East Side News - June 2017

POW! WOW! DC opening celebration. Photo: NoMa BID/Ben Droz

Mount Vernon Triangle CID Hosts Annual Meeting

The Mount Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District (CID) hosted its annual meeting over breakfast at Ottoman Taverna, the traditional Turkish restaurant that opened last year at Fourth and I streets NW. The event brings together neighbors, business owners, and official figures of the neighborhood to discuss the progress made and the upcoming plans for the Triangle.

In his opening remarks, CID President and CEO Kenyattah Robinson invoked a famous quote from his home town, New Orleans. Robinson said that this year has made him think often on the words of then-mayor Ray Nagin, who was in office during Hurricane Katrina, that he wanted to see nothing but “cranes in the sky.”

There are certainly a lot of cranes over the skies of Mount Vernon Triangle. Two major entities, the DC Bar Association and the Advisory Board, have signed on with development companies to build new headquarters: DC Bar at 901 Fourth St. and the Advisory Board at 655 New York Ave.

The highlight of the meeting was the presentation of awards to the Clean Team. The Clean Team is responsible for cleaning the streets, sidewalks, and green spaces of the neighborhood. It consists of seven members and one supervisor who work as part of a training program through Central Union Mission.

All of the members have transitioned from homelessness into steady housing. One member’s story was highlighted during the event. Steve Howell was the last of the team to transition into housing. However, he skipped a few of the usual steps and moved straight into homeownership.

Being a member of the Clean Team not only provides financial opportunity, it gives the men an extreme sense of pride, which was on full display at the breakfast.

The CID foresees growth on every level. The new office spaces are estimated to increase the workforce by 10 percent, and housing developments are expected to bring more than 500 new units, a 13 percent increase, in the coming year. Optimism was the theme of the event and appears to be the mindset of the neighborhood.

POW! WOW! DC Paints NoMa

Though much of May was gray and gloomy, NoMa got a whole lot brighter. The NoMa Business Improvement District (BID) hosted POW! WOW! DC, a 10-day event that brought together artists from around the world to create public murals throughout the neighborhood for everyone to enjoy. More than a thousand visitors attended the opening celebration, a day of music, food trucks, drinks, and art.

Local artist Kelly Towles was responsible for taking the POW! WOW! program and tailoring it to the District. Started in Hawaii by artist Jasper Wong, the project has gathered artists in 10 international cities (so far) to turn blank walls into thought-provoking, colorful works.

Towles assembled a group that is half-local and half-visiting. Some of the participants can charge thousands of dollars for their work. Others are just starting out (the youngest is 17). Bringing such a diverse group together allows members to learn from one another and create a “true sense of a team effort,” Towles explains. None of the artists are paid. For them, it’s about the experience of meeting talented people and bringing color to the city.

The main portion of the mural is along the wall of the Metropolitan Branch Trail and continues on the sides of buildings like the old Ibiza and Crucible nightclubs. As Towles describes, “I just want to make my city more beautiful.”

Apple Releases Carnegie Library Plans

What distinguishes a flagship from a regular, run-of-the-mill store? For years, Apple has been banking on customer experience being the answer. As plans proceed for Apple to occupy the historic Carnegie Library, the redesign plans have emphasized the ability to build a creative and interactive experience. Then, hopefully, sell a few phones.

Since an agreement was reached in December between Events DC, which owns the 113-year-old building, and Apple, the two entities have begun the slog through the layers of bureaucracy they will have to overcome to begin, let alone complete, the project.

The plan will require approval from the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) and DC’s Historic Preservation Review Board. It was the latter that put the stop on the International Spy Museum’s plans to occupy the space, which were abandoned in 2014. However, the Spy Museum needed to build a massive expansion onto the building to serve its purpose. Apple’s redesign seems to focus on shaping the existing structure, which might mean a smoother process past the board.

The project is being shepherded by the London firm Foster + Partners – which has designed Apple’s stores around the world (e.g., Dubai, Istanbul, San Francisco) as well as updating their Cupertino Campus – and the Georgetown-based and nationally known firm Beyer Blinder Belle.

The plan, as laid out by Events DC ahead of the NCPC meeting on June 1, includes “insertion of a central atrium space” and “reconfiguration of the north entrance, stairs and landing.” However, most of the project appears to be focused on the existing features, including replacements of windows and skylights, repair of the copper roof cladding, and repair and cleaning of the stone facade. With a nod to history, the plan clearly states, “the project is generally limited to the building itself, [however] minor alterations may be made to site hardscape elements to comply with accessibility and other code requirements.”

Dedicated in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt, the Carnegie Library once functioned as the central public library in the District, until the Martin Luther King Jr. Library opened in 1972. Andrew Carnegie helped fund the construction of more than 2,500 libraries around the world, with over 1,600 in the US. He’s quoted as saying, “A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never-failing spring in the desert.” 

If the project does make it through all the hurdles, the District will see how Apple’s plan to create a community-based educational space in the historic building on Mount Vernon Square will fit with Carnegie’s ideals of what a library should be. The next hurdle: NCPC approval. Stay tuned.

Project Synopsis filed with NCPC: https://www.ncpc.gov/files/projects/2017/7532_Project_Synopsis_Jun2017.pdf

Taylor Barden Golden is a real estate agent with The Stokes Group at McEnearney Associates. A former Hill staffer, Taylor lives in Brentwood with her husband, two dogs, and a cat. She’s always on the lookout for new places to explore and ways to spend time outside. Get in touch:taylor@midcitydcnews.com; @rtaylorb.


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