2016 Year-end Neighborhood Development Roundup

Lots of movement in the neighborhood development pipeline. Let’s take a look.

Fort Totten Square

Fort Totten Square, a mixed-use development by JBG Companies and Lowe Enterprises consisting of approximately 345 apartments atop ground floor retail, officially opened in 2015 on Riggs Road NE between 3rd Street and Chillum Place. While the 117,000 square foot Walmart anchor opened in October 2015, ancillary tenants Subway, Five Guys, and Petco all opened near the corner of Chillum Place and Riggs Road NE in 2016.

We still anticipate that a local coffee shop will occupy the space at 3rd Street and Riggs Road, but it looks like we will have to wait until 2017 for that. We have our fingers crossed and look forward to supporting what we believe will be a great addition to the neighborhood.

Art Place at Fort Totten

Construction continues on this multi-phase mixed-use development by Cafritz Enterprises along South Dakota Avenue NE between Galloway Street and Kennedy Street. According to the project page on leasing agent HR Retail’s website, the first phase of the project will open in May 2017. The first phase will consist of approximately 520 apartments atop approximately 100,000 square feet of ground floor retail, with around 141 units set aside for seniors and the tenants of the Riggs Plaza apartments. Relocation of the Riggs Plaza tenants is expected to begin in April 2017.

X-Sport Fitness anchors the project. Other leased tenants include T-Mobile, a pharmacy, and Shining Stars Pediatric Dentist. Lots of retail space remains available for lease as of this writing. Early design plans included space for up to three restaurants. No word on any restaurant tenants just yet though.

The project permanently closed Hamilton Street NE west of South Dakota Avenue. An extension of Ingraham Street NE to the west of South Dakota Avenue still needs to be constructed.

One great aspect of this project is that power to the site will be provided underground. No more butchered trees, so we should enjoy a nice tree canopy along South Dakota Avenue in the future.

Explore! Children’s Museum

We are excited to add the Explore! Children’s Museum of Washington DC to our neighborhood development pipeline this year. One big draw of the Art Place at Fort Totten development is that a children’s museum is planned for the development. While the exact location and timeframe for construction are still open questions, we were excited to see the ball get rolling on plans for the museum.

This year, Explore! museum staff opened an office in the neighborhood and held a Fall Fun Fest and Winter Wonder Fest in their museum hub at 5455 3rd Street NE to introduce themselves to the neighborhood and get feedback on their plans for the museum. Snowflake painting, DIY snow globes, DIY bird feeders, masks, music, and storytelling were just a few of the fun activities that drew families from not just the neighborhood, but from across the metro area. We look forward to having a true destination spot in the neighborhood.

The museum plans to open a pop-up location in the National Portrait Gallery in late January 2017. The next neighborhood event will take place on April 1, 2017.

Fort Totten Metro Donatelli Development

Donatelli bid

Metro issued a request for proposals to develop the long-term parking lot at Fort Totten metro station way back in 2014. The agency selected Donatelli Development’s proposal to build 345 rental apartments, 10,000 square feet of ground floor retail, and a parking garage to replace the surface parking lot. According to Donatelli’s website and Metro’s term sheet with Donatelli, construction on this project will begin in 2017.

Fort Totten South

Also known as Fort Totten Square Phase II, plans for Fort Totten South (pdf) are moving steadily. JBG has teamed up with EYA to build a mixed-use development with approximately 26,000 square feet of retail and 170 to 180 mostly back-to-back townhomes atop a retail podium on the southeast corner of Riggs Road and South Dakota Avenue NE.

Early design plans show one- to two-bedroom loft-style homes fronting South Dakota Avenue with ground floor retail fronting Riggs Road and stacked two- to four-bedroom townhomes above the retail podium. A minimum of 29 of the homes will be set aside as affordable dwelling units and the developers have committed to set aside 5,000 square feet of the retail for a local retailer. A parking garage will sit behind the homes.

The DC Council recently recommended approval of the sale of District-owned property for the project. The developers will start removing trees from the site in January 2017. Current timeline anticipates construction starting in late 2018.

That wraps up our year-end neighborhood development report. Lots to look forward to in 2017. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.

ANC 5A December 14, 2016 Meeting Recap

Guest Post

On Wednesday December 14, 2016, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 5A held its last monthly meeting.  Commissioners Grace Lewis (5A02), Isaiah Burroughs (5A04), Ronnie Edwards (5A05), and Sandi Washington (5A07) were the only commissioners present. Commissioner Washington, the only executive officer present, led the meeting.

The agenda consisted of the Treasury Report, New Member Transition and Community Concerns.

Treasury Report

The opening third quarter balance was $27,233.48. The fourth quarter allotment of $4,607.82 was received on August 22, 2016, leaving an ending third quarter balance of $31,841.30.  Expenditures of $4,874.17 were paid, leaving a fourth quarter closing balance of $26,967.13.

Commissioner Angel Alston’s (5A08) grant documentation is still outstanding. Commissioner Washington, ANC 5A’s treasurer, stated that it can be provided later. A motion to accept the treasurer’s fourth quarter budget report was approved.

New Member Transition

Commissioner Washington suggested that a transition meeting be held to collect ANC material and documentation held by the outgoing commissioners. The materials include, but are not limited to, cell phones, SMD meeting notes, developer documentation, etc. Commissioner Washington will lead this effort.

The swearing-in ceremony for commissioners for the next term will be held on January 2, 2017 in the Walter Washington Convention Center. Invitation letters have been received by some commissioners already.

Community Concerns

Commissioner Lewis provided an update on the flooding that affected the 1200 block of Delafield Place NE. She cited that one house in fully enclosed in white canvas. She said many problems remain since some homeowners have no insurance while others have little funds for repair. She mentioned that city representatives have gone door-to-door to work with residents. The issue of liability has not been resolved yet.

DDOT Preliminary Plans for Eastern Avenue NE

On December 7, 2016, DC’s Department of Transportation held a public meeting to present draft plans for improvements to Eastern Avenue NE between New Hampshire Avenue NE and Whittier Street NW. Those familiar with the area know it is a difficult road to travel. According to DDOT, the project’s goal is to “improve the existing pavement and landscape of this study area and to determine the best solution to address deteriorated sidewalks, retaining walls, curbs, gutters, manholes, catch basins and ADA ramps; to improve traffic and pedestrian/bike safety; and to introduce public realm improvements along this corridor.”

To view a copy of the presentation, click here: DDOT Eastern Avenue NE Rehabilitation Presentation 12-7-2016

DDOT is still finalizing design plans. Much of the work will consist of full pavement reconstruction, except for one small section between Sligo Mill Road and Kansas Avenue, which will consist only of pavement milling and overlay.


DDOT asked its contractor to analyze a possible roundabout at Eastern Avenue and Sligo Mill Road. Because the contractor concluded that a roundabout in that location would result in backups towards New Hampshire Avenue, that possibility will likely be rejected. DDOT will not approve a plan that would result in traffic backups at a major intersection. ANC 4B07 Commissioner Judi Jones asked about the possibility of a roundabout at Kansas Avenue to slow down traffic and make it easier for drivers to make a left-hand turn onto Kansas Avenue. DDOT said they would consider it, but thought its feasibility was unlikely because of the results of the analysis of a roundabout at Sligo Mill showing traffic backups. Draft plans currently show a left turn lane will be installed at Eastern and Kansas Avenue with bump-outs at the corners.


The plan also includes installing a sidewalk on the north side (Takoma Park, MD side) and landscaping on both the north and south side (DC side). Unfortunately, DDOT said there is not much room to install more than just a few new trees on the south side because of gas and water lines, but the agency will install other landscaping and bioretention and stormwater facilities (such as permeable pavement in the parking lanes) where possible.

There was protracted discussion about the location of a potential staircase leading from Eastern Avenue to Old or Little Eastern Avenue in Takoma Park, which runs parallel to the road. The draft plan proposes a staircase on Eastern Avenue between North Capitol Street and Whittier Street. Some residents expressed a preference for the alternate location, which would be at the corner of Eastern Avenue and North Capitol Street. Some residents believed the proposed location would have the undesired effect of encouraging individuals to cross the street mid-block and would also put a staircase right next to a resident’s front yard. A couple of residents expressed concern that a staircase in either location would abet crime by making it easier for individuals to move between Maryland and DC jurisdictions more quickly and evade police.



The good thing about the plan is that bike facilities are included. The not so good thing is that plans currently show a combination of bike lanes and sharrows on both the north and south side due to bump-outs in some locations. The bump-outs are ostensibly designed to narrow the road and slow down traffic, making it safer for pedestrians. But we are not big fans of forcing cyclists to cycle in and out of travel lanes because that can be dangerous if drivers are not anticipating that cyclists will be traveling in a bike lane for some distance, share the road for a short distance, and then go back to a bike lane. Drivers do not really pay attention to sharrows. So it seems that a continuous bike lane would be preferable to protect cyclists and still have the desired effect of reducing speeds. One resident asked about extending the project area to Laurel Street in order to make bike lane connections to the Old Takoma commercial district. DDOT said there is a limited pot of money and that there has to be a defined project area where work is most necessary. Bike lanes can always be installed outside of the project area.


Preliminary plans call for the work to be done in four phases. Only the first phase is expected to result in full road closure. Expect partial roadway closures and detours for the other phases of work. DDOT was not ready to discuss possible relocations of bus stops while construction is ongoing or after the project’s completion.



Current timeline anticipates design to be finalized in fall 2017; construction to begin in summer 2018; and construction to be completed in winter 2019.

Take a look at the plans and send any comments to the project manager Paul Hoffman at paul.hoffman @dc.gov.


Fire at Riggs Road Liquor Store

A fire on December 18, 2016, resulted in a lot of damage to the liquor store on Riggs Road, near the corner of Chillum Place NE. Officials say the fire was accidentally started by a cutting torch. One firefighter suffered injuries.

TBT: Riggs Park’s Jewish Community Roots

In a blog post, Greater Greater Washington explores the movement of Jewish communities across the District. The post includes a neat interactive map from the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington. Riggs Park was home to a sizable Jewish community in the early 1950s, when the semi-detached homes that typify a lot of the older housing stock in the neighborhood were just being developed. Priced to attract families, the homes attracted a large Jewish community to neighborhood. What is now Faith Moravian Church at 405 Riggs Road NE was once the Shaare Tefila Congregation, established in 1951, according to the historical society. In familiar history, there was a large exodus of Jewish residents from the neighborhood in the 1960s. The Shaare Tefila Congregation moved to Maryland in 1965. We know there are residents in the neighborhood who have lived here since the 1950s and 60s and remember this history. It would be cool to capture this history in some way.

December 10: Ward 4 Councilmember Todd Holiday Party & Coat Drive

From Councilmember Todd’s Office:

I invite you to attend my Annual Ward 4 Holiday Party and Coat Drive on December 10th, from 6:00 – 8:00 PM at Lafayette Elementary School, and ask for your generosity to ensure that no young person gets left out in the cold this holiday season. To ensure that everyone’s specific needs are met, please contact our office, and we will match you with a student so you know what size coat to purchase. In general, we are looking for boy and girl coats size 2T to size 18. If you are interested in donating, please contact Malcolm Jolly at (202) 724-8052 or mjolly@dccouncil.us. The holiday party will also include a dessert buffet, so if you are a baker, we encourage you to bring one of your delicious treats to share with everyone. To RSVP, sign up to bake a dessert, volunteer, or join the planning committee for our holiday party, contact Dolly Turner at dturner@dccouncil.us or 202-724-8052.

December 7: Rehabilitation of Eastern Avenue NE Project Public Meeting

From DDOT:

Wednesday, December 7, 2016
6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Location: 6896 Laurel Street NW
Building: EF International Language Center
Room: Lecture Hall


DDOT invites you to a public meeting to discuss the Rehabilitation of Eastern Avenue NE Project (New Hampshire Avenue NE to Whittier Street NW).

The project’s goal is to improve the existing pavement and landscape of this study area and to determine the best solution to address deteriorated sidewalks, retaining walls, curbs, gutters, manholes, catch basins and ADA ramps; to improve traffic and pedestrian/bike safety; and to introduce public realm improvements along this corridor.

DDOT will present design concepts and gather comments from the community at this public meeting.

Be sure to check out www.goDCgo.com to learn about transportation options for getting to this public meeting. (Meeting location is 0.29 miles from Takoma Park Metro Station)

ANC 5A November 30, 2016 Meeting Recap

Guest Post

ANC 5A November 30, 2016 Meeting Recap

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 5A held its monthly meeting. All commissioners were present, except Mr. Frank Wilds (5A01) and Ms. Jasmine White, the former ANC 5A06 commissioner.

McDonald’s PUD Request

Mr. Harry Thomas, Jr. addressed the crowd on behalf of Mr. Raoul Alvarez, the owner of the McDonald’s restaurant at 4950 South Dakota Avenue NE. Mr. Thomas described the restaurant as being the first in the District of Columbia, fortieth in the nation and minority-owned. He stated that the restaurant needs to expand, but the current R-2 zoning prevents further growth.

McDonald’s considered moving but the community rallied around the restaurant upon hearing about the move. Mr. Thomas has obtained support for expansion from neighbors within 200 feet of the restaurant. He has also met with the North Michigan Park Civic Association (NMPCA). The new restaurant will feature the latest McDonald’s architectural design, a drive-thru and solar panels. In addition, McDonald’s has offered access to its training program and $3,000 for scholarships for NMPCA students. The ANC agreed to support McDonald’s zoning amendment request from R-2 (residential) to MU-3 (mixed-use).

Water Main Break: 1200 Block of Delafield Place NE

On Friday November 18, a major water main break occurred that flooded 24 homes with raw sewage.  During the meeting, some residents reported noticing the problem as early as 12:52 pm, but assistance did not arrive until 4:00 pm. The problem was repaired the next day by 6:00 am with the replacement of an 18-inch pipe and two water services.

Those affected were angered because while the city addressed the infrastructure, no one addressed the needs of the residents. During the event, many had no access to drinkable water or restroom facilities, especially the elderly — many of whom are homebound. Furthermore, many homes still require cleanup and remediation while others have no heat. Many consider this event as an emergency due to the scale of damage and suffering.

The residents are dismayed that their concerns are being addressed only now, nearly two weeks after the event. There is much work to be done that only the councilmember or mayor can authorize. Representatives from those offices promised to relay the community’s concerns and to review how the flooding in Bloomingdale was handled for guidance. Our prayers are with everyone affected by this tragic event.

December 3: Explore! Winter Wonder Fest

Family-friendly neighborhood event tomorrow with Explore! Children’s Museum:

Saturday, December 3, 2016
11:00 am – 1:00 pm
5455 3rd Street NE

We’re hosting our second FREE backyard fest – and this time we’re celebrating winter! Enjoy family-friendly activities, meet new neighbors, and learn what Explore! has in store for the new year. Families and children of all ages welcome; dress for outdoor weather and bring your own smock or old t-shirt for wall painting.

Activites to include:

  • DIY snow globes
  • Playful wall painting
  • Snowflake creations
  • Experiment with light
  • Large-scale whimsical weaving is back! You’re invited to bring your own fabric, ribbon, etc. to weave into this collaborative community project.
  • Snacks and Drinks

Event details and RSVP available here.