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Category Archives: NoMa

Todd Gray’s Watershed opens – and gives a nod to Eckington

Beating Engine Company 12 (a.k.a. “EC-12″; “Firehouse”) out of the gate, Todd Gray (of the wonderful Equinox restaurant) has opened the neighborhood’s first upscale restaurant.  Watershed bills itself as “a neighborhood gathering place featuring nationally acclaimed Chef Todd Gray’s homage to the regions of the Eastern Seaboard with his signature modern and approachable culinary interpretations of coastal dining.”

Eckington Punch

Eckington Punch

My wife ate lunch outside on their patio yesterday and could not resist getting the “Eckington Punch”–a cocktail that will have daily alterations.

See the “Restaurants” page for more info, such as food offerings, hours and a note about bringing your dog…

Capital Bikeshare comes to Eckington

Tomorrow, D.C. and Arlington will launch the largest “bikeshare” program in the U.S. with over 1,100 bikes and 114 stations.

As I tweeted Friday, one close location (with 15 docks) is at Constitution Square in front of the upcoming Harris Teeter–the corner of M and 1st Streets NE.

According to the Capital Bikeshare station map, Eckington will get its own station in front of the XM building on Eckington Place near the intersection of Harry Thomas Way.

UPDATE 9/20 – The website has a map of planned October installations of new stations.  There are indeed 2 in Eckington:  @ the XM building and @ Big Bear Cafe.

Visit the website for pricing information, but essentially, you first become a member and then pay fees based on your usage:

Membership Fee
One Day (24 hrs) $5
30 Day $25
Annual $75
$50 special introductory offer!
Usage Fees
0-30 minutes FREE
31-60 minutes +$1.50
61-90 minutes +$3.00
Each additional 30 minutes +$6.00

This service is meant as a transit–Point A to Point B–option.  You grab a bike, ride to another Bikeshare Station and park it.

For example, let’s say you want to grab Chipotle at Union Station.  If you have a Capital Bikeshare membership, you can grab a bike at the Eckington station, ride 6 minutes to the Union Station Bikeshare Station and park it, get your burrito, grab a bike from the same station and ride back to the Eckington station and park it.  This trip would not incur any usage fees.

30 minutes is a sufficient amount of time to get to almost anywhere in the District from our neighborhood–this is a great add to the city and Eckington.

NoMa Summer Screen Festival – opens tonight

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The third annual NoMa Summer Screen–a free, weekly, outdoor film series–begins tonight and runs through July 28th.  This year’s theme is “The Future is Now.”  Bring your lawn chairs, blankets coolers and/or grab some fare at the scene–local BBQ by Smokin’ Somethin’, popcorn and Italian ice.  There will also be music by Fatback.

Subtitles provided (which is a thoughtful nod to a large segment of our extended neighborhood, Gallaudet University).

Directions from Eckington/Edgewood/Brookland:  Take the Metropolitan Branch Trail south to L Street stairs, turn left and walk 1 block (or south to M Street ramp, turn right and bike to 2nd Street, turn right and bike to L Street).

NoMa Summer Screen
Wednesdays – 7 pm (movies start at 9 pm)

L Street NE, Between 2nd & 3rd
(grass lot east of new apartments)

May 12 Spaceballs In this classic Mel Brooks comedy, Lone Starr must stop Lord Dark Helmet from stealing Planet Druidia’s air supply. NR
May 19 WALL-E FAMILY NIGHT: In this futuristic Pixar film, a friendly waste-collecting robot embarks on a space journey that will decide the fate of mankind. G
May 26 Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure Two dim-witted teens struggle to prepare a historical presentation with the help of a time machine in this 1989 comedy. PG
June 2 Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn Admiral Kirk’s mid-life crisis is interrupted by the return of an old enemy looking for revenge. PG
June 9 Donnie Darko A teenager (Jake Gyllenhaal) lost in time is plagued by visions that manipulate him to commit a series of crimes. R
June 16 Back to the Future 17-year-old Marty McFly got home early last night; 30 years early. PG
June 23 The Fifth Element In the colorful future, cab driver Bruce Willis unwittingly joins the search for a legendary cosmic weapon to keep Evil and Mr. Zorg at bay. PG-13
June 30 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial He is afraid. He is totally alone. He is 3 million light-years from home. PG
July 7 Sleeper* A Woody Allen love story about two people who hate each other…200 years in the future. PG
July 14 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet star in this wildly imaginative love story: a couple erases their memories of each other, only to discover what they had in the beginning. R
July 21 Logan’s Run In this 1976 sci-fi classic, an idyllic future has one major drawback: Life must end at 30. PG
July 28 Groundhog Day A weatherman finds himself living the same day over and over again. PG

Chipotle coming to NoMa and Union Station

As I twittered yesterday, Chipotle is coming to NoMa–specifically Union Station’s West Hall.  Thanks to the Metropolitan Branch Trail, this is a quick bike ride from Eckington–less than 1.5 miles and only 1 traffic light (K Street & 2nd St NE) and 1 stop sign (L Street & 2nd St NE).

6 minutes away from your burrito.

View directions via the Metropolitan Branch Trail

Chipotle in Union Station's West Hall

NoMa news: Harris Teeter in 2010; Potbelly’s

DCMud brings news from the Constitution Square development adjacent to the New York Ave./Florida Ave Metro Station.

Evidently, signed-leases continue to mount, despite the economic malaise among most commercial real estate, and construction of the exterior is almost complete.

Two new restaurants—Potbelly’s and Constitution Café—will join another coffee house, Tynan Coffee & Tea. Also signed is Georgetown Valet dry cleaners and TD Bank.

Perhaps the biggest news to Eckingtonians is the suggestion by Harris Teeter itself that the grocery store may open as early as November 2010.

State of the ‘hood Address

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update: read the lively comments to this post (we’re such passive-aggresionists (sic)–we just need a bar in the ‘hood where we can argue over beers.)

On the heels of Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas, Jr’s “2009 State of the Ward Address,” I bring you a report more specific for our neighborhood, Eckington:

The previous 12 months may not have produced a large number of changes and additions to the neighborhood, but in terms of “Before and After” Eckington looks a lot different.

The KFC at the corner of Florida Ave and North Capitol St closed its doors, its bulletproof glass counter, and its vast parking lot after 28 years due to the rising property values. Although the site remains vacant, and while rumors that an independent pizza restaurant may fill the location shortly give pause to the enthusiasm of the neighborhood’s first sit-down restaurant, the significance of this closing cannot be ignored.

New banners were hung from lightposts along a few defining streets. The confusion of visitors to our area probably reaches its apex at the intersection of Florida Ave and North Capitol St where 3 different banners–Eckington, Truxton, Bloomingdale–hang.  More on this issue later.

The Metropolitan Branch Trail began its slow, interrupted by half a decade, movement as the defining characteristic of the east side of Eckington.  Pepco finally signed over its 2-block stretch of land, allowing the awarding of the contract to design and build the stretch of the Trail from Franklin Ave. to New York Ave bridge.  Work began in May at the northern end and must be completed by July 22.mbt

The MBT has received a lot of attention on this blog, due to its transformative potential that many predict will benefit the neighborhood.  It will provide a common route that will promote interaction between residents–particularly those from the northeast and southeast–where regular encounters had been lacking (due to the multitude of paths home via the grid pattern of our streets).  It provides a uninterrupted path across the entire neighborhood and, via a defined path along sidewalks, connects our neighborhood to Catholic University, Union Station, and the National Mall.

With an actual trail in place, rather than a design proposal, efforts to connect the Trail to the Capital Crescent Trail, providing a complete circular path around the western portion of the city, will be provided with new steam. A developer of two office buildings being constructed on the corner of K St have proposed connecting to the elevated section of the Trail, including paying for new connections into the Union Station Metro.  This would most likely provide the District with the impetus to complete, as in the orignial MBT plans, the 1-block elevation of the Trail from L St to K St along the so-called “Burnham Spine.”

Eckingtonians most likely hope that the Trail will highlight the unmoving eyesore east of Harry Thomas Way.  This vacant lot, part of the tract of land Pepco purchased after the initial 1994 MBT plan, and upon which it build its new substation in the southern section, does not garner much attention currently. A scenic trail on one side and new residentual development on the other side will bring new attention to this plot of land that has no hope of being developed for commercial reasons anytime soon.  Very early plans of the MBT envisioned this tract of land as an urban park, but died when the lot was purchased by Pepco.

The notion that a residential development could be financially viable that borders a power substation and a trainyard, sits almost underneath a major overpass, and  entails over $40 million for the purchase of the land alone, is absurd.  Pepco paid over $67 million for the entire lot, of which a tiny portion sits its substation (which is the reason it bought the land),but, as a large utility compaany, could hold this land for over a hundred years if it gets no offers that satisfy its internal rate of return.

A neighborhood without a park

A neighborhood without a park

Granting the District a right-of-way to this lot, in the same way it did for the MBT, would allow Pepco to retain ownership of the land and permit the city to construct a park on otherwise unused, overgrown land. The limited funds that would be required to construct the park would be more than paid back by the increased property values of the neighborhood–especially the new development across the street.

If one was to construct a circle of greatest diameter in the District without including a park, Eckington would fall directly in its center. This should be a large posterboard, which our councilman brings to every meeting regarding development, improvements funding, parks and recreation (oops!).

Whereas once the residents of the western section of Eckington had no reason to venture across North Capitol Street, much less saw any redeeming value in this area that shared the same name, the arrival of the MBT and the rise of NoMa will change both.  This leads into the discussion of NoMa, the business district that begins in the southern tip of Eckington and proceeds south to Union Station.

NoMa had affected most of us Eckingtonians in the past year with the opening of 4 new restaurants.  Five Guys was first, and while its menu is limited, its hours are generous: 11am – 10pm, 7 days a week.  Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli and Sisters Pizza & Mussels followed with a more diverse set of offerings and Au Bon Pain rounded out the quartet this past spring with outdoor seating. Pound has its devoted clientele and is now open on Saturdays.

If one had not walked down 1st Street NE in a couple of years, the first thing that would be noticed upon the trip today would be the immense amount of shade.  Once a forgotten street of vacant lots and parking lots, the strip has been home to numerous tower cranes as developers have gobbled up these tracts of land. While most projects to-date are office buildings, there are 2 hotels, a residential complex on 2nd, and a Harris Teeter grocery.

The hotels and residential units provide life in the neighborhood in the evening and weekends–a vital component that sometimes gets ignored in rapid developments (such as K Street NW).  The Harris Teeter–slated to open mid-2010–will primarily draw residents from Capitol Hill north to Eckington, many of whom will be pedestrians with their urban collapsible grocery carts.  This also provides another meeting locale for Eckingtonians as we learn each other from such frequent encounters and will offer other residents  a sneak peek into our ‘hood.

NoMa is certainly not done making an impact on our neighborhood.  The development of the new headquarters for NPR just commenced–extending the reach of development up North Capitol Street–and the Florida Ave/New York Ave intersection, infused with grant money to NoMa for its study, should be around the corner.

Yes, there was some unfortune in the past year.  XM was merged with Sirius, and while the now New York-headquartered company states its intention to keep his D.C. facility running, there is no substitution for having the pioneer rooted squarely in our backyard.  The St. Martin’s affordable housing development broke ground dispite years of opposition from neighborhood residents–their efforts to limit the impact, however, will provide some mitigation. I will leave it to commenters to list any other items that were unhelpful to the progression of our neighborhood.

Finally, I will ask that this upcoming year be marked by a renewed enthusiasm in our neighborhood and a reunification of the two sides of North Capitol.

Perhaps there was a time when the west side of Eckington was justified in distancing themselves from the east. But as housing prices of the east have risen–2007 marked the first time a greater number of  $350,00-plus homes were sold in the east than in the west–and as amenities, both in Eckington and NoMa, have begun to crop up in the east, there is reason for the “Bloomingdale” moniker to pass into the distance.  Branding efforts are more effective for a unified Eckington and the whole should be greater than the sum of its parts.  I proposed a tongue-in-cheek campaign to promote branding as well as community pride and hope to followup on the idea.

Map displayed in National Museum of American History

Map displayed in National Museum of American History

We live in an historical area of the nation’s capital–we should be protective of its assets while open to certain changes that may alter the landscape.  Here’s to another productive year in the progression of our neighborhood, Eckington.

Au Bon Pain – outdoor seating and weekend hours

abp_outdoorseating2Just opened Au Bon Pain has added a much needed ammenity to the neighborhood–more outdoor seating.  In addition, the restaurant will have fairly generous weekend hours: 7am – 5pm Saturday and Sunday.

There are currently 12 small square tables and 3 large shade umbrellas, primarily in the space between the hotel and the Metro Station.  This has the potential for a relatively vibrant scene–the most visibile interaction of people in NoMa to-date.  The spiral stairwell (along with an elevator) that leads to the Metropolitan Branch Trail will lead pedestrians using the Trail to reach the Metro Station directly through this courtyard.

Outdoor seating at Au Bon Pain

Outdoor seating at Au Bon Pain

Hotel guests, ATF employees, Eckingtonians, Galludet students, and other NoMa employees–all interacting.  The less homogeneous the crowd, the better for a growing area.

New York-Florida Ave Intersection – 2009?

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According to DDOT’s Fiscal Year 2010 Transportation Improvement Plan, released on April 1, the intersection of New York and Florida Avenues is still slated for $5,450,000 of construction in the current fiscal year (which ends September 30, 2009).

One would assume this is some version of the “near-term” solution for the intersection–as identified by the 2006 report by the National Capital Planning Commission (link updated)–the relatively high cost suggesting some streetscape improvements perhaps.

Virtual Traffic Circle

Virtual Traffic Circle

Note: this really does not do much for us Eckingtonians–save for marginally friendlier pedestrian access (albeit, perhaps at the cost of having to wait for more crossing signals) to the Metro and a way to drive to Eckington Place if coming north on 1st St NE (instead of cutting into the Wendy’s).

Stimulus funds in NoMa – good news, bad news?

The District of Columbia has created a website devoted to the city’s use of  funds from the massive stimulus package.  In turn, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has released its list of projects to be funded with the $123.5 million allocated by the Act for “ready to go” road, bridge, and other transportation projects.

Stimulus tracking websites, such as, compiled lists of anticipated stimulus projects for each state using a report from an earlier meeting of the  U.S. Conference of Mayors that listed the wishlists (no longer accessible online) of governors and D.C.’s mayor.  The District’s list of projects were:

New York Avenue Bridge $40,000,000
14th Street Bridge Rehabilitation $14,100,000
New York Avenue/Florida Avenue Intersection $8,000,000
Columbia Heights Improvements $8,000,000
11th Street Bridge Ramp Demolition $8,000,000
16th Street NW over Military Road Rehabilitation $5,000,000
31st Bridge NW over C&O Canal $5,000,000
South Dakota-Riggs Road Upgrade $3,600,000

Per the list released from DDOT (note: coverage of the District’s stimulus plans is nonexistent by our local newspapers), the New York Avenue Bridge project made the cut, but the New York Avenue/Florida Avenue Intersection project (which was assumed to be the “virtual traffic circle” proposed a few years back and was thought to be headed for implementation this year) is noticeably absent.  Whether this is due to a rethinking of the intersection plan (perhaps validated by the $50,000 technical assistance grant recently awarded to NoMa) is unknown.

As for the bridge project, the description is as follows:

New York Avenue Bridge, NE

Project Type:   Bridge
Project State(s): District of Columbia
Federal Funding Requested: $30-$40M
Readiness:   Construction to begin August 2009

The project includes the demolition and reconstruction of the existing New York Avenue Bridge over the railroad.  The existing bridge is on a fractured critical list.  A new bridge deck with wider sidewalk, lighting and new piers will be installed.

Obviously, improved pedestrian accessibility and bridge aesthetics would benefit our neighborhood (perhaps facilitating  a more agreeable bike commute to the National Arboretum), but the construction does have a potential, albeit temporary, side-effect.

I do not see how (without major expense) it is possible for demolition and reconstruction of a bridge to take place over an open pedestrian trail.  Could the Metropolitan Branch Trail, languishing in a stalemate for 15 years, complete the segment from Franklin Ave. to New York Avenue only to be closed for a year or more? Cruel irony.

The proposed reconstruction of the New York Avenue Bridge is not new project–DDOT submitted the project for bidding for fiscal year 2008.  DDOT’s division for bicycle & pedestrian is either being caught off-guard by this conflict or has purposely withheld communicating the issue to the devoted bicycle associations in the city with which it holds regular meetings.

My earlier communications to DDOT’s Metropolitan Branch Trail representative about the issue were answered with the response: “they will cover the trail in the case of working being done that could harm users underneath.”  Reposing the same concerns to the same representative–this time equipped with the detailed description of the massive overhaul of the bridge (which, it must be noted, has been privy to DDOT for months, if not years)– received a referral to customer service.

UPDATE – Potentially less “destructive” work on NY Ave bridge

Upon further research, I have found the District of Columbia Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), which states the following, less destructive, description of the NY Ave bridge project:

Remove and replace PCC deck; general structural upgrade.

Removing and replacing the concrete deck is much less intensive than “demolition and reconstruction of the existing New York Avenue Bridge” as stated in the D.C. stimulus plans.  Since the TIP audience is bureaucratic and the audience is general public, I will lean more credence to the “remove and replace PCC deck” description (note: this should be able to be performed without closing the Trail underneath).

UPDATE 2 – DDOT sent me this e-mail in regards to my question:

Thank you for contacting the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) regarding the precautions that DDOT plans to take to ensure the safety of users of the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) during its refurbishment of the New York Avenue Bridge.

Please be assured that DDOT will do everything possible to protect bicyclists, pedestrians, and others who frequent the MBT, including-but not limited to-erecting a protective covering over the trail to ensure the safety of MBT users during the refurbishment of the bridge. Please be advised that the safety of every District resident and visitor is a foremost priority during the planning stages of every infrastructure project that DDOT arranges; the safety of the users of the MBT during the refurbishment of the New York Avenue Bridge is no exception.

Metropolitan Branch Trail – Summer ’09?

As we near the Vernal Equinox, physical work on the Metropolitan Branch Trail has yet to commence.  However, DDOT has recently suggested a late-March early-April groundbreaking.mbt

The contractor, Fort Myer, was selected for the design-build contract.  Although some aspects of the trail were stipulated by DDOT, the firm was tasked with developing much of the design plan–which we assume is close to, if not, finalized.

The contract was signed on July 22, 2008 and, as written in the contract, the work must be completed in 12 months. DDOT has confirmed that no extention has been granted.

So, while our earlier hopes of a spring opening have been dashed, those who have watched this Trail face nearly 15 years of delays should feel fairly confident of a summer opening.


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