Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Is Anacostia the Next H St?

Art of War Concept: Generally in war the best policy is to take a state intact; to ruin it is inferior to this.

Is Anacostia the next H Street? I have heard the reference to H Street a couple of times and it makes me ask the question, What is the vision for the greater Anacostia community? What does the future hold?  There are a lot of opinions but no consensus.

To be clear, there is no right answer to the question. There will always be different perspectives from the residents, developers, business owners and the government. There will be differences in opinions from residents who view Anacostia as home versus those who see it as an investment. We need to have a thoughtful conversation among the current stakeholders to ensure there is a shared vision on how to move forward.

Why do I keep hearing talk about H Street? Is it the restaurants, streetcars, streetscape or the demographics that create the envy? Are we not happy with being Anacostia? Don’t get me wrong. I like going to eat and hang out on H Street, but there are some things that I appreciate about living in Anacostia. We have much more to offer and should capitalize on what makes us unique: the historic character of the neighborhood, great views, proximity to the Anacostia River and quick access to I-295/395.

What really sets us apart is the people. If we capitalize on the talent of residents and have a conversation asking for their ideas and energy, we can surpass other neighborhoods of the city. I do not sense that our residents have a true appreciation and faith to move us forward. I wonder if that is the reason why there has not been a candid conversation about how we see the future of our community.

When I heard of my neighbors getting together to promote our “We Are Anacostia” neighborhood campaign, I immediately jumped on board. A significant part of the campaign is to encourage Busboys & Poets to open its fifth location in Anacostia. But it means so much more than that. It is saying that being in Anacostia is okay and there is no need to compare ourselves or want to be like another neighborhood. It means we are a unique community with a ton of talent.

We should plan everything in a way that focuses on families, strengthening families and creating an environment where residents want to raise their families. That means cleaner neighborhoods, community safety, addressing blighted property, refurbishing our parks, planting trees and being able to walk your kids down to the neighborhood school and knowing they are going to receive a quality education.

If you forced me to pick a neighborhood, I would pick Old Town Alexandria as a model. Unfortunately, when DC focuses on building neighborhoods, they focus on the young 20-something’s, who enjoy the late night bar and party scene. Old Town Alexandria is mostly free of bars but provides a family-friendly restaurant and retail environment along its commercial corridor. Even the homes in Anacostia and Alexandria provide a more suburban environment than living in the city.

People who have lived here for some time and those who have recently moved here tell me that the main reason they are here and choose to stay is because of the feel of the neighborhood. That is why it so important for residents help lead the discussion on where we go. If the feel of the neighborhood changes, the people who make this neighborhood so special may choose to move.

Let us have this important conversation. We may find that we all want the same things, although differing on how to get there, but we will realize it is in our best interest.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Wow, St. E's East Campus is going to be Awesome!

Art of War Concept: As water has no constant form, there are in war no constant conditions.

Last Saturday, I took a drive over to the St. Elizabeth’s East Campus in Congress Heights for the unveiling of the Gateway Pavilion development plan. When I first heard about this project, I thought it was going to be something like the temporary tent structure used by the City to house vendors during the Eastern Market renovation. Boy, I was wrong! What I learned was this will be an awesome $5 million structure that will serve as a cultural and market center. It will have cafeteria spaces to allow for more eating options for residents and government workers along with an open-air theater/pavillion on top.

Normally, when I hear about these types of projects they are always light-years away, but I was excited to learn that the City will break ground in January and plan to be complete by late summer. Additionally, "if this goes according to plan,"  Microsoft and other technology company anchors will begin to move in within 3-5 years. The City is serious folks! 

As I understand more about the St. Elizabeth’s project, I get excited! As Mayor Gray said, this development will be the center of City activity and that soon the District will be considered a City of 8 Wards and not  6 Wards and the other 2.

And here is a not so bold prediction. Though Ward 8 has been known as a place to avoid, it will soon be considered a place where people will be tripping over themselves to get in. With the development of St E's, soon to be Poplar Point and possibly the 11th Street Recreational Bridge, East of the River will be pride of the City! Mayor Gray promises that Ward 8 Residents and Businesses will have a seat at the table, but it is going to be up to us to position ourselves and take advantage of the changes to come! There is going to be tremendous amount of business opportunity...stay tuned, I'm sure the River East Emerging Leaders and other community organizations will keep you posted on how you can get involved.

A food court on the bottom, and open-air theatre on top!

Can't forget about the food trucks...

Can you imagine seeing this structure on MLK Ave!?

Another view from MLK Ave

I think that is an iPhone 5?

Imagine the possibilities of the theatre venue!

After the event, I took my own tour of the campus. It has so much potential!
This is a one shot deal, so I hope the City puts a great plan together.

I am sure there will be some serious community convo regarding this chapel.
It was built in 1955 so it is not considered historic. It would be
great if some architects could incorporate the building into the design of
the grocery store...hint, hint...Wegmans!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Orr Elementary Hip Hop Video - "School is Awesome"

I just when I lost faith in today's Hip Hop music, I recently came across Ward 8's own Orr Elementary music video called "School is Awesome." I think these kids can teach these millionaire artist about producing music that is positive for the community. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Big Changes Coming to the Neighborhood!

Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s economic-development team has selected Microsoft and two other technology companies as preferred candidates to open facilities on the east campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital as part of a plan to develop the 170-acre campus into a center of innovation.

D.C. officials chose the companies from among 10 proposals the city received after issuing a search for concepts in July. French lighting firm Citelum and Atlanta-based SmartBIM, an architectural modeling company, round out the trio that Gray hopes will jump-start the transformation of the area, according to Ethan Warsh, who manages the city’s project for Victor L. Hoskins, deputy mayor for planning and economic development.
The mayor aims to turn the east campus into a job generator for one of the poorest parts of the city as well as into a center for the development and commercialization of new technology. The grassy, tree-lined campus, in Southeast between Anacostia and Congress Heights, is across the street from the 176-acre west campus that is slated to become the consolidated headquarters for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Voting on Budget Autonomy

District residents could soon vote to free the city from some congressional spending restrictions if the D.C. Council passes legislation to be introduced Tuesday by Chairman Phil Mendelson.
The proposal represents a sharp turn in the District’s march toward budget autonomy, a key goal of voting rights activists and city officials that has been embraced by some congressional Republicans but complicated by threats of amendments targeting District affairs. CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING