Dispatches from Ward 5

Photo courtesy of
‘DSC_0940′
courtesy of ‘mediaslave’

The Ward 5 lists were active this week, with several things going on to talk about.

Numerous discussions ensued across both the Eckington and Ward 5 lists after the Truxton Circle murder of Billy Mitchell, who was on his way home from the theater when he was shot at the corner of North Capitol and Florida NW while trying to help a woman involved in a conflict with a man, who in turn was the shooter.

In addition to the typical point-scoring and debates about gun control and concealed-carry, there were numerous calls for additional steps to make that specific area safer, including neighborhood watch groups, coordinated dog-walking groups, a surveillance camera, etc. There will be a vigil held for Mitchell at the site of the shooting at 6PM tonight, followed by an emergency public safety meeting with the Fifth District police and Ward 5 Council Member Harry Thomas at Wesley AME Zion Church at 1712 North Capitol Street.

Discussion also centered around the ongoing problems on this very block- So Others Might Eat (SOME) is located a few blocks away, and has a large, twice-daily meal program that serves the homeless from around the city. Meanwhile, there’s a bus stop right in front of the liquor store at Florida & North Capitol. Residents around Truxton Circle say that some of the homeless clients of SOME spend the hours between breakfast and lunch, and between lunch and evening shelter openings, loitering in front of this liquor store, and protesting that they’re waiting for the bus if the police come through to ask them to move on. In turn, this can make the vacant properties along the street less attractive to the business owners who might otherwise occupy them. (You can see what appears to be such a group in Google Street View.)

In light of these issues, listserve participants were not at all pleased to hear about the charter school looking to move into Truxton Circle’s Cook School building with 20 units of housing for at-risk youth.

Also generating discussion this week was the Stadium Club, a strip club that has relocated to a former warehouse in Ward 5 in an area zoned for manufacturing. In addition to the club being controversial among residents for being, you know, a nudie bar, it also wasn’t classified as a sexually-oriented business for the purpose of being issued a liquor license, and it just so happens that the owner of the club is a donor to Harry Thomas’ “Team Thomas” nonprofit. Yes, the nonprofit currently under scrutiny by the Attorney General’s office. Thomas says the organization doesn’t have records for any donor of less than $1,000, but OAG had asked for records of all donations over $250. So it’s not clear exactly how much the club owner, Keith Forney of Forney Construction, has donated to Team Thomas.

Finally, Brookland continues to rabblerouse and generate media attention. After the controversy around large/ugly homes in the neighborhood a couple of weeks ago, there is renewed debate around the 901 Monroe Street project. The estimable Brookland Avenue has a good summary of the proposal, but the summary of the summary is this: The owner of the Colonel Brooks Tavern is looking to close the tavern and use the property for a mixed-use, high-density, transit-oriented development, since it’s right across the street from the Brookland/CUA metro. The development would take up nearly the entire city block, but for 6 rowhouses facing 10th Street. Colonel Brooks’ owner, Jim Steigman, is working with the Menkiti Group (real estate company based in Brookland) and Horning Brothers (regional developer/operator of apartment buildings)

The controversies surrounding the project are many, from how tall the building should be, to whether the planned rental apartments will turn into a de facto dormitory for Catholic University, to how  to whether the residents of those 6 remaining houses on the block are getting screwed over by an apartment building sprouting up just outside their literal backyards. And those are just the practical issues; there’s a very real underlying question about what Brookland itself should be- sleepy, slightly suburban, requiring residents to leave the neighborhood (usually in a car) if they want to go out to dinner or run errands; or busier, with lots of amenities in walking distance, enabling residents to give up their cars.

As a Brookland resident who specifically chose city living over suburbs, I have my opinion, but there’s merit to the vision of Brookland as a sort of quiet oasis in the middle of a bustling city.

Tiffany Baxendell Bridge is an Internet enthusiast and an incurable smartass. When not heckling the neighborhood political scene on Twitter, she can be found goofing off with her ukulele, Bollywood dancing, or obsessing about cult TV. She is That Woman With the Baby In the Bar.

Tiffany lives in Brookland with her husband Tom, son Charlie, and two high-maintenance cats. Read why Tiffany loves DC.

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