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Ward Reports

(Published November 18, 2002)

WARD 1

LAND SALE NEARS: Public hearings are scheduled for Dec.14 on proposed agreements that would sell two large tracts of public land along 14th Street NW to the groups selected in 1999 to develop part of the area surrounding the Columbia Heights Metro station. Both hearings, before the RLA Revitalization Corp., will be held at the Josephine Butler Parks Center at 2437 15th St. NW.

The first hearing, at 12:30 p.m., will consider sale of an area known as Parcel 27 to DC USA Operating Co., a New York limited liability company whose principal partners are Grid Properties, Gotham Organization, Joseph Searles III and the Development Corp. of Columbia Heights.

The developer has proposed a 546,000-square-foot retail and entertainment complex for the site on the west side of 14th Street between Park Road and Irving Street. Many neighborhood residents have questioned whether the developer has the ability to obtain the necessary tenants and financing for the planned project, which appears to be stalled. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and other officials announced in September that Minneapolis-based retailer Target had agreed to anchor the center, but a spokesman for Target Corp. told The Common Denominator earlier this month that no such agreement has been finalized.

The second hearing, at 4:30 p.m., will consider sale of an area known as Parcel 29 to Tivoli Partners, a D.C. limited liability company whose principal partners are Joseph F. Horning Jr., Sunrise Development Corp., Winston Development Corp., Fort Lincoln Realty Corp. and the Development Corp. of Columbia Heights.

The developer has proposed restoration of the historic Tivoli Theater at 14th Street and Park Road as part of the project, creating a 250-seat theater to be managed by GALA Hispanic Theater. The project also is expected to include a new Giant Food supermarket behind the Tivoli, 23 new townhouses along the 1300 block of Monroe Street and about 96,000 square feet of additional retail and office space.

WARD 2

DOWNTOWN BID ANNIVERSARY: City officials and members of the downtown business community plan to mark the fifth anniversary of the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District’s creation with an anniversary "cakewalk" competition on Nov. 18 at Hotel Monaco’s Paris Ballroom. Winners of the cakewalk will take home a gourmet cake from a downtown restaurant. The ceremonial cutting of the anniversary cake is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.

The downtown BID, the city’s first business improvement district, was created in November 1997 to help make the core business district clean, safe and friendly for visitors to the nation’s capital. The BID is a nonprofit corporation that is funded in part by a surtax that all property owners within its boundaries are required to pay as part of their D.C. real estate taxes.

GEORGETOWN TRAFFIC: Nighttime traffic on Wisconsin Avenue NW, between M and Q streets, is being intermittently restricted to one lane by flaggers as utility upgrade work continues in the area. The new traffic controls are in effect between 10:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. from Sunday through Thursday.

No work is done on the Georgetown Project upgrades on Fridays, Saturdays and specific holidays to minimize disruptions to the business community. From Thanksgiving on Nov. 28 through New Year’s Day, a holiday moratorium will stop all work on the project.

"The project is proceeding on schedule on both M Street and Wisconsin Avenue," said Dan Tangherlini, director of the D.C. Department of Transportation. He called the continuing cooperation on the project between the utility companies, the contractor, residents, businesses and the D.C. government "a model for the District."

WARD 3

TENLEYTOWN SURVEY: The Tenleytown Historical Society has received a grant from the D.C. Office of Historic Preservation to conduct a historic resource survey of the neighborhood surrounding Tenley Circle at Wisconsin and Nebraska avenues NW. The survey will document the architectural, social and cultural history of the area bounded by Upton Street on the south, Chesapeake Street on the north, Reno Road on the east and 43rd Street on the west.

Expected to take about a year to complete as a final written report, the survey will be conducted by the historical society with the help of Kelsey and Associates, Advisory Neighborhood Commissions 3E and 3F and several community organizations. Volunteers also are being sought to help with the survey. Volunteers will be required to attend a training session and commit at least 10 hours to the project. More information about volunteering is available by e-mailing the historical society at tenleytownhistoricalsociety@yahoo.com.

AU ADOPTS "LIVING WAGE": American University’s Board of Trustees adopted a new wage policy for the university’s staff at its November meeting to "assure that the lowest paid employees of our campus community can live decently within the economic structure of the greater Washington geographic region."

The new policy sets the base wage rate at $11 per hour, to be reached over a three-year period. Retroactive to Sept. 1 of this year, the base wage for all full-time non-union staff employees of the university will be set at $10.31 per hour. The new wage becomes effective July 1, 2003, for employees of multi-year service contracts who are regularly employed on the Northwest Washington campus. The new increased base wage will not affect the awarding of annual salary increases in accord with other compensation policies and collective bargaining agreements in effect. The wage level will increase to $10.62 per hour on Sept. 1, 2004 and to $11 per hour on Sept. 1, 2005.

The new policy resulted from a series of discussions about the "living wage" issue held on the campus during the past year and recommendations of a Project Team of faculty, staff and students appointed by university President Benjamin Ladner to review the issue. Implementing the new policy is expected to cost the university about $600,000.

"I am proud not only of the outcome of these deliberations, but also of the way in which the university community once again has demonstrated its capacity to deal with tough, complex issues," Ladner said in a memorandum issued to the campus community on Nov. 14.

SPRING VALLEY CLEANUP CONTINUES: The Army Corps of Engineers recently awarded a $2 million contract to begin removal of contaminated soil on a dozen additional properties in the Spring Valley neighborhood, and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton announced she will seek a hearing during the upcoming Congress to press for additional funding to complete the cleanup of buried World War I era munitions and chemical contamination.

"I intend to keep up my work for additional funds to give the Corps the best chance I can for finishing the cleanup ahead of time," Norton said. "The residents deserve the earliest peace of mind."

The Army Corps spent $17 million during fiscal 2002 on the cleanup effort, which included sampling more than 90 percent of the 660-acre project area for arsenic and other chemicals that were used in U.S. government research when the Spring Valley area was known as the American University Experiment Station in the early 1900s. Today, the area contains more than 1,200 private homes, several embassies and other foreign properties, and the American University and Wesley Seminary campuses.

The Corps removed 10,660 tons of arsenic-contaminated soil from residential and American University property during the past year, and more than 425 munitions and bottled chemicals were removed from an area known as "Pit No. 3." The work has been concentrated in the area around Glenbrook Road and the "Sedgewick Street Trench," a 1918-era chemical weapons testing site.

Norton has sought a determination that no other D.C. neighborhoods are contaminated.

NEIGHBORS BUY LANDMARK: More than 90 Cleveland Park families have banded together with financial and volunteer assistance to form the nonprofit Rosedale Conservancy, which recently purchased the lawns of the landmark Rosedale estate at 3501 Newark St. NW to preserve them as a neighborhood park in perpetuity.

"Rosedale is a shadow of its beautiful self," Conservancy President Roger Pollak recently wrote in a letter to the Cleveland Park community about the neglected property. "The first job of the Conservancy is to reverse this decline and to restore the health of the green space."

The new neighborhood organization also is beginning to establish a dues-paying membership, whose annual membership fees and voluntary contributions will provide funds to maintain the property. The group plans to hold an election next spring for its 13-member volunteer Board of Directors, which currently includes representatives from the Cleveland Park Advisory Neighborhood Commission, the Cleveland Park Historical Society and the Cleveland Park Citizens Association.

Pollack said community participation is being encouraged and interested individuals may contact the Conservancy at rosedale.conservancy@verizon.net or (202) 966-9410.

MILITARY ROAD SPEEDERS: Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3G, in a unanimous vote on Nov. 4, has reiterated its request to Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey that Military Road NW between Oregon and Nebraska avenues be added to the Metropolitan Police Department’s photo radar enforcement zones. The ANC received a "less than encouraging" response to its previous request that a stationary speed-enforcement camera be installed at Military and 30th Street NW, according to ANC Chairman Anne M. Renshaw.

"We do not understand why MPD continues to ignore the four-lane speedway section of Military Road as an obvious site for speed cameras," Renshaw wrote on behalf of the ANC in a Nov. 6 letter to Ramsey. The letter seeks a written response from the chief as to when speed cameras "will be deployed, on a frequent basis, to cover Military Road."

Earlier this year, the D.C. Department of Transportation posted larger 25 mph speed limit signs on Military Road, but Renshaw’s letter says there continues to be "a serious, ongoing problem with runaway traffic on Military Road."

WARD 4

TREE TRIMMING: The D.C. Department of Transportation’s Urban Forestry Administration will begin three weeks of tree trimming in Ward 4 on Dec. 9 and is seeking residents’ assistance to determine locations where trees need to be trimmed. Residents may request tree trimming by calling the Citywide Call Center at (202) 727-1000 to make a service request.

NEW MUSEUM SHOP: The National Museum of Health and Medicine, on the campus of Walter Reed Army Medical Center at 6900 Georgia Ave. NW, recently opened a gift shop in its lobby in Building 54.

A wide variety of health and medicine-related products are available for sale, including adult and children’s apparel, books, posters, collectibles and jewelry. The product selection includes such novelties as pencils with "brain" erasers, anatomical key rings, syringe-shaped pens and playing cards featuring scientists, the Civil War and pioneers in medicine.

"We’re very excited that our new gift shop has opened and that visitors to our museum will be able to purchase some exceptionally interesting things," said Donna White, the museum’s administrator.

The shop is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekends. The museum is open every day except Dec. 25; admission is free. The shop accepts cash only for purchases.

RENOVATING SHEPHERD PARK: Heated discussion erupted when D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation representatives unveiled a revised plan on Nov. 13 for renovating the field adjacent to Shepherd Park Elementary School. Many neighborhood residents expressed anger that the new field design, created by The Temple Group, left out a "tot lot" that many parents of young children previously felt had been promised as part of the renovations. The plans include a soccer field, a walking track, a baseball/softball backstop and a playground. Many residents criticized officials during the meeting and afterwards for failing to communicate more effectively with the community about the design options, the project’s budget and the timeline for the renovations.

"I think the Department of Parks and Recreation [DPR] will, from this point forward, respond better to the concerns, ideas and goals of the community," Councilman Adrian Fenty said the day after the meeting in message posted to the online neighborhood discussion group. The Ward 4 councilman attended the contentious community meeting and vowed to "support the community and DPR" toward improving their working relationship.

WARD 5

BRENTWOOD CLEANUP DELAYED: The long-awaited cleanup of the District’s anthrax-contaminated main post office and postal sorting facility on Brentwood Road NE has been indefinitely delayed again, this time due to the discovery of cracks in some of the tubing that would carry deadly chlorine dioxide gas into the building to kill the anthrax spores.

U.S. Postal Service officials earlier this year had expressed hope that the cleanup could begin as early as sometime in August, but the process continues to lag. At least two small-scale tests of the decontamination process have been conducted in recent months, one with results that apparently were deemed unsatisfactory by environmental authorities.

The building has been closed since mid-October 2001, after two postal workers there contracted inhalation anthrax and died. An anthrax-laden letter sent to Sen. Thomas Daschle’s Hart Senate Office Building office on Capitol Hill, and possibly other anthrax-containing letters, were processed through the Brentwood Road facility.

WARD 6

HOUSING VS. COMMERCE: Residential neighbors of the H Street NE commercial corridor are intensifying their scrutiny of entities that show an interest in developing the long-neglected neighborhood north of Capitol Hill that is becoming increasingly attractive to developers. The next showdown appears to be coming up Nov. 25 before the D.C. Zoning Commission, which will hear a request from a group calling itself the F Street Preservation Association to rezone for commercial construction four residential lots and a fifth lot containing a vacant commercial building at F and Second streets NE. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. in Suite 220-South at One Judiciary Square, 441 Fourth St. NW.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6A has voted to oppose the requested rezoning of the residential properties, amid a brewing controversy over the depletion of housing stock and rising housing costs in the area. Some neighborhood residents have expressed concerns about a lack of detailed plans for how the property would be used if the rezoning request is approved.

WARD 7

MARSHALL HEIGHTS CELEBRATES: A public reception and silent auction on Nov. 20 will mark the Marshall Heights Community Development Organization’s 24 years of providing housing, employment and business services to the community. The 6 p.m. event at the Church of the Incarnation, 880 Eastern Ave. NE, will precede the economic development organization’s annual dinner meeting at 7 p.m. More information about attending the event is available by calling the Marshall Heights CDO at (202) 396-1201.

CLEANING UP DEANWOOD: Residents and community activists gathered in the 5200 block of Dix Street NE on Nov. 6 to present Ward 7 Councilman Kevin P. Chavous with a list of 50 weeded lots in the Deanwood neighborhood that they contend are open-air drug markets and dumping grounds for trash and abandoned vehicles. The event, staged by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), was intended to highlight the city government’s traditional neglect of abandoned buildings and other neglected properties in far Northeast Washington and to demand that Chavous get government officials to eradicate the problem.

"I have lived on Dix Street NE for the past eight years," said Queen Parks, a member of ACORN’s Deanwood chapter. "For all of those eight years, I have written and called the city asking them to clean the dangerous and unsanitary abandoned lot next door. In eight years, the city has cleaned the lot once. …It is a hazard and an eyesore for our community."

WARD 8

DEMOCRATS TO PARTY: The Ward 8 Democrats are planning a "Red and White Cabaret" on Dec. 7 to celebrate the political organization’s 20th anniversary. The dance party will be held from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. in the Panorama Room at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, 1600 Morris Road SE. Cost is $35 per person and a bring-your-own-beverage policy will be in effect. Any Ward 8 resident who is registered with the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics as a Democrat is automatically a member of the Ward 8 Democrats organization. More information about the cabaret is available by calling (202) 562-2726.

Copyright 2002, The Common Denominator