Casey Trees – Transforming 12th St. In Eco-Friendly Ways

When we moved to Brookland a few years ago, we were skeptical about the abandoned gas station at 12th and Irving – less than a block from our new home. Then, we were beyond delighted to find that not only did Casey Trees establish their headquarters at 3030 12th street, but they began turning the old gas station into a “tree annex” for trees waiting to be planted. Their transformation of the gas station is nearly complete, and we couldn’t be happier.

As you can see from the “before and after” photos below, Casey Trees has truly beautified and revitalized a good stretch of the 3000 block of 12th St NE. But more than that, their headquarters is a showcase for water retention and green design. With the help of  the District Department of the Environment  they have reduced water run off by capturing and redistributing water. The new tree annex, still under construction, will utilize solar electricity for more than half of its needs. Most importantly, Casey Trees  provides a model for small-scale commercial development right here in Brookland that others can follow. Mark Buscaino, Executive Director of Casey Trees, was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the new development below.Casey Trees Tree Lot Brookland NE Washington DCCasey Trees Headquarters Brookland NE Washington DC

Casey Trees Headquarters Brookland NE Washington DC

Why did Casey Trees decide to be headquartered in Brookland?

 Casey Trees looked in all eight Wards for over four years to find a suitable home – over 50 properties in total.  We were having a difficult time locating a spot that offered convenient access to all parts of the city for our tree planting work, the right amount of space with room to grow, and most important for our staff and class and program participants – suitable public transit.  Fortunately we found all that and more on 12th Street.

 Now that you have settled in, has anything surprised you about the Brookland community?

 The neighborhood has proven to be a great place to locate an organization like ours. Neighbors have been extraordinarily friendly and generous; people are very respectful of our work and our mission, and; many of our staffers have found homes right in Brookland – we couldn’t ask for more.

 Tell us a little bit about the transformation of your tree lot on the east side of 12th St. Did the fact that it used to be a gas station pose any issues?

 When you purchase a former gas station property you’re faced with some very tough choices.  While restoring such a property is a huge benefit to the community and CT wanted to do its part, it’s an expensive proposition and you never know what you’re going to find.  After several months of thoughtful deliberation we decided to take a calculated risk, and with a lot of pro-bono legal assistance from a lawyer who eventually joined our board, we were able to make it work – and work very well for us I might add.  When I look at what that lot is like now, with our new Tree Planting Annex almost compete, and think about what it used to look like when we first moved in – I’m amazed. 

When can we expect the construction to be complete and what will the space be used for?

Completion is slated for late October. Our new Tree Planting Annex will house our entire Tree Planting Department and all their tools and equipment and temporarily hold the hundreds of trees our team plants every spring, fall and winter.  It will house 15 staffers, and more than 50 percent of its electricity needs will be satisfied from solar power generation. A special thanks goes to the District Department of the Environment for helping us pay for those panels! 

If you could get one message across to our readers about the importance of the DC tree canopy what would it be?

In our data-driven world, we have come to think of trees in regard to their environmental benefits and that’s great.  But trees are more than just energy-saving, pollution controlling and storm water management “devices”.  They represent a part of our communities that enrich our lives in ways we are still only learning about. They encourage human interaction, calm our nerves, reduce stress and make our homes and streets beautiful places for ourselves, our friends, neighbors and children.  Without them we lose not just cooler streets and cleaner air, but beautiful neighborhoods and inviting spaces for weekend walks and quiet moments on a porch swing.  And it’s up to all of us to preserve this identity that D.C. has had since its founding.  Nothing is permanent – not even a tree – and we need everyone’s help to keep them healthy and abundant for generations to come.

Union Market Opens Saturday, Deliciousness Awaits!

Union Market Brookland NE Washinton DC
A rendering of the Union Market

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:

Met Branch Trail – Let’s Seal The Deal

Met Branch Trail Brookand NE Washington DC

As a frequent rider on the Met Branch Trail (MBT), I view the abrupt ending of the trail under the Franklin St. bridge with mixed feelings. On one hand, it is a huge mental milestone – I am practically home! On the other hand, I have to get back into “city biking mode” – minding traffic, street conditions, pedestrians and the like. Often, I have wondered when the trail will finally be connected to Silver Spring as originally planned. The frustration with two years of inactivity towards MBT completion was recently explored in this post over at the Washington Area Bicyclist Association’ s blog. The post is a call to action and lays the blame for inactivity squarely at the feet of both the city of DC and Montgomery County.

I found a different blog post on the topic to be of even greater interest. The Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space blog  proposes a “bicycle boulevard” in Brookland on 9th Street, between Franklin and Monroe Streets NE. According to Bicyclinginfo.org:

“Bicycle boulevards are low-volume streets that have been optimized for bicycle travel through traffic calming and diversion, signage and pavement markings, and intersection crossing treatments.”

For this solution to be viable, the Franklin Street bridge would have to be expanded to accommodate a bike lane. The writer, Richard Layman, puts forth that this may be the only way to provide a continuously bike-friendly environment when all is said and done. This is needed because Abdo / Catholic University plans have the MBT running between Michigan and Monroe Streets along the new development, but there will still be a gap between the end of the current trail and Monroe Street. Current development plans address this gap by having bikers riding along 8th Street – on the sidewalk.

So what to do? I think the 9th Street “bike boulevard” is an interesting idea. But, while 9th Street is not the busiest street, anyone familiar with that stretch knows that because of this, cars regularly fly down it at very high speeds. So there will be an enforcement element needed. But more that anything, will bikers really cross the Franklin Street bridge, bike 8 blocks, and then cross back over the tracks on the Monroe Street bridge to get back on the trail? Or will the shorter distance between two points be more tempting? I think that the latter is more likely. Thoughts?

(Hat tip: Greater Greater Washington)

Our Favorite Brookland Houses – Easy Breezy Edition

Large Homes Brookland NE Washington DC
Impressive, bright, and great attention to detail

I was meandering around today when I came upon a house that I have admired ever since I have moved to Brookland. The thing I love the best is the killer patio, plus I have always been a sucker for outdoor curtains. Because this house is set up high from the street it creates an a feeling of privacy and stature. I just love those huge first floor windows. The property is very nicely and crisply landscaped, not too much, not too little.

Brookland History Lives! Sterling Brown House

One of our goals here at here at the Brookland Bridge is to discover and celebrate Brookland’s rich history. This is the first installment in a series of stories focusing on our neighborhood’s history.

Sterling Brown House Brookland NE Washington DC
Sterling Brown DC Commission On Arts And Humanities Sign

At 1222 Kearney St. NE you can find the home Sterling Brown lived in from 1935 till his death in 1989. The Washington DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities placed this sign at the home to commemorate this famous poet, author and professor. Brown was a professor at Howard University for over 40 years. Although he spent the majority of his life here in Brookland,  he is considered part of the Harlem Renaissance artistic movement. Brown’s academic and literary focus was African-American folk life, culture, and language. His 1932 book, Southern Road, produced the poem “Strong Men,” a groundbreaking poem about the Middle Passage of slavery, that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit during such horrid circumstances. Brown, and fellow authors/poets/folk life academics  Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston are credited with elevating and revolutionizing how African-American “folk speech”  is regarded. By moving beyond stereotypes to understand people and culture he infused his writings with a full, nuanced, reality-based folk aesthetic. Some of his notable students include Toni Morrison, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Sowell, Ossie Davis, Amiri Baraka (aka LeRoi Jones) and Ralph Bunche – a fellow Brookland resident.

Sterling Brown House Washington DC
This is how the Sterling Brown house looks today.

Expect Red Line Delays This Weekend Between RIA And Ft. Totten Stations

This is for those of us stuck in town for the labor day weekend. From the WMATA website:

Red Line trains will single track between Rhode Island Avenue and Fort Totten to allow for platform reconstruction.  Throughout the weekend, Red Line trains will operate between Shady Grove and Glenmont every 15 minutes in each direction. On Saturday and Sunday, between 9:30 a.m. and 9 p.m., additional trains will operate between Shady Grove and NoMa-Gallaudet U stations, providing service an average of every 7-8 minutes between these stations.  Red Line customers traveling through the work zone should allow about 10 minutes of additional travel time.  

Brookland Pet Of The Week – Duncan

We are starting a new photo series here at the bridge – Brookland Pet of the Week! Meet Duncan, he was adopted from an animal shelter in North Carolina, six years ago, and became a city dog immediately! He loves running through Brookland and sitting on the front steps, greeting the neighbors. If you would like to see your pet featured here, email us on the Contact page.

Brookland Pets NE Washington DC