Dispatches from Ward 5: High Density Edition

Photo courtesy of

courtesy of ‘TomLeGro’

If you’ve ever been to Rustik in Bloomingdale, you’ve probably noticed that it has this big, gorgeous patio… with nothing but firewood on it. Rustik has a voluntary agreement with the Bloomingdale Civic Association allowing patio seating for reduced hours, but has not yet secured the public space permit required to actually seat people outside. The hearing with the Public Space Management Administration is on March 24, and neighbors are writing letters in support of Rustik’s petition to Juan Amaya at the Space Permit Office.

In Brookland, the 901 Monroe project is moving along through the hearing process. On March 14th, the Zoning Commission held a setdown hearing on the project. The commission seems generally in favor of the idea, but would like to consider setting down a version of the plan with zoning that would restrict its height further. The Commission has asked for a number of additional documents: shade studies  on how the proposed development will affect the surrounding area, perspective drawings of how it will look from various points around the neighborhood (12th Street retail, the Metro station, etc.), as well as a copy of the Brookland Small Area Plan. The developers have until tomorrow to turn in this information and the Commission will consider the issue again at their March 28 meeting.

Meanwhile, ANC5A has nominated the Colonel Brooks Tavern building and the neighboring houses for historic designation, which would effectively halt all progress on the 901 Monroe Street development. The Historic Preservation Review Board meets this week, but it seems the nomination will be heard next month. For those of you interested in the debate around the use of historic designation to halt development and the issues that arise from it, I direct your attention to this Greater Greater Washington post and its comments.

ANC Carolyn Steptoe of Single Member District 5A07, the SMD which encompasses the 901 Monroe project and the neighbors most directly affected, held a meeting of her SMD on Saturday for 5 hours. Steptoe invited Barbara Kahlow, DC zoning expert, to speak on how neighbors can navigate and work within the zoning process to achieve the desired result. Kahlow accuses the 901 Monroe developers of thinking they can steamroll un-savvy Brooklanders, but ran the risk of alienating the crowd when she called the Welcome to Brookland bridge mural “dreadful graffiti.” The gasps in the room were audible– that mural is pretty well-loved, including by this Brooklander. Many thanks to Brookland Avenue and Jason Lloyd Clement for their invaluable Twitter-reporting from the meeting.

Photo courtesy of
‘Welcome to Brookland’
courtesy of ‘tbridge’

In Eckington, there’s great consternation (and more than a little punchiness) over the development of a project called “Alexan NoMa West.” The 600+ unit development is being built on a privately-owned field that had been used as a dog park by residents of Eckington. Despite being a residential development in the Eckington neighborhood, it’s being called “NoMa” because it’s within the boundaries of the NoMa Business Improvement District, and was to be called “West” because it’s on the western side of Harry Thomas Way. Phase 2 of the project (NoMa East) was to be on the east side. Now that NoMa East has been canceled, the “West” is to be dropped from the project’s name. Eckington residents have so far been unsuccessful at convincing the developers to add Eckington to the name. Despite the neighborhood’s history, the developers argue that the businesses financing the project were more familiar with the NoMa construction than with Eckington. (Which is a damn dirty shame, if I may editorialize for a moment.)

This community frustration with the “NoMa” construction led to a pretty entertaining round of oneupsmanship on the Eckington list, in which everyone tried to come up with a more awkward and geographically-imaginative nickname for their neighborhood than the last, such as:

  • NOMAWIE (NOrth of MAss – West Inside Eckington)
  • noma sonhampshirewie eobloomdl

This, in my opinion, is the neighborhood mailing list at its finest; information is shared among neighbors and collective frustrations vented with good humor.

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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7 thoughts on “Dispatches from Ward 5: High Density Edition

  1. Pingback: Welcome to Brookland, Y’all | GiveIt2Lloyd

  2. My take-away from the Brookland community meeting on Saturday is that Barbara Kahlow is a forced to be reckoned with. I’m grateful for everything she is doing – pro bono! – to help Brookland…and hope that our mural grows on her as she gets to know us.

  3. Barbara is a wonderful person. She loves Brookland and was not there to talk about art. That aside comment was an attempt at humor that didn’t work, but she is fun and witty and very smart when it comes to the serious subject of development in DC and how it should be done. She is a force for good and we love her.

  4. I am curious as to what makes Ms. Kahlow an “expert” on zoning.

    In any case, she was solicited to attend this meeting by ANC 5A 07 Commissioner Steptoe not to help the Brookland community, but rather to help Ms. Steptoe and those opposed to the proposed redevelopment at 901 Monroe.

    She may love Brookland, but she is not a resident and she was not there to offer an objective, professional opinion on the development team’s proposal. That, of course, is perfectly fine. I do not begrudge her for it, or Ms. Steptoe for inviting her to the meeting. Let’s just be clear about why she was there.

    Full disclosure, I am working to help make the 901 Monroe development a success. But I am also a Brookland resident, who lives just 2 blocks from the project. I can attest to the fact that there is widespread support for the 901 Monroe Street development.

    The opposition to the proposal is vocal, but it’s essentially a handful of people; several of the residents closest to the project (4 of the 6 homeowners on 10th street) and the single member district 5A 07 ANC Commissioner (who rather than reflect the broader opinion of her constituents in 5A 07, never mind the larger opinion of the Brookland community, took it upon herself to derail the project and gin-up opposition to it when it was first announced nearly a year ago).

  5. This is not Takoma Park, people. Please, have some taste and sensibility about your neighborhood.

    John Guay