ago.

“This couch is really nice,” Sarah said, which made me feel sorry for the times I’d made fun of Ektorp for being old and outdated.

I am not a sentimental person. I can be ruthless about culling and getting rid of items that have outlived their usefulness. They are just things, I say. And yet, I have to admit that I am sad to say goodbye to our Ikea couch.

Maybe that’s because it feels like I’ve returned Ektorp to some sort of cosmic communal pool of furniture that city residents share. The one that’s part of the cycle of 20-something life, love, and real estate that makes our cities hum. The one that I (thankfully) don’t need to be a part of anymore.

I just got an email from Sarah, with a tiny picture of Ektorp settled in its new digs:

We got the couch in! Thanks for all your help, and hope you are enjoying the new one. This post appeared first at Barron’s blog, Rookery.

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Posted in Lifestyle1 Comment

Let’s Ban It: 8 Moratoriums We Can All Get Behind

From Maggie Barron. You can reach her at maggie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @rookerysf.

"moratorium"

Pick the moratorium you want to support. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Jeez, what do you have to do to get something banned around here? Bans and moratoria are falling on tough times. There’s the defeat of the large soda ban in New York City. Protests against the nudity ban in San Francisco (yes, public nudity was perfectly legal there until two months ago).

And now, closer to home, the proposed moratorium on U Street liquor licenses meets an icy reception at a recent neighborhood listening session.

People don’t like banning things. It seems so final. So severe. No nudity in public places — not just “let’s reduce the relative amount of nudity.” So harsh. Even a moratorium sounds draconian. Five years? Where will I be in five years? Will alcohol even be legal in five years? No one knows for sure.

That’s why I’ve come up with a list of proposed moratoriums that I think could actually pass with flying colors. Nothing too restrictive, just those things that we’ve had enough of. See what you think:

The following eight things, in three categories, shall be prohibited for a period of no less than five years from today.

Food and Drink

  1. Beet and goat cheese salads: Yes, they are delicious. But there’s no other way to make beets taste good? And if there isn’t, can you serve us something else? It’s been on your menu for ten years…
  2. The word “artisanal.” After years of abuse, the privilege of using “artisanal” to describe a food, craft or other noun shall be revoked until further notice. To be honest, the blanket use of the term (artisanal croutons, artisanal gelato) is kind of making us foodies sound like jerks.
  3. Cocktails costing more than $10. A few places that make really nice cocktails have now made it acceptable for everyone to start charging $12+ for a drink. The other night I ordered what appeared to be a Greyhound except the bartender repeatedly slapped a single basil leaf between his palms and then delicately placed it on top. So I basically paid a $2 premium to have my basil spanked. No more!

Fashion

  1. Wearing Uggs in public. Yes, I know they are warm. So are Snuggies and Russian ushankas, but no one wears those outside. This is DC, not Siberia. (And while we’re talking about comfortable clothing that should be severely curtailed, I second Dafna Steinberg’s piece on yoga pants).
  2. Wearing bicycle helmets without buckling the chin strap. Nothing better conveys the message, “I care about my safety, but in a weirdly ambivalent way,” than not buckling your helmet strap. I see these people way more often than I’d expect. Do they not realize this defeats the purpose of a helmet and yet still gives them helmet hair, so it’s really the worst of every possible option?

Social Media

  1. The phrase “retweets are not endorsements” on Twitter profiles. Is there anyone who says “You know what? My retweets are endorsements! Every single one!” No. So let’s all agree to ditch the disclaimer. (P.S. we also know that you are tweeting your own views and not those of your employer… but disclaimers don’t actually mean you can’t get in trouble, FYI)
  2. Facebook status updates that tell me how much you have recently exercised. All updates such as “8.5 miler today — feeling great!” shall be immediately banned until further notice.
  3. Complaints about “spoilers” because you haven’t watched a popular show yet. The entire internet does not have to be quiet until you catch up on your DVR. Sorry.

I really think I’m on to something here. Enforcement may be an issue, though…

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Posted in Lifestyle10 Comments

Matzah Ball Secrets: Don’t Fear the Schmaltz

"Matzah"

Making matzah nalls. (Maggie Barron)

From Maggie Barron. You can reach her at maggie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @rookerysf.

It’s really hard to take an appetizing photo of a matzah ball.

Maybe that’s because the better a matzah ball tastes, the worse it photographs. Light, fluffy matzah balls are uneven and lumpy-looking. Smooth, spherical ones may look nice, but they have a taste and texture that give matzah balls a bad name.

I didn’t realize I had such strong opinions on the topic, but in writing this post, I learned that my family’s matzah ball technique (circa 1950, Springfield, NJ) contradicts the instructions in many recipes, including from some of New York’s famous delis. Therein lies its strength.

In fact, when I look at other recipes, I feel like I am not even making the same dish. Your matzah ball should never sink. They don’t need oil. They don’t need seltzer. (I don’t think seltzer fizz does anything to make them lighter — it’s basically just adding water.) They don’t need baking powder. (This would count as leavening, and so couldn’t be used at Passover, no?)

Most importantly, they are not difficult and should not be cause for stress, failure or familial kvetching (leave that to the other aspects of Passover).

Matzah Ball Tips

Good matzah balls are actually pretty simple as long as you remember the following:

  • Separate your eggs and beat the whites separately. This will get the egg whites really fluffy and create light, airy matzah balls (no seltzer or leavening necessary).
  • Don’t smush! Use the lightest touch you can to mix and mold the matzah balls, to preserve as many air bubbles as possible.
  • There is no substitute for schmaltz. Yes, that’s rendered chicken fat. If you make your matzah balls with chicken fat rather than oil, they will be far and above any you have ever tasted.

Fortunately getting schmaltz isn’t so hard. If you’re making matzah balls, you’re most likely making chicken stock, too. Just scrape off the fat that rises to the surface of the stock (you’ll see an obvious layer of it after refrigerating the broth overnight — it becomes solid when it’s cold). Ta da. You can also render your own from chicken pieces, but the stock route is easier and, well, more appetizing.

Making Matzah Balls

Ingredients

This recipe makes about 8 matzah balls. 

  • 4 fresh eggs, carefully separated. Bring them to room temperature ahead of time for fluffier egg whites.
  • 1 teaspoon kosher (or other coarse) salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • 2 teaspoons grated onion (about 1/2 an onion)
  • 2 tablespoons chicken fat (schmaltz)
  • 3/4 cup matzah meal (you can buy it or make your own by finely grinding matzah in a food processor)

Directions

  1. If you’re making your own matzah meal, finely grind matzah (I used about 4 pieces) in a food processor. I had been buying matzah and matzah meal separately for years — who knew that they are the exact same thing? Measure the meal to make sure you have the right amount (3/4 cup).
  2. Combine egg yolks, salt, pepper, onion and schmaltz in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Don’t overdo it or the whites will start to look dry and break apart, and they’ll eventually deflate.
  4. A little bit at a time, alternate adding the matzah meal and the egg whites to the egg yolk mixture. Start by adding some matzah meal. Fold in with a spatula. Add some egg whites. Fold. Repeat until all the ingredients are combined, ending with egg whites. Important: It is important to do this with the least amount of stirring and smushing as you can, so that you keep the fluffiness of the egg whites.
  5. As you do this, you are going to think, “Wow, this is not working. These are never going to combine.” But eventually they do. You are not going to end up with a homogenous, smooth mixture. That’s good. You just want to make sure you don’t have dry spots of matzah meal or large clouds of egg white left.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  7. Bring your chicken stock to a gentle boil. Use a large pot as the matzah balls need room to expand while they cook.
  8. Wet your fingers and gently shape a golf-ball sized portion of batter. You do not need to pack it tightly — it will hold together in the broth on its own. You’re not going for perfection here. Remember, photogenic = bad. Just loosely form the ball and wet your fingers again if it starts to stick to your hands.
  9. Gently drop the ball into the boiling broth, then repeat step seven and eight with the remaining batter. If you’ve done your job right so far, the ball should float. If it sinks, it may be that you have mixed your batter too much and deflated the egg whites. If this happens, don’t despair. They will still taste delicious, even if they are not as fluffy as you would like.
  10. As they boil, resist the urge to stir or poke them for the first couple of minutes. Poking them too soon will cause them to break apart. Just let them bob around and do their thing until they solidify a bit.
  11. After two minutes or so, start to gently turn them with a wooden spoon every couple of minutes to keep them moving. Let them boil for about 20 minutes.
  12. At this point they are ready to serve, or you can store them in the chicken broth and reheat to serve whenever you are ready.

Serve at Passover, or any other time that calls for comfort food. Bask in the glory of a matzah ball well done.

This post first appeared in rookery

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Posted in Food & Drink3 Comments

Where Are My Crayons? Do I Have to Share?

From Maggie Barron. You can reach her at maggie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @rookerysf.

"Share"

Where are “MY” crayons? (Luis Gomez Photos)

I graduated from kindergarten about 25 years ago, yet I still struggle with its central lesson: sharing.

Back in the day, I looked around at the runny-nosed kids mashing together different play-dough colors, breaking the crayons in half and leaving the caps off the glue sticks. “Ownership…” my five-year-old brain thought, “means having all of the crayons.” And thus a little capitalist was born.

A quarter century later, and my way of thinking is showing signs of age. Today, the mark of a savvy city-dweller isn’t how much they own, but how much they can get away with not owning. It’s no longer a virtue to own a car you only use on weekends, or camping equipment you only use once a year.

There’s certainly a lot of sharing going on in DC. We have the best bike sharing system in the country, and are one of the top 5 cities for car sharing. You can share office space, kitchen space, tools with your neighbor – pretty much anything you can think of you can borrow or rent from someone else in DC. As The Atlantic recently put it, collective ownership is “less a fleeting fad and more an essential piece of how we’ll live in an increasingly dense, urbanized world.”

It’s been hard for me to wrap my head around, which is especially embarrassing because my husband actually works for a peer-to-peer car sharing company. As he talks about trust, community-building and cost-savings, I am secretly thinking to myself “Wait, is someone going to be touching my stuff?”

Is there hope for people like me? The truth is, I want to be the kind of person who likes to share. I agree that it uses resources more efficiently, is more economical and provides an opportunity to meet new people, many of whom have probably evolved from their play-dough mashing days.

I am trying to take baby steps. Recently we rented a neighbor’s car for a few hours, and the whole time I felt oddly transgressive, as if I had borrowed it without asking. “They are really just giving us their car? We could be weirdos!” I said. “But we’re not,” answered my husband. But we could be, I thought.

We have also signed on to DogVacay, a website that matches people who need dog sitters with others willing to host – sort of the “Airbnb for dogs.” Our first hosting experience, for a shar-pei mix named Howard Zinn, was similar to babysitting for a stranger’s child for five days, and about as much fun. (Howard wasn’t so much into being a member of the sharing economy as he was into drooling and chewing on socks.) It did pay almost $200, though. So mixed success.

But I am going to persevere. While I think that in many cases “sharing” is a misnomer for this new trend (many of the services are really “renting” or “paying someone to do something for you,” which is slightly different), in small doses it might even be good for me. As long as I can still keep my own crayons.

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Owner Christopher Torres Explains Reincarnations’ Closure

"Borderstan""Reincarnations""14th Street NW"

Reincarnations at the northeast corner 14th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Maggie Barron. You can reach her at maggie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @maggiebarron.

Yes, you heard right. After 20 years, Reincarnations is closing its doors. As the pioneering furniture store in an area now known as “furniture row,” the end of Reincarnations, on 14th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW, feels particularly significant to the changing 14th Street landscape.

Back in January, when I profiled owner Christopher Torres for Borderstan, he seemed excited about what was to come. Why the sudden change? According to Torres, negotiations with his landlord have been going on since November, but the landlord would not settle on a final contract.

Torres told me on Wednesday that with real estate taxes included, his rent was slated to go up from about $15,000 to $18,000 per month. “I don’t think people realize how expensive rent can be,” he said, “and that’s not counting other expenses like insurance and utilities. I could have made it work, but I am not going to crank $300 sofas out the door all day to make the rent. I felt like I would have had to sacrifice quality or service to do that.”

"Borderstan""Reincarnations""14th Street NW"

Christopher Torres, owner of Reincarnations. (Julian Murphy)

“I told the landlord, ‘If you can rent the space for that amount, do it.’”

Torres said it has been a very difficult decision to make. “I’ve struggled with it. I’m very sad to leave. I was a pioneer on that street. The store is doing very well, and it’s never been an issue of ‘going out of business.’ But for the price I’m paying there, I could be in Manhattan.”

As for plans to move to a new location, Torres says he has not considered it, yet. “It’s always been in the back of my mind. I’m not saying no but I haven’t even had time to go look at spaces.” He added that he is not selling the business or the name, so the possibility is always there.

Though Torres is sad to close, he still sounded upbeat. He is currently working on a line of upholstery called CGT, which he expects to be available in some local Borderstan-area stores. For customers who want to know what’s next for Reincarnations, Torres says that he will keep the store’s Facebook page running with updates.

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Have Our National Monuments Become Too “Disneyfied?”

"Borderstan" "Lincoln Memorial"

Our favorite memorials might not pass muster by today’s standards.   (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Maggie Barron. You can reach her at maggie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @maggiebarron.

It’s been a tough few weeks for monuments. Secretary Ken Salazar has instructed the National Park Service to fix the rather dimwittedly abridged “drum major” quote on the side of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. And Congress will hold a hearing on March 20 to discuss the much-loathed plans for the Eisenhower Memorial.

How is it that stone can inspire so much flesh-and-blood passion?

The Eisenhower brouhaha began when Ike’s family didn’t like the design put forward by architect Frank Gehry and approved unanimously by the Eisenhower Memorial Commission.

The design includes two huge stone bas reliefs depicting Eisenhower as a statesman and general, but what seems to have offended the family and a slew of conservative critics are the parts that evoke Ike’s humble upbringing as a “barefoot boy from Kansas.” (Lydia DePillis at Washington City Paper has a fantastic rundown of different articles on both sides of the debate).

First, I’d like to address the critics who are up in arms that the Eisenhower Memorial is somehow disrespectful. For example, the Heritage Foundation blog said that the memorial “plans to strip him of his moral discovery, his convictions, and his accomplishments.”

Whoah, people. He is getting a memorial on the National Mall. That is an honor reserved for the smallest group of presidents, men much more famous and beloved than Eisenhower. People are spending millions of dollars to honor this guy in perpetuity. So let’s get off the “Eisenhower is being grossly mistreated” kick.

I am not in love with the Gehry design either, but for entirely different reasons. I see it as part of a larger trend overtaking our monuments. I don’t mean any disrespect towards the people being honored. My issue is with the increasingly Disney-fied ways we end up honoring them.

Have you ever noticed that walking through the FDR Memorial is strangely similar to meandering through the line for Thunder Mountain? Or that MLK protruding from the “Stone of Hope” looks more like a parade float than a human being?

Our monuments today (I’m thinking the Korean War Memorial forward) seem hyper-eager to provide people with an “experience.” Every character facet or event related to the subject has to be completely spelled out with quotes, pictures, and usually some sort of water fountain. The Eisenhower Memorial and its surroundings, with its photographs, quotes, sculptures, and tapestries, is just one more example.

Monuments used to be about making a singular statement for people to interpret. They could be simple, or even abstract. Now they’re about hitting people over the head with the obvious while ticking off boxes for different interest groups. It’s a mentality that leaves you with 56 columns around the WWII memorial rather than 50 (lest ye forget Guam!)

Maybe the monuments have become so scattered because we really only expect people to “skim” them, anyway. Ed Jackson, the Chief Architect for the MLK Memorial, said he decided to abridge Dr. King’s quote because “By the time the visitor engages with the Stone of Hope…they’re beyond the point where they’re interested in reading a lot of detail.”

That pretty much says it all. “Four score and seven years ago, yada yada yada…” People are so exhausted by the time they reach the main part of the monument that they can’t be bothered to read more than ten words.

Our successful monuments, the ones that give you chills on approach, don’t need to be skimmed. The artists’ singular vision and ability to edit a big idea to its essence give the monuments their power. Without that vision, — which not everyone will like —  you get the little-bit-of-everything approach typified by recent designs.

In fact, I have a feeling that none of our best monuments would pass muster by today’s “standards.”

If Lincoln’s memorial came up for approval today, critics would say “Wait! You are only representing him with a beard. What about all of his accomplishments when he had no beard? You are denigrating his memory!”

For Washington: “How are people going to know what Washington did from looking at this?” or perhaps more likely, “Why are we representing our first president with a symbol from the Middle East? Why do you hate America?”

For Jefferson: “Why is there no mention of Sally Hemmings?”

By trying to please everyone, we’ve reached a point where our monuments have no center. Instead they are scattered with different snippets, images, and messages, all meant to keep us stimulated, but not engaged —  and unoffended, but not moved.

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Posted in News, Politics & Government8 Comments

2 Local Intersections on DDOT’s “Most Dangerous” for Pedestrians

From Maggie Barron. You can reach her at maggie[at]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @maggiebarron

Despite DC’s high marks in pedestrian and bike safety, there are still some intersections where we should tread cautiously. In a new performance review, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) identified 24 of “the most dangerous intersections for pedestrian crashes over the past 3 years.” Two of those are in the Borderstan area, and another 11 are directly surrounding us — any guesses as to where they are?

12th, Massachusetts, DC, dangerous, pedestrian, intersections

The intersection at 12th and Massachusetts is one of the most dangerous in the area. (M. Rhoades)

If you picked 14th and U Streets NW, you’re on the money. The other one to be aware of is at 12th Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW. This isn’t surprising for anyone who has tried to cross there as aggressive northbound vehicles turn left onto Massachusetts.

In terms of other nearby hotspots, 14th Street NW in Columbia Heights made the list three times at Columbia Road, Irving Street and Park Road. And those walking along K Street should be extra-alert, as the intersections of K and 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th Streets NW all made the list.

TBD has a full list of the 24 intersections. And a DCist reader plotted most of the intersections (though not all) on a handy Google map.

In a hearing last Friday before the City Council, Neha Bhatt, chair of the Pedestrian Advisory Council, testified that over 10% of DC residents walk to work. According to data in the DDOT performance review, since 2005 the number of crashes involving pedestrians has ranged from 567 to 782 per year, with a much smaller number of incidents (14 to 25) resulting in fatalities. (Hat tip to TBD’s John Hendel for covering the hearing, which was apparently poorly attended by DC council members).

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Posted in News4 Comments

Ross School PTA Auction: Let the Bidding Begin!

"Borderstan""Ross School", DC public schools, Dupont Circle

Students at Ross Elementary School on the 1700 block of R Street NW. (Lee Granados)

From Maggie Barron. You can reach her at maggie@borderstan.com or on Twitter @maggiebarron.

As a childless, 20-something city-dweller, I don’t often get a chance to interact with schools in my neighborhood. Fortunately, the 4th Annual Ross Elementary School Auction is on its way, and it’s open to everyone. Online bidding has already begun, culminating in the final, live auction on Saturday, March 10 at the German Marshall Fund.

The past three auctions have cumulatively raised over $75,000 for Ross Elementary, a public school serving 150 kids pre-K through 5th grade, located at 1730 R Street, NW. This year, the organizers aim to raise a total of $65,000, their most ambitious target yet. “We are really pushing the envelope this year,” said Lee Granados, the auction Co-Chair and a parent at the school.

According Granados, the District does not always fund technology updates or professional development for teachers. That’s why the fundraising focus has been on better technology for the classroom (this year laptops and tablets) and on opportunities for teachers to hone their teaching skills.

The funds from the auction also go towards scholarships for afterschool enrichment classes. At up to $300 per term, some of these classes in math, science, languages, drama, and other topics would otherwise be out of reach for low-income students at Ross, says Granados.

Online bidding for the items described here (and many more!) is open until March 8; and they continue to add more items. The live auction takes place on March 10 from 5 to 8 pm at the German Marshall Fund, 1744 R Street, NW. Both auctions are open to the public, so be sure to check them out.

Auction items range from amazing weekend getaways (Chicago or Churchill Downs, anyone?) to field trips and lunches with teachers, to down-home perks in our own backyard, such as:

  • “Five Days, Five Dinners”: a week of dinners at five of DC’s finest; Leopold’s Kafe, Zaytinya, Firefly, Buddha Bar, and Chef Geoff’s
  • Dinner with national political reporter Julie Mason, the host of “The Press Pool” on SiriusXM radio and former White House reporter for two newspapers
  • Several restaurant/theater ticket pairings, including Hank’s Oyster Bar/Keegan Theatre and Bistrot Lepic/Roundhouse Theater
  • Sewing lessons from Bits of Thread in Adams Morgan
  • Cupcake decorating class for you and your friends at Hello Cupcake
  • A photography session with Borderstan’s own Luis Gomez

With a tiny budget (under $3,000 each year), Granados and her team depend on the support of local businesses — including this very blog —  to make the auction a success. “We want to make sure it’s a win-win for both the businesses and the school,” she says.

“We are very small, only one class per grade level, and so we very much look beyond our playground and the four walls of our building. We see ourselves as part of the bigger Dupont community. Our partnerships with businesses in turn drive more of our parents and community members into those businesses. Reciprocity is unique to our school, and it continues to grow year after year.”

Note: Borderstan Media is proud to be among this year’s sponsors of the Ross School PTA Auction, along with Level One restaurant, Modern Classics and VIDA Fitness.

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Feb. 2: ANC 1B Takes Closer Look at Florida Avenue Development

"Borderstan""Florida Avenue"

Florida Avenue between 7th and 9th Streets NW is poised for development. (Luis Gomez Photos).

From Maggie Barron. You can reach her at maggie@borderstan.com or on Twitter @maggiebarron.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B holds its monthly meeting tonight, February 2, and the planned development on Florida Avenue NW between 7th and 9t Streets NW will be at the center of the agenda.  The plans for consideration come from JBG, the influential development group with “more control over the future of U Street than any other property holder,” according to The Washington Post.

JBG has already presented its residential/retail concept  to the various ANC design committees, and now the firm seeks ANC approval on issues before the Historic Preservation Board. These issues will most likely have to do with the fates of historic facades currently on the properties.

The design, covering two buildings on three parcels, comes from the Seattle firm Miller Hull Architects. JBG principal Kai Reynolds told Washington City Paper that their aesthetic will be aimed at “transforming the warehouse vernacular into housing.” In short this means lots of metal, lots of glass and perhaps an affinity for exposed staircases. (Slides from the ANC1B design committee presentation in December are available here.)

JBG bought the three parcels from Metro last summer after they had been on the market for nearly a decade. Though the lots appear vacant, they are home to a lively and at times controversial weekend flea market. (Some neighbors have complained of vendors selling stolen goods.) Michael Sussman, who runs the flea market, had a lease with Metro due to run to October 2012. When JBG purchased the property, the company made overtures to end the lease early, by the end of January.

At the last ANC 1B meeting on January 5 (which I attended), approximately 25 vendors showed up to protest the end of the lease. Sussman told the commissioners that 40 vendors and their families earn a living at the flea market, and requested that the ANC ask JBG to continue the lease.

In an email message to several neighborhood groups sent on January 13, ANC 1B Chair Myla Moss (ANC 1B-01) said that an agreement had been reached between JBG and Sussman. JBG will continue offering a month-to-month lease until October, as long as the flea market accepts a list of terms meant to eliminate traffic, trash and the sale of stolen goods.

It will be interesting to see if this issue arises again at Thursday’s meeting. I will be there and will post an update on any developments.

Posted in Business, Politics & Government1 Comment

DC Top City for Biking,Walking Investments (But Drivers Still Bad)

DC infrastructure

DC ranks among top U.S. cities in terms of our bicycle and pedestrian programs. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Maggie Barron. You can reach her at maggie@borderstan.com or on Twitter @maggiebarron.

As far as transportation goes, DC often gets a bad rap. Sure, we have the country’s worst drivers, and we may be approaching “metrogeddon” with the 8-month closure of the Dupont Circle southern escalators.

But there’s good news. We also rank among the top U.S. cities in terms of our bicycle and pedestrian programs, according to a study out this week from the Alliance for Biking & Walking.

Of the 51 largest U.S. cities, the District boasts the highest per-capita funding for cycle and pedestrian facilities and education. The report, Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2012 Benchmarking Report, says DC spends approximately $9.82 per resident to promote biking and walking. Nationwide, states spent on average just $2.17.

Not surprisingly, the report identified a virtuous cycle of infrastructure investment, improved safety and increased bike and pedestrian commuting. Among those 51 cities, DC also had:

  • the second highest share of commuters who walk to work (after Boston).
  • the seventh highest share of commuters who bike to work.
  • the second lowest rate of car ownership (after New York).
  • The sixth lowest rate of bike/ped fatalities.

In a press release, Mayor Vincent Gray celebrated the news:

I have made it clear I want the District of Columbia to be the most sustainable, walkable city in the nation. It’s great to see where we stand among our peers and that we are making real progress toward that goal.

This report gave me quite a bit to think about. We often hear about drivers acting aggressively towards bikers, or of problems with pedestrians and cars. Getting around in DC is far from perfect, but think about how much worse it must be in other cities. If we are sixth in bike/ped safety (and I still can’t get a car to stop for me at the crosswalk at 14th Street and Wallach Place NW), then what’s it like in Fort Worth, Texas, which ranks 51, or Phoenix (#48) or even San Diego (#23)?

Another thing I found particularly interesting in the data was that the share of commuters biking and walking seemed to have nothing to do with the weather. The number one state for biking and walking was Alaska! Number two was Vermont. Eight of the 10 top states have snow on the ground pretty much all the time, while states like Florida and Texas ranked dismally. So as I bundle up to walk to work tomorrow, at least I’ll have my pride to keep me warm.

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