Category Archives: General Neighborhood Topics

Excel Pilates – A New Vision Includes Yoga, Zumba And More; Take A Free Trial Class!

I heard about Excel Pilates for years, but not knowing much about Pilates, never ventured inside. That is, until I heard about their new Yoga and Zumba classes. After trekking across town for Yoga classes, I am so excited to now have classes here in my own backyard.  Then I tried the Zumba class, and was hooked. This September, Excel is offering free trial classes in Pilates, Yoga and Zumba ahead of their fall class schedule. This is your chance to get to know this neighborhood gem and start getting in shape before the holidays! We caught up with Lesa McLaughlin, the owner of Excel Pilates and learned about the history of the studio, pictured below, and her vision for its future.

Lesa has deep roots in our community, having either worked or lived in Brookland since 1986. She originally taught dance at Dance Place, and was the Associate Artistic Director until 1997. In 1995, she began to teach Pilates in a very small studio inside Dance Place. A few years later, she moved to the current location as business grew. Two things come across very quickly with Lesa; she wants Pilates be as accessible as possible and she loves Brookland.

Lesa informed me that “Pilates is a method of exercise invented by a gentleman named Joseph Hubertus Pilates in the early 1900’s. He called it Contrology, “the study of control.” The method consists of over 600 exercises using five major apparatus. The most popular are the Reformer and Mat.” Lesa explained that it is a full body workout which focuses on the muscles of the abdomen, lower back, inner thighs and gluteals, creating stability of the spine for efficient movement. Excel studios offers a variety of options in Pilates, including:

  • Sessions by appointment that use all of the Pilates Equipment, including Mat, that are offered One on Ones, Duets and Trios
  • Six week pre registered classes in Pilates Mat  (beginning through advanced-no equipment required).  
  • Small group Reformer classes
  • Wall Unit classes (a combination of Mat and an apparatus using springs and bars)
  • Wunda Chair classes.
  • Pilates “sampler” classes (coming this fall)

Excel recently expanded their class offerings to include Zumba and Yoga. I asked Lesa the reason behind this move. She explained that over the past year she began to formulate a vision for studio expansion, and providing a variety of methods of exercise that are complimentary to Pilates. The Yoga classes and Zumba are just the start of that expansion. Lesa adds, “Pilates is my passion and my expertise. Pilates will always be my primary focus. Part of this vision is to bring in experts from these other areas to create a space that not only offers Pilates but a variety of forms not typically found in a traditional gym. This fall we will be offering Pilates,Yoga, GYROTONIC®, and GYROKINESIS®” and some other offerings in the works as well.

Free Trial Week will be Tuesday September 4th – Saturday 8th (All classes are Beginning level.) Here’s the rundown:

  • Tuesday, September 4th – 7:30pm – Free Yoga with Hermione
  • Wednesday, September 5th – 7:00am – Free Yoga with Kate
  • Wednesday, September 5th – 6:15pm – Free Pilates Mat with Tatjana
  • Wednesday, September 5th – 7:00pm – Free Pilates Wall-Unit with Tatjana
  • Thursday, September 6th – 6:15pm – Free Gyrokinesis with Francesca
  • Thursday, September 6th – 8:00pm – Free Zumba with Tatjana
  • Saturday, September 8th – 9:30am – Free Pilates Apparatus with Daniela

For all Free-Trial classes call (202-269-3020) or email ( the studio to sign up. If you call, leave a message of which trial class(es) you would like to sign up for, your name, phone number, and email address. Space is limited so first come, first serve. For Excel’s current and upcoming class schedules go here.

Lastly, we asked Lesa if  she could dispel one misconception about Pilates for our readers. Her answer: “that Pilates is just for women…It is not…after all Joseph Pilates was a man!”

Brookland Development Meeting Informative, Well Attended

Last night there was a panel discussion and a question and answer session about the various development projects happening around Brookland. The well attended event had about 30 people in attendance, and was a rare opportunity to interact with the major players in Brookland’s future. The following developments were represented:

  • The Bozzuto Group and ABDO Development (Catholic U Development/Monroe Street Market)
  • EYA (Chancellor’s Row)
  • The Menkiti Group (901 Monroe Street)
  • Carla Perlo, Founding Director of Dance Place (Moving Forward Campaign)

Jennifer from the EYA/Chancellor’s Row development started the evening off. The development will be made up of 237 townhomes. Sales have been brisk, so far 65% have sold. The development is about 50% complete. There will be affordable units available. As part of the development’s amenities package, there will be an overhaul of the 4th and Lincoln triangle park, for more information check out the Life On The Edgewood Blog. Also part of the package is $50,000 in grant money available to local businesses and a scholarship program for Ward 5 high school seniors. There will be a Zipcars location on premises. She also noted that the townhouses are being built to comply with the “LEED Certified” eco friendly standard.

Mike of ABDO development spoke about the various projects within Phase 1 of the Catholic University development. Right now the Monroe Street Market website provides development updates, but there will be a new website launched around Labor Day that will provide regular updates on the development. The Artswalk area, featuring 27 artist studios and retail space are expected to be delivered about a year from now, in the summer of 2013. Additional retail along Monroe St. will be delivered in the fall of 2013.  There will be over 600 parking spaces total in phase 1. The developers will also re-do the sewer and power lines, and will be under-grounding the power lines along Monroe St., parts of Michigan Avenue and near the Metro. There will be a ‘call to artists’ around the end of September for the artists spaces. A panel will select artists for the spaces in a 6-8 week process. The artists studios will be roughly $10 a square foot, or about $600 – $800 a month. In total, the phase 1 of the development will produce over 500 rental units, ranging from studios to 1 bedrooms, 2 bedrooms and 2 bedrooms with dens. It is expected that the rent will range from $1,500 – $2,600 a month.

Bo Menkiti and Mark spoke about the 901 Monroe development. The development is Metro-based  and will have 13,00 square feet in retail development. The key piece to the retail offering will be a high-end restaurant to replace Colonel Brooks’ Tavern. The development team has just started the leasing process with retail brokers. However, there were no announcements of retail commitments other than to say that they will be securing local “mom and pop” type businesses. 901 Monroe will have 212 rental units. They will break ground this fall, and they have an 18 month timeline, meaning a summer of 2014 delivery. Mark stressed that the building has been designed to serve as a transition from the ABDO development to the heart of Brookland, the hope being that it will draw traffic across the bridge and thereby help businesses on the 12th Street corridor. Architecturally, the building is designed to blend in with the lower density development east of the bridge.

Carla of Dance Place was the last to present. She described Dance Place’s Moving Forward Campaign, which is an overhaul and upgrade of the current facility. The renovation includes a remodeled backstage, office space and theatre with improved sight lines. The Dance Place team also described the development of an Arts Plaza in the between Dance Place and the Artspace Lofts. The Arts Plaza will be a  multi-purpose area for community events such as live music and outdoor movie showings. The exterior improvements to the area will produce a walkable cultural center. Currently, the Dance Place team is planning their offerings as far out as 5 years from now, and made it clear that they would like the community’s feedback on the types of programming we would like to see. The project will cost over $2 million, of which they have raised about $1.8 million. All donations are tax deductible, and you can donate directly on their website. If enough funds are raised, they will break ground in August of 2013, with plans to be complete by January of 2014. Dance Place will utilize temporary spaces while the development takes place.


Meet Your Neighbor Marc, Chancellor’s Row Homeowner


Marc’s House July 2012

Ever wonder what our new neighbors in Chancellor’s Row, the new Brookland EYA development project, will be like?  Meet Marc. He has purchased a home in the development and we are going to follow Marc’s journey as he becomes a full-fledged Brookland resident. So far, the dirt patch pictured here is Marc’s home as of mid July. We will check back in a few months to document the progress.

As you probably gathered from the photo of Marc above, he is an MD. He works with children in need of emergency mental health evaluations and referrals; a job that is both challenging and rewarding. I asked Marc why he chose to live in Brookland, and here’s what he had to say.

“Well, I was looking for a “neighborhood” within the city where I could get to know folks, know the folks the who own the business, etc. Brookland offered that. Everyone I have met in that area has been really cool. It is also very diverse. I like that. The reason I decided to move there at this time was just timing. I had been considering it for a while and everything just sorta came together to make it a possibility.”  Marc likes to sing and recently took voice lessons to further that side of himself and hopefully will be doing some cool projects in the near future. Perhaps we’ll see him belting it out at the karaoke nights at San Antonio B&G or Optimism soon.

Brookland’s Chocolate City Beer Celebrates 1 Year Anniversary

One of the most exciting recent additions to the Brookland neighborhood has been the arrival of Chocolate City Beer. It’s hard to believe that a year has gone by since they started supplying the city (and us!) with carefully crafted delicious brews. We chatted with Don Parker, one of the owners, and he filled us in on their anniversary happenings. 

This Friday August 17th they will celebrate their 1 Year Anniversary at Penn Social as part of DC Beer Week. Penn Social is located on the corner of 8th and E Street NW. Four of CCB’s beer will be on tap for only $5 each,  including El Segundo Farmhouse Saison, a beer crafted especially for DC Beer Week. With a DJ spinning and no cover charge, it is sure to be good times.

If you can’t make it Friday, be sure to check out their growler hours. Every Saturday they offer for free brewery tours and tastings, and growler and merchandise sales. This Saturday, August 18th, the amazing Red Hook Lobster Pound Food Truck will be there serving up their famous lobster rolls. Growler hours are 12:30 – 4:30 every Saturday.

If you are unfamiliar with Chocolate City Beer, Stephanie Liotta Atkinson did a great and thorough story on the company in December over at the Rhode Island Avenue NE Insider. Chocolate City Beer is located at 2801 8th Street NE.

Brookland Homeowners Can Help Local Rivers And Watersheds With RiverSmart Program

Did you know that stormwater runoff is a huge problem in Washington DC? Billions of gallons of water a year rush into our sewers carrying all manner of trash, motor oil, grease, pet waste, plastics, and other pollutants, much of which ultimately end up untreated in our local rivers, watersheds, and the Chesapeake Bay. Brookland’s hilly streets and sloped lots surely contribute greatly to a problem exacerbated by the fact that much of DC is simply paved over and the water has nowhere to go and no way to soak back to natural aquifers.

river water pollution runoff
This, and worse, is what ends up in our local rivers and the Chesapeake Bay as a result of poor stormwater management. Not good. Photo courtesy of “I For Detail” on Flickr.

While new properties built in DC are required to manage stormwater runoff, the city has a huge number of properties that were built prior to runoff becoming a concern. It’s therefore up to homeowners to help make a difference.

I just had a free audit done by the DC Department of the Environment’s RiverSmart Program, DC’s way of combating the environmental problems caused by runoff. A landscape designer visits your property and evaluates various ways of reducing runoff by keeping the water on your property and putting it to more productive uses. Their major strategies include:

Rain barrels. The amount of water that falls on the average roof in DC in a year could potentially be captured and used to water the average lawn 45 times. That’s how much water is being wasted out of our roof gutters. Riversmart helps you install rain barrels that capture water from your downspouts. When you’re ready to water your lawn or garden, you attach a hose to the rain barrel and use the water you’ve saved up. Not only does this help the watershed, but you also save money on your water bill!

Permeable pavers. A lot of water runs off your property simply because it has nowhere to go. In fact, 65% of the entire District of Columbia is impermeable concrete and asphalt that totally repels water. Permeable pavers allow water to run through them and soak naturally into the ground. They can be used for patios, driveways, or wherever you use hardscaping.

Shade Trees. Large shade trees don’t just provide valuable shade. They also have large root systems that hold soil in place, allow water to permeate, and drink up water quickly. Same goes for large deep-rooted shrubs.

Rain Garden. Our neighbor Casey Trees has a showcase example of a rain garden. It is a part of your land strategically chosen and modified to collect water from other parts of your property, including from gutters. You place plants (preferably native ones) that can tolerate very wet conditions in the garden, and then let them enjoy the extra water whenever you have a rainstorm.

Bayscaping. Used by itself or in conjunction with rain gardens, bayscaping simply means using plants that were abundant here in the Chesapeake Bay watershed prior to intervention by humans. These plants are the best suited for soaking up water and withstanding the extremes of climate we can have here. A side benefit is the restoration of natural habitats for native animal species.

RiverSmart DCRiverSmart partners with local contractors to help you install any or all of these strategies. They provide rebates and assistance of up to $1200.

For me, rain barrels are definitely on the list, and I have always been committed to using native plants whenever possible. My property already captures a lot of water naturally in a part of the garden with several large trees and growing shrubs, making some of the other approaches less practical or needed.

So come on, Brookland! Make your home a RiverSmart home. It’s easy! Just call DDOE at 202-535-2252 or fill out their online application to schedule an audit and get the ball rolling. The program is quite popular, so you can expect some weeks or months of delay before they get someone out to see you, but the environment will thank you!