From Allison Acosta. Email her at allison[AT]borderstan.com.
The Washington Post reports they are considering a move from their downtown headquarters at 15th and L Streets NW. The Post has chosen two firms, Studley and JM Zell Partners, to advise them as they decide whether to sell the property and relocate to a “more modern, bright, open and efficient building.”
The Post Co.’s offices have been located at 1150 15th Street since 1950. For decades, The Washington Post was printed inside the downtown headquarters but, as the paper’s readership shifted to the suburbs, the Post Co. opened presses in Maryland and Virginia, and stopped printing papers downtown.
The newsroom at the Post reached iconic status when filmmakers recreated the fifth floor of the building for the 1976 film about the Watergate scandal, “All the President’s Men.” In recent years, the newsroom’s staff size has been significantly reduced as circulation and advertising revenue has declined.
The Post owns several properties on the block, including 1515 L Street, 1523 L Street, and 1150 15th Street, as well as the land at an 1100 15th Street building that is currently for sale. It’s possible that all the properties could be sold to one developer for a large-scale project.
From Alden Leonard. Contact him at alden[AT]borderstan.com and follow him @aldenleonard on Twitter.
Here at “Borderstan People,” we like to profile local movers and shakers who are spicing up the neighborhood in a variety of ways. Recently, we caught up with journalist Erik Wemple to catch his beat.
Currently a media critic at The Washington Post, Wemple formerly served as editor of the Washington City Paper and did a stint with with the short-lived TBD.com. In this interview, Wemple discusses everything from trying to keep up with today’s fast-paced and integrative field of journalism, to Borderstan coffee shops and safety tips.
Borderstan: Where did you grow up?
Wemple: I grew up in Schenectady, New York a few hours north of New York City on the New York State Thruway.
Borderstan: What got you interested in politics and/or the media?
Wemple: I think my interest in politics and media came from my father, who served nine terms in the New York State Assembly. He very much enjoyed “working” the media. And I’ve just always had a knack for writing and reporting.
Borderstan: How did you get your start as a journalist? What does a “typical” day entail? What recommendations or tips do you have for journalists getting their start?
Wemple: I worked my way in to journalism slowly, beginning decades ago when I edited a newsletter on federal export regulations. It was a lot of work – a lot of reporting, a lot of meetings in dingy federal office settings, a lot of calling around to industry types and asking precisely what were their problems and priorities were. Never underestimate the corporate confusion over U.S. re-export controls.
Then I started freelancing for Washington City Paper and the InTowner, among others. I really began to get into it, and I got a job at City Paper, eventually becoming the publication’s editor. After eight years, I caught on with TBD and hired the staff there. From there I moved to the Post. It’s really not a very compelling career story, to be honest.
Borderstan: You’ve been in roles from editor to blogger. What has been the most rewarding, memorable, or challenging?
Wemple: It’s tough to attach a superlative, but this current gig is plenty challenging. The challenge is to have something to say about media-related news stuff, as well as to do conceptual stuff and quirky fare. Keeping things fresh is a handful. Thank god there’s cable TV out there – without it, there’d be a fodder deficit.
TBD.com was also quite a challenge, needless to say. We were charged with trying to launch a profitable local, web-only news site from scratch, and we failed (though we didn’t have a lot of time to succeed). That said, I really loved working on the project. The lesson from it, and it’s a pretty narrow one, is that any organization that tries to knit together a traditional TV news operation with a news site driven by print folks has a lot of managing ahead of it.
Both media cultures have their strengths, but they also have sharp incompatibilities. And I’m not talking only about the different personalities of the folks who do TV and those who do print. A good TV story needs, first and foremost, visuals, something that most print journalists think about secondarily, tertiarily, or not at all. Usually not at all.
In this vein, it’s hard for me to compare working for the Washington Post to TBD.com/WJLA, which I’m frequently asked to do. Both are media organizations, and right there the comparisons stop.
Borderstan: How has journalism’s shift to the online environment changed the profession, and how have you adapted to these changes?
Wemple: Journalism’s shift to the online environment has changed every aspect of the profession. I’ve adapted to these changes by scrambling, quite frankly. Scrambling to keep pace with the social media imperative. Scrambling to understand search, scrambling to figure out why my embed code didn’t work, scrambling to figure out why the copy desk says it can’t get access to the post I just filed, scrambling to appreciate why “via” is such a key component of a good tweet, scrambling to watch three cable news channels at virtually the same time and gauge Twitter feedback at the same time, scrambling to nail interviews via phone, e-mail, DM and FB, all at the same time. Just scrambling.
Borderstan: It seems your interest in politics brought you to DC, but what brought you specifically to Borderstan? When did you come here, and what about the neighborhood caused you to stay?
Wemple: I bought a two-bedroom at the corner of 15th and O Streets NW in 1991 for a song. The neighborhood attracted me because at the time I was concerned about my environmental impact on the world; I wanted to live where I wouldn’t need a car too much, where I could commune with others who felt the same way about the planet. And that is all a total lie.
In truth, I moved to Borderstan because it was close to work, and the apartment was better than other places I’d looked at. The environs at the time were a bit dicey, though I had no idea about the degree. For instance, 15th and O taught me to look fixedly at the mirror when I brush my teeth. That’s because one night, as I was brushing, I was gazing through the back window, which overlooked what was then an empty and open lot on O Street NW between 15th and 16th Streets.
Everything looked pretty quiet, though I noticed a Subaru station wagon that was wiggling a bit down there. A little squinting brought into focus a little flagrante delicto inside the Subaru, which I’d prefer to have missed. As I’d later discover, that lot and other spots in the vicinity were popular refuges for fellows who’d cruised nearby blocks for prostitutes.
Worse were the smash-and-grabs. I had a 1986 Honda Accord – nothing sexy, but still a target for monthly break-ins, even though I learned early never to leave anything in it. No matter. One time, I hopped in the car ready to go to a friend’s place and she didn’t start – didn’t even turn over. I checked things out and found that someone had stolen my battery. On my way back from the 14th Street Trak Auto, trapezoids burning from the weight of my new battery, it hit me: The thief wasn’t after the old battery; the thief was after the replacement battery. Determined not to fall prey to such a scam, I took to parking the car miles away, on an unregulated street in Ward 3. I’d run or ride my bike to fetch it.
Now to answer the question of why I’ve stayed: Because I don’t do change that well. Once I’m in a place, it’s hard to move me. Someone recently told me that she’s “so done with DC” I believe that, but I have no idea what that feels like. They say people have trouble imagining their deaths, but I see mine as falling flat on my face on a piece of concrete between 12th and 18th Streets NW, south of Florida and north of Massachusetts. Hopefully not too soon.
Borderstan: What are some of your favorite Borderstan spots for drinks, coffee, dinner, to get a good book or have a meeting?
Wemple: I’ve got two young kids who aren’t quite ready for swillfests at Stoney’s and don’t have the palates to appreciate the flatbreads at Birch & Barley, so my hanging out at neighborhood joints is limited. That said, I’ll put in a good word for Java House. It predates the boom in the neighborhood and has a feel consistent with its age. It’s just a nice space with nice ownership and nice clientele. Peter Rosenstein and his crew are always there talking civics; my family and I go on Wednesday mornings each week. It’s always a good time.
Borderstan: Anything else you would like to share with the readers of Borderstan about your life or work?
Some safety tips: Watch yourself at the intersections of the bike lines on 15th Street. People tend to be preoccupied by auto traffic and may step off the curb, ignoring a cyclist who is just about to clip you. I hector my kids to watch out for the cyclists, because they whisk by very fast.
Another hotspot is the southwest corner of 16th and Q, right there in front of the PETA offices. I’ve seen a car plow right into the sidewalk there, because it had swerved to get clear of a car turning left from 16th southbound onto Q Street east. When waiting at that intersection, get behind a tree or light post.
The following article originally ran December 14, 2008. With the arrival of fall — and the unsavory smell of the falling fruit of Ginkgo trees hitting local sidewalks, we thought it was a good time post the article again.
Update from October 10, 2009: I was looking at the site stats and noticed that this post from December 14, 2008, had gotten a lot of hits today. I guess the Ginkgo trees are smelling like dog poo lately… and the berries are certainly falling on the Corcoran Street sidewalks. So… here you go: Here is why Ginkgo tree berries smell like dog poo.
I have never been able to figure out two things:
- Why would anyone would plant Ginkgo trees in a city, especially in neighborhoods with a high volume of pedestrian sidewalk traffic? Yes, I am thinking of the 1500-block of Corcoran Street NW — see Corcoran Street: Down Go the Ginkgos.
- What makes Ginkgo tree fruit smell like dog poop?
The second question has been answered. I would love to hear from readers as to the “why” in question number one. It is worth noting that the smell and mess from the falling fruit is so bad that the DC government sprays the female trees in the spring to “to prevent the notoriously unpleasant odor of the popular ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba) from overtaking city streets.”
From The Washington Post, December 13, 2008:
The bouquet of a ginkgo tree’s fruit has strong notes of unwashed feet and Diaper Genie, with noticeable hints of spoiled butter. For the District government this winter, it is the smell of defeat. This year, arborists working for the city tried a new solution for the stinky fruit, which has plagued residents for decades. They injected more than 1,000 ginkgo biloba trees with a chemical to stop them from producing the fruit. Whoops. The chemical didn’t work, for reasons that scientists still don’t understand. Now, instead of less ginkgo stink, Washington has its worst case in years — a bumper crop of nastiness that is studding sidewalks and sliming dress shoes from Capitol Hill to Kalorama. Read entire Post story.
On Thursday, September 27, The Washington Post hosted a public forum on the state of leadership in DC, on the heels of recent corruptions in City Council and a federal investigation surrounding Mayor Gray’s election campaign.
“Connecting the Dots in the District” was the latest in a series of “Behind the Headlines” programs sponsored by The Post. Panelists for the evening included Barbara Lang, president and CEO of the DC Chamber of Commerce; Kojo Nnamdi, host of The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU radio; Carol Schwartz, a former DC Councilmember; and Clinton Yates, Express editor and opinion writer for The Root DC.
Washington Post columnist Bob McCartney started off the discussion by asking the panelists for their thoughts on leadership and accountability.
Lang spoke about her thoughts on qualities of leadership. She highlighted the importance of integrity and being able to deliver results. Lang also emphasized how we, as the electing public, need to hold our city’s leaders responsible for what they promise.
Nnamdi received applause after calling for a “policy ombudsman,” and stressed that perception is everything in leadership, drawing an analogy to the recent NFL replacement referee controversy.
Schwartz recalled how during her terms on the Council there was an attitude that you need to “go along to get along” and not rock the boat if you want to survive. Schwartz also recounted how she was often the only councilmember who would meticulously report all the gifts she received while in office, and called for a change to this norm. By far the youngest on the panel, Yates spoke on DC’s current “culture of silence” and “old boy” network in District politics.
As McCartney turned the conversation to how we break the old political culture, Nnamdi noted that the one-party system allows someone to win without seriously being challenged in terms of intellect and integrity, and went on to suggest an open primary. It was at this point that some drama erupted in the auditorium. An attendee, who later identified himself as Robert Brannum, shouted “No, No, No” after Nnamdi’s comments on open primaries. Brannum also fired out comments as Yates decried the political culture in DC.
At the end of the panel discussion, attendee questions were read by McCartney. Many questions were submitted on the topic of The Washington Post‘s reporting of malfeasance in DC government. Some suggested The Post was not doing enough given their resources (one question cited how often The City Paper often uncovers scandals despite their small budget). Others were outraged that The Washington Post constantly targets the same officials and regurgitates the same stories for weeks.
More information on the “Behind the Headlines” series is available on The Post‘s website.
The neighborhood is booming, for sure! This year’s Best of 2012 ballot for the Washington Post’s Express Night Out is loaded with Borderstan businesses and services (even the 15th Street bike lane!). You can vote more than once with voting closing on September 27.
Here’s who’s on the list!
- Best Neighborhood blog: Borderstan
- Outdoor Drinking: Standard BBQ
- Sports Bar: Nellie’s Sports Bar, Touchdown
- Gay Bar: Nellie’s Sports Bar, Town Danceboutique, JR’s Bar & Grill, Cobalt
- Happy Hour: Hank’s Oyster Bar, Policy
- Cocktail Menu: The Gibson, Policy
- Bike Lanes: 15th Street NW, 14th Street NW, 11th Street NW
- Date Spot: Posto, Bar Pilar
- Place to Meet People: Posto, The Studio Theatre, Nellie’s, Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe
- Art Classes: Art Jamz
- Haircut: Bang Salon, Salon Cielo
- Mani-Pedi: Mimosa Salon and Spa, Qwest Nails
- Readings: Busboys and Poets
- Gallery: Hillyer Art Space, Gallery Plan B, Hamiltonian Gallery
- Theatre: The Studio Theatre
- Thai: Rice, Sala Thai, Beau Thai, Thai X-ing, Thai Tanic
- Seafood: Hank’s Oyster Bar, Pearl Dive
- Ethiopian: Etete, Dukem
- Sushi: Sushi Taro
- Barbecue: Standard
- Vegetarian: Busboys and Poets, Java Green/Cafe Green
- South/Central American: El Tamarindo
- Brunch: Masa 14, Busboys and Poets
- Burger: Black & Orange
- Frozen Treat: Pitango Gelato, Mr. Yogato, Pleasant Pops
- Late-Night: Ben’s Chili Bowl
- Sandwich: Taylor Gourmet, SUNdeVICH, Fast Gourmet
- Indie Coffee Shop: Peregrine Espresso
- New Restaurant: The Pig
- Chef: Jose Andres, Dan O’Brien
- Place to go to impress someone: Komi
- Place to go with someone else paying: Komi
- Farmers Market: Dupont Circle Farmers Market, 14 and U Farmers’ Market
- Consignment Store: Current Boutique
- Women’s Clothing: Redeem
- Men’s Clothing: Universal Gear, Redeem, Alton Lane
- Accessories: Lou Lou Boutique
- Vintage Store: Miss Pixie’s Furnishings & Whatnot
- Gift Shop: PULP
- Home Store: Vastu, Home Rule
- Local Hardware Store: Logan Hardware
- Specialty Food/Beverage Store: Seasonal Pantry
- Pet Store: Doggy Style Bakery, Boutique & Pet Store
- Kid-friendly Restaurant: Eatonville
- Gym: VIDA Fitness
- Yoga Studio: Yoga District, Tranquil Space, Flow Yoga Center
- Bike Shop: The Bike Rack
- Specialty Gym: CrossFit Dupont, Fuse Pilates, Jaime Andrews Fitness
- Pool: VIDA Penthouse Pool Club
- Park: Meridian Hill Park
Take the Borderstan Reader Poll: Should Mayor Gray resign?
Unless you’ve been traveling somewhere without access to U.S. news, or intentionally tune out DC politics, it would be almost impossible to avoid the scandals surrounding Mayor Vincent Gray’s 2010 campaign — and the ongoing federal investigation.
If you’ve read any DC newspaper or online site over the past several months, you’ve read about the “Shadow Campaign,” the questionable/illegal campaign contributions and reports of the questionable use of a list of voters from DC Public Housing.
Borderstan.com has covered the brouhaha, too. While we normally confine our coverage to the Dupont-Logan-U Street area, some citywide issues are too big to ignore — especially when three City Councilmembers call for the Mayor’s resignation.
Should Mayor Gray resign or would that be premature? Should he resign if he is indicted? Or should Gray wait for a possible indictment and a trial to run its course? Tell us what you think in our Borderstan reader poll.
The Dupont-Logan-U Street area was never a Gray stronghold — as we saw in the September 2010 primary results between Gray and then-incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty, and then again in the November general election when “Write In” (the vast majority for Fenty) got 39% in Ward 2 (which includes Dupont-Logan) and 30% in Ward 1 (which includes most of the U Street corridor and surrounding neighborhood).
What sayeth you, Borderstanis? Should Gray resign from the office of DC mayor?
From Alden Leonard. Contact him at alden[AT]borderstan.com and follow him @aldenleonard on Twitter.
Last week The Washington Post released a poll showing troubling signs for Vincent Gray’ political prospects. The poll revealed that 54 percent of residents — including 48 percent of African-American voters, a vital part of Gray’s political base — no longer trust the mayor and wish he would resign. Only 25% said he is running an ethical administration.
Gray pushed back against the poll, saying on Thursday that his achievements as mayor are being unfairly obscured by the dust-up surrounding his 2010 campaign. Since allegations of illegal conduct surfaced last week, Gray and his aides have pointed to lower unemployment and homicide rates as signs that Gray has been a vigilant and effective servant of his city, regardless of what may have happened during his campaign.
Despite these efforts to change the narrative, the poll shows voters aren’t buying the snake oil. Gray’s current approval rating is at 29%, the office’s lowest since Marion Barry’s slip to 28% in 1989.
By contrast, The Post reports that former Mayor Adrian Fenty’s approval rating stands at 59%. And, although Fenty said he won’t seek elected office again in DC, Gray hasn’t said he will either. Gray defeated Fenty in the 2010 Democratic mayoral primary by a margin of 54% to 44%. However, the Dupont, Logan and U Street areas of DC voted overwhelmingly for Fenty over Gray in the September 2010 primary. Fenty carried 9 out of 10 local precincts, winning six with more than 70% of the vote.
“I’m thinking about my job every day,” said Gray.
Sarah Halzack graduated from The George Washington University with degrees in Journalism and Dance. After graduation, she left her college hood of Foggy Bottom behind and moved to Dupont Circle where she has lived ever since (with the exception of a one year detour to Columbia Heights). In addition to working at The Washington Post as a web producer for business and economic news, Halzack also writes the occasional book review in The Post’s Sunday Outlook section and dances with non-profit modern dance company Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company.
The goal of the company, which is directed by choreographer Dana Tai Soon Burgess, is to bridge cultures and reduce ethnic barriers through a focus on historic events and personal stories. DTSB&Co was awarded the Mayor’s Arts Award for Artistic Excellence in 2005, has received three Mayoral Proclamations, and has toured extensively both nationally and internationally. On April 5 and 6, the company will celebrate its 20th anniversary with two performances at George Washington University’s Dorothy Betts Marvin Center. Tickets start at $15.
Borderstan: In regards to the upcoming performance, which piece are you most excited to perform and why? What draws you to being part of DTSB&Co?
Halzack: I’m most excited about performing “Fractures,” which is a short trio that depicts the emotional wreckage of a complicated love triangle. This piece is particularly special to me because I first saw it back in 2002 when I first moved to the District. I was a college freshman at the time, and I knew nothing about DTSB&Co and had no idea that I would one day be asked to join the company. As an audience member, the dance hit me like a ton of bricks.
I had tears in my eyes watching each character try to make sense of a tangle of anger, attraction, hope, jealousy and rejection. I loved that the dance was spare and short, a distillation of only utterly essential moments. And perhaps most importantly, I fell in love with the idea that virtually anyone could see a piece of themselves in this dance, because at one time or another, we’ve all been one of these characters.
Given how strongly I reacted to the dance the first time I saw it, it was a great honor for me to be cast in it. I’m excited to bring this complex character to life, and I hope to play her with the same nuance and intensity that once kept me rapt as an audience member.
There are many things that draw me to working with DTSB&Co. First, Dana’s movement style has felt very natural and intuitive to me since the first time I set foot in his class. There’s something about his use of gesture, his floor work, and his propensity for slow, almost dream-like pacing that has always felt like home to me.
I also love working with this company because of the terrific peer group of dancers it has provided me with. Dana has stacked our company with dancers of enormous talent. I am so inspired by the way my fellow dancers move, and watching them week after week in rehearsal pushes me to dance better and dance smarter.
And perhaps most important of all, we all have quite a bit of fun together. It’s a supportive, easy-going and caring group, and that makes everything from rehearsing to touring to performing all the more enjoyable!
Borderstan: What do you enjoy doing? Interests, hobbies other than dance? Favorite places to go in the Borderstan area?
Halzack: I regularly take yoga classes at a couple of studios in the neighborhood, most frequently at Tranquil Space on 17th Street NW. It’s a great way to turn my mind off after a stressful day and I’ve found practicing yoga has helped make me a better dancer. And even when I’m off the clock at The Post, I’m a little bit of a news junkie, so I spend quite a bit of time reading. Cooking is most certainly not one of my hobbies, so I’m a frequent customer of some of Borderstan’s delivery and carry-out joints.
My favorites are Sacrificial Lamb on R Street NW, Thaitanic on 14th Street NW and Great Wall Szechuan House on 14th Street. Shopping for clothes is one of my guilty pleasures, and Borderstan has no shortage of great boutiques for that. My favorite is Muleh. Their merchandise is gorgeous but it’s usually pretty far out of my price range. But that doesn’t stop me from just wandering around in there and getting outfit ideas! And of course, I enjoy a good glass of wine and a delicious dinner and there are no shortage of places to get that in our neighborhood.
Disclosure: Oreste is on the Board of Directors of Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company.
The Washington Post rolled out this year’s DCTweeps contest and we were delighted that they again nominated Borderstan in the Favorite DC-area blogger category. If you’re not following us, we’re @borderstan.
You can vote right here on the Post website. In addition, our food editor, Alejandra Owens (aka @frijolita on Twitter) is also up in the Favorite Foodie category. Please give her your vote as you click through the ballots (there are 15 categories) in the Post‘s DCTweeps contest. BTW, voting ends at 11:59 pm on December 30.
We love pumping out tons of neighborhood news, sharing stories and providing you useful information that’s relevant to your daily life. We do it because we love our neighborhood and because… we love doing it!
Thanks, again, Borderstanis!
From Michelle Lancaster. Talk to me on Twitter @MichLancaster.
The Washington Post on Twitter
Or not? Check out the Tweet from @PostLocal DCist captured today. Apparently, they think the retweets are not nearly as useful as actually buying the paper. Sorry, but if you’re giving us content for free, don’t blame use for not paying almost a $1 for the paper.
From Alejandra Owens of One Bite At A Time where she writes about food, cooking and even offers up some great recipes. You can also find her on Twitter at @frijolita.
Joe Yonan is the Food and Travel editor of The Washington Post and a fellow Borderstani. Having lived in the 17th Street area for five years, Yonan not only knows the neighborhood but also has a good sense of how it’s changed in recent years. He recently published his cookbook, Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One, which can be purchased at Amazon.com and local bookstores.
Owens: Let’s get the basics out of the way: what brought you to D.C? How long have you lived in D.C? When did you move to the neighborhood?
Yonan: I came to D.C. in fall 2006 to start the job as Post Food section editor, and moved right to 17th Street into an 800-square-foot condo.
Owens: In a recent “Morning Joe” segment on MSNBC, Mike Barnicle said no good ethnic food (including Italian food) is made south of Philadelphia. Some maintain that D.C. isn’t a legitimate “food city” — what do you have to say to naysayers?
More winter weather is underway or on the way. Where to go for weather news — especially closings, delays and reschedulings?
- Several of the major news outlets in the area provide good weather coverage: The Washington Post, TBD.com and News Channel 8/TBD (28 on local Comcast) all provide good local weather coverage.
- But when it comes to comprehensive, updated lists closings, delays and reschedulings, I always go with WTOP Radio’s website: www.wtop.com. They list schools, government (of various types, D.C., federal, states) as well as events and meetings.
Three years ago tonight, Robert Wone was murdered on Swann Street NW: August 2, 2009. It will probably remain the most famous-infamous crime in Borderstan for as long as I am alive (which I hope is several more decades).
To date, no one has been charged with Wone’s death, which occurred in a house at 1509 Swann Street NW (remember that the house was sold and the three residents-owners have long since moved away). Attention has centered on the three residents of 1509 Swann; the three were indicted for obstruction of justice in the case.
In addition, many questions have been raised about how DC Police handled the investigation, especially the evidence in the case. You can listen to the recording of the 911 call on the night of the murder. The affidavit filed in the charges against one of the three residents, Dylan Ward, obstruction of justice is here (PDF).
What is the economists tell us? Americans need to stop spending so much and save more? But, if we all do it at the same time… in the middle of a bad recession, it only makes things worse? Well, whatever. Lupe and I just got back from the Shaw Dog Park at 11th and R NW. Dogs are great entertainment–and almost free if you don’t count the ownership expenses.
If you don’t own a dog and are looking for cheap/free stuff to do, the cover story of The Washington Post Weekend section is “Free: 31 Ways to Have Fun in March Without Spending a Dime.”