According to a story in the Washington Post Business Section, two different developers have purchased property in the Rhode Island Place shopping center. While the shopping center is probably best known for the Home Depot, it is a separate entity and was not involved in any purchases. Once parcel of land purchased is called the Brentwood Shopping Center, and currently contains the TJ Maxx, Foot Locker, Radio Shack and CitiBank and equals 57,529 square feet of retail space. I wouldn’t get too excited about it being transformed into something new soon though, as an earlier WaPo article about the property noted that the spaces are fully leased and those leases would have to expire or be renegotiated to even begin something new. Another developer purchased the property that contains the Giant supermarket. Again, it appears that the developer isn’t looking to make major changes there soon either. Personally, I avoid shopping the Giant as much as possible. So, while this news may be kind of a nothingburger, it was still interesting for me to learn that 1) the retail properties are broken out this way 2) investors are interested in RIA even if it is long-term. I am guessing that the level of success of the Rhode Island Row development may dictate how quickly these other developers move on making changes. Quite frankly, what is really needed is an overhaul of the whole retail and parking layout. For a location directly on the Metro, it is not pedestrian friendly at all, not to mention the vast, impervious waste of space that is the parking lot. We will keep our eyes on things and keep you updated.
I had the pleasure of participating in yet another Tree Planting event organized by Brookland’s own Casey Trees. Last Friday, just after Veterans Day, dozens of volunteers met at the parking lot in front of the Old Post Chapel at Fort Myer to plant 21 trees. As always, breakfast was provided and hot coffee and tea helped to fight the cold morning hour temperatures. We didn’t have to wait long to be reminded of the special location where we were. The Old Post Chapel is the location of many funerals for those interred at Arlington National Cemetery. Just after 9:00 am the first funeral procession left the Chapel and passed us at a distance of just a few feet. It was a very humbling experience to see the horses and carriage carrying a casket draped with the US flag heading towards the burial site. We stopped our work a second time and silently witnessed a procession half way into the tree planting event. Representatives of Fort Myer shared with us that each week the chapel is the site for about 80 funeral services. This is why we were there, to help give the green space that faces the Old Post Chapel a more dignified and defined look. One special aspect of the treescape design was a row of Cherry Trees, which have been grown from cuttings taken from some of the original Washington DC cherry trees. I am sure this will look quite beautiful once the trees are in bloom.
The pictures show that it didn’t take much digging and moving around for some layers of clothes to come of. The sunshine did it’s part and it turned out to be the perfect day for a tree planting event. After all trees were planted and their watering bags were filled, the volunteers and the Casey Trees Team enjoyed a wonderful lunch, which is always provided after a planting event.
The planting season is almost over, but if you are interested in participating in a Casey Trees planting in the future, or learning about trees at one of the classes, workshops or online chats, keep checking out the calendar on the website. Here are some more pictures from this great event at Fort Myer:
Here at the Bridge, we want to thank and honor our Nation’s Veterans – not just on Veteran’s Day – but everyday. A great way to show your appreciation is to volunteer at the nearby Washington DC VA Hospital Center. A good opportunity to do so is at the VA’s Ladies’ Night on Friday, Nov. 16 from 5:30 – 8 p.m. Ladies’ Night is a major outreach event created especially for female Veterans. Can’t make it Friday? Here is a link to a number of volunteer opportunities. But really, all it takes to make a difference is stopping by the hospital and simply visiting with the veterans. Just a little of your time, and some friendly conversation, makes a big difference to these good men and women who sacrificed so much, and are working so hard to recover from injuries. The VA hospital is located at 50 Irving St. NW, Washington, DC 20422, and is easily accessible by car, as well as a shuttle that picks up and drops off at the Brookland CUA Metro station.
The newest entrant to the Rhode Island Shopping Center – Big Lots! – has arrived. The actual “Grand Opening” is Friday November 16th at 9:00 am, but they opened their doors yesterday. One door down from the massive Foreman Mills Store, and just in time for the Holiday Season, I ventured to check it out. I had been to a Big Lots! once, a long while ago, so I had an idea of what it would be like. I checked out the weekly circular on line before I went: $20 kitchen appliances like Croc-Pots, $8 pyjama pants, $299 recliners, hmmmm, not too excited. I’m kind of anti pac-rat, so I don’t buy much “stuff”. But, since they advertised holiday decor, which I am big on, I figured it is worth a look. I’ll be honest, I went with low expectations.
My first impression upon walking through the door was – wow! – so bright, clean, well-organized and stocked to the brim. (If you shopped at The TJ Maxx when they first opened then you will remember how sparsely they stocked the store at first.) The store is definitely bigger than I thought it would be, and I was encouraged by the amount good brand-named products. It has a bunch of departments – Home, Furniture, Food, Seasonal, Toys, Pets, Automotive, Electronics, – you get the idea. So, basically it is like a smaller, slightly lower quality Target, without a clothing section. I think this store is a good reflection of the collective market in our neck of the NE woods. It is way higher in quality than Foreman Mills, and the staff was clearly well trained and super polite. I can see just about everybody shopping here. Quite frankly, I don’t see why anyone will need to leave the neighborhood anymore to go to a Target or Walmart type store. No, it isn’t Pottery Barn. But, what an incredible leap forward it is from the run-down Safeway (with metal detectors at the door) that occupied this space 3 years ago.
Big Lots! is located at 524 Rhode Island Avenue NE Suite C. They are open Monday – Saturday from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm. and Sunday 10:00 am – 7:00 pm.
Last week we asked that the community help out with testifying to secure funding for improvements to Rhode Island Avenue NE under the Great Streets Program . This Thursday, November 8, 2012, the avenue was well represented at the DC City Council’s Committee on Economic Development and Housing hearing. I testified along with community leaders and organizations, and guest blogged about it for the Friends of Rhode Island (FoRIA) website. We will keep you up to date on any developments.
We recently learned that Union Station’s Main Hall is undergoing a redesign and that the general public is invited to comment on the design before it is finalized. While we try to stick to stories about the Brookland area; if there is one thing I know about us Brooklanders, it is that we love to share our opinions about how things should be designed, LOL. There are some renderings of the redesign below, and you can download a pdf with details and concept diagrams here. I know Union Station well. I worked next door to it for over 4 years and I love that building. The redesign of the hall will eliminate the Center Cafe, something I am not thrilled about. This will create a vast area for what purpose, I am not sure. I assume that most people would still rather wait for their train in the waiting areas near the Amtrak gates. (Speaking of which, if anything at Union Station needs a makeover, it is those cramped, dark waiting areas, but I digress.) The cafe has been a nice meeting point, a unique little place for a meal, and breaks up the hall visually in a good way. The hall has such high ceilings, that removing the cafe – and not replacing it with something visually interesting and very vertical, will render the room a big boring carven with a pretty ceiling. So if the cafe has to go, how about a statue in keeping with Downtown DC’s “monument theme”? Next, the design calls for creating escalators to the lower level food court, which will require creating holes in the floor. I’m not exactly thrilled about this idea, but am open to it because I think the flow of foot traffic in Union Station is a bit clunky now, so maybe it will work. From what I understand, the now defunct movie theatre will be transformed into a high-end mall area and the escalators will lead to that. Which is why the tall “shops” signs are placed there. This is a head scratcher for me. As the lone modern element, they look very out-of-place in context of the rest of the architecture. The hall is a beautiful space, I would hate to see it ruined by unnecessary changes. So, in this case, less is more. The deadline for comments is Thursday, November 15 at this comment page. The Main Hall redesign is part of a larger overhaul of Union Station and Columbus Circle, for more information on the larger project, check out the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation website.
Yesterday Shani and I had the chance to visit the Washington DC VA Hospital Center. I know, it is not located in Brookland, but our experience was so powerful and the hospital is so close to our neighborhood, that I thought it is important to share it with our community.
Just up Irving Street and across North Capitol St., the VA hospital is easily accessible by car, as well as a shuttle that picks up and drops off at the Brookland CUA Metro station. Upon arrival we found the driveway and the main entrance busy with outpatients and visitor traffic. We were greeted in the glass covered atrium lobby by our wonderful Brookland neighbor Diane, who is the Director of Patient-Centered Care .
Diane knows almost everybody at the hospital, staff as well as patients, and we had to stop many times for her to talk to many of them on our walk through the hallways. It quickly became clear to us that Diane cares deeply about the veterans, who have given the biggest sacrifice anyone can to our country – their health.
Continuing our tour through the facility, we learned about the many facets of rehabilitation and training, so many veterans have to go through, in order to make their way back into an independent lifestyle. It can take months, sometimes years, to re-learn how to walk and complete the most simple daily tasks, and the VA workers we met are dedicated to helping all through the process. Just hearing about what many of these men and women have to endure in order to regain the most basic skills, because of lost limbs, vision and mental capabilities, makes you feel very humble about your own health and well-being. It also instills a great deal of respect for the entire VA staff. With skill and patience, they conduct physical therapy, train amputees on how to drive a specially equipped car, teach injured veterans how to operate daily activities with one or more missing limbs, and offer temporary employment programs to offer a sense of a regular schedule and duties, in order to increase the chances for a successful reintegration into the workforce.
While we were there, it was also exciting to see that the VA has organized a team to assist the veterans with registering to vote and to casting their early ballot for the upcoming Presidential Election.
The VA Hospital offers a number of volunteer opportunities, but Diane told us that we could come anytime, without appointment, to visit veterans. Yesterday we saw first hand, that just a little time spend and a friendly conversation can make a big difference in a veteran’s life.
We didn’t have the pleasure to meet the most prominent resident at the VA Hospital, Mrs. Alyce Dixon. Mrs. Dixon enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps in 1943, and was assigned after the war to the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion when it was established in January 1945. The 6888th was the only unit of African-American women in the Women’s Army Corps to serve overseas during World War II. The 6888th was tasked with eliminating floor-to-ceiling stacks of undelivered mail and packages addressed to US service members, but stored in British warehouses. This September Mrs. Dixon celebrated her 105th birthday.
We certainly hope to be able to make the acquaintance of Mrs. Dixon at an upcoming special event on November 16 … Ladies Night. A wonderful volunteer opportunity that offers the female veterans an evening of fun activities and a welcome distraction of their daily routine. Hope to see you there …….
North East DC is turning into quite the incubator for DC’s renaissance in adult beverage production. The New Columbia Distillers, located just south of Brookland in Ivey City joins other NE establishments DC Brau and Chocolate City Beer in breathing life back into DC’s commercial production of libations. The distillery’s first product, Green Hat Gin , is now on sale at Schneiders of Capitol Hill. This marks the first time in over 100 years that a DC produced spirit is available commercially. But, no need to go all the way to Capitol Hill, as you can stop by the distillery and pick up bottle for $36. The distillery is still working on getting a tasting licence; but I bet checking out the rehabbed warehouse and their custom-made still and mash tun, fermenters, and hot water tanks, all imported from Germany, is worth the short trip. You can also check out the charred oak barrels along the wall of the distillery that house New Colombia’s rye whiskey production, aging for three to five years. According to DCist, “they’re usually at the distillery from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week. For now they can only take cash or checks, but eventually they’ll be able to accept cards.” New Colombia Distillery is located at 1832 Fenwick Street NE.
On Saturday the Friends of RIA (FoRIA) held their first annual Fall Fest. The concept was to showcase and celebrate Rhode Island Avenue. Most of the activities took place between South Dakota and 20th Streets, NE. It was great to see neighbors of all ages and backgrounds come together in the spirit of neighborhood pride. Some of the highlights of the day included a food drive, several flea markets, free HIV/AIDS testing, RIA history talks, demonstrations at Art Enables, and a discussion by Neighbors United for DC Statehood at Lace restaurant featuring beer from DC Brau. We are looking forward to next years fair, which I am sure will be even bigger and better. Great job FoRIA!
The Marketplace at Union Market, situated just south of Brookland at 1309 5th St NE (next to Gallaudet University) is set to open Saturday, September 8th. The Marketplace is the first phase of a redevelopment project by developer EDENS . According to the snappy video on their website, the market will be reminiscent of New York’s Meatpacking District and Portland’s Pearl District. They have described the market as:
“An urban village born from the diversity of the dreams and energy of the nation’s capital. An authentic market of culture and commerce. A true gathering place that serves as an inviting melting pot of old world heritage and new world opportunities.”
Eventually the project will include housing, a hotel and the renovation of a nearby 26,000-square-foot warehouse for food production and wholesale distribution. The market plans to house 40 vendors when at capacity. Currently the impressive line up of vendors is as follows: