March 31, 2006

Parched in Shaw


As development continues to push eastward in DC, friction between older established residents (mostly African American) in Shaw and newer affluent residents (many white, some gay) continue to erupt. Parking is one source of disagreement in Shaw and nearby Logan Circle, but so are liquor license requests.

For starters, Vegetate at 1414 9th Street NW in Shaw has been trying to get a liquor license for some time. Shiloh Baptist Church at 1500 9th protested the request, noting the vegetarian restaurant is within 400 feet of Seaton elementary. Under DC law an establishment serving alcohol cannot be within 400 feet of a school. Case closed? Not really.

As Vegetate tells it, "the city investigator did a measurement that -- we assert is ridiculous -- from the corner of the garage behind our building, which we don't use, to the corner of the school's baseball field and it was 334 feet." A door-to-door measurement is more like 900 feet says Vegetate. Here's what the WaPo has to say.

Similarly, the Queen of Sheba, Ethiopian restaurant (above), is in a similar tussle with Shiloh Baptist over its request to sell booze at its location at 1509 9th St. NW. Thirdyly, Be Bar at 1318 9th St. also has run into difficulties. ANC 2c voted against granting it a liquor license after the pastor from the Scripture Cathedral, a nearby church, provided the commission with allegedly false information about the bar's planned operations, according to the Northwest Current and the Blade. (Thanks for the tip from the alert reader.)

Shesh. Can't a guy get a drink around here?

pix by DC Rob

Cherry Blossoms in DC.

pix by luke_leung1


This much is certain, DC's Walter Reed on Georgia Ave. will close in 2011. The mayor would like to see a few restaurants, condos, shopping etc. But what ultimately happens depends on how much office space the General Serives Administration needs and how badly the State Department needs room for embassies at 6900 Georgia Ave.

Prepared to fight for development that would generate some always needed tax revenue, Mayor Williams said the site:

"provides an extraordinary opportunity for the federal government to reduce the well-documented structural imbalance that unfairly afflicts District taxpayers. I hope that federal officials will work with us to build a mixed-use destination at the Walter Reed site that keeps federal jobs in the District."
If past is prologue, the feds will draw a few lines on the map and then tell DC what it can do with the unclaimed regions.

To come up with ideas about how the 110-acre site should be developed, or wrestled away from the feds, Williams appointed a 17 member panel made up of DC officials and representatives from the Brightwood and Shepard Park communities.

Time to start lobbying Congress starts ... Now.

March 30, 2006


The old Carnegie Library in downtown DC is about to become the home of a new music oriented cultural institution, called "the Gig." According to a press release, the Gig "will feature performances, classes and exhibits."

In addition to the Smithsonian, partners include the Yamaha Corporation, which will outfit the entire building with instruments and recording equipment, and the Los Angeles-based InTune Foundation, which will broadcast educational music programs from the facility. The Washington Historical Society will share the space with "the Gig," now that its city museum failed.

It's hard not to be skeptical of this whole enterprise. Will anyone be able to say: "meet me at the Gig," with a straight face? That aside, the center will be a museum, performance space, teaching facility, music studio and tv studio. This is the throw-it-at-wall brand of corporate philanthropy: get a bag full on money, throw it at the wall and whatever sticks, you point to and say see "we succeeded." Or not. Plus it sounds like there are too many chiefs at this pow-wow.

Announcing the deal, Mayor Williams said "the city receives a lively venue in the heart of downtown and a new lease on life for a magnificent historic building." Fair enough. But the Gig can only be a driver if it succeeds by fulfilling its mission and everything, including the kitchen sink, missions usually fail.

A healthy downtown depends on healthy institutions, not on corporate dreams gone astray. Does Yamaha or an LA foundation have anything to lose if this scheme fails? We are the ones that would have to endure a lonely, dirty plaza if the Gig gags. Anyone wanna bet we will be back to square one in three years?

MORTGAGE RATES EDGED upward again after the Fed raises rate. Freddie Mac economist Frank Nothaft said "the Fed raised rates this week, as was expected, but the market was a little surprised at the CommitteeƂ’s comments, which implied more tightening in the future ... and that kind of thinking promotes upward pressure on mortgage rates like we saw across the board this week."

pix by otavio_dc


You may have passed the old McMillan Reservoir site while driving on North Capitol street in DC. Neither a defunct Atlas missile site, nor a granary, the towers at the 25-acre site were once were the source of clean drinking water, i.e. H2O free of typhoid and other disease.

DC agreed to swap the reservoir site with the National Capital Revitalization Corp. in 2004 in exchange for land along the Anacostia waterfront, reported the WaBizJo. Only now has the reservoir portion of the deal been consumated. A tremendous mixed-use development is planned at the reservoir site and details should become available later this month. An unsolicited proposal to develop the land was submiitted to DC over the summer.

In addition to the concerns of the neighborhood about the scope of the project, NCRC likely will have to cope with historic preservation issues as it finally moves forward. The DC Preservation League has included the reservoir on its list of the most endangered places. The preservationists noted the site is "a legacy of the City Beautiful Movement" and "is an engineering wonder." Whatever. All DC Bubble knows is that the silos, and probably the network of catacombs underneath, are very cool.

A final word of caution to NCRC chief Tony Freeman, who certainly has a full plate these days. With the Grid USA project moving along in Columbia Heights and a court green lighting the Skyland Shopping Center in Anacostia, you have a lot to juggle. Certainly Tony and his crew are a sophisticated bunch, but more than just savvy, succeeding with these and other tasks will be a challenge. Go Tony go.

NEVER SAY DIE PARKING ISSUE. InShaw reports on the latest parking email/salvo. Logan Circle residents continue to fight/be inconvenienced by double parkers even with a new parking policy.

pix by jvonr

March 29, 2006

Readin' Ritin', Rithmatic

Over at the DC Education Blog, an assessment of DC Public Schools has been helpfully posted. Compiled by DC Board of Education member Victor Reinoso, the data includes the Student Performance Index for all DC elementary, middle and high schools. The data confirms DC Bubble's assertion that the DC elementary schools are very good, and that the performance at some middle and high schools weaken the reputation of the entire system. In this case, the weakest links in the chain really do harm the entire chain.

Here's the breakdown (Math & Reading combined) for DC's public schools by school type:

  • Elementary School Mean = 144
  • Middle School/Junior High School Mean = 97
  • Senior High School Mean = 43
The relative strength of many DC public schools should cause urban-oriented parents to think twice before moving to the suburbs when their young ones start schools. While many elementary schools in good neighborhoods do have relatively mediocre ratings, the high ratings for some (Mann, Oyster, Hearst et al. ) show that ratings that are comparable to suburban schools are possible in DC, particularly with active parents in the neighborhood. This means you. The idea of parity is illustrated here too.

BANNEKER 46TH BEST HIGH SCHOOL IN THE NATION. Newsweek magazine's list of the best public schools puts Banneker ahead of high schools in Chantilly, Bethesda and Fairfax.


Work on the Dupont Renaisance was completed last year. The building in DC has 16 condos. As seen in the photo bellow, there are at least 8 lockboxes along the fence at 1704 T St. NW in Dupont Circle, plus one rental unit. Half of the building still is on the market.

Unit 103, for instance has been on the market for more than 100 days and the price has dropped from $450K to $430K. A year ago everyone would have been saying: "I should, I could have, but I missed out." Now you get a fourth or fifth bite out of the apple.

On a percentage basis, this has to be the greatest illustration of the housing bubble in DC.

Thanks to the reader for this tip.

March 28, 2006


Trouble is brewing for the Orange line, particularly the portion that runs under the Potomac River.

For starters, the extension to Tysons Corner does not make sense. In the words of the WaExam:

"This ill-conceived project will not only carry far fewer passengers than promised, it will make an aesthetically challenged Tysons Corner even uglier and more pedestrian- unfriendly than it already is now."
Even with the limited number of passengers that the extension will attract, the currently overburdened line will be pushed well passed the breaking point with the few extra riders.

What's more, the planning-challenged Fairfax County board just gave a nod of approval to Pulte Home's Metrowest project that will bring scores of townhomes, condos and offices to the Orange line at the Vienna station.

When all this is said and done, the Potomac River tunnel will go from crowded, to the very crowded to very, very crowded to ... well you get the concept.

Bright Idea: build a second tunnel under the river, nix the train line extension for now and build bus transit instead, and extend Metro later on if the bus takes root (we bet it won't.)

pix by justindc


A solicitation of offers was issued by the DC Office of Property Management for up to 15 acres of land in NE near RFK. In accordance with the wishes of the Bush administration, the site will be set aside for the School for Educational Evolution and Development (SEED), which has educated many poor DC residents who have gone on to college.

According to the solicitation, "the use of the 15-acre site near RFK Stadium is restricted to the siting, development, and operation of an educational institution for the public welfare. In accordance with Federal law, first preference will be given to a pre-collegiate boarding school," i.e. SEED. Two other properties (the Old Congress Heights School, located at 600 Alabama Avenue, SE, and the Bruce School, 770 Kenyon Street, NW) are covered by the solicitation too.

Maybe we could get a school, plus townhouses, condos or retail. Maybe without a joint effort, the school facility will be second-rate, but the extra funds will be make top-notch. Would the Oyster School in Woodley Park be as nice as it is if it were not coupled with a condo development? Not to mention that a little free-enterprise adds to the tax rolls.

Ahhhh...but we forgot developer-school renovation projects give some the willies. Plus it would be so hard to find a GOP congressman to tweak the law and pave the way for free enterprise given the current political clime in DC.

March 27, 2006


a drug supermarket on 14th St. in Columbia Heights DC. Being an urban pioneer used to mean buying a fixer-upper in an up and coming neighborhood. So what there were hoes, crackwhores and ganstas (love that talk!!) on the corner; you paid nothing for the property, and everyone knew you would be loaded if you could wait long enough.

Even after "the crash," the buy-low in a dodgy 'hood strategy is not all the prevalent. This is because "those people" (surbanites? out-of-towners?) still plop down 500 bucks-plus a square foot on condos in very risky neighborhoods.

Apparently some don't notice the crime because of the gleam from the granite counters and stainless steel applicances. Live near crime, if you can stand it, buy why pay top dollar? That's what does not make sense.

What's prompted our tirade? The owner of an 18,000-SF Nehemiah Shopping Center has agreed to sell the property, paving the way for a $100-million condominium project. Level 2 Development, which is developing View 14 and other projects, bought from the plaza from Horning Bros. At this very early stage, the plan is to build 225 market-rate residences and ground-level retail space at the 2400 14th St. NW. This is still a very scary stretch.

If we were looking to buy a condo, we would think thrice. If you can get it on the cheap and dont mind a little gunplay, go for it. But don't pay the big bucks, it does not make sense.


During 2005 the price of single family homes in DC rose 29 percent to $412,000, according to a WaPo analysis.

As for DC condos, prices rose a more modest 12 percent in 2005.

Chart for single family homes. More recent data here, including condos that one guy wants to buy but can't afford.

ANOTHER GREAT HOUSING BLOG. Its so hard to choose, but we like bubblemeter.

March 26, 2006


Myth about why there is no Georgetown metrorail station. ... Proposal to move the aquarium (which aquarium?) to the mall, more here. ... Report on DC condo, single family home prices in DC, as national sales slow. ... School closing plan. ... Joe Englert looks to emerging neighborhoods again. ... Foggy Bottom resident and GWU battle over development. ... Organic Chinese. ... Condo auction. ... What's the economic impact of the stadium. ... One murder says soooo..... much. ... Art Deco warehouse for sale. ... Lots to choose from at Radius condo. ... Older Threads

March 25, 2006


Exactly how many units at the Radius Condo, which just opened last year, are actually on the market in DC?

Of the 170 in the building at 1300 N St. NW in Logan Circle, ZipRealty shows 11 listed on the MLS. Craigslist has 12 listed for sale (many with open houses), plus one rental. This one has been on the market for 79 days. In total, one in six units in the building are for sale.

With so many other condos on the block that have just finished construction, i.e. the Rutherford with 59 units at 13 & M Sts., and beginning the marketing process, i.e. Fennessy Lofts, one has to wonder what's going to happen to those flippers at the Radius.

Anybody feel sorry them?

PROPERTY INVENTORY: ZipRealty lists 2546 properites for sale in DC, as of March 25.

pix from ziprealty


The pace of new home sales fell 10.5 percent last month to an annualized rate of 1.08 million, said the Commerce Department. Current inventory represents a 6.3 month supply of houses. In comparison, the supply in January was 5.3 months; in February of last year, it was 4.4 months.

"All of the numbers are basically telling you the same thing," said Patrick Newport, economist at Global Insight. "We're just going to see a continued slowdown over the next few months and it's probably going to extend into the next few years," he told the WaPo. The latest numbers on the DC market are here.

March 24, 2006


The idea of remaking Tysons Corner into a vibrant, dynamic "downtown" by extending Metrorail just became even less achievable. The scheme is predicated on making Tysons more appealing -- fewer cars and parking lots, more pedestrians, better aethetics -- but now the project managers say in the WaPo that the budget requires the track to be elevated and planned pedestrian bridges be eliminated.

This project is a colossal waste of money and energy. Wanna reduce traffic in NOVA? Do the following:
1. Provide attractive and frequent bus service to Tysons (and only when the buses become overcrowded build Metrorail),
2. Build a second tunnel under the Potomac for the Orange line to increase its capacity.

Car-centric Tyson won't become Metro-centric Tyson by building a half-baked Metro-rail line. What do you think?

ART-DECO GEM ON NEW YORK AVE. This art-deco gem would be great for offices or condos. Why waste it on a warehouse?

Macy's wants to sell it and move its storage facility out of the city, says the WaPo. That's good news though converting the structure to a new use could be expensive.

NEW BLOOMINGDALE/ECKINGTON BLOG. Go here to read about the neighborhood happenings.


Imagine if all the shops, restaurants, bars and taverns in Georgetown DC were surrounded by a Metrorail station. Alas, it was never to be. But the station was not killed by powerful, well-connected and well-heeled Georgetown residents who did not want to be overrun by riff-raff.

The station was never built because it cost too much relative to its benefit it would have provided, says Zachary Schrag, Assistant Professor at George Mason University who recently appeared on WAMU.

As articulated in his book, A Great Society Subway, Schrag said Metro designers concluded a Georgetown stop would have:
-- cost too much:
1. Proximity to the Potomac River gave the engineers nightmares, and
2. Building such a massive project in historic Georgetown would have been worse;
-- and provided only limited benefit:
1. Georgetown is not a big employment center, and
2. The extra stop would slowed the commute from Virginia.

In fact, the only station killed by local opposition was the Oklahoma Ave. station in Northeast. The largely African-American neighborhood wanted to remain quiet. The residents convinced the powers that be that the station was a bad idea.

So much for the masterplan. I guess there is no conspiracy afterall. Or is there?

March 23, 2006


The answer to the following question reveals when a person moved to DC. Name the neighborhood to visit if you want to go to a Salvadorian restaurant? If the person says Adams Morgan, they arrived in the 1980's. If they say Mount Pleasnt, the 1990's. Columbia Heights, 2000's. And if they say Petworth, they are forward thinkers.

Speaking in the WaTimes a long-time resident said "It's getting to be like Spanish Harlem. It used to be Chocolate City up in here."

The discussion was sparked by a murder in Petworth. Apparently, Hispanic men, who often carry lots of cash, are targets of crime because they tend not to report things to the police.

DC shifting population only points to the hot real estate market of the next decade. Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights all are hot markets that were gentrified, partially, by Hispanics who tend not to be as violent as African Americans. Don't flame me for saying this, please.


Washington Nationals could generate $203 million in revenue during their first season in a new stadium, excluding TV money, says the WaPo. This would put the Nats on par with storied franchises such as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox in revenue terms. These and other rich teams over the years have been winners. And to my mind this would be a good thing. That said, many doubt the Nats could generate that much money, saying the study over estimates the team's value. Too bad.

ANOTHER U STREET THEATER. WaPo on the Howard Theater renovation on U Street. More here too.

SCHOOL CLOSING AN ART, NOT SCIENCE. Rather than simply closing elementary schools with enrollment of less than 300 students, as reported earlier, the DC BOE will protect "quality schools and programs in every neighborhood," says the WaPo. We take this as positive sign.


To get the best price for a piece of property a seller must be patient. The first or second offer might not be the best. Plus the market has cooled, so a property may take awhile to sell. No longer will the offers pour in after a few days, or even weeks. Sometimes months.

How about 16 months? Since November of 2004, that's nearly 500 days on the market for the remaining units at 1150 K Street NW.

To get things moving, the developer, the Walton Cos., will hold a "sealed bid marketing program," a.k.a. an auction. Of the ten remaining units, there is a studio, a one bedroom or so and a few two bedrooms.

Not much of a neighborhood, but its close to Farragut Square, downtown and Logan Circle. It has a fitness center, rooftop terrace, the usual granite counters, plus other bells and whistles. The remaining units are in the $450K to $550K range, they say over here.

Sealed bids are due by Wednesday, March 29. The developer does reserve the right to reject all bids, but with more than a few serious ones they will become tough to turn down.

This is a new one for the DC market.

March 22, 2006


Compare a Stouffers brand french-bread pizza to a pizza you get in Italy. Which is better? Well what you buy in the street in Roma is more authentic and tastes wildly fresher than almost any pizza you buy at restaurant here in DC. But I still like the french-bread pizza.

Well, the food at restaurants like Hong-Kong inspired restaurants like Meiwah or even the rustic Full Kee are like that french-bread pizza. But Mr. Chen's Organic Chinese Cuisine in Woodley Park is like what you get on the street not in Beijing, but in some small rural town (minus the sizzling dog hearts and other delicacies.)

First off, the food has not absorbed what feel's like is a gallon of peanut oil from the wok that most Chinese restaurants seem to specialize in. Compared with most chinese food it is light and airy.

The spices are applied much less liberally too. You can really taste the food because it is not overpowered by the hoisin or the kung pao whatever. To some who like it hot, the food may seem wimpy, but its still very flavorful and you might find you don't miss the extra spice.

Many ingredients too are obviously not from a can. The bamboo shoots, for instance, look like they once grew somewhere. Unlike the uniform canned shoots we are used to. Many dishes also have a fragrant sesame flavor that is lost in most food prepared in chinese restaurants. Oddly, the pancakes for the moo shu dishes we tried seemed more like flour tortillas.

Visit. Or call for delivery, Mr. Chen's has great food that you will find yourself unexpectedly craving.

Foggy Bottom Battle Royale

Nearby Metro station. 2.5 acres of empty space. $250 million on the table. Shopping. Housing. Office space. Cha-Ching for tax coffers and GWU swiss bank accounts.

But wait. The Foggy Bottom Assn. says the site fronted by fronted by Pennsylvania Ave. and 23rd St. NW should not be over-developed by George Washington University. Controlling what GW can and cannot build is the zoning of the site and GWU's campus plan, which limits how much and what can be built on the 38-acre campus.

While some members of the Foggy Bottom community don't object to GWU's plan, Ron Cocome of the Foggy Bottom Assn. described the proposal as "mind-boggling" in the WaBizJour.

The Foggy Bottom Assn, who's website is, says GWU already violates its campus plan because the school undercounts the number of students etc. GWU asks: why build small next to the Metro?

GWU only made it to the second round of the NCAA tourney, but this fight will go to the Final Four.

March 21, 2006

TO BUILD A FANCY NEW TANK, the National Aquarium in Washington, DC, hopes to raise as much as $40 million by 2009, says the WaEx. Nearly everyone agrees the current aquarium blows.


Impresario Joe Englert has been in the bar and restaurant business in DC for more than a decade. The Insect Club in Gallery place predated the Verizon Center, Inde Blue and all that is the new downtown. State of the Union and Andalusian Dog predated the U Street revival. His thematic bars arrive just before the neighborhood begins to take off. Not too early, not too late.

So where is Joe focusing his attention now? Frozen Tropics points out two areas where he is working his mojo: Petworth and H Street NE.

In Petworth, Englert opened Temperance Hall with sparkling French crystal chandeliers, a pressed-tin ceiling, gilt-edged mirrors and a collection of rye whiskeys, which by the way is the correct booze for a Manhattan. (By definition, a Manhattan does not include any ingredients from the state of Kentucky or Tennessee.) For the complete details see this WaPo story.

And on H Street NE, Englert will open Showbar (seen on the left), a circus themed establishment that will offer patrons popcorn and cotton candy while they witness sword swallowing and other oddities, says Frozen Tropics. We are hoping that the swallowing is not hyperbole.

Also on the list are: The Rock and Roll Hotel (a bar not a hotel, go figure), The Bee Hive (a Mexican restuarant) and the bars The Olympic and The Red and the Black, all chronicled here.

Don't go West smart investors, go where Joe goes!


With declining enrollment, the DC BOE plans to eliminate one million square feet of space by closing schools by the start of the 2007 school year in September. But which schools to close? Too much compromise might endanger some healthy schools.

Though the specific to be closed schools have not been named yet, the master plan that Clifford Janey is working from declares the minimum number of students for a school to be educationally viable: 320 students for an elementary school, 360 for a middle school and 600 for a high school, says the WaPo. About 70 schools, nearly half the system's inventory of 147 buildings, fall below that standard.

The politics on this are going to be very tricky. In the WaPo school activist Emily Washington says don't confine the closings to poor areas of the city, but that's where the bad schools are and that's where the population is declining fastest.

On the other hand, schools in Dupont Circle, like Ross Elementary, would be worth a small fortune if the city decided to close them. Janey will do what's best for the students but that may mean trying to raise as much cash for the ailing school system as possible. If Roth closes the parents my try to buy the facility and turn it into a charter. How's that for the law of unintended consequences: no revenues and more competition.

Good luck deciding, Mr. Janey.


Click on DC Education Blog to learn more about DC school issues.

March 20, 2006


People used to ask at cocktail parties, how how high is it gonna go? Well the DC real estate market peaked about 6 months ago. The February stats from the Greater Capital Area Assn. of Reator show a stagnating market, a trend that was in evidence last month too.

Median prices are up/down; inventory grows.



Feb. 2005: $363,000,
Jan. 2006: $347,000,
Feb. 2006: $373, 450, a 7.4 percent jump from the prior month, and a 2.8 percent gain from a year-ago level.




Feb 2005: $418,000,
Jan 2006: $460,000,
Feb 2006: $435,050, a 5.4 percent decline from the prior month, but a 4.1 percent increase from a year ago.


source: Greater Capital Area Assn. of Realtors


Not to be confused with its more famous, prominent and better counterpart in Baltimore, the National Aquarium in Washington DC might be on the move. Currently housed on a lonely stretch of 14th St. by the Mall, the plan would be to relocate the aquarium to Constitution Ave., giving the fish a more prominent address to call home.

The National Aquarium in Washington, D.C. is the oldest aquarium in the United States and was founded in 1873 in Woods Hole, Mass. By 1932 it was moved to its current location in the basement of the Department of Commerce building. The aquarium has 1000 specimens from over 200 different species.

Some of the more popular exhibits include many pirahna, several sea turtles, numerous sharks, and three alligators (Gitcha, Getcha, and Gotcha).

Of course it's no baseball stadium, but a new locale for the fish would be great. Does anyone go to this place?

pix by picosonic

March 19, 2006


Lots to choose from at the Ritz. ... Circualtor bus expands. ... Church parking again. ... Vote in cool small apartment contest. ... School closing on the horizon. .... Developers partnering with schools gets cool reception. ... New gyms everywhere. ... Stadium: Hard to hate, but what's to love? Even more here. ... Rally against curbcuts. ... Condo prices. ... Arrival signs outside Metro stations. ... Older Threads


Wanna live in DC in high style and in a great, West End location? Got a couple of million burning a hole in your pocket, head over to the Residence at the Ritz Carlton at 23rd and M Sts. NW where there currently are at least six units on the market ranging in size from 1,400 square feet to 5,600 square feet. Enjoy: hotel amenities such as room or concierge service, patios or balconies, fireplaces, granite counters, hardwood floors, parking, blah, blah, blah.

Here's a sampling:
$4.75 million, 5,644 square feet, 5 bdrm, 6.5 bath, MLS #: DC5522365
$3.25 million, 4,200 square feet, 5 bdrm, 7 bath, MLS #: DC5522361
$1.075 million, 1,422 square feet, 2 bdrm, 2 bath, MLS #: DC5525220
$1.275 million, unavailable square feet, 2 bdrm, 2 bath, MLS #: DC5525175

The number of bathrooms in some of these units is astounding. That oddity aside, one has to wonder how long it will take for prices to start coming down.

One million dollars plus gets you a very nice house in DC, but without all the amenities of the Ritz, so there are alternatives. Of couse the people looking at these condos probably would not consider the comparably sized units in other building (Adams Morgan for instance) because those properties are in less desirable neighborhoods. Even with the Trader Joe's coming, the West End still is not Georgetown and does not have the cache of the Watergate.

How long can a $5 million property sit there before a few hundred thousand dollars is shaved from the price here and there? These properties may not be an illustration of a bubble, but rather an overreach on the part of the developers.

March 18, 2006

Better Living Thru Better Circulation

A new circulator bus route will be added to the Mall beginning this week, the WaPo reports. Like the north-south line on 7th St. NW and the K St. east-west line, the new line will cost a buck to ride and run every ten minutes or so. Buses will travel along the perimeter of the Mall and will shuttle tourist and others from museum to museum. Watch-out Tourmobile.

As for the other lines, the east-west route served 1,345 riders per day in February up from September 2005 when that figure was 985. Rather than terminating at the convention center on L St., the line will go up to O St., near the Giant supermarket. Given how crowded the 70 bus is, why not extend the line up to U Street where the Metro station is? Until the bus brings people to U St., it always will be a bus to nowhere. Some mornings DC Bubble is the only rider on that bus.

The average number of weekday trips for the north-south route last month was 3,892, compared with 2891 in September. This is the best bus in Washington. Why it took all these years to figure out that a connection between Georgetown and Union Station is needed is beyond us.

March 17, 2006

MORE ABOUT CHURCH PARKING in Logan Circle from the WaPo. Even more here.


Apartment Therapy and Design Within Reach selected 42 cool, small apartments across the nation for its "smallest, coolest apartment contest." And believe it or not two, that's dos, DC apartments made the list.

Give it up for Jaime, who has a 650 square foot "row hosue flat" in Columiba Heights:

Cool ceiling.

And last but not least, the ever-lovable "Quinn M." Check out this 620 square foot one bedroom apartment in a "1960s high rise."

Relax but....
don't TOUCH anything!!!!!

C'mon people vote, vote, vote.

pix from Apartment Therapy

March 16, 2006


DC BOE voted last night to accelerate the pace at which is will close public schools, the WaPo said. Instead of eliminating 250,000 square feet of space by September the BOE will eliminate 1 million square feet. The average DC school has about 75,000 square feet. To eliminate 1 million square feet, the system would have to close about 10 to 12 schools this year.

For too long, the DC public school system has been about jobs, not about education. The focus is on infrastructure and not on teaching children how to read, write and play video games. Plus, the DC population is declining and becoming less family oriented. The system lost 10,000 students over the past five years.

We ought to praise the BOE for its courage, but the decision is less about political will and more about economic reality. Teachers are about to get a raise and there is no money to pay so many teachers the higher salaries.


Linda Cropp's proposal to allow schools to partner with developers to renovate their facilities is an idea that has received a "lukewarm response," reported the DC Examiner. The idea is to allow developers to rebuid schools, public libraries etc. in exchange for the right to build condos on leftover land. It's a win-win and seems so simple and rational. Right? Not so fast.

The problem, some critics and council members said, is that the city doesn’t even know what properties it owns. DC Office of Property Management Director Carol Mitten said the first recent inventory of DC-owned properties is expected to be released later this month.

Mitten said DC needs to ensure the partnerships approved are equitable across the city — and "not just in prime spots coveted by developers," said the WE. Does this mean a deal in Tenelytown could be struck down because there is no corresponding deal in Anacostia? Not fair.

Sure let's make sure developers pay their fair share, but not forget the purpose is to improve our inadequate facilities in a low-cost manner. Strike good deals, but don't say no outright because the deals will benefit rich developers. This is not about preventing the rich from getting richer. This should be about improving schools.

A great example of such a partnership is the deal between the School Without Walls and the George Washington University in Foggy Bottom. Under the deal, GWU will build a dorm at 2130 G St. NW on a parking lot and renovate and expand the School Without Walls.

pix by commonroman

March 15, 2006


Not the details, but finishes, says WaPo's Tom Boswell about the new stadium. "From 10 to 20 million dollars could make a world of difference in the architectural impact of that park -- that is, if the dollars were targeted for the exterior," said Marshall E. Purnell of HOK Architects who designed the stadium.

Offering a different perspective, WaPo architecture critic Benjamin Forgey wrote: "For whatever reason, this design has its exhilarating moments, but, in the main, is disappointing. It is not the sort of holistic, surprising, groundbreaking design that many had hoped to see. Not even close. From some points of view, you might even think of it as an office building with a slightly offbeat shape."

Boswell hopes the new owner will pitch in a few bucks to make up any difference between cheap and flashy. Before we start holding hands and praying, though, we hope Bud Selig and the rest of Major League Baseball picks an owner already so we can get the equvalent of granite countertops for the team. Oh by the way, the same hope applies to starting pitchers too.


Forget the supermarket wars, here come the gym wars. First skirmish, Vida vs. Results vs. Mint Fitness. Capital City Brewing chief David von Storch is launching Vida, whose $2.7 million flagship gym is scheduled to open downtown/Gallery Place Aug. 23 at Verizon Center.

But with the second Vida is where it gets interesting. In August 2007, Vida #2 will open in Logan Circle at the Metropole at 15th and P streets NW. According to the WaBizJournal, Von Storch says he's challenging: Results gym at 1620 U St. NW, which is down the street in Adams Morgan from newcomer Mint Fitness.

Von Storch, who owns the building with Results and Bang Salon (which he owns too), will try to force Results out when their lease is up. But Vida will get competition too, when trainer Stuart Smith opens a three-story, 20,000-square-foot fitness center called "Body Smith at Terrell Place" in June around the corner from the planned Vida. Keeping this straight?

Also joining the fray: New York-based fitness chain, Equinox, is working to acquire dc gyms, and Washington Sports is opening a 50,000-square-foot club at DC USA project in Columbia Heights when that project is finished. Whew.

March 14, 2006


The WaPo shows the stadium design. Lots of glass and concrete. Hard to love this functional, "modern" design. Turns out that the word "modern" was a code word for "easy-to-build" and not a daring contemporary design. Looks like our/any Convention Center. JDLand has lots of detail, plus there is this video.

The proposed above ground parking would be a shame. The use of concrete instead of limestone is not necessarily bad. But its uninspired design could lead to a tear-down in 30 years.

Maybe it will grow on us. Alright let's get this thing built. It's great for DC.


curbcuts. Nevermind the war. Nevermind the millions to be spent on the stadium. Residents of Woodley Park are passionate about their curbs.

According to the Washington Examiner:

Citing increased traffic, pedestrian dangers, less on-street parking, and loss of trees and green space, some 70 members of the Woodley Park Community Association voted overwhelmingly Thursday to oppose any new driveways on Woodley Road associated with Chevy Chase-based JBG Cos.’ redevelopment of the Marriott Wardman Park hotel.
Green space? Three feet of dirt, crab grass and CVS plastic bags does not qualify as green acres in my book. Loss of parking? They want the curb cuts to gain access to parking lots. Plus this is across the street from the Woodley Park metro, so how much parking is really needed.

C'mon. Methinks this is a way to stall/fight the development proposal. Let'em convert the hotel into condos. More residents and fewer conventioners/tourists is better for the city.

March 13, 2006


FALLING PRICE IN SOUTHWEST. 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom was was 525K, but now now $499K. Been on the market for 45 days. The listing is here. The location strikes me as an appealing, given all the development coming to the area. Plus all the finishes one expects these days. How much lower will it go?

RADIUS WAITING FOR A BUYER. Logan Circle one-bedroom. The listing is here.
Been on the market for 67 days. Price still at $419.5K. Apparently many units in the building are on the market. As the spring hits, let's see how soon this one is grabbed?


Ever have this thought: 9 minutes until my train arrives, I should have gone to CVS and bought XYZ because I had time afterall. Yet another version of the prisoner's dilemma. Maybe there is a Nobel Prize to be won, studying this problem.

If you want the prize you better act fast. WMATA is looking into installing electronic signs outside stations, says the Washington Post. Signs will be installed outside fare gates at two stations in three to six months to test the idea. It will cost about $200,000 to install flat-panel screens, instead of the bulky signs now in stations.

Metro managers originally dismissed the idea, saying if passengers knew their train was arriving in two minutes, they would hurtle through the station and potentially harm fellow riders. (I used to repeatedly stab myself with a fork, until my mom told me to stop because it was bad for me. Thanks for saving me from me, Metro managers!)

New WAMATA chief Dan Tangherlini see things differently from Metro managers. "I think if you give people information, you reduce the likelihood of them engaging in dangerous and antisocial behavior," he said. Plus, if a train is not coming soon, riders would have options --they can take a bus or a cab.

No word on which stations will be chosen. Wanna bet Dupont Circle?

pix by brownpau

March 12, 2006


Cooler heads prevail in Logan Parking dispute. ... Vigil for murder victim. ... Rising tax assessments, but small tax increases. ... Slew of small residential projects on "Capitol Hill". ... Talk of new basketball arena for GW Colonials. ... Deal on baseball stadium reached. ... New life for music store. ... Abe Pollin plans affordable housing for DC public servants. ... Rising interest rates mean slowing market. ... Options for replacing the Frederick Douglas Bridge over the Anacostia River. ... Federal government looks to St. E's site for Homeland Security home. ... Frozen Tropics poll about H Street NE streetcar. ... Older Threads.

March 11, 2006


In response to Damon Ward's slaying near 12th and U Streets on February 25, friends and supporters will hold a meeting Sunday, March 12, starting at 2 p.m. at Duke City, 1208 U St. NW, notes DCist. Still unsolved is the murder of Greg Shipe.


Since the 1968 riots, rebirth of the city went from West to East. Bars and restaurants opened, townhouses were restored and the Capitol Hill neighborhood extended all the way to the Anacostia River.

But many see the river as a barrier to further development in the eastern part of DC, even though there is some stirring. A major employer or entertainment hub would help jump the waterway.

The federal government is in talks with the DC government about housing the Department of Homeland Security in a new campus at the St. Elizabeth's Hospital site. Already the U.S. Coast Guard is planning to locate there. The plan is to build a 1.3 million-square-foot, $330 million Coast Guard headquarters there by 2010.

"Because we can provide a secure environment [at the St. E's site], they are looking at, over time, relocating components of DHS," a GSA spokesman told the Washington Post. "DHS itself is still in the process of figuring out what components to locate there."

With the presence Coast Guard alone, Anacostia may be on the verge on a major revival. Look how close it is to the baseball stadium.

March 10, 2006


There goes Abe Pollin again trying to make us all look bad again.

This time Pollin is planning to build 120-affordable home community in DC to serve the city's teachers, firefighters and police officers. Pollin hopes to break ground this summer and have construction completed by mid-2007. Pollin says he would operate the community on a nonprofit basis and would sell and rent houses to city employees.

"The bottom line will be to make rates as low as we can make them so these valued employees can afford to live in the city that they serve so well," Pollin told the Washington Business Journal. Can you believe this guy?


After nearly going out of business in 2002, Middle C Music is now thriving and expanding in Tenleytown, says the Washington Times. Previously selling instruments, sheet music etc., the new owners of the store located at 4350 Wisconsin added music lessons to the mix and the whole enterprise took off.

Moving beyond strictly retail, the addition adds 1,250 square feet of mostly teaching studio space. Private lessons, with instructors who work at the store part time, cost $40 per half hour, regardless of the instrument. Choose among: acoustic & electric guitar, piano, cello, violin, saxophone, bass, harmonica, percussion, voice, clarinet, flute, & recorder.

"I just thought, 'You've got to do something to save the store'," owner Myrna Sislen said. "If the place closed, I knew we'd be looking at another mattress store."

She's got a point retail these days seems to gravitate between chains of all sizes and must old stores that no one really wants to partronize. Everyone complains about the malling of their 'hood, but to find thriving local retail is becoming harder and harder. It's a conundrum wrapped inside a riddle. No wait that's Russia. Nevermind.

GIANT IN VAN NESS, at 4303 Connecticut Ave., will reopen March 23. This store was omitted from the supermarket roundup.

March 9, 2006


Not since September 2003 has the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage been as high as it is this week and the new highs are contributing to a market slowdown, but not to a bursting bubble. The 30-year fixed averaged 6.37 percent, with an average 0.6 point. Last week the rate was 6.24 percent. Also for the week ending March 9, the average for the 15-year fixed-rate mortage is 6.00 percent, with an average 0.6 point, up from last week’s average of 5.89 percent.

"Stronger than expected gains in the manufacturing and service industries -- coupled with higher labor costs -- ignited inflation concerns, which led to the rise in mortgage rates this week," said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac chief economist. “Financial markets are beginning to think that the Fed will hike rates three more times this year, instead of two, putting upward pressure on mortgage rates."

"Although the signs are mixed, the housing industry is now beginning to shift into slower gear, and higher mortgage rates will only strengthen that change. However, we see no signs of a bursting bubble, but rather a return to a more normal pace of activity,” Nothaft added.

Time and MarketWatch both recently ran stories challenging the notion of a bursting housing bubble.


60,000 cars, trucks, SUVs etc. per day, many from Maryland, cross the Anacostia River over the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, which is approaching its last legs. Unlike the overpass that it is now, the new bridge would provide "a grand gateway into the nation's capital across a world-class bridge," said the South Capitol Bridge Study produced by a variety of DC government officials.

Final design and approval, let alone construction is a long ways off though. Phase I of the Environmental Impact Study was just completed. Plus the existing bridge must be shored up first because it will be needed until the new bridge is in place. Work is not expected to begin on the new bridge until 2011. We will be lucky if the stadium is in place by then, let along a bridge that is hardly on the fast track.

WTOP reports on the four concepts that have been developed:

Drawbridge #1 -- Innovative, But Not Too Innovative

Drawbridge #2 -- Dull, Dull, Dull

Retractable Bridge -- So 1890's Looks Like the Eiffle Tower on Its Side

Swing Bridge -- Way Too Innovative for DC

March 8, 2006


No fisticuffs. No eggings. No more dirty words. The dispute between parishioners of Logan Circle churches and residents over illegal parking on Sundays appears about over. With the Logan Circle ANC and input from the churches, DC Dept of Transportation have agreed to create more parking spaces and the metropolitan Police Dept. Agreed to vigorously enforce the law. We shall see how this play out.

For the time being, activist Todd D. Lovinger of Logan Residents for Equitable Enforcement of Parking Regulations, described the deal as "a positive thing all around."

Under the scheme: an extra 77 parking regular spaces have been created for the general public and an extra were created for Sunday-only parking from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 pm. (That's church hours for you partygoers.) The Sunday-only spaces will be created by allowing angled parking in certain locations along Vermont Ave. and 11th Streets and designating additional parking on both sides of certain median strips on Sundays to prevent double-parking and the blocking in of legally parked vehicles).

There also is a tentative commitment to begin full-time enforcement of all traffic regulations, including the codified prohibition against double parking at all times beginning in early May after a 3-week warning period goes into effect.


No worries. The assessments are up, but they will be offset for 79 percent of homeowners by the a lower effective tax rate, explains the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. The tax reductions adopted in 2005 were "so substantial" that 2007 tax bills for nearly half of all homeowners will remain lower than their 2005 bills, DCFPI went on to say.

In 2005, the DC Council approved several provisions to provide property tax relief to homeowners facing rising assessments. These include:

An increase in the Homestead Deduction from $38,000 to $60,000;

A reduction in the residential property tax rate from 96 cents per $100 of assessed value to 92 cents; and

A 10 percent cap on annual increases in a property’s taxable assessment.

The net result is that only 21 percent of homeowners will face modest increases in their tax bills. So if are pulling your hair out over the assessment you just got in the mail relax, your tax bill should go unchanged.

graph by DCFPI

March 6, 2006


No longer does Capitol Hill mean easily walkable to the House or Senate offices for LCs or LAs. Developers are percieving demand further and further out for the kind of properities that previously were only seen in Northwest. Its only a matter of time before the jump is made across the Anacostia River.

Look at what Macy Development has in the works. At the corner of 13th and Constitution NE are four units in 800K to 900K range. Huge units (1650 to 2040 SF). High ceilings. Granite. Stainless. Fireplaces. All the bell-and-whistle cliches. One unit already has sold.
No bubble bursting here.

Next up the area is the Gaslight, an eight unit condominium project with parking for five cars. Groundbreaking will occur this spring, and condominiums should be completed by the middle of 2007. "This is a unique project because it is a corner site, so we tried to utilize as much glass as possible yet try to fit into the scale and character of the Victorian style houses surrounding the site, particularly the brick bays and sloped roofs," said Local architect Dennis Conner of Synergy Design

Also on deck is the Venetian, which also will be completed in the middle of 2007. Conner said "to capture the architectural flavor of the block, we broke The Venetian up into horizontal and vertical pieces – vertically to match the adjacent apartment building and horizontally to match the neighboring townhouses."

The third property that is being redeveloped in that area is home to the maligned New Dragon take-out restaurant, which has attracted an unsavory crowd to the neighborhood some residents complain. The site will be redeveloped as a boutique building, including four loft-style condos, each with a private roof terrace and ground floor retail.


The #6 national rating for the GW basketball team has reignited talk at the George Washington University campus about a new home for the GW Colonials, who currently play in the Charles E. Smith Center on G St. NW. The Smith Center has a capacity of about 5,000.

Though the stadium is not sold out every game, the size of a team's area fuels an athletic program. With a larger venue, GW could generate more revenue and excitement for the program, thus attracting quality players and coaches.

One idea would be blow out the back wall of the gym and raise the roof to almost double the capacity of the arena to 7,000 or 8,000 or so. An increase in the size of Smith Center likely would face stiff opposition from the Foggy Bottom ANC and is further complicated by a row of new townhouses on 23rd St. Other improvements that have been discussed include building luxury boxes and a new glass enclosed entrance at 22nd and G Streets.

Academic architects the DLR Group and Clough Harbour & Associates LLP have studied the expansion concept.

pix by DLR Architects


Major League Baseball signed the lease for the Waterfront baseball stadium. To prove to the world that MLB is a bunch of mean bastards, it kicked in $20 million to the $611 million DC committed. Being called a mean bastard is better than being called a mean, cold-hearted bastard which is what MLB would have been if it had thrown in even less than the paltry amount it did.

Great sighs of relief were heard throughout the day from developers who purchased land near the waterfront in anticipation that this deal would go forward. Many say that the area would have developed without the stadium; this may be true. But without the stadium the development would have been slower and less entertainment focused. Think: the Westend on a Sunday night. Lonely. Dreary. Mostly empty.

Wow. DC is becoming a fun place to live at least as fun as Brooklyn. Maybe half as fun as SoHo or a quarter as fun as Times Square. But alas, DC Bubble refrains from making NYC comparisons.

Keep your fingers crossed that this is the final chapter. Given the number of times we've already said its done, we won't believe this one til the shovels hit the ground.

Pix from

March 5, 2006

More on the U Street revitalization redux. ... Foggy Bottom beer on the way out. ... Yellow line extension under discussion. ... Union Station movie theater up for grabs. ... Food market in Eckington could become condos. ... Retail development breaks ground in Anacostia. ... Gourmet cheese -- Cowgirl Creamery -- shop to open downtown. ... Best dressed studio apartment contest. ... Converting Woodley Park Marriott to condos. ... Older Threads.

U STREET REDUX. The Washington Post cliche about U street gentrification once again is repeated in the magazine section. Editors please check your morgue and note that you have been writing this story, probably semi-annually, for the last ten years.

The cliche: from "Black Broadway" to gentrification. Gloss over the riots the left the area a wasteland. Talk about how U street has either become yuppified or is the new Greenwich Village/Adams Morgan. Please give it a rest.

March 4, 2006

Gary Heurich has a beer company. The so-called "The Brewmaster's Castle" is underused. Why not connect the two? Heurich's beer with his grandfather's old home in Dupont Circle.

Alas Heurich wants to "save" the mansion from becoming a brewpub, but in the process his beer company has gone belly up. It's a shame. The beer was tasty. And his effort to revive the brand was exciting. Maybe he could not raise the capital.

As Marc Fisher points out, Heurich is bitter and mad at us. Heurich writes: "The Washington area is unique among major urban centers in its relative lack of a hometown spirit ... and as a native Washingtonian, this is something that is deeply and personally disappointing."

So what's Heurich gonna do? He is moving to upstate New York where he will concentrate on other business interests. Welcome to 21st Century America Mr. Heurich.

MARKETING. MARKETING. MARKETING. The Washington Post reports the condo naming process is all about branding. Thanks for the insight. Wanna sell a one bedroom to a 20-something or 30 something call it the Matrix or Icon. Cool sounding names. Lots of sizzle. Not much steak leads to empty-pocketed developers in a slow market if you ask us.

March 3, 2006

Caution Flag On Yellow Line Extension

The Metro planning committee will continue discussion on extending the Yellow line to the U Street, Columbia Heights and Petworth stations. DC propsoed to pay for the extension and is ready to launch a $2.5 million, six-month pilot program that would begin in January 2007. Councilman Jim Graham says the Washington Post got it wrong when it said the panel held off on a vote because the discussion was only for information purposes.

Suburban jurisdictions want to know if the Yellow line can be extended into Maryland as well. On an average weekday, 53,400 people ride the Green Line from the Shaw/Howard U. Station, the stop after Mount Vernon, to Fort Totten.

Other Metro board members used the Yellow line extension to raise other issues, such as extending all Red line trains to Shady Grove and ways to speed service on the Blue line.

With drama only equal to that of the "Rocky" film series, DC movie theaters are about to undergo yeat another transformation. Just as theaters open downtown, others are now threatened. As part of the deal to merge AMC Entertainment with Lowes Cineplex, AMC agreed to divest its AMC Union Station 9 and 4000 Wisconsin Ave. theaters. The merger is expected to close in April.

One has to wonder what the fate of the Union Station theater will be and what impact the change will have on Union Station itself. We have never really enjoyed the film going experience at Union Station. The trains rumble and the theater has always attracted a talkative crowd. (OK sometimes the comments are amusing.)

How much of an anchor is the movie theater to the Union Station development? If the theater gets a class B operator or it closes will Union Station become just a train station again? Perhaps the movie space would work better as a K Mart, like the one operated out of Penn. Station in NYC. Considering how often the tenant mix changes at Union Station, one has to question how effectively the whole project orginally was conceived back in 1988.

pix by zizzybaloobah

March 2, 2006

Another large underutilized tract of land falls within developers' sites. This time its the restaurant food market, known as the Capital City Market where we all have indirectly bought produce, meats etc. when dining out, could be redeveloped as a city unto itself. But first the restaurant vendors must be accommodated, the area must be rezoned, the feud between the developer and his brother must be resolved blah, blah blah.

The 23-acre property at 6th Sts NE and New York Ave. could accommodate condominiums, townhouses, offices, retail, a YMCA and new quarters for the wholesalers and vendors. Everything but the kitchen sink. It already has a nearby Metro stop on the red line.

This site reminds us of the air rights over the center-leg freeway at 2nd St. and Mass. Ave. NW. It's not going to happen now or next year, but it shows how mature DC development is and how creative developers will have to be in the future to find precious land.

Get in now. While the Columbia Heights retail development has garnered lots and lots of attention, the Camp Simms Giant has recieved less. But this could be the catalyst that gets things moving East of the River. Even the Washington Post has taken notice.

The $51 million Camp Simms development includes 75 single-family homes, 125,000 square feet of retail space and the largest Giant Food in DC. Sounds like Mclean Gardens only a few blocks to the east. Time to go east young man!!

March 1, 2006


Hailing from the San Francisco Bay-area, Cowgirl Creamery is set to open next to Central Liquor Downtown. With Balducci's opening around the block, this corner could turn into a gourmet corner of sorts.

At 919 F St., Cowgirl Creamery began in Point Reyes Station, California, by two chefs. They make thier own award-winning cheeses and offer artisnal cheeses from the bay area.

The store (on the left) is set to open in April.