Tag Archives: friendship heights

Local

North of Tilden: Construction Phases

It’s spring, and that means it’s construction season. Particularly in Tenleytown, a number of big projects have finally started, some after 6 years of delays. The headlines:

  • Planning: AU presents their twenty-year plan to ANC 3F meeting. Hilarity ensues.
  • Design: Shalom Baranes designing Babes site.
  • Approvals: Chevy Chase Park will gain field lights.
  • Demolition: If the Van Ness Walgreens is coming in, the gas station has got to go.
  • Staging: Fences are up at Wilson.
  • Site Preparation: Janney sets up temporary classrooms.
  • Foundation: A 4-story condo is going up on Harrison street
  • Structure: The Tenley-Friendship Library is no longer a hole.
  • Commissioning: The placeholder building at Tenleytown is complete.
  • Commercial Fit-out: The 4900 block is getting a pizza place.

And the stories below… read more »

Other

Sand Moon

I mentioned Sam West, auteur and gentleman scoundrel, once before. A graduate of the prestigious Janney Elementary School, a couple years back, he produced this film called Sand Moon, which is embedded below.

It’s a sort of tale of karma passed through the lens of Upper Northwest slackers. Produced in 72 hours in 2008, is also a showcase of DC’s highlights, such as the roof of the Tenleytown CVS, truck barrier planters, Mazza Galerie, the Chevy Chase Starbucks, and Potomac Video.

The film runs for 21 minutes and stars Mason Cash (Murch), David Iscoe (Lafayette), Tommy McCarthy (Murch), and the rest of the Cocaine in Motion crew.

Reno Park Studies

Reno Park Update 100302: Lynch

This is just an update I think I need to make to make the next recap more clear. When I was working on the locality map, I made some of the decisions based on the principles furthered in Kevin Lynch’s The Image of the City, a crucial text of urban planning.

When he wrote the book, Lynch interviewed a wide array of urbanites to understand how laymen organized, remembered, and navigated their neighborhoods and the city at large. He found that most individuals organized their cities with five archetypal patterns: paths, edges, nodes, districts, and landmarks. One caveat of this induction is that for each person, the definitions vary. The perception of paths depends on a destination and the familiarity with the neighborhood. On the other hand, the designation of edges and districts tends to be more consistent among locals. So, unlike my neighborhood maps, I drew more on personal experience, while also searching for objective measurements.

For example, the paths map (below) is based on the map of locality. The route to a front door might be unique, but there’s an appreciable amount of travel along certain major roads. So, I picked out the bigger paths. I’m willing to bed that most people would see these as frequent routes. Note that this does account for vehicle travel.

paths s

The second element is the edge. Edges form in gaps and hard shifts between building types. Parks and hills constitute much many of the edges unrelated to zoning. These breaks are some of the more prominent physical characteristics in a city, and I believe they encourage neighborhood division like nothing else.

edges s

OK, keep going, there are three more elements…

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Reno Park Project

Reno Park Recap: Giving Northwest a Bad Name

Before I work on the history of the Tenleytown-Tobago area, I am going to recap some of what I have done. I think of my blog as a gradually developing document that occasionally requires summary and revision. So, I am going to go back over the content in simpler terms, to make it accessible. I will be crossposting three of these summaries at GGW.

Loyal readers of цarьchitect probably know that I hate the official name of the neighborhood I grew up in, North Cleveland Park “Wakefield.” Hopefully, that name will finally die. But my grouchiness about this coincided with an interest in the way that architects determine, delineate, and represent the concept of place. The goal of renaming an insignificant neighborhood in DC did dovetail nicely with my less modest plans to overturn planning and real estate practice.

So, the stupid name I did not know until I was 23 forms the starting off point for this discussion. That name lacks the lacecurtain cachet of “North Cleveland Park” or the actual uniqueness of “Tenleytown.” It’s a white-bread name reminiscent of too many other suburban developments. And, in fact, most of the area West of Connecticut Ave, North of Albemarle St., and East of Nebraska Ave was developed shortly before World War II and is one of the last areas to be developed as a tract in DC.

Because this name and others in the area came with the developments, neighborhood names tend to be bounded by major roads. Yet the centers of community and busy commercial areas. So, residents have ended up with indistinct locations bearing forgotten names and very popular ones with no names but provisional monikers, like “Comet Corner” and “Van Ness.” Or, according to City Paper, the area consists of Upper Caucasia, Connecticut, and Subarubia.

People have been attempting to name the area between Chevy Chase and Cleveland Park for over a century. Tenleytown may have grown up around John Tennally’s Tavern, but family names like Nourse and Dryer have disappeared from maps. In the late 1900s, the first developers came along and tried to add Armsleigh Park, Colorado Heights, Mount Airy, and Gizor. What seems to make a difference in whether the names stuck or not is whether the neighborhood has a clear social and commercial center. Tenleytown and Georgetown have such places. Forest Hills and AU Park do not.

Continues

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Local

Snow, negligence, and community

lazy gym

The past few days, I’ve been bothered by the failure of this Gold’s Gym at 4310 Connecticut Avenue. Although they shoveled a path from the Van Ness metro to their door, they decided to not shovel any further. The path is used heavily by pedestrians of all age groups. Lingering there for about five minutes, I saw around ten people falter and otherwise walk delicately.They were lazy during the first SnOMG, and they’ll probably be lazy and negligent this time around. UPDATED BELOW

Perhaps what is most infuriating is that the building exclusively employs fit and strong people, who can clearly see the havoc they’re wreaking right out of the huge plate glass window in front. Hell, all the people trying to get fit through absolutely non-productive activities could be getting exercise and simultaneously preventing negligence. It is, after all, illegal to not shovel your walk:

“It shall be the duty of every person, partnership, corporation, joint-stock company, or syndicate in charge or control of any building or lot of land within the fire limits of the District of Columbia, fronting or abutting on a paved sidewalk, whether as owner, tenant, occupant, lessee, or otherwise, within the first 8 hours of daylight after the ceasing to fall of any snow or sleet, to remove and clear away, or cause to be removed and cleared away, such snow or sleet from so much of said sidewalk as is in front of or abuts on said building or lot of land.” (D.C. Code § 9-601)

But that’s not good enough if scofflaws just get fined weeks from now. People could get injured, and people sure are getting inconvenienced. But residents should have recourse besides whining to the government or bitching on listservs. I think we can take the cleanup and retribution into our own hands.

So, I’m organizing the First Tenleytown Volunteer Snow Removal Battalion.The plan is to form a band of husky citizens to clear off snow from spaces that suffer from negligence or the tragedy of the commons. We’ll counter common neglect with community action.  We will primarily clear the mounds of plowed snow at street corners and bus stops, but we will also remediate careless private plowing and people who don’t plow at all. Call me altruistic if you want but I intend to share the businesses that don’t shovel or plow right into pedestrian areas on this blog.  I hope to punish them with a boycott, which could cost more than any fine ever would.

We’re going to meet up tomorrow afternoon at 4PM at the Tenleytown Metro station.  ANC overlord Jon Bender has made it into a snowball fight as well, so uh, come for the fun and stay for the hard labor. Bring a shovel and a flask if you care. There’s no reason fun can’t have a good social outcome.

If you want more details, my rant and the followup posts are linked here.

Update: Tuesday afternoon, Gold’s Gym finally cleared their snow, sources say, after a neighborhood woman tore the manager a new one. Because the snow had been compacted, a bevy of strapping young men were witnessed chiseling the brownish ice apart. Sources report that they “felt the burn.” Many thanks to the woman. Hopefully Gold’s will not let this happen again.

Reno Park Studies

Reno Park Update 100202: Old Names

I’m going to recap some of the analyses I did for Reno Park within the next week or so. After that, I will be getting into a historical analysis of the geography. For now, here is a broad map of historical names no longer used at the site. Names in red were designated organically or based on the farm tracts’ names, while names in blue were attempts to brand new developments.

historical names

Local

The Winds Shift over Tenleytown

Gate way

DCMud reports that Safeway has put their PUD approval on hold. On Monday, the Zoning Commission approved an indefinite delay for the project. This is good news. As best as anyone can tell, it indicates that Safeway are reconsidering their entire plan. If they choose the option of urbanism, I know that Torti Gallas will deliver a plan that is beautiful and energizing.

Adding a few residences above, townhouses behind, or even just a streetwall with a few independent stores would turn the project from a pig to a prize  for Tenleytown. A commitment to LEED Gold certification and the reconfiguration of 42nd street will ensure that Safeway delivers on the real amenities they owe the neighborhood in exchange for a zoning exemption. Finally, Safeway must be flexible enough to design a building that does not require a forest to hide its bulk.

If the new store is beautiful and adds vibrancy to the city, I will be more than glad to support it. I know many others will, as well. But some will never support appropriate and sustainable growth.

It is easy to see this process as another company battered into submission by Tenleytown NIMBYs. But it’s far from that – I, groups like Ward 3 Vision, and the current board of ANC 3E understand that developers are not the enemy. A Wisconsin Avenue that serves all ages and facilitates community and sustainability is not only good, but necessary.  This recent prodding was necessary to restart the motion towards TOD lost over the years of fighting.

The old regime of Tenleytown and Friendship Heights has fallen with this action. The divisive, victimizing attacks, a relic of the freeway wars, are tired and out of tune with modern planning. They have scared off too many developers with endless appeals. But their time is fading. Their secrecy and and tactics disengaged neighborhood residents. But their currency is spent. Their Rovian arguments once swayed commissions. But they fool no one anymore.

Reno Park Studies Uncategorized

Reno Park Update 091212B: Finding Place

So in the last post, I pointed out that it was easiest to demonstrate that some location is a place by showing the density of people there. That’s what this map is. It’s an imprecise but useful tool to map and note the actual behaviors of pedestrians in the T-T area. I’ve made a point of making it blurry and gradated. There are not borders, so much as dips in circulation and public activity that result from the popularity of one area and the amount of effort pedestrians are willing to exert to get from one place to another.

Take, for example, Friendship Heights. Most people arrive by Metro or driving to the retail district. But within only two or blocks of that hub of activity, the circulation patterns change: there are fewer people and they are generally more local. The walkable distance matters more. It’s clear that the locality ends, even if it is slight and gradual.

The character of the architecture changes slightly as one travels south on Wisconsin. It’s shorter, somewhat dinkier. But at Fessenden Street, the entire block is suddenly small, two-story local retail. It looks like little to the north, but also seems slightly different from Tenleytown, up a steep hill to the south. Someone who lived a block to the south would feel like it might be part of Tenleytown, and someone who lives a block to the north might feel it’s Friendship Heights. This is hard to define; just like foot traffic, it comes in gradients. However, due to its higher pedestrian traffic, small public park, and consistent look, I would argue it is effectively a between-place. So let me show you what I’ve come up with:

read more »

Local

Small-Town Politics: Everything but Safeway

The Current covered the November 5th ANC 3E meeting, but it’s worth discussing it in a format that’s indexed by Google – and one that doesn’t use two inflammatory headlines for one ANC meeting. Hyperbole is something that can only be applied to Zoning Commission cage fights. Speaking of which, the obvious topic of the night was the Tenleytown Safeway, but like any good spectacle, that discussion came only after a long development. Actually, the debate over Safeway’s PUD was so long that I’m going to put it up as another post tomorrow.

After the crime report and some perfunctory zoning adjustments, a manager at Maggiano’s in Friendship Heights discussed their mandatory re-application for valet parking. The loss of parking is one of DC’s bugaboos, but he assuaged the concerns with cold, hard facts about where they park. Friendship Heights’ traffic is particularly bad and people from nearby neighborhoods complain about visitors parking in along the narrow streets to the east. So it was a huge surprise to learn that the garage under that block is largely empty most of the time. That suggests that most people will take the stress of driving around Jenifer Street over paying to store their cars, have parked in one of the other garages, or that a good number of the shoppers crowding the streets have arrived on transit. It definitely requires further study. The application was approved, and they moved on to the Reno School.

Jane Maroney, the newly elected Deal PTA chair spoke on behalf of the school in regard to the future of the Jesse Reno School. She explained Deal’s intents for the building in general: that it will be used as a performing arts facility and school nursery that could double as public meeting location. Apparently the two major goals are to keep the main building secure at night and reserve the dulcet tones of the band for infants who will only remember the experience subconsciously.

The blocked archway became a source of contention.
The Reno School. The blocked archway above was a source of contention.

The Jesse Reno building is unquestionably a historic structure, so the debate came down to whether to landmark it now and then renovate, or to renovate and then landmark it. Either way, renovations have to undergo Historic Preservation review because the structure was built in 1903. Deal received money from the city to renovate it, but hasn’t yet hired an architect. Board Member Waldmann of the Tenleytown Historical Society explained a little about its history as a segregated school and the lone survivor of the town of Reno, but her justification for why landmarking was so essential with everyone on board could only be justified with shadows of reckless demolitions during Barry years, so eventually the board voted 3-2 against the nomination. Oddly, the Bender-Frumin-Serebin and Eldredge-Sklover split is the same way they voted on the Janney application.

So, that was the lesser part of the meeting. The rest comes tomorrow.

planning Reno Park Studies

Reno Park Update 090804B: Transit Fade

Ok, so for the second set of transportation analysis, I’ve compared transit accessibility to lot areas. Even without buildings, it’s possible to get a sense of the transit-accessible public space here. Areas that are lighter have more transit options. Again, Tenleytown is a hub of activity, where the blocks around the circle and the Metro stop are major transfer points that get a lot of street traffic.

property-transit

So, Chevy Chase isn’t really the most transit-accessible place in the world. Even if I had used a 1/4 mile radius for buses, there would have been a dark spot there. Also, note that the commercial strip between Fessenden and Ellicott streets is in the 1/2 mile radius overlap between Tenleytown and Friendship Heights, which may contribute to its success, in spite of being somewhat isolated by the hill to the south. Read on for a breakdown of plans. read more »