Sunday, October 18, 2009

October Items


The October meeting with District AG Peter Nickels and At Large council-member Phil Mendelson was interesting. A note will be forthcoming in a few days. Meanwhile, there were several items that we needed to get out.

Vault Lease Issues

We recently learned that some developers entered into underground vault agreements that may present long-term liabilities to some condominium associations or particular owners who have assigned rights to space within these vaults. These agreements assign limited rights to this space, but preserve the city’s ultimate right to take the space if needed or to charge rent for the space. There is little clarity to this beyond some residents paid for parking spaces without realizing that the space belonged to the city and that the city had the right to charge rent. So far, two buildings have been identified as having such agreements. In one case (555 Massachusetts) , the city charged the residents for back rent and demanded rent for 2010. These residents were unaware that they had purchased public space. In another case (Madrigal Lofts) the public space is mentioned in their bylaws but residents seem unaware that their agreement gives the city the right to charge rent.

It is advised associations with buildings that opened after 2004 check to see if they have public vault liabilities. Currently both Ward 2 and Ward 6 councilmembers Jack Evans and Tommy Wells are working to find resolution.

Carmines Neighborhood Meeting

The Alicart Restaurant Group is bringing Carmine’s, a family style Italian restaurant to 7th Street between D and E street in the space that many had hoped would contain a grocery store. Carmines will serve up to 700 people and will create 220 new jobs for the city. The Downtown Neighborhood Association is organizing a public meeting hosted by the Clara Barton Condominium Association for Tuesday October 27 at 7PM. Jeffrey Bank, the Alicart Chief Executive Officer will meet, discuss their plans and business model, and answer questions. Residents from Clara Barton, Lansburgh, Lafayette, and Terrell Place are encouraged to come. The meeting is open to all downtown residents, so please RSVP to if you plan to attend. For more information on this company and to view Jeffrey Bank’s discussion of their business model, check out the link:

Downtown Streetscape Project

Work has finally begun on the Downtown DCBID Streetscape and Streetlight project. The first areas impacted downtown will be D and E Streets between 6th and 7th Street. The work will include but not limited to upgrading of streetlights, wheelchair ramps, trees spaces as well as repairable sidewalks, gutters and resurfacing of road pavement. This is a project that the Downtown Neighborhood Association provided input and aggressively worked for funding and project approval.

November Meeting

The final meeting for 2009 is scheduled for Tuesday November 10th at Calvary Baptist Church. The lead discussion leader will be Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans who will brief attendees on neighborhood issues and take audience questions. He will be followed by Hadiah Jordan, and Associate with Justice & Sustainability Associates. Her firm is working with the Infrastructure Project Management Administration, a division of the District Department of Transportation, to manage the Downtown DCBID Streetscape and Streetlight project that received stimulus funding. Please RSVP to if you plan to attend.

Miles E. Groves
Downtown Neighborhood Association

Monday, October 5, 2009

Penn Quarter Jewel at Risk

Penn Quarter Farmers Market
The Penn Quarter Farmers Market that is operated by Fresh Farms is a neighborhood jewel serving residents and workers across or downtown neighborhoods. The Market has operated seasonally for seven years on Thursday afternoons on the north end of 8th Street between D and E Streets. It is a great place to go and observe the crowded market a patrons snack and buy from the breadth of the products that can be found.

When the market is not operating, 8th Street is usually quiet with a use that seems dominated by on-street parking and parking garages from the surrounding mixed-use buildings. It is an abbreviated street that is interrupted by the museums, pedestrian malls, the Carnegie Library and the Convention Center. For many, in a city that seems dominated by automobiles trying to get in and out of our neighborhood, this use is a nice pedestrian respite. No doubt, some who lose on-street parking are inconvenienced when the market is open. And, those leaving the garages from the commercial and mixed use buildings who want to go north for a block on 8th Street must take different paths. But, for the majority who live and walk to work or work and take the metro this is market is a great amenity.

Vehicular Dominance
Recently, Mr. Ken Crerar, president of The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers contacted the Public Space Manager at the Department of Transportation Public Space Management Office requesting that the Market’s permit be rescinded. Mr. Crerar suggests that the market find another suitable location elsewhere in Penn Quarter. The problem he cites is traffic congestion on 7th and 9th Street can be avoided by using 8th Street northward to E Street where he connects with 12th Street to go Massachusetts Avenue. On Thursdays the congestion costs Mr. Crerar up to 15 minutes. And for this 15 minutes, he wants our Market moved despite the number of people it serves.

He suggests that this market be put in front of the Market Square buildings. However, this space is much smaller than the space now used by the market since the area is either the Navy Memorial or a small space between the two buildings. He also suggests that parking be taken from F Street and the promenade on the south side of the Smithsonian Galleries be used. This would be a great idea except that F Street, unlike 8th Street is very busy with parking, pedestrian and vehicular traffic. And, unlike 8th Street, the promenade is not city controlled. But, it is a location with possibilities. However, with the inclusion of the SmartBike racks on F Street and the need to keep access on the South side of the museum open, this suggestion has its on problems.

Pennsylvania Avenue Plan
Jo-Ann Neuhaus, executive director with the Penn Quarter Neighborhood Association (PQNA) notes that the pedestrian focus of 8th Street is consistent with the Pennsylvania Avenue Plan. She is a neighborhood advocate who can claim the honor of “being there” when the plans for Pennsylvania Avenue Downtown were developed. She points out that the Pennsylvania Avenue Plan states:

“Along Eighth Street, as on Square 407, new development would reinforce the pedestrian character of the street . . . .Although vehicular traffic would be allowed, Eighth Street would be treated as a “special street” under the Corporation’s Side Street Improvement Plan, with improvements designed to enhance the residential environment.”

Several residents are concerned the possible loss of 15 minutes could force the entire neighborhood to adapt to the one individual rather than the one individual adapting for a market that serves so many and has become the Jewel of Penn Quarter. The Downtown Neighborhood Association(DNA) agrees with this concern and objects to any effort by the city to move our market. As noted above, this street is intended to serve as a “special street” designed to enhance the residential environment.

Make Our Voices Known
While we anticipate that the city will not rescind the market's permit, this is more certain if we make sure our council members and the Mayor know that we support this market and do not want to see it moved.

Miles E. Groves