Tuesday, April 27, 2010

TOPP Meeting Missing Some Participants

At tonight's TOPP (Traffic Operations and Parking Plan) meeting hosted by Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells, there were supposed to be representatives from ANC 6D, the Nationals, DDOT, MPD, and DPW. However, DPW and MPD were missing when the meeting finally got underway more than a half hour after it originally was supposed to begin. Most of the meeting was dedicated to questions from audience members about the lack of enforcement of parking rules on residential streets in Southwest near Nationals Park. Since DPW wasn't present, most of the complaints couldn't get a direct answer because DPW is responsible for ticketing and towing illegally parked vehicles. Some of the culprits behind illegal parking are employees of the Nationals, who somehow have obtained Ward 6 visitor parking passes in order to park on residential streets. Towards the end of the meeting, I posed the following question to Greg McCarthy from the Nationals:
Do the Nationals currently offer any incentives to their employees to take public transit to work since the ballpark is LEED-certified?
In response, McCarthy said the Nationals organization doesn't currently offer an incentive to its employees, but will look into that possibility. Other concerns brought by residents included traffic backups on M Street and P Street during game days and non-game days. Since no left turns are permitted northbound on South Capitol Street from the Frederick Douglass Bridge to north of I Street, the only access people have to Southwest from South Capitol Street south of the freeway is M Street. However, at the end of events at the ballpark, MPD puts up orange cones blocking access to M Street and forces drivers going northbound on South Capitol to go under the M Street intersection, a major inconvenience for local residents. A second TOPP meeting will be scheduled in about two weeks, so all representatives who were supposed to be at the meeting will be present and can properly address residents' complaints. Tonight's TOPP meeting was actually supposed to be held before the start of baseball season, so all concerns could be addressed before Opening Day, but for some reason the meeting was not organized in time.

Although not directly related to the ballpark, I did ask James Cheeks from DDOT after the meeting about the traffic light at the intersection of 4th & I Street. The traffic light is still timed as though there was a 3-way intersection instead of a 4-way intersection. Pedestrians have to wait to cross either I Street or 4th Street until all traffic lights are red, which is a vestige of the old configuration before 4th Street was reopened. Someone else mentioned the 4th & M Street intersection's timing issues to Mr. Cheeks, so hopefully both of these intersections will be fixed in the near future. I'll follow up with Mr. Cheeks to make sure these corrections are made in a timely manner.

Monday, April 26, 2010

More Press for New Safeway

Southwest continues to get plenty of press these days, including an article in today's The Washington Post. The article is about the new Safeway and the reopening of 4th Street. A bit of news in the article states that the sit-down restaurant planned at Waterfront Station is one of the retail leases signed (although that tidbit has been taken down in the past few hours). Previously, the restaurant was just in negotiations to open at Waterfront Station. Perhaps the lease wasn't actually signed yet, so that's why it was removed from the article...

Update: The full article was put back in on Tuesday and includes some misinformation, as one commenter noted, about the Bank of America moving back into the development from their trailer. As of a few weeks ago, the developers at Waterfront Station said that Bank of America would not move back to the development and would remain in their trailer until their lease expires in December 2012. The developers are looking for another bank to take their place.

Waterfront Tower Featured on Fox 5 News

There's a story on Fox 5 News' website about the housing market and featured in the story is Waterfront Tower (I also happen to be interviewed in the story doing my day job). According to the piece, Waterfront Tower, the condo conversion project next to Waterfront Station, is approximately 60% sold. The developer mentions that many buyers are taking advantage of the first time home buyer tax credit. Also, the developer touted recent developments in the area, including the new Safeway and Arena Stage's expansion. Prices at Waterfront Station start in the $200s (as the photo on the top of the post states).

I also read in May's issue of Washingtonian magazine over the weekend that the 20024 zip code is one of the local real estate markets that is bouncing back. Prices were up last year by 12%, although prices declined by 25% over the prior two years.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Upcoming Meetings This Week

- SWNA will have its monthly meeting on Monday at 7pm, located at St. Augustine's Episcopal Church. Items to be discussed include the arts in Southwest, as well as a tribute to Dr. Dorothy Height, who died on Tuesday at the age of 98.

- On Tuesday, there will be a Traffic Operations and Parking Plan (TOPP) meeting at Westminster Presbyterian Church fr0m 6:30pm - 8:30pm, which is located at 400 I Street. The meeting will discuss traffic issues in the area, with the following participants: Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells, DDOT, DPW, MPD, the Washington Nationals, and ANC 6D.

- Also on Tuesday, there will be a Community Meeting to discuss the Consolidated Forensic Laboratory at Whiting-Turner's construction trailer at 200 E Street. The meeting will be from 6pm - 7pm.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

10% Discount at Safeway Through May 15!

The following is a message from ANC 6D02 Commissioner David Sobelsohn regarding discounts at the new SW Safeway:
APRIL 15 DISCOUNT

As I’ve reported before, at our March 8th ANC 6D meeting, Safeway’s Eastern Division Regional District Manager Donna Maxwell promised a 10% discount on purchases made at the Southwest Safeway pre-opening, 4-8 p.m. Thursday, April 15. Regrettably, Safeway automatically applied that April 15th discount only to shoppers who bought $50 worth of groceries on April 15th. Ms. Maxwell has agreed to provide a 10% refund to everyone who shopped at the Southwest Safeway April 15 but did not get the promised 10% discount. Store manager Mike Bigelow says just bring your cash-register receipt, dated April 15, to the customer-service counter. You need not bring photo identification. Explain that you didn’t get your 10% discount April 15, & that Mr. Bigelow has advised you to go to the service counter to get a 10% refund. Remember to bring your April 15 register receipt! If you have any difficulty, ask for either Mr. Bigelow or assistant managers Michelle Gayard, India Lawal, or Stephen Newman. If you still have difficulty let me know.

10% DISCOUNT THROUGH MAY 15

The April 15 one-day discount was not the only 10% discount Safeway offered its Southwest Safeway customers. I have learned that Safeway sent some neighborhood residents, but not others, cards good for a 10% discount through May 15, 2010, without limitation as to the purchase amount. Mr. Bigelow has promised me that anyone who did not get such a card may get the 10% discount refunded going forward. From now through May 15, after paying for your groceries, go to the customer-service desk. Show the customer-service staff your receipt. Explain that some of your neighbors got a 10%-discount card good through May 15, that you didn’t get your card, & that Mr. Bigelow has advised you to go to the service counter to get your 10% same-day refund. If you have any difficulty, ask for either Mr. Bigelow or assistant managers Stephen Newman, Michelle Gayard, or India Lawal. If you still have difficulty let me know.

I was unable to persuade Mr. Bigelow to make this 30-day discount retroactive. Only the April 15th discount is retroactive. For purchases made April 16 through the time you’re reading this, if you didn’t get the 10% discount others got, it’s too late. But you can still get a refund going forward. Just go to the customer-service desk.

David C. Sobelsohn
Commissioner, ANC 6D02
Secretary, ANC 6D
(202) 484-8303
I was one of those recipients of a Safeway Club card that allows me to get 10% off all grocery purchases until May 15. If you already have a Safeway Club card and received this discount card, the directions say to call 1-877-SAFEWAY to have the 10% transferred to your current card. That seems to be a better solution than going to the customer service desk each time you go to the store to get a credit.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

RIP Dr. Height

Sad news to report...according to The Washington Post, Dr. Dorothy I. Height, legendary civil rights leader, former president of the National Council of Negro Women, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and Southwest resident, died early today of natural causes at Howard University Hospital. She was 98.

Update: Details about funeral services have been released by the Post.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Randall School Redevelopment Profiled in Big Apple Media

In all the hoopla surrounding the opening of Safeway and 4th Street last week, I forgot to write about the NY Times article describing the planned redevelopment of the Randall School site on I Street by the Rubell family and Telesis Corporation. Back in February, it was announced that the Telesis/CACB team would buy the site from the Corcoran, which conducted a nationwide search for a development team to take over the project. They plan a boutique hotel and art museum in the historic building and multifamily housing on vacant land behind the building, however, the Corcoran will not be moving their College of Art + Design to Randall. New details about the development in the article include the number of hotel rooms planned - 225 keys. Several local officials are quoted in the article, including Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells and ANC 6D Commissioners Ron McBee and David Sobelsohn. Wells was intrigued by the new proposal, but is concerned about getting the full value of the property, which is being sold for only a quarter of the assessed value of $26 million. McBee wants the developers to provide community space, but is also excited about the planned museum. Sobelsohn would like for local residents to receive free admission to the museum, but sees the development plan as a great improvement over what is currently at the site - a vacant building. We'll see what kind of community benefits the ANC Commissioners ultimately will seek when the Telesis/CACB team come before the ANC, probably later this year. The sale also has to be approved by the DC Council, since the original sale by the city to the Corcoran stipulated that the intended use of the building would be a college, which won't be the case under the new development plan.

Northrop Not Coming to Southwest

According to The Washington Post, Southwest is out of the running to become the corporate headquarters of Northrop Grumman. It appeared that the deal to bring the company to DC was unraveling last month when members of the DC Council started to withdraw their support for a $25 million incentives package. If the aerospace company chose Southwest, they most likely would have moved to the planned office building at 4th & E Streets, SW, with a new Engine 13 firehouse on the ground floor. Jurisdictions still in the running include Arlington, Fairfax, and Montgomery Counties and a final decision should be made later this month.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The UnSafeway is Dead...Long Live Swanky Safeway!

Well, the new Waterfront Station Safeway at 1100 4th Street is now open for business (along with 4th Street itself!), after having a preview event on Thursday and Grand Opening on Friday. From today forward, the store will be open from 6am - 11pm. Free samples were aplenty and there were large crowds in the store (at least on Thursday when I made a shopping trip). Groceries were 10% off and coupon books were mailed out to residents with other discounts through May. I also received a free reusable bag for spending more than $40 after using a coupon from Safeway's weekly flier. Thursday was my second visit at the store, after getting a sneak peek a couple weeks ago. When I went on Thursday and again on Friday morning, I could tell that several of the staff were recently trained or were still in the process of being trained, so it will take a while for all the bugs to be worked out that's expected when a new store opens. The food court area seemed a little cramped at spots and there wasn't a price list yet at the sushi bar, but for the most part it was an enjoyable experience. I did recognize some of the employees from the old store (it's been a couple years since I shopped at the old Safeway), but there were several new faces as well. For instance, while at the store yesterday morning with a neighbor, we spoke with Jessie, the produce manager who was brought in from a store in VA, and he was diligent about keeping inventory of produce & noting which items needed replenishing. He said for us to check up on him in a month to make sure he was still doing a good job, so we'll take him up on his offer. I'm just thrilled that I can now walk to a quality grocery store! What do you think of the new store?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Safeway and 4th Street Almost Ready for Opening

The new Safeway at Waterfront Station is less than 48 hours away from opening and over the past few days, the final touches have been put in place. As the photo at the top of this post shows, store signage is now up, including signs illuminated with the Safeway logos. Restrictions on vehicle traffic on 4th Street should be lifted by the end of the week as Safeway opens its doors to customers. Below are some photos of the new 4th Street street scape.


Here is a daytime view of part of the Safeway storefront.


There will be some outdoor space at the bistro planned by Med Lahlou.


Large trees have been installed in the Waterfront-SEU Metro station plaza.



Multi-space parking meters have been installed on a landscaped 4th Street.

Update: There will be an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the reopening of 4th Street on Friday morning at 10:30am. I cannot attend since I've been out of town for the past couple of days and need to be at work. If any of you attend, feel free to send photos of the ribbon-cutting to southwest.tlqtc@gmail.com!

Urban Igloo Interview

Each month, Urban Igloo, a company that matches apartment renters with landlords in the DC metro area, does an interview with a "Neighborhood Expert" on their blog. This month was Southwest's turn and here's a link to the interview they did with me. Back in January, Urban Igloo profiled 1001 at Waterfront in their Rent Check newsletter.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Local Effort to Build Children's Playground at Waterfront Station

At tonight's ANC 6D meeting, four moms of young children spoke in favor of building a community playground on the northeast parcel of Waterfront Station that the District government owns. Their argument is a community playground is needed in a centrally located area of Southwest because the community doesn't have a publicly accessible playground and they have to go to Capitol Hill or other parts of the city or Northern Virginia to find one for their children to use. The women want to work with KaBOOM, a non-profit organization that helps build playgrounds and will solicit financing from the District. They will also do fundraisers to fill in any gaps in financing. In addition, Camille Cook, another local resident, expressed her desire for a community garden to be included in this proposed playground, since a garden in front of the Department of Education headquarters will be removed to make way for Eisenhower Square.

Currently, the parcel in question is vacant and is slated for a residential development once economic conditions improve (see above). I think they have a valid argument for a children's playground and garden. However, I disagree with their choice of location. At this same ANC meeting, At-Large DC Council member Phil Mendelson told the commissioners that the District is running out of money and is near its borrowing limit. The District-owned Waterfront Station parcel is too valuable to be used as a playground. Instead, the District should issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Waterfront Station parcel and require a mixed-use development, including a new library. Proceeds from the RFP can then be used to knock down the old library across the street and build a playground/community garden in its place. The playground/community garden would be built later under this approach, but the community can get a new library and centrally-located playground without using taxpayer dollars. Plus, the playground/community garden would mirror Town Center Park on the other side of Waterfront Station.

Update: Vote in April's poll on what the District should do with the vacant NE parcel at Waterfront Station and/or leave a comment.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Scenes from Southwest...National Cherry Blossom Festival


Clockwise (from upper left): (1) The cherry blossoms are in all their glory along the Tidal Basin. (2) The U.S. Navy Band performs at the Prelude to the Fireworks festival on the Southwest Waterfront. (3) The John Glenn fire boat is back in service after sustaining damage in an accident in January 2009 and shoots water to help celebrate the Prelude to the Fireworks festival. (4) A crowd gathers below Banneker Overlook to wait for the Festival Fireworks Show.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Z-Burger Coming to Waterfront Station

It looks like the cat is out of the bag and I can finally report that Z-Burger is one of the tenants that may move into Waterfront Station this summer. I’ve been holding the news in for months, but multiple sources confirm that the developers are in lease negotiations with Z-Burger. This would be Z-Burger’s third location in the District – the other two being in Tenleytown and Glover Park. Their menu consists of burgers, cheese steaks, fries, onion rings, shakes, and malts. Z-Burger will join Subway and Med Lahlou's planned bistro at 1101 4th Street.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Safeway Closes Today

Here's a reminder that Safeway will close today for the last time at 6pm and the new store will open for a preview party on the 15th from 4pm-8pm. In the meantime, a free shuttle will be available on the 9th, 10th, and 12th for shoppers to use to go between the SW Safeway site and the Capitol Hill Safeway on 14th Street & Kentucky Avenue, SE. Below is the schedule, courtesy of the Southwest Action Team (SWAT), who was responsible for bringing the Shuttle-Bug service to Southwest in late 2008.


Monday, April 5, 2010

A Couple Quick Items

- I forgot to post a link to JDLand's post from last week about a water taxi start-up company planning to offer service in the Washington area in the next couple of months called American River Taxi, or ART for short. Stops in the initial phase include the Southwest Waterfront, Nationals Park, Georgetown, National Harbor, and Alexandria. Future phases will include National Airport and Poplar Point.

- The Washington Post has an article about the new Benning library opening today in Northeast, but there's mention of other new libraries that will open in the next couple of years, including the Washington Highlands branch in Bellevue (incorrectly labeled as located in SE in the article), designed by London architect David Adjaye, which will open in 2011.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Fireworks Show Tonight

This year's National Cherry Blossom Festival is in full swing, with the cherry blossoms already reaching their peak this week. Today, the Festival Fireworks Show will take place along the Southwest Waterfront at 8:30pm. Earlier in the evening is the Prelude to the Fireworks, presented by the Washington Waterfront Association from 5pm - 8:30pm. There will be live music, children's craft activities, and local restaurant fare.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Safeway Sneak Peek

This morning I was able to get a preview tour of the new Southwest Safeway under construction at Waterfront Station. Special thanks go to Craig Muckle and Janice Stubbs from Safeway who gave me the tour. If I could describe the new store in one word it would have to be “WOW!” followed by “Am I really in Southwest?” The differences between the old store and new are like night and day. If you’ve walked by the site on 4th Street, you can get a glimpse of what’s going on inside, but there’s a lot more in store (no pun intended). At about 55,000 square feet, the new urban-lifestyle Safeway is about 20,000 square feet larger than the old store, and some of the new features aren’t even at the Mount Vernon Triangle Safeway (although the new Social Safeway in Georgetown under construction will have similar features to the SW store).

As you walk in the store from the main entrance near the Metro plaza, this area has been dubbed the “food court”, where you can pick up ready-made meals and desserts, like sandwiches, soups, salads, sushi from the sushi bar, rotisserie items, cakes, and pizza (this will be the first Safeway on the East Coast where pizza will be made on the premises btw). The layout of the store is shaped like the letter “J” flipped 90 degrees counterclockwise, so the food court is the curvy part of the “J”. Janice said that the design of the entrance was made to feel more like an elegant restaurant than a grocery store, designed using earth tones, a stone-walled lounge area with a fireplace (another first for an East Coast Safeway), seating, and different styled flooring. Also in the food court is “Cheese World”, which will be attended and will include cheeses from (you guessed it) around the world. There will be three mini cash registers to serve the food court area, so shoppers won’t need to go into the heart of the store if they are just looking for a quick meal to take home. There are several seating areas in this part of the store, as well as a fenced off outdoor seating area to open next year (once the old Safeway is knocked down, which Craig says will be gone by the time the new store opens – I’ll believe it when I see it). A second entrance is located north of the main entrance, close to Starbucks, which also has seating off to the side of the counter for its patrons.

Past the food court is a hearth oven, where European breads will be baked (the old store doesn’t have a bakery). Craig guaranteed that warm bread will be available every day, even after 5pm. For those of you who are picky about how wide you want your loaves cut, a fancy bread slicer (Bizerba) uses lasers to cut the bread up to four different sizes at once right after leaving the oven without crushing the bread.

Cash registers and the customer service desk are located where the “J” bends towards the stem (still follow me?). There are seven full-serve registers and six self-check-out lanes. This area is also where the entrance to the parking garage is located, with two elevators and a staircase leading to 165 parking spaces for Safeway patrons. With an $8 minimum purchase, parking is free for up to 90 minutes.

Next to the check-out lines is the produce department – its placement next to the cash registers is also a first for an East Coast Safeway store. The new store also has a pharmacy, which the other store didn’t have and is located near the produce section. We will now have two pharmacies on the same block, with CVS moving two doors down from Safeway in a couple of months.

Now, the stem part of the “J” shaped store is where you’ll find your typical grocery aisles. There are two aisles in the corner dedicated to wine and beer – also not found in the old store. The larger store format will allow Safeway to provide an expanded amount of products on their shelves, including more international cuisine. At the back of the store is the meat and seafood section, with a service counter. One interesting feature about the service counter is the butcher will marinate your meat or seafood for free using either a dry rub or liquid marinade. The shish kabobs are supposedly very good too.

While I was at the store, several Safeway employees were stocking shelves – many of the aisles looked almost fully stocked with prices already on items. The new Safeway will open for a preview party on April 15th from 4pm-8pm and all items will be 10% off. Regular hours of operation after the 15th will be 6am – 11pm 7 days a week. Countdown to new Safeway opening is 14 days!!!

Subway Lease Terms Transfer to Blimpie; Pizza Hut Announces Return to Waterfront Station (APRIL FOOLS POST)

After announcing last month that Subway signed a lease at Waterfront Station, Waterfront Associates, the developer of the mixed-use project, abruptly nullified the agreement last night, due to public outcry over the selection of the tenant.
“Once the ink was dry on the lease, we realized we made a big mistake,” said Gordon Smith from Waterfront Associates. “We received over a thousand phone calls from residents and tenants at Waterfront Station who complained that Subway was a terrible choice and threatened to boycott our development. Luckily, retailers are clamoring to open restaurants at Waterfront Station, so we were able to cancel the Subway lease and quickly came to terms with the next sandwich shop on the waiting list – Blimpie. We will be announcing some additional restaurant leases next week.”
As you may remember, Blimpie had a store in the old Waterside Mall. It was located on the left as soon as you entered the mall from the I Street entrance. Blimpie will open by the end of August at 1101 4th Street.

In related news, I got confirmation that Pizza Hut will be opening in the corner space previously reserved for a sit-down restaurant. A Pizza Hut representative told Southwest...TLQTC that the new restaurant will have outdoor seating, revamped menu and a fully stocked bar, which are components of the new restaurant prototype they are rolling out, called Pizza Hut Bistro. Apparently, the developers have decided to bring back some of the old retailers from Waterside Mall. My guess is next week, they’ll announce that the Jamaican Bakery will come back as well…I used to get beef patties and cakes there and they were tasty!

In case you couldn't tell, this post was fake...April Fools!