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:
The Friends of Rhode Island Avenue, the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the DC Department of Housing and Community Development are hosting their first Fall Fest celebration on Saturday, September 22nd, noon-4pm, on Rhode Island Avenue NE between South Dakota Avenue NE and 20th St NE.
The celebration will be an annual event to bring together residents and local businesses and showcase the great potential of Rhode Island Avenue NE as a great small business destination. Several local businesses are already signed up to sponsor the party including Art Enables, Rita’s, DC Brau, and Lace.
This celebration is a short walk for Brooklanders and has a lot of significance for the neighborhood, as business development along Rhode Island Avenue NE will directly improve the retail and amenity establishments available.
(Hat tip to Rhode Island Avenue NE Insider for the story.)
Last night there was a public meeting to discuss the overhaul of the Woodridge library. Representatives from Bing Thom Architects and Wienceck and Associates were there to discuss plans. Unfortunately, we were unable to attend the meeting, but #WoodridgeDC (on Twitter) was abuzz last night with updates, comments and pictures. Highlights included a 3rd floor roof terrace with a reading room, a cafe, a community meeting room, and a rooftop garden – wow! This is sure to be an energizing shot in the arm to the Woodridge section of RIA, much like the Shaw was to its neighborhood. We will keep on an eye on any major developments here, but if you want to keep on top of it we recommend following The New Woodridge Library blog.
Every now and then things happen outside just outside Brookland borders that we think you will be interested in. The area around Rhode Island Avenue and 1st street NW in Bloomingdale is already popular with Brooklanders because of hotspots Boundry Stone and Rustik, and yoga studio Yoga District. Be prepared to trek across North Capitol street even more often in the coming months. According to the Prince of Petworth blog, a Spanish Tapas restaurant, Costa Brava and an Italian influenced restaurant are coming to that area.
One of the things that’s great about Brookland is it’s central location to just about anywhere in DC. That includes a place I love to get to on a lazy Sunday in late summer and fall: the Takoma Park Farmers Market.
Just a ten minute drive from Brookland up Eastern Avenue, a cornucopia of luscious produce and other farm-made goods await you. Whether it’s heirloom tomatoes, all kinds of fruit, fresh baked bread and churned butter, powerful herbs, or even meats and cheeses, you can find it all at this bustling market.
The Market’s 23 vendors are required to be producers themselves, meaning that they must grow whatever it is they are selling. Therefore most of the food available is locally grown, which is great from a quality and sustainability perspective.
The tomatoes you find here deserve special mention. The incredible flavor and diversity of types (yellow, pink, red, orange) will beat anything you will find in a supermarket, hands down. To me, they make tomatoes bought elsewhere pale by comparison.
I also love the breads sold here, which are equivalent to what you would expect to find in a bakery: very fresh, and made with wholesome ingredients. From stoneground wheat to rosemary bread, you can find it all.
Lunch after today’s visit to the Market was sandwiches made from very tasty whole grain bread, heirloom tomatoes, cheese, and a touch of fresh basil. Delicious!
So if you’re looking for something to do on Sunday, get yourself and your family out to buy some of the best that local producers have to offer. Before you go you can check out their website to see what is currently in season and being sold. But they have a strict no-dog policy, so leave the pooch at home!
Enjoy the pics….