DPR’s Former Headquarters Could Be a Vibrant Hub of Community Activity

Posted April 24, 2014 by Kent
Categories: History, Parks and Green spaces

Tags: , , ,

In reviewing DPR’s recently released Play DC Vision Framework Document, I began to reflect upon the former DPR Headquarters property located at 3149 Sixteenth Street, NW, and the adjoining park to the north. The DPR Website refers to the playground as the 16th Street Playground, although historically it was known as either the Powell Recreation Center or the Johnson-Powell Playground after the two schools that were once located on the neighboring properties. Both schools are now long gone and been replaced by the Columbia Heights Education Campus to the south.

But, back to the parkland and building. DPR moved from the 16th Street property t0 their present U Street location in 2012 leaving the building empty. The neighboring park was last renovated in 2011 and seems well used and popular when I walk past it. However, both properties appear to fall far short of their potential and a review of the Vision Framework doesn’t seem to give them any particular importance (although that could change between now and the final master plan).

16th Street DPR headquarters(Map showing location of former DPR headquarters)

The landmark building, listed on the National Register in 1986, is large and could accommodate any number of functions — from office space on the upper floors for non-profits, to gallery space for rotating art, photography, and history exhibits, to being one of the few publicly accessible meeting spaces in Ward 1.

The parkland is relatively large, and while the playground and tennis courts are popular, the baseball diamond and large grassy area in the back are lesser used. They were completely empty last time I visited, but I’m betting the Columbia Heights Education Campus makes good use of them. I’ve begun to wonder if outdoor lighting and an upgrade would make the baseball diamond a more attractive amenity for both the nearby Bell Multicultural High School and the greater community. I also wonder if there is enough room for some additional uses if the playground and building site were better integrated. Perhaps there would be room for a community garden or some other recreational amenity that is otherwise lacking in the surrounding community.

The Chateauesque Embassy Building No. 10, former headquarters of DPR.

The Chateauesque Embassy Building No. 10, former headquarters of DPR.

While identifying programming and building community consensus may seem like the most obvious hurdles to improving the property, they aren’t the only ones. The properties are among the many in the District of Columbia that are still technically owned by the Federal Government, but whose jurisdiction & maintenance has been transferred to the District of Columbia. A significant aspect of this duel scenario is that the Federal Government transferred day-to-day operations of the properties to D.C. with a restriction that the properties must be used for or support recreation purposes.

This poses less of a problem for the outdoor spaces, but it does restrict what the building can be used for. This, no doubt, has played a role in the building’s current vacant status. The building is also in need of significant repair and upgrades — and I would imagine that restoring a building it doesn’t own or currently use is low on the District’s list of priorities.

Yet, I think that if the community were able to come up with a good plan and vision for both the building and the parkland, funding of that vision could be found — and perhaps some of that funding could come from the Federal Government. A good example of this is a short distance to the south, where after successful outreach Meridian Hill Park is in the midst of improvements from the National Park Service.

Powell Playground(View of the playground area from the parking lot (south) at the former DPR headquarters)

Historic Photos of the 1921 Groundbreaking for Columbia Heights National Baptist Memorial Church

Posted April 23, 2014 by Kent
Categories: Churches, Historic Landmarks, History

Tags: , , ,
The National Baptist Memorial Church at 16th Street and Columbia Road.

The National Baptist Memorial Church at 16th Street and Columbia Road.

Recently I found three photos showing the groundbreaking ceremonies for the National Baptist Memorial Church located at Columbia Road and 16th Street, NW. I’ve often admired the building and am pleased that it is not only a landmark structure but also within the recently designated Meridian Hill Historic District.

Construction of the church began in 1921 with a groundbreaking ceremony on April 23rd (93 years ago today). The ceremony was attended by several hundred persons with the honor of turning the first spadeful of earth given to President Harding.

“The event was marked by a ceremony that was solemn, impressive, and brief” according to The Sunday Star.

SCAN0058(Looking south with Columbia Road in the background. Photo from author’s collection.)

President Harding made no speech at the event, but in speaking to the officials of the ceremonies, The Washington Post reported that Harding said “We can not have too many monuments to religious liberty and we can not have too much religion in this land.”

Harding used a brand new spade, tied with red, white and blue ribbons in turning out a neat square of ground. With accuracy and precision he marked the four corners of the square with the spade, dug it out with a single stroke and with another placed it in the toy express wagon of 8-year-old Gove Griffith Johnson, jr. the son of Rev. Gove Griffith Johnson, pastor of the Immanuel Baptist Church which was incorporated into the new church upon completion. The boy then presented the President with a bouquet of flowers from the members of the church. President Harding, after greeting the officials, returned to the White House.

Below are two more images of the ceremonies from the Library of Congress collection.

Harding Groundbreaking 1

Harding Groundbreaking 2

 

Parks & Recreation Master Plan Process Progressing Well

Posted April 22, 2014 by Kent
Categories: Parks and Green spaces

Tags: ,

Play DC Project Phasing
Hopefully, people have been following the Play DC initiative. Play DC is the District of Columbia’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan Initiative (Web site here).  The initiative completed the Vision Framework Document in March, leaving both the Implementation Strategy and Master Plan outstanding (see process map above).

According to the Play DC Web site, the strategic plan’s goal is to:

  1. Establish a clear understanding of the current conditions of all District parks, recreation centers, and outdoor facilities;
  2. Assess the current programs available at all parks and recreation centers;
  3. Identify challenges and service gaps;
  4. Develop and propose solutions that are:
    1. Phased for implementation over the next 10 years
    2. Based on sound and detailed analysis that is inclusive and responsive to District residents
    3. Grounded in community input and industry best practices that improve public services and reduce costs
    4. Improving the District’s ability to protect and preserve historic resources
    5. Progressing citywide goals identified in Mayor Gray’s ONE CITY Action Plan, including economic strength and diversification, education and workforce preparation, sustainability and quality of life.

The Play DC Vision Framework does a good job of outlining the District’s goals for the future of its parks, and for capturing how our parks currently stack up against those goals. For example, a few of the identified targets of our parks system are:

  • That every resident will be able to access a meaningful greenspace within a 1/2 mile (10 minute walk) of home;
  • Every neighborhood cluster will have access to at least 4 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents;
  • Every resident will be able to access a DPR Neighborhood Center within 1 mile of home;
  • Every resident will have access to an indoor pool within 2 miles, an outdoor pool within 1.5 miles, and a splash pad within 1 mile;
  • 100% of DPR parks will be accessible by foot, and 90% will  be accessible by bicycle; and,
  • Increase natural features on DPR properties, such as trees, gardens, or wetlands, by 40%.

It will be interesting to see how these targets and details are represented in the Implementation Strategy and Master Plan when they are completed. For example, the image below is a map that shows how recreation centers stack up. A quick review of the map shows that the Park View Recreation Center (for example) is among those that is considered substandard in both size and maintenance (though the Park View community is not within an area in need of additional recreation center space).

Recreation Center Vision

While the Park View area may not need additional recreation center space, another map in the Vision Framework does include the community — along with much of Ward 1, Ward 5, and southern Ward 4 — within a large area in need of more parkland.

Both the Play DC Web site and its Resources page are worth a look to see where we might be headed with the District’s greenspaces over the next decade.

 

 

Celebrate Petworth Festival in the Works — Mark Your Calendars/Supporters Welcome

Posted April 21, 2014 by Kent
Categories: Celebrations, Community Involvement

Tags: ,
cp_2014_graphic_v3

For those who may not have heard about this yet, a group of community organizers in the Petworth community have come together to plan and execute a small neighborhood festival celebration in the heart of Petworth. The Celebrate Petworth Festival will highlight the creativity, diversity, culture, people, and quality of life of Petworth: the core components of what make Petworth a vibrant and wonderful place to live and do business. Celebrate Petworth will be anchored around 4 main themes: Art, Music, Food and Healthy Living, and Kids/Family and will be held Saturday, May 10th from Noon to 6 PM.

As part of the fundraising and organizing of the event, Celebrate Petworth has kicked off a CrowdRise Campaign (link here). Organizers estimate it will cost approximately $12,000 to cover DCRA and DDOT permitting fees, required security and insurance, staging and equipment, and to support the musicians and performers. They are asking the community to help them raise $5,000 while they attempt to secure the majority through corporate sponsorships.

The goal is for this inaugural festival to be the first of many to come. Your support will help make this kickoff a success and secure it as an annual celebration of the community. The following event sponsors have already been identified — Green Line Real Estate, Creativecouch Designs, Car2Go, Petworth Citizen, Fido and Kitty’s World, & Various Petworth Neighbors.

Those interested in attending can follow Celebrate Petworth on twitter @celebratePTW or like their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/celebratepetworth.  They also have a basic website up at www.celebratepetworth.org.

Vision McMillan Partners Give Presentation to Park View Residents on Proposed Redevelopment Plans and Community Impacts

Posted April 18, 2014 by Kent
Categories: Development

Tags: ,

Guest post from Community members Dianne Chambers, Rashida Brown and David Do

On Monday April 7, an informal Park View neighborhood happy hour drew a large and enthusiastic crowd of more than 80 people who came out to hear about the redevelopment plans for the historic McMillan Sand Filtration site. The event was held at Mothership on Georgia Ave, NW Washington DC.

Supporters of the project and members of “Neighbors for McMillan,” David Do, Dianne Chambers and Rashida Brown, hosted the event and invited the Vision McMillan Partners to Park View to speak with members of the community about the proposed redevelopment plans. This event included a presentation from the Vision McMillan Partners for residents to learn more about the proposed plans currently in the process of moving through D.C.’s zoning commission. Park View community members and interested parties met the developers and asked questions throughout the night. Special thanks to Stephan Boillon and his staff at Mothership for the great venue and delicious food! Brianne Nadeau, the Ward 1 Democratic Nominee for the D.C. Council made a special appearance and remarks in support of the VMP plans.

The overall tone and feedback from the crowd was positive. Park View neighbors expressed an overwhelming amount of support for the project. However, concerns about traffic impact and congestion along the Ward 1 boarders of the site were raised that night.

Vision McMillan rendering(Envision McMillan rendering)

Neighbor for McMillan and Park View resident, Rashida Brown, welcomed everyone and gave some opening remarks sharing her story about why she is in support of the VMP’s plans. She urged Park View to have a “seat at the table” and be more informed, involved and engaged in the process. She stressed the importance of attending the next PUD hearings throughout the month of May to share input. Historically, residents from Ward 5 have attended the VMP-sponsored community meetings and provided testimony on the proposed plans (quite often in opposition). Ms. Brown mentioned the positive impacts and benefits for the Park View community.

Aakash Thakkar, representing EYA, thanked Park View for the invitation and mentioned the plan is closer than ever to seeing it come to fruition. It has taken about 30 years to get real traction on this project, but he feels the current plan is a good fit for the community as it preserves the historical integrity of the site. Tania Jackson, representing VMP, discussed her community advocacy and organizing efforts to help move the VMP plans forward.

Anne Corbett, Project Director for Vision McMillan Partners presented a plan that includes both market-rate and affordable housing (town homes, multi-family and senior apartments). At least 10% of the units will be set aside for affordable housing. There will also be a 50,000 sf grocery store, health care facilities, a community center with pool, and an 8 acre park.

A slide displaying the new McMillan site at night showcased a new lighting design and gives the impression that this will be a very welcoming environment at all hours. One of the biggest themes of the presentation is the fact that the plan honors the site by preserving its historic integrity while at the same time, providing much needed amenities for the community at large.

The information provided was very positively received. Most of the residents seemed pleased to hear about what is on the horizon. Park View neighbor, David Do commented on the positive impact more affordable housing will have in our community. He also mentioned that the grocery store will help provide a much needed resource to the area’s food desert. The full team took questions which have been linked to this post.

If you would like to support the McMillan project, the next step is to come out and testify at the PUD/Zoning Commission hearings planned for May. You can get more information and sign up for the hearings at:

http://envisionmcmillan.com/ and http://www.bit.ly/PUDsignupform

 Dates for the PUD hearings are as follows:

  • May 1, 2014 (Thursday) @ 6pm – Stage 1 Master Plan, Open Spaces and Parks, and Community Center (Parcels 6 and 7)
  • May 5, 2014 (Monday) @ 6pm – Multi-Family/Retail Building (Parcel 4) and Townhouses (Parcel 5)
  • May 8, 2014 (Thursday) @ 6pm – Healthcare Facility (Parcel 1)
  • May 13, 2014 (Thursday)@ 6pm – Continuation hearing (if needed)

 PUD hearings will be held at:

Jerrily R. Kress Memorial Hearing Room
441 4th St., NW Suite 220-South
Washington, DC 20001

Soldiers’ Home History: Regina Jones, First Female Resident

Posted April 17, 2014 by Kent
Categories: Armed Forces Retirement Home, History, Lincoln's Cottage

Tags: ,
Regina C. Jones, first female resident at the Soldiers' Home.

Regina C. Jones, first female resident at the Soldiers’ Home.

At 10 a.m. on September 2, 1955 — 104 years after the Soldiers’ Home was established in 1851 — the 1,800 all-male institution ended as it opened its doors to its first woman resident. The woman with this honor was Miss Regina C. Jones, a 47-year-old former Woman’s Army Corps private first class.

Miss Jones was in the Army from 1943 to 1947. She was stationed in Egypt and developed cataracts in both eyes in 1945. Doctors believed the condition was caused by the glare of the sun and sand. Her reduced vision led to a series of falls, stumbles, and hitting her shins. After one event, a blood clot developed stopping circulation in one of her legs resulting in its amputation.

Jones stated she started thinking about entering the Soldiers’ Home when a friend read a news article about the opening of the Anderson Cottage on the grounds for World War II WACS with service-connected disability (The Soldiers’ Home had decided to open to WACs in November 1954).

Upon entrance to the Soldiers’ Home, Jones settled in comfortably in private quarters in the Anderson Cottage. Jones was the sole female resident at the Soldiers’ Home for a while, with the first prospect of another WAC joining the home coming three months after her arrival.

 

Are You Looking for an Easter Activity for the Kids This Weekend? Then This Might Fit the Bill.

Posted April 17, 2014 by Kent
Categories: Holidays, Sports leisure and entertainment

Tags: ,

Here’s something fun to do with the kids this weekend if you don’t already have Easter plans.
Easter Meridian Hill Girard Park


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