Four Stars for LaSalle-Backus Education Campus

Neighborhood school LaSalle-Backus Education Campus received 4 stars on the latest DC School Report Card. The school received 3 stars last year. The improvement in the star rating comes on the heels of the school’s recognition as a leveler elementary school by the DC Policy Center. The Center describes a leveler school as one that meets the high targets for growth for their at-risk students. This is quite the turnaround for the school, which just 10 years ago was under restructuring for failure to make adequate yearly progress.

I remember when former principal Justin Ralston was installed at LaSalle in 2016 and he noted that residents and others thought of LaSalle as a failing school, but he did not view the school that way. The school has made steady improvements every year since. The school cycled through interim principals due to an incident at Roosevelt High School that resulted in Mr. Ralston’s abrupt installation as interim principal at that school in October 2018. Shelly Gray, who served as an assistant principal at LaSalle for several years, became the new permanent principal of LaSalle in June 2019.

Whittier Education Campus, which serves the Lamond community as well, also received 4 stars. The DC Policy Center recognized Whittier as a leveler middle school. Whittier and LaSalle are in the middle of phasing out their middle school grades.

Kudos to both school communities.

Lamond-Riggs Library Design Unveiled

By Robert Oliver (Contributor)

On Tuesday, November 19, over 40 community members met at the Lamond-Riggs Library to attend the latest community engagement meeting on the new Lamond-Riggs Library design. DC Public Library Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan hosted the meeting and introduced the HGA architect team led by Peter Cook, Design Principal.

Mr. Reyes-Gavilan gave a brief summary of the project timeline. He stated that the Lamond-Riggs Library project began in fall 2017, has a projected closing of summer 2020, and will reopen by late 2021. He also thanked his team and the Lamond-Riggs Library Friends for the work done so far. Next, Mr. Cook spoke.

Mr. Cook cited that the community emphasized three elements which, in turn, drove the design process: Natural Light, Quiet Spaces, and Local History. Then, he touched upon the site and building considerations faced by his team. Although the current site looks spacious, it contains three setbacks (two at 15’ and one at 20’) that frame the building’s size to 11,800 square feet per floor. Based on these restrictions and a heritage tree on Jefferson Street NE, the current parking lot size and location was deemed optimal. The library entrance will be moved closer to Kennedy Street, shortening the walk to the parking lot. Also, the building contour was modified from a rectangle to a parallelogram, with children’s and adult/teen programming on the first and second floors, respectively. Lastly, the building will feature a ground-level front porch, second floor balcony facing Jefferson Street NE, and a stormwater garden at the rear. 

The interior features a 100-seat, dividable meeting room and a smaller room supporting 12 to 20 occupants. Several study rooms are planned that support between four and six occupants. To address community history, Mr. Cook suggested the concept of a Heritage Wall that the community will develop. Before taking questions, Mr. Cook welcomed community input on the project.

The following are responses to audience questions:

  • The number of parking spaces remains the same, which is estimated at 11.
  • A bus stop at South Dakota Avenue and Kennedy Street NE was requested. WMATA makes the ultimate decision.
  • A bump-out at the intersection of South Dakota Avenue and Jefferson Street NE was requested.  It will be looked into.
  • Food will be allowed in the library per current policy.
  • A room for the Lamond-Riggs Library Friends is allocated.
  • A request for more books in Chinese, Spanish and other languages was made.
  • The new library will meet the LEED Silver standard, but no green roof will be installed.
  • Additional artwork, including sculpture, is under consideration.
  • The interim library will be located at the Modern at Art Place, pending execution of a lease agreement.

View the full presentation at https://www.slideshare.net/DCPublicLibrary/dc-public-library-new-lamondriggs-library.

The project website is https://www.dclibrary.org/newlamondriggs.

November 13, 2019 ANC 5A Meeting Recap

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, ANC 5A held its November meeting on November 13, 2019. Commissioners present: Frank Wilds (5A01); Grace Lewis (5A02); Chair Ronnie Edwards (5A05); Sandi Washington (5A07); Gordon Fletcher (5A08)

The ANC approved its fiscal year 2020 budget.

MPD Report

See resources and MPD stats for November here.

Ramdass Pharmacy was robbed of narcotics on Monday, November 4 around 2:30 am. Other pharmacies across the city were robbed the same week. Ramdass was robbed again at gunpoint on November 11 around 3:30 pm. T-Mobile on South Dakota Avenue has also been robbed a couple of times. Lt. Patrick Schaut said MPD has discussed security issues with both stores. For T-Mobile, Lt. Schaut said MPD has to go through corporate headquarters to obtain video and it is up to corporate headquarters what kind of security they want to have in their store.

There have been a couple of street robberies. As it is getting dark early, be aware of surroundings. Do not walk with phones out or earbuds in.

If you are doing online selling or buying and arranging for pickup of items, arrange to meet up at a police station. As holiday season approaches, have deliveries delivered to safe locations. Try not to have deliveries sitting unattended on the porch.

Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie Report

Councilmember McDuffie has two new staff members–Legislative Counsel Sandra Karpinsky and Committee Director Justin Roberts. Senior Advisor Silas Grant will be conducting a walkthrough of Commissioner Gordon Fletcher’s SMD (5A08) with Commissioner Fletcher, a Ward 5 MOCR, and DDOT on November 21 at 4:30 pm. Meet at the corner of South Dakota Avenue and Galloway Street NE.

The councilmember’s holiday party/toy drive will be on December 12 at Dock 5 at Union Market.

Rocketship Charter School

On October 28, 2019, the DC Public Charter School Board (DCPCSB) approved the opening of Rocketship’s third campus at 5450 Kennedy Street NE. Rocketship returned to the ANC to explain the kidnapping that occurred at its Rocketship RISE campus in Ward 8 on October 11. The incident was reported by Fox 5 DC.

Joyanna Smith, Rocketship DC Regional Director, stated that on October 11, Rocketship RISE Academy was holding parent-teacher conferences so the school was actually closed. Parents asked if care could be provided all day for parents who needed it, so Rocketship asked its before and aftercare provider Springboard to provide care for the day. Ms. Smith said that the school has two sets of doors, one at the entrance where visitors must be buzzed in. The second set is manned by a paid, off-duty police officer. A mother went to the school for her two sons. The alleged kidnapper walked in behind the mother and at the second set of doors, told the officer that he was with the mother and that she was the mother of his children. The officer believed him, did not ask for identification, and allowed him to enter. Then the alleged perpetrator went to the gym where the boys were playing and after playing with them for about 15 minutes, persuaded them to leave the gym with him. A Rocketship office manager saw the alleged perpetrator with the boys and suspected something was amiss and took the boys away from the man. Police were called and only then did anyone realize that the individual was a registered sex offender and that he should not have been on the property.

Rocketship terminated its relationship with Springboard as of November 8, 2019. Ms. Smith said she was not informed about the incident until several days after it happened and only a few days before DCPCSB’s October 28th meeting. She stated that probably the biggest failure was not alerting parents within 24 hours of the incident, so they are working to regain the trust of parents, which she said is a difficult process for everyone. They are also working on protocols to make sure everyone knows security procedures and each person’s role and responsibility, so that the communication gap between the school’s leadership and Rocketship leadership does not happen again.

There was protracted discussion among the commissioners led by Commissioner Frank Wilds (5A01) about whether the ANC should go on record with a vote on the school. This even though DCPCSB already held its public meeting and approved opening a third campus, and the ANC had several opportunities to take a vote and to submit comments before the new campus was approved and did not do so. Commissioner Wilds accused Commissioner Fletcher of “being on the take,” but offered no details on what that was supposed to mean. Commissioners Wilds, Grace Lewis (5A02), and Sandi Washington (5A07) voted in favor of taking a vote, with Commissioner Fletcher opposed. It was unclear how Chair Ronnie Edwards (5A05) voted. Chair Edwards stated the ANC will not have a December meeting, so it is unclear when exactly they plan to conduct this vote.

Construction on the interior of the new campus will continue throughout the winter months. Rocketship will continue to attend the ANC meetings to provide construction and other updates.

Social Justice Charter School

As previously noted, Social Justice Charter School will operate a middle school at Rocketship’s new Riggs Park campus beginning in school year 2020-2021. Representatives of the Social Justice School returned to talk about their school model. Students have crews and learning is based on a social justice model for each class. Social Justice School representatives hold a community engagement event each month. This month’s event is a design competition at Lamond-Riggs Library on November 23 at 2:00 pm. The school anticipates having a hearing before the DCPCSB in February 2020 about the school’s facilities. A condition of the school’s conditional charter approval is that the school must show that it has a lease or title for a sufficient school facility by February 2020.

November 25: ANC 4B Public Meeting

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B 

Regular Public Meeting

Monday, November 25, 2019, 7:00 p.m.

MPD, 4th District Station, 6001 Georgia Ave., NW

Agenda

1. Call to Order & Roll Call

2.        Old Business (if applicable)

3.        Consideration and Approval of Agenda

4.        Approval of October Regular Public Meeting Minutes

5.        Approval of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B Annual Report

6.        Treasurer’s Report and Approval of Reimbursement of Expenses to ANC 4A

7.        Reports:

A. Metropolitan Police Department, 4th District (3 minutes)

B. Office of Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon T. Todd (3 minutes)C. Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services (3 minutes)
D. Ward 4 State Board of Education Representative Frazier O’Leary (3 minutes)
8.        Community Concerns: This is the time for questions or statements from members of the public about issues on the agenda or other areas of concern. Please limit your statement or question to one minute.

9.        Presentation: Tischa Cockrell, 1st Vice President, Lamond-Riggs Citizens Association & Terry Goings, Ward 4 Education Alliance, Rocketship PCS Riggs Campus (Commissioner Parks – 5 minute presentation; 5 minute discussion)

10.     Presentation: Sassan Gharai, SGA Companies, Proposed Development at 300-308 Carroll Street, NW & 325 Vine Street, NW (Commissioner Bromaghim – 5 minute presentation; 5 minute discussion)

11.     Presentation: Kevin A. Brown, Montage Development Group, Proposed Development at 225 Vine Street, NW (Commissioner Bromaghim – 5 minute presentation; 5 minute discussion)

12.     Consent Calendar:

Resolution 4B-19-1101: Supporting Necessary Funding for Lighting and Pathway at Takoma Community Center (Commissioner Knickerbocker)

13.     Resolution 4B-19-1102: Supporting Application for Alcoholic Beverage License for Walmart, 310 Riggs Road, NE (ABRA-109874) (Commissioner Huff – 3 minute presentation; 3 minute discussion)

14.     Resolution 4B-19-1103: Protesting Application for Alcoholic Beverage License for Boulevard Lounge, 6233 Georgia Ave, NW (ABRA-115385) (Commissioner Knickerbocker – 3 minute presentation; 3 minute discussion)

15.     Resolution 4B-19-1104: Supporting Renewal of Alcoholic Beverage License for S&S Wine & Spirits, 6925 4th Street, NW (ABRA-114978) (Commissioner Palmer – 3 minute presentation; 3 minute discussion)

16.     Resolution 4B-19-1105: Supporting Renewal of Alcoholic Beverage License for Takoma Station Tavern, 6914 4th Street, NW (ABRA-079370) (Commissioner Palmer – 3 minute presentation; 3 minute discussion)

17.     Resolution 4B-19-1106: Supporting Renewal of Alcoholic Beverage License for The V.I.P. Room, 6201 3rd Street, NW (ABRA-105823) (Commissioner Parks- 3 minute presentation; 3 minute discussion)

18.     Resolution 4B-19-1107: Supporting Renewal of Alcoholic Beverage License for Jackie Lee’s, 116 Kennedy Street, NW (ABRA-105767) (Commissioner Brooks – 3 minute presentation; 3 minute discussion)

19.     Resolution 4B-19-1008: Resolution on Trinity Episcopal Church (BZA 20111) (Commissioner Yeats – 3 minute presentation; 3 minute discussion)

20.     Adjournment

Please Note: Anyone in the audience may speak on any subject during “Community Concerns.” You may also contact members of the Commission before and after Commission meetings. Discussion on other agenda items will generally be limited to Commissioners. Finally, the meeting may not last beyond 9:00 p.m. unless extended by a two/thirds vote of the Commission.

Next Regular Public Meeting:  Monday, January 27, 2019, 7:00 p.m., MPD, 4th District Station, 6001 Georgia Ave., NW

Contact your Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner: ANC 4B01 Evan Yeats (4B01@anc.dc.gov); ANC 4B02 Erin Palmer (4B02@anc.dc.gov); ANC 4B03 Scot Knickerbocker (4B03@anc.dc.gov); ANC 4B04 Brenda Parks (4B04@anc.dc.gov); ANC 4B05 Perry Redd (4B05@anc.dc.gov); ANC 4B06 Tiffani Nichole Johnson (4B06@anc.dc.gov); ANC 4B07 Geoff Bromaghim (4B07@anc.dc.gov); ANC 4B08 Alison Brooks (4B08@anc.dc.gov); ANC 4B09 LaRoya Huff (4B09@anc.dc.gov)

Erin Palmer, Secretary, ANC 4B

ANC 4B02 Commissioner

Next Stop Neighbors: Jamal Gray with Meow Wolf

By David Kosub (Contributor)

Weird. Yes. Sci-Fi novel come to life. Check. DIY. Thumps up. Space and time traveling. Naturally. Coming to Riggs Park. Woot woot. That’s right, the immersive art collective Meow Wolf is revving up and getting ready to meet us. In this edition of Next Stop Neighbors, we’ll get to know the man who is tasked with the job.

Jamal Gray is Meow Wolf’s liaison with the artists in DC and the community here. Our conversation weaves in and out from his Aquatic Gardening Roots in the District, the history of Meow Wolf, his philosophy to be “neighborhoodly,” social impacts, his artistic flare, and a full body slam for good measure. LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!!

Click here to listen to the conversation (running time: 19 minutes – we just kept going and going)

Jamal Gray with David Kosub

Background on Next Stop Neighbors:

Welcome to Next Stop Neighbors where we get an opportunity to hear the voices behind the faces and places in Lamond-Riggs and the surrounding communities. Through this podcast series, you will meet some friendly neighbors and hear their perspectives on the community through civil, casual conversations. From the small business owner who just opened up, to the non-profit organization trying to make a difference, to the community leader describing their vision for the neighborhood, and the resident around the corner who has lived here for 50 years, we all have a story to tell. We welcome recommendations and, better yet, your own 10-minute interviews too!

Can’t get enough Next Stop Neighbors? Check out these past conversations for more:

Robert “The Library Guy” Oliver (October 2019)
Soon-to-Be Moms and Soon-to-Be Dads (September 2019)
Explore! Children’s Museum (August 2019)
Troka Insurance (July 2019)
Ms. V and Culture Coffee Too (July 2019)
Bertie Backus Urban Food Hub (June 2019)
LRCA Forward Team (April 2019)
Ramdass Pharmacy (March 2019

REMINDER-November 19: Lamond-Riggs Library Design Community Meeting

Lamond-Riggs Library Community Meeting: Design of the New Library
November 19, 2019
7:00 PM
Lamond-Riggs Library
5401 South Dakota Avenue NE

Join your friends and neighbors for the next meeting about the new Lamond-Riggs Library. The design team will share the latest designs and gather your feedback. Learn more about the project at dclibrary.org/newlamondriggs.

Chick-fil-A: Renderings, Drive-Thru, & Delivery Kitchen Pilots

I finally got my hands on renderings for the Chick-fil-A planned to replace the KFC/Taco Bell at 220 Riggs Road NE, courtesy of ANC Commissioner Alison Brooks (4B08). Also, a neighbor sent me a Reuters article entitled, “U.S. restaurants remove dining rooms to speed off-site food frenzy.” It describes the use of so-called “dark kitchens” and the real estate and labor cost savings that result from providing service only via drive-thru or pickup windows for mobile orders:

The newest Chopt Creative Salad Co location, which opened Tuesday in New York, is unlike any of the chain’s other 61 sites. It has no cash registers or tables for customers.

Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A Inc has similar sites in Nashville and Louisville, where customers order and prepay online with the option for delivery or pickup.

Chick-fil-A is also trying something different, opening three pilot “delivery kitchens” this year – in Chicago, Los Angeles and near San Francisco. The latter is run by delivery platform DoorDash Inc.

At those sites, the chicken chain shares kitchens with other restaurants to prepare food for delivery only.

Off-premise digital orders are a major growth area for fast-food and fast-casual chains. More are turning to these so-called dark, virtual or ghost kitchens, which can also save labor and real estate costs.

“U.S. restaurants remove dining rooms to speed off-site food frenzy” by Hilary Russ, available at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-fastfood-kitchens-idUSKBN1XP1A1

Unclear if that is what is going on for the location planned for this neighborhood, which will be drive-thru only with a walk-up window. But as I mentioned before, 2,600 square feet is more than enough space to have interior seating, so surely the decision not to include interior seating is a business cost decision, not one based on “room.” And if that space is not being used for interior seating, then what is it being used for. Plenty of businesses have figured out how to streamline mobile order and pickup while also providing standard in-person ordering and dining. This is a by-right project, but ANC 4B should find out exactly what Chick-fil-A is planning for this location.

Edit: Media also report on Chick-fil-A’s recent change in charitable donation priorities.

Exterior View
Exterior View
Exterior Elevations (North & South)
Exterior Elevation (East & West)

More thoughts on Chick-fil-A

Blog contributor David Kosub did a nice job of explaining why swapping fast-food for fast-food at a major intersection in the neighborhood represents not much of an opportunity in this post. Here are my thoughts on Chick-fil-A that I originally started composing as a way too long comment to his post.

1. Make community engagement useful. Chick-fil-A representatives are scheduled to attend ANC 4B’s meeting on November 25. I hope they bring at least a basic one-pager/fact sheet with an overview of the project, the process, timeline for when certain steps of the process will take place, construction plans, and answers to questions already asked by residents that can be posted on 4B’s website so that everyone is on the same page. This is basic community engagement and even though this is a by-right project, Chick-fil-A should want to be a good neighbor and there should still be a basic level of engagement.

2. Make the public space permit process useful. We have been told that the only public comment process required for this project is DDOT’s public space permit process. ANC 4B will have an opportunity to comment on Chick-fil-A’s application once that is submitted. I really hope DDOT and the development team have some fantastic ideas about how to manage accessing this corner location. As David mentioned in his post, I do think there is also an opportunity to make this space as attractive as possible for that corner, especially if Chick-fil-A is going to be leasing this space for many years. The existing KFC building is not an eyesore to me, but if the Chick-fil-A team is going to knock down two buildings (one of which is an eyesore) and put up an entirely new one, might as well make this corner as visually appealing as possible. For example, they could do a lot with native landscaping to deal with stormwater runoff. How they design the outdoor seating and the exterior of the building, having adequate trash receptacles, placement and containment of their dumpster, all those are things that I hope they are prepared to address. And I do hope The Parks Main Street will present some ideas to Chick-fil-A for this part of the process.

3. Provide traffic mitigation measures. At the Lamond-Riggs Citizens Association (LRCA) meeting on November 4, the Chick-Fil-A representatives noted that there will be a dual lane for ordering, which they say will allow the location to accommodate more cars on the lot and minimize the number of cars in the street. But I am guessing there will still be lots of cars idling in the street. We know that Chick-fil-A is just very popular and people are completely willing to wait in long drive-thru lines for their food (no judgment, just fact). A traffic study still needs to be done, but I would like to know what other mitigation measures they will take, such as utilizing traffic control officers if that becomes necessary or staff to walk the lines to speed up the order process.

4. Have interior seating. They could not answer the question of how much of the buildable lot (the KFC plus the former Dakota Liquor building next door) they are using for the building itself. As noted, the new building will be approximately 2,600 square feet, which is a fairly decent size for an operation that is not planned to have interior seating. I am not sure how big the current KFC is, but I am really curious about why they say there is no room for interior seating. For comparison the Five Guys at Fort Totten Square, which does have interior seating, is roughly 2,200 square feet. I suspect the decision has more to do with staffing decisions and construction and business financing than “room,” but that is just speculation on my part. I do think having a little bit of interior seating would be better and make this a more walkable location, especially if they really do keep the number of parking spaces minimal at nine or less. I am curious how many public restrooms there will be. To me, what would be even better is if they built a location like the one in downtown Silver Spring. Of course I have to acknowledge that there are large parking garages in downtown Silver Spring for people to park, which we do not have in this neighborhood. And of course they are attracted to this location precisely because it already has a drive-thru so they do not have to jump through hoops to put one in. Still, parking and interior seating do not have to go hand-in-hand and this location should have interior seating.

5. Support the community and support local. The Chick-fil-A representatives are likely aware of the reputation of its owners, who support anti-LGBTQ causes. The representatives made a point of noting that while Chick-fil-A corporate is responsible for leasing, purchasing equipment, and building out each restaurant, each Chick-fil-A has its own operator who is responsible for hiring and who decides what kinds of groups to support. This distinction between the corporate owner and the franchise operator is a point that has been made before in response to protest. This distinction of course might not matter to some, but if Chick-fil-A does get this location off the ground, people should not be shy in recommending how this location can support community groups.

6. This could be a good opportunity for the neighborhood, maybe. Objectively speaking, Chick-fil-A is probably a higher quality fast food restaurant than KFC/Taco Bell (don’t @ me). When you look at the Vibrant Retail Streets Initiative that was done for this neigborhood in 2015, Streetsense and DC’s Office of Planning stated that for a neighborhood like this one with a few long-term businesses and an untested retail market with a slew of new development on the way, the goal should be to continually seek to upgrade retail options to get to the retail that we really desire (see Part I: Market Analysis; Part II: Retail Attraction; Part III: Start at Step One). For example, a Subway may become a Panera Bread (just an example for the Subway lovers out there). So from that perspective, having a Chick-fil-A replace a KFC/Taco Bell would be moving in the direction of “better” for the neighborhood, especially if the Chick-fil-A has interior seating, and might be a good way of proving the market for more desirable retailers.

That said, as an aside, I am a little curious what other retailers, particularly food and beverage retailers, have approached or been approached by this particular property owner (and others in the neighborhood). I know that this is not the first time Chick-fil-A has shown interest in this particular location, so when I hear things like XYZ retailer is not interested in the neighborhood or the other myriad excuses for not having a sit-down restaurant, I do suspect something else is going on, like seeking a lease rate that is kind of ridiculous. I believe The Parks Main Street is working on a strategy for retail attraction so that it is not done haphazardly and residents do not feel like things are just being dropped on the neighborhood with no regard to impact because they are by-right projects (like a 117,000 square Walmart or a planned Chick-fil-A drive-thru with no interior seating at a major intersection).

These are just my thoughts on how we can help the ANC help us try to maximize what little opportunity may exist as we go through this process. I do hope people will provide constructive feedback to ANC 4B as we move forward.

Fast Food for Fast Food – Not Much of an Opportunity for Riggs Park

By David Kosub (Contributor)

At the November Lamond-Riggs Citizens Association (LRCA) meeting and as we first read about here, we learned that Chick-fil-A will likely be replacing the KFC-Taco Bell at the corner of 3rd Street NE and Riggs Road NE. The 23-minute audio from the meeting is available here (apologies for the poor sound quality).

Representatives from Chick-fil-A informed us they seek to create a 2,600 square foot facility at 220 Riggs Rd NE, with a drive-through and pedestrian walk-up order option. There may be nine or ten parking spaces, bike racks, and outside seating, but no indoor seating due to a claim of insufficient room available.

If there is one thing this community seems to agree on, it is the desire and need for quality sit-down restaurant options in the neighborhood. Though fast food joints can barely be considered a restaurant in my book, it is disheartening that we would lose one that currently has indoor seating for one that does not. It is also unclear how often patrons would opt for outdoor seating, especially in times of inclement weather.

As I stated at the meeting, I believe replacing fast food with fast food is not much of an opportunity for this neighborhood. In the 2009 Area Development Plan for the South Dakota Avenue NE and Riggs Road NE corridor, it refers to the existing KFC-Taco Bell as an “opportunity site” for future development. Opportunities exist, as the plan notes, to have future development set back from the street allowing for a visually strong corner to be created with aesthetically unified, pedestrian-friendly, street-facing retail. Furthermore, as the plan goes on to say, future development should  consider accommodating aesthetic “landmark elements,” such as public art, open space, and vegetation, to “truly create a sense of place and assist with reestablishing the intersection as the heart of the neighborhood.” Call me a cynic, but somehow having another fast food option at this busy intersection does not rise to the Area Development Plan’s aspirations.

Naturally, traffic was a touch point at the meeting. The developers are proposing replacing some existing curb cuts to help with traffic on Riggs Road and on 3rd Street, allowing one way in and one way out of the site. Their traffic engineers are studying traffic patterns and also recognized the issues with illegal U-turns on Riggs Road and on 3rd Street and with Walmart drivers exiting onto 3rd Street. When completed, they will share findings with the Distrist Department of Transportation Public Space Committee. Proximity to metro was mentioned as a positive, but I assume that the vast amount of patrons will be driving, not taking metro to come here from some other part of the city for their waffle fry fix.

The complete process including DDOT agency review, ANC4B presentation, community engagement, and public comment is expected to take nine months. Of note, a hearing with the Board of Zoning Adjustment is not needed as this is a by-right project, which involves simply replacing one fast food restaurant with another. There is a chance the Chick-fil-A representatives will be present at the November or December LRCA Development Task Force meeting, but the chairs of that committee (one of whom is the LRCA president) have not shared any specific details yet.

Beyond the discussion at the meeting, a 2019 retail market analysis encouraged The Parks Main Street (on whose Board I serve) to continue attracting new small local businesses to enliven Riggs Park. It also reinforced the notion that “there is un-tapped demand for sit-down restaurants…and available space for arts, flex, and community uses.”

As this fast food location evolves from one chain to another, I hope the developers will be willing to work with The Parks Main Street in designing a visually appealing streetscape (if such a thing is doable for a drive-through fast food joint) that both beautifies the neighborhood and is one that current and future residents can enjoy. If done well, perhaps this may incentivize an actual locally-based sit-down restaurant to set up shop in Riggs Park too.

All this said, and putting the values and politics of Chick-fil-A corporate owners aside for the moment, I will remain open to hearing what the developers have to say. We should also continue making our voices heard to ensure the community’s concerns are addressed as this process moves forward.

November 13: ANC 5A Public Meeting

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the monthly ANC 5A meeting is being held on November 13.

ANC 5A Monthly Public Meeting
November 13, 2019
6:45 pm
UDC-CC Backus
5171 South Dakota Avenue NE
Agenda items:
(1) Rocketship Charter School
(2) ANC 5A FY2020 proposed budget. The proposed budget is available for review on the ANC 5A website https://www.anc5a.org under the “Meeting Minutes and Resources” tab

November 16: Hellbender Brewery 5th Anniversary

By David Kosub (Contributor)

On Saturday, November 16, 2019, Hellbender Brewery will celebrate its fifth anniversary. Here is a link to get tickets. Some more details:

Price: $15 (receive custom anniversary pint glass and first beer) – not too shabby  

Beers: Releasing 5 barrel aged beers, including the official anniversary beer: Imperial Honey Farmhouse ale made with local wildflower honey (from the owner’s father’s bee hives – well as a vegan, I’ll try the other four I guess) 😊

Food: Timber Pizza and Smoke and Ember BBQ – um, I love food trucks

Free Spirits: One Eight Distilling and Sangfroid Distilling from noon-3p – um, I love free spirits

Music: DJ Tokyo Lovehandles from on top of the brewhouse all day – um, I guess I love Lovehandles too

Games: Cornhole and giant jenga set up in the brewhouse – never a dull moment

Perhaps we should have a Thirsty Third Thursday neighborhood gathering to help celebrate, but instead of Thursday, it’d be Saturday . . . .

Prost!

Culture Coffee Too 2nd Anniversary Exhibition, Craft Show & DMV Black Restaurant Week

This week is DMV Black Restaurant Week. A number of restaurants in the DC area are offering discounts, including our own local coffee shop Culture Coffee Too, located at 300 Riggs Road NE. Check out the shop for special promotions.

This November marks Culture Coffee Too’s second anniversary. Stop by the Second Anniversary Exhibition on Friday, November 8, 6:00 pm-8:00 pm.

Culture Coffee Too
Second Anniversary Exhibition: Disruptors in Color

Opening Reception
November 8, 2019
6:00 pm-9:00 pm
300 Riggs Road NE

Culture Coffee Too Second Anniversary Exhibition November 8

On Saturday, November 9, check out CCT’s Craft Show. Find crafts, jewelry, sweets, and more

Culture Coffee Too Craft Show
November 9, 2019
10:00 am-3:00 pm
300 Riggs Road NE

Culture Coffee Too Craft Show
Culture Coffee Too Craft Show November 9, 2019

Meow Wolf Community Meeting Recap

On October 24, 2019, Meow Wolf, a Santa Fe-based arts and entertainment group, held a community meeting about its plans to open a new location here in the neighborhood in Riggs Park. Meow Wolf is planning locations in Denver and Las Vegas as well.

The meeting served as the company’s introduction to the community. It is challenging to articulate what exactly Meow Wolf is. Danika Padilla, Senior Director of Social Impact, started off by sharing the company’s origin story. It was started by a group of friends in 2008 as an artist collective who just wanted to make weird, interesting, immersive art, and that is what they offer. For example, for one exhibit, an artist who uses a wheelchair designed a space with low ceilings so that people could engage with the space from the perspective of someone in a wheelchair.

Since 2017, it has been a certified B-corporation, a certification for businesses that want to do social good. It is not a nonprofit organization. They describe their business as one with a triple bottom line focused on financial, social, and environmental well-being. Their website has a lot of information about their philanthropy, artist engagement, DIY Fund, and community support.

Han Sayles, Director of Artist Collaboration, spoke a bit about the artist engagement piece and how the company wants to know how it can serve the DC area artist landscape. They are very interested in providing a space for local artists to share their work and be paid fair compensation for their work.

They were also there to listen and find out how they can be a good neighbor. They have hired a local DC artist and resident, Jamal Gray, to serve as a community outreach liaison. They posed several questions to get the conversation started, listed below in no particular order:

  1. In what ways can Meow Wolf support artists?
  2. What inspires you about your community?
  3. What is important to know about the community?
  4. What do you enjoy doing for fun in your community?
  5. How can Meow Wolf be a good neighbor?
  6. What advice would you give to foster inclusivity and accessibility for local residents?
  7. Are there local resources or groups that Meow Wolf should be aware of?
  8. What are the challenges for new businesses coming into the area?
  9. What else would you like Meow Wolf to know?

There were actually two sessions in the same evening; information presented at each was the same. I only attended the second session, so I am only sharing observations from that session. Besides providing feedback on these questions, audience members raised questions about a variety of topics. It was apparent that some people did not realize that Meow Wolf will be part of a much larger development, Art Place at Fort Totten. People asked what other retailers will be part of the development, stating their desire not to have chains. Meow Wolf has no control over that, but did state they have asked the Cafritz Foundation, which is developing the project, to prioritize local retailers. One resident raised a point about making the space environmentally green, considering the number of trees that will be cut down for the development itself. Meow Wolf talked about wanting to have a compost system. They also noted that in Santa Fe, 70% of the visitors are tourists, so for DC they really want to think about ways to incentivize using public transit to access the site.

There was a protracted discussion about gentrification and how some believe this project will be a gentrifying force in the community (gentrification being undefined). Meow Wolf noted that they prize community engagement, showing up and listenting to the unique needs of the community. To that end, they plan to have a community advisory group for the DC location just as they do for their other locations.

They are really interested in finding out how they can be helpful in the local DC area artist landscape. For example in Denver, with the community advisory group, Meow Wolf set a goal that 40% of the artists involved in that location be local artists, and they said they have reached that goal. The artists in the room asked about the boundaries of what is considered a local artist, to which Meow Wolf responded they are definitely looking at Baltimore and Richmond area artists for the DC location. The artist engagement page has a link for people to submit their portfolios if they are interested in being part of a launch event or showing in the space. Some had very specific questions about whether there would be space for music performances or live fire shows. Likely yes to the first question, not sure about the second.

On a personal note, as Art Place starts to build out arts-focused programming in the next phase, I think it would be really awesome for these organizations to provide an opportunity for young people to really explore. While I do believe everything is not for everybody and one thing cannot be all things to everyone, I do not think we should automatically discount certain spaces as off-limits or “not for us” for any particular group of people, whether that be seniors, youth, or people of color, especially if there is an opportunity to engage early on with the creators of the space. Building out a junior staff program for young people or even a work-study program for people of all ages would be really great for the neighborhood. The idea is to expose youth not just to the arts in terms of creating art, but also the many possible careers supporting the arts, such as teaching, fundraising, marketing, and program development. Meow Wolf noted in response to a question that the DC location will provide about 100 jobs, not just for artists but for positions that will support the building and maintenance of exhibits and programming. I also think arts programming provides a really great opportunity of fostering intergenerational interaction. The notion that all artists are young and that the space will only appeal to millenials is not accurate to me. Just my view.

I think the bottom line is that with opening still a few years away in 2022, Meow Wolf is really interested in hearing how immediate community members see this space being part of the community. At 75,000 square feet, it is going to be a big space. If you are interested in providing feedback to the questions listed above or about anything else, email DC@MeowWolf.com.

Walmart Wants to Sell Beer & Wine

The Walmart located at 310 Riggs Road NE is trying for a second time to get a license to sell beer and wine. The placard notifying the public of the store’s application for a Class B license with tasting permit was posted on October 25, 2019. The protest period ends December 9, 2019.

Recall from this post, we started going through this exercise last year. The ANC commissioner at that time held community meetings and ultimately decided to pursue a protest with the goal of getting a voluntary settlement agreement with the store. Walmart still needed to resolve a legal question about a regulatory provision requiring evidence of a certain amount of renovations at the store. It appears Walmart requested an advisory opinion on the matter from the Board, which it received in October 2018. Now that all of that is cleared up, Walmart is back to try again. There is now a different commissioner for that area, ANC Commissioner LaRoya Huff (4B09). It is unclear if the ANC will again pursue a protest in order to obtain a settlement agreement.

When I served as president of the Lamond-Riggs Citizens Association (LRCA), I registered the organization with ABRA so that it would have its own standing and not necessarily have to rely on the ANC in ABRA license matters. So theoretically, LRCA could seek its own settlement agreement with the store if the organization meets certain requirements. Unclear if LRCA leadership plans to do anything. This issue might be discussed at LRCA’s meeting on November 4.

If you care about this issue, feel free to reach out to Commissioner Huff to let her know your views.