Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The hotel and ‘unique ethos’ of Adams Morgan

Click on image for large view. See end note on source. 

The columns and long steps leading up the old Church of Christ Scientist in Adams Morgan give it the feeling of a federal building.  The plan to convert it into a hotel, part of a new line of boutique hotels,  Edition, designed by Ian Schrager, will preserve the columns, steps and general outline of the church. The 179 rooms will be in a new 10-story structure.

In the rendering above, the former church space will serve as the hotel’s main lobby. It shows plans for two bars and a restaurant. It’s a large space, and it’s not hard to imagine areas of dramatic light and height.

Schrager’s Edition hotels are being built with a design philosophy that calls for “rare individuality” in each property along with an “unique ethos” that “will reflect the best of the cultural and social milieu of its location and of the time. “

But how will Schrager interpret the “unique ethos” of Adams Morgan? Will the former church space be turned into a free flowing and inviting area that integrates itself with the community, a place for the neighborhood’s laptop toting legions to gather, perhaps a version of Tryst?  Or will the hotel be aloof, along the lines of an expense account-driven hotel on Capitol Hill or a Georgetown boutique, a refuge and island for its guests alone?

To be true to his design philosophy Schrager has a problem to solve.  The hotel has to infuse the character of the Adams Morgan neighborhood to claim that it reflects its ethos.  This goes beyond incorporating architectural elements and art alone. It involves making the neighborhood a part of the hotel and not a collection of design artifacts.

The rendering above shows great design potential. The former church space appears devoted to lobby and public spaces, with immediate access to one bar and restaurant, along with a second bar near the pool. There’s potential for abundant seating. It is easy to imagine this space becoming a welcoming area for neighborhood people to gather for a drink or coffee and to chat and type away on their social networks.

Hotel guests arrive in separate registration lobby with its own entrance. For guests of the hotel, the old church space becomes, perhaps, their first exposure to the creative chaos of Adams Morgan. The steps from the church into the neighborhood may be akin to entering a theater.

The hotel’s developers must be hoping that the vitality, diversity and energy of the neighborhood will help sustain it. That will mean creating a lively social and entertainment place that works for the neighborhood as well as the hotel's guests.

About rendering: That's a screen shot from a PDF by the developer that is posted on the Kalorama Citizens Association web site.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Columbia Heights Photoshop fog

Just discovered that iPad doesn't support blogger, so we are trying this blogpress app. It seems to provide some capability but not the ability to resize photos.

any recommendations for an iPad app that makes custom photo sizing easy?


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Did DC employees decide election?

The reason Vincent Gray won this election was economics of the most basic kind. School reform turned job security on its head.  District employees were wary of another Adrian Fenty term and the risk that it might prompt him to expand his more radical approaches and layoffs.   Employees, in any company, dread upheaval even if it promises new opportunities. 

In the election 126,000 people voted, or 34% of eligible voters. The District employs approximately 32,000 employees.  No doubt a large number of these employees live in the District and since most District jobs are middle income, the highest concentration of these workers likely live in Wards that went heavily to Gray.  District employees, plus friends and family, make up a sizeable voting bloc and enough to swing an election.  

District civil servants have a powerful incentive to vote in any mayoral race. And in this race, they had no incentive to vote for Fenty.  

Gray’s campaign was unimpressive on the issues, but it was masterful, old school politics. He capitalized on the job and benefit insecurities of District employees to win their vote.  The unions turned to Gray. District employees clearly believe Gray, in the end, will keep the balance sheet in their favor. Gray never discouraged this thinking.  

I have lived long enough to know that winning candidates can be better than their campaigns. I have that hope for Gray.   

In 1991, when I worked as a reporter in Connecticut, former U.S. Sen. Lowell Weicker was running for governor. The state didn’t have an income tax but was growing broke from sales tax revenues. During his campaign, Weicker refused to tell whether he would support an income tax.  He won and shortly after taking office sought an income tax, which was approved by the legislature. There was a massive protest rally at the State Capitol, unlike anything the state had seen. Weicker did not seek re-election and probably would have lost but he did what was needed, and so did Fenty with the schools.  That’s what leadership is about and now its Gray’s turn. I wish him the best.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wok n' Roll on 18th

Wok n' Roll, at 604 H Street NW, in Chinatown, is evidently planning to open up a restaurant at 18th and Belmont Street. The space had formerly been the home of the Prince Cafe, a houka bar. The menu.

It's the second restaurant new restaurant to (pending) open in heart of Adams Morgan. Snap, which has a store in Georgetown, recently opened a second location on 18th near Columbia.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Urban agriculture store coming to Adams Morgan

There's a new store opening near Columbia and 18th that will focus on urban gardening supplies. It's called Urban Sustainable, and it plans to stock organic seeds, hydroponic supplies, grow lights, tools, as well as offer vegetative roofing consultation and installation.

It says this about itself: "Based in the heart of Adams Morgan, Urban Sustainable will help you set up your own garden."

It is occupying the old locksmith store at 1787 Columbia Rd.

This sounds like an excellent addition to the neighborhood.

There been some rising angst lately over the number of vacancies in Adams Morgan; most notably the recent closing of Design Within Reach at 1838 Columbia St., and Blockbuster. But new places are opening as well.

Snap, a longtime Georgetown fixture, just opened a restaurant on 18th near Columbia. It serves crepes, bubble tea and smoothies. (I just had a banana smoothie there and it was very good.) Snap also has plenty of seating.  

I don't know when Blockbuster will close for good, but there's still a fair amount of DVDs left, especially if you like poorly reviewed B-movies.

This sign (below) doesn't show Blu Ray discounts, which were the weakest, ranging form 10% to 15%.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Intoxicated Cleaning Services Inc.

The scene: 7 a.m Monday morning, Columbia and 18th.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Blockbuster, a loss for Adams Morgan

Here are a few of things that were wrong with the Blockbuster in Adams Morgan.

-- From time to time, areas in the store had to be roped off because of water leaking from the ceiling.

-- If the line was long, checking out a disk could take, it seemed, forever.

-- A rental cost more than a rental download off iTunes.

-- You needed to clean the DVD before using it if you wanted to watch uninterrupted.

But I will really miss the place.

A sign announcing its closing was put up Sunday.

Everybody knew this coming. Ever since Blockbuster closed its 17th Street store in October last year, it was clear what was going on.

Blockbuster, the company, is a mess. The stock was selling for about 14 cents this morning, down from its dizzying heights of $1.50 last year. It was delisted this year from the New York Stock Exchange.

This rental store was a favorite. I often stopped in there at night when the apartment was feeling claustrophobic. The selection was tiny compared to online, but its physical displays invited serendipity, exploration and escape.

In the winter, you could duck in there to wait for the bus. Nobody seemed to mind.

No one complained if you left without buying a thing.

Over time I learned who on the staff might be willing to share an opinion of a movie.

For Adams Morgan itself, the loss of this prominent retail store adds to its emerging retail identity crisis for this neighborhood.

U Street and 14th are getting a wonderful mix of retail and restaurants. There’s a real balance to what’s going to there. But the weight of Adams Morgan is to nightlife catering to the under 30 crowd.

There are a few wonderful exceptions, Idle Time books, some eclectic record stores and what not. Some interesting home furnishing stores. A new wine shop, and coffee houses.

Adams Morgan has a lively pedestrian vibe to it, especially on the weekends when everyone is out and about running errands. The community feeling is very powerful, eclectic, and at its core, has a tremendous amount of energy to it.

But the neighborhood’s business environment feels as if it is in a rut and moving in a quirky, uncertain direction.

Retail stores aren’t being replaced and my worry is that the Blockbuster will end up like Miss Pixie’s (which move to 14th more a year ago now) vacant.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A mother searches for info about a dog's owner

I was walking by Walter Pierce Park just as this happened, but did not realize what had taken place until some messages about it appeared on the Adams Morgan neighborhood mailing list.

What I saw was a man, perhaps in his 30s, who held his fairly large golden hair dog tightly against his body while apologizing to a woman with a baby. The baby was crying. The dog owner seemed stressed and upset, but my initial impression was that the dog probably startled and scared the child.  To stop and linger would have been rude and this is all I can recall of it.

But since this incident, the mother has posted messages on the neighborhood mailing list in an attempt to locate dog's owner.

She needs to confirm that the dog was up-to-date on its shots; without that confirmation, the baby will go through some rounds of preventive shots.

The photo above is of a sign outside of the dog park entrance at Walter Pierce Park.

As of tonight, there's been no word. I would recognize the man if he was with his dog. It was a larger Lab or Lab-mix. Her message above offers additional details.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

WaPo breaking: The End is Near

They had to be laughing it up in the Post newsroom when they put this headline on the BP oil spill story on the Express last week.

Check out this collection: The Funniest Headline Fails Of All Time (PICTURES)

(Just scroll over the images and the larger size will appear).

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What's wrong with this photo? Three possibilities

Here are three possibilities for explaining what's captured in this photo.

(1) This is an attempt at a new art form called tree stump aesthetics, in which the stump is kept at roughly the same height of structures that are in close proximity. This gives the tree stump balance and the continuing appearance of useful purpose.

(2) It is a product of BP's landscaping division. All the useful functionality of this tree, it's energy producing potential realized through photosynthesis, was obliterated and what remained is a stump that only delivers blight.

(3) This is an Adams Morgan community art project to call attention to the perils of attention deficit disorder. The landscaping goal was to remove to stump, but someone got distracted.

(4) It will grow back.*

*Afterthought possibility.

A storm a couple of weeks ago toppled the tree just past the Adams Mill bar.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dupont Circle, the place to be

Large crowd in Dupont Circle to watch the World Cup games; some large television screens were set up and people camped out on every inch of lawn.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Why Safeway's blueberry pricing is a problem

It may seem mad to write a second post about the price of blueberries in Adams Morgan. Nonetheless, there's a point to be made.

To recap:

At Harris Teeter on Kalorama Road and Giant in Columbia Heights you can buy two pints of blueberries for $5.00 and $4.99 respectively, or about 15.5 cents per ounce.

The Safeway on Columbia Road was selling blueberries this weekend at two six ounce packages for $3.99 per package or 66.5 cents per ounce.

The latest:

Tuesday night the price of blueberries at Safeway was $6.99 per pint or 43.6 cents per ounce.

In sum, it will cost you $14 to buy two pints of blueberries at Safeway but if you shop at Harris Teeter or Giant you will pay $5 for two pints, a $9 difference.

One of the reasons why the eating habits of people is an issue in urban areas is because stores such as Safeway overprice the food products that people should be buying.

It's also why the idea of a 1 cent tax per ounce on soda was a bad idea.

The soda tax doesn't fix anything if the stores are discounting junk food (which I suspect) at the expense of healthy food. The margins are probably higher on junk food, and the stores know that people interested in buying blueberries, especially for health reasons, will bear the price.

Government can't really regulate pricing for food products. It can tax soda that has sugar in it but that doesn't encourage healthy eating habits, it just steers them away from certain kinds of beverages. Maybe a better approach is to ask more from our stores.

Safeway can do more to promote healthy eating by discounting, or at least pricing fairly, those foods that are essential or at least a contributor to good health, such as blueberries.

This is an issue of corporate responsibility, which is in short supply after the financial industry mortgage disaster and the BP oil leak.

If Safeway wants to do a little good, then it can set a price on blueberries that at least meets the competition.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Safeway blueberry rant

The Safeway on Columbia Road always seems to disappoint. This week I bought some blueberries, two packages for $3.99 each. It wasn't the plan. I was totally misled by the sign's placement above the blueberries.

It's one package for $3.99. Safeway is charging 66.5 cents per ounce of blueberries.

I felt totally ripped off after checking my receipt and even asked the clerk to double check the prices.

Harris Teeter sign
At Harris Teeter on Kalorama Road and Giant in Columbia Heights you can buy two pints of blueberries for 5.00 and 4.99 respectively, or about 15.5 cents per ounce.

I went to Safeway again today to double check the blueberry price. It hadn’t change, but the store had no blueberries.

The local Safeway staff is excellent, and I have many good things to say about them, but the corporate operations is out of touch with its competition and its residents.

At one time, for instance, the local Safeway sold generic store brand diet root beer for $2.50 a 12 pack. I bought it all the time and was happy with it. It was about half the price of AW root beer.

Safeway stopped selling the diet root beer for reasons unknown. It now only sells the sugar generic brand.

When Safeway does offer deals on AW root beer, the big discounts are applied if you buy three or four 12 packs. (Memo to Safeway: This is an urban grocery store. Many shoppers walk to it and selling food by the ton doesn’t work.)

Meanwhile, I tried out fro.zen.yo today in Columbia Heights, in the plaza across the Staples, Best Buy, Target.

It is self-serve with the large collection of frozen yogurt.

It charges .39 cents per ounce. I made myself an excellent sundae that included vanilla yogurt, cherries, sprinkles, whip cream, walnuts and chocolate syrup (I could have added a dozen different kinds of fruit and many other sweet things) for a total price of $3.50 for nine ounces.

Fro.zen.yo is an instant new favorite.

And, fro.zen.yo has blueberries as a topping at far less the cost than Safeway.

Monday, May 31 Breaking news update: I was just in Safeway and they had some blueberry pints in the case. There was no pricing anywhere.

Purse stolen? Found

I was walking home last night around 11 p.m. (after being forced to see Sex in the City where I was and-I-kid-you-not one of 10 men in a packed theater), and saw a black purse in front of 2630 Adams Mill Rd. It was on the ledge, in the grass, open and some of its contents spilled out.

I didn't touch it but flagged down a DC cop driving by and told him about it. He checked it out and called it in.

It had all the earmarks of a stolen purse that the thief discarded after removing any valuables before, in all probability, then fleeing in the nearby park.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Losing art at 14th and U Street

I don’t know anything about this art but I love it. It’s urban, mysteriously revolutionary and evocative of DC. It’s also disappearing.

This photo was taken at 14th and U near the bus stop closest to Columbia Heights. It was on the side of a building that now looks as if it is part of a construction site and behind a wire fence. Judging from the damage on this installation, it will probably disappear soon enough.

There’s a similar installation on P Street near 14th, on the exterior wall of the hardware store.

One of the things I especially like about this U Street work is how refreshingly different it from the colorfully vibrant, cartoonish and sometimes tiring installations that appear on buildings, particularly in Adams Morgan.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Read It, Enjoy It. Pass on It

The temporary Mount Pleasant Library is very attractive. Excellent color scheme, comfortable and adds some new vibrancy to the area. The book selection is small; just a fraction of the original collection. But I've used the DC public library’s online reserve system to great success.

You can find many stories on the library's shelves.

Tonight, I was checking out the library's new book section and to my right on a library shelf was the smiling face of Jim Graham, councilman for Ward One. Imagine. The picture is on some library promotion material. Graham, in case you have missed the red signs he had installed throughout Ward One, is running for re-election.

Reading informs which is exactly what Graham didn’t do at the debate in Adams Morgan last week for the Ward One candidates.

Graham is running against Jeff Smith, an ex-school board member and Bryan Weaver, who is a four term ANC commissioner. Weaver headed the local commission until he was replaced by a Graham staff member who is also a commissioner.

The debate eventually turned to the question of Ted Loza, Graham’s chief of staff who was indicted for bribery.

The case involves the taxi cab industry, which Graham was overseeing at the time as chair of an oversight committee. Graham has not been implicated in the bribery case.

But on the question of Loza and why there was even a plan to consolidate the taxi cab industry, Graham delivered a great non answer:

“I believe in the Bill in Rights. I believe in the Constitution. And like any of us, I think someone who is charged with a crime is entitled to his or her day in court and Mr. Loza has pled not guilty. He is going have his day in court. Until he is found guilty, he must be under our laws, presumed innocent, that’s what the law provides. And it’s one of those critical protections that we have in this nation which separates us from many, many countries across the world. So I want to be very sensitive to this. Let Ted Loza have his day in court. Let’s see what’ happens to Ted Loza once he presents his case for his innocence.”
I’m certain Graham would have mentioned the Magna Carta and the Star Trek Prime Directive if he had more time.

Graham went on about Loza and his shock, etc., but added nothing of consequence; meanwhile, I couldn't help wonder whether this constitutionally guaranteed day-in-court will arrive before or after the election.

Smith is an ex-school board member. He is showing potential for running an in-your-face campaign against Graham. He had pictures and charts at the debate and leveled charges against Graham about his attendance record. I would like to see Smith post what he has on his Web site because otherwise his story is going to end up in the fiction section.

The question for Weaver is straight from Simon Cowell of American Idol: Do you really want to win?

Weaver is thoughtful, deliberative and strikes me as being very deep on some issues. But to fight Graham is to go against a practiced machine and he needs to hit harder.

Weaver, for instance, can talk about how the ANC worked “to the smallest detail” with businesses on the 18th Street reconstruction planning, but Graham spoke about a $5 million “small business survival relief fund.” Weaver is indie press; Graham has Random House. But indie presses can still produce best sellers.

It promises to be a good election if Weaver and Smith can get equal time in the public library.

Thursday, February 11, 2010