Transformation Begins on Lower 8th Street

Barracks Row

Culinary Crawl Students Consider flavors at DCanter

The lower two blocks of Barracks Row below the freeway have languished over recent years while the upper three blocks have prospered dramatically. Finally, in November, a slate of new projects was announced that will animate the southern end of the Row.

Over the years, the building at 1100 8th St, SE, (southeast corner 8th and L St, SE)

has been the address of a series of eateries as well as Fuller's Barber Shop, operating to the rear of the building with an entrance on L St, SE. Ken Johnson, of Blake Dikson Real Estate, confirmed recently that 1100 8th St, SE has been leased to an investor group affiliated with several successful DC area restaurants.  The project will become a new concept neighborhood-oriented restaurant that is slated to open in the spring.  Fuller's Barbershop will remain in place, continuing to share the 1100 8th St, SE address with the new enterprise. 

The Brig and the Blue Castle

Four years ago, the owners of the property at corner 720 L St, SE/ 1007 8th St, SE, (northwest corner of 8th and L Streets, SE) announced plans to develop a beer garden, in what is now a parking lot.  Seeing this project as possibly the beginning of the end to the blighted conditions in that area, ANC 6B commissioners voiced no objections. Permits were applied for and issued. But due to the lingering effects of the economic downturn followed by sequestration, the project did not move forward. This week the owners of the site announced plans to break ground shortly on a scaled down version. The revised project will include space for food trucks as well as the long awaited beer garden dubbed, The Brig. It is slated to open in spring 2015. 

The Blue Castle at 8th & M St. SE, formerly a streetcar barn, was sold in 2008 just as the recession turned ugly. Purchased by a mid-Atlantic lifestyle shopping center developer, local fans of the Blue Castle were eager to see it repurposed as a retail destination and to see the original red brick restored. But due to the recession, the new owners shelved the project.  In mid-November, the National Community Church, 535 8th St, SE, the owner of several nearby parcels, entered into a contract to purchase the Blue Castle. There are currently two tenants in the building.

Finally, the Federal Highway Administration released its Record of Decision on the project to rebuild the CSX tunnel that runs beneath Virginia Avenue, SE, between 2nd and 11th Streets, SE. The ROD is the final component of the Environmental Impact Statement and is available at www.virginiaavenuetunnel.com.

Trending toward trendy

The three blocks of the Row to the north of the freeway continue on an ascent path into trendiness unimaginable only a few years ago.  Beginning on the south end of the 700 block, there’s Navy Yard Valet, 755 8th St, SE. While continuing to provide basic dry cleaning and shoe repair to one and all, new owner Andy Kim has picked up on the high-end vibe of the block and plans to fit right in with a focus on extreme customer service.

Just twelve months ago Kim purchased the business and has been diligently at work on cosmetic improvements to the interior including sparkling new windows installed in mid-November.  Further, Kim has restocked the shoe repair section with high-end materials and brought in an experienced cobbler.  Always on the lookout to engage new customers, Navy Yard Valet now has weekly deals. Bring in five garments on Thursday for 20% off!  For quality control all dry cleaning is done on premises at a facility owned by Kim in Northern Virginia.

Salons a-plenty

A few doors away at 749 8th Street, SE,  there is an entirely different type of service business,  Skin Beauty Bar. Formerly located in an upper suite on the 400 block Skin Beauty Bar was established in 2004. After ten years there, Meka Mathis who purchased the business in 2009,  longed to re-brand and expand to more spacious quarters.   With loyal clients coming from as far away as Reston, she was searching for parking, too. 

The newly renovated 749 building was the solution. Still very walkable to and from Metro, this building is less than one half block from the large DC parking lot under the freeway.  “Clients love it,” says Mathis, “almost as much as they love our new online booking service!”

Not the only beauty service provider on the Row, Mathis marveled that each of 8th Street’s salons has its own specialty with little real competition among them. One of Skin Beauty Bar’s primary services is massage followed by waxing and brow shaping. Mathis just added ear candling to reduce sinus pressure and congestion. And then there is eyelash extension. Did you know women’s eyelashes replace themselves naturally and gradually every 28 days? Extensions can really only last for a month. Priced from $60 - $250 depending on how many extensions one desires, they are the perfect way to make a natural appearing vavoom statement.( 20% discount on any service with this article)

Hunt doughnuts, cook with the Chefs and here’s Santa!

Downstairs at District Doughnut consumer enthusiasm continues. Recently Chef Christine Schaffer began to bake all night to keep up with demand.  We felt sad for Christine but happy that customers would never again go home without doughnuts. Then we noticed the sign: “Out of doughnuts – come back tomorrow.” Finally, we got it. The hunt is part of the mystique.  Besides, most everyone will actually be back on the Row tomorrow or the next day. Coming back is not out of the way - it’s part of local sport.

This brings up the question of how often we actually need to leave our neighborhood? Adding to what anchors us all here--the growing assortment of services, retail shops, restaurants, schools, and places of worship--Barracks Row Main Street brings one more ingredient, events.  Culinary Education Crawl 2014 this year blended learning with food. The result? 25 cooking classes held on Saturday, November 15 and Sunday, November 16. Students got to know their professors, our local chefs and, in the end, toasted those chefs as well as restaurant owners and  wait-staffs whose everyday presence defines our neighborhood.  

Next up on the events calendar, Santa Arrives on 8th Street.  On Saturday, December 13, while en-route to pick up your dry cleaning and snag a doughnut, watch out for the man in red. He’ll be in his workshop at 1:30 PM at 8th and G Street, SE, waiting to hear what you want in your stocking.  BRMS will have a photographer on hand and we’ll upload photos of kids, dogs and grown-ups visiting with Santa.  After Santa we say goodbye to 2014 -  see you next year with more reports from Barracks Row.

Santa Arrives