What restaurant should go here?

The post earlier today outlined a recommended strategy from Richard Layman for restaurants in emerging neighborhoods. I also highlighted details about a possible destination for a new restaurant: The Penzance Building. The address is located across from 400 Mass and adjacent to the Dumont.

Sunken patio along Mass Ave

What type of restaurant do you envision taking advantage of this indoor & outdoor space in the near future? Chime in with your suggestions in the comments. Remember we want a successful business that can afford downtown rent which isn’t as simple as naming your favorite restaurant.

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Restaurant-Based Neighborhood Revitalization

Richard Layman’s Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space highlights the revitalization underway in H Street NE. This has become the “IT” place in the city with numerous WaPo articles like “H is for Happening“. The driving force to the revitalization is considered to be the intiative by Joe Englert (CP | Examiner | WBJ | Washingtonian | Chat) of seeding H Street with tavern-entertainment destinations offering pretty good food.

Layman has a few “rules” to successful Restaurant-Based Neighborhood Revitalization:

1. Relatively appealing cuisine that isn’t too specialized (or at the very least is popular such as Asian food); food that is attractive to a large number of people–Italian, Mexican, and “American,” seem to work best. You want at least 100 customers/nite. These days Thai food is moving into this category. Chinese seems to have lost its appeal. Restaurants like Indian, Caribbean, etc. are just a bit too specialized, and therefore don’t get the weekly or at least a couple times/month patronage that such restaurants need especially when they are located in emerging commercial districts.

2. Good food; it doesn’t have to be stunning but it better be good. (Perhaps Mexican restaurants illustrate this point the best.)

3. Good, good plus, or better service; waiting isn’t fun, and neither is dealing with a server that doesn’t help you get what you want with a modicum (ideally none) of problems.

4. Competitively priced; you can’t have drinks at $8 or most of your entrees costing $13-$20 — unless you offer a fully realized concept where those prices make sense. If your prices aren’t competitive and maybe a little less expensive than the market, you won’t get that frequent patronage that is necessary for your success. Pitchers of margaritas or sangria are good, maybe not pitchers of beer, which seem to attract a rowdier more alcohol-centered clientele.

5. Nice interior; it doesn’t have to be stunning or a $1 million interior renovation, but it can’t be threadbare, and it has to be appealing.

Any thoughts on how these rules relates to our Triangle ‘hood? Richard’s Rules for Restaurant-Based Revitalization apply most closely to transitioning, emerging, and distressed commercial districts. The Triangle is transitioning but overwhelmingly through new construction rather than adopting old structures to new uses. So the rents will be too high to closely follow the path H Street NE has taken to success. I would think rules 2 thru 5 should always apply. I also think rule #1 makes sense for the first restaurant that arrives – which would most likely be in the ground floor space at 455 Mass Ave NW (aka Penzance Building).

The space at the Penzance Building has a great are for outdoor seating on the Mass Ave facing. When built out the Triangle will have the critical mass to support a specialty cuisine restaurant like Indian or Carribean. But I think that’s deferred until K Street’s restaurant row one day arrives. Perhaps Italian, Mexican, Thai, or “American” is the way to go for this first new restaurant. I would also think the choice should should strive to serve the lunch crowd from the GAO and Chester A Arthur office buildings and repeat business from the new condo residents.

floorplate is approximation of ground level as it was intended to represent floors 5-8

Let’s hope the space does end up as a restaurant and not subdivided into another bank and Starbucks. =)

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Blue Line in I-395 right of way?

As a followup to yesterday’s post, David Alpert suggests reusing the segment of I-395 in a future separated blue line metrorail.

The separated blue line is part of Alpert’s vision for metro in 2030. As gas prices have risen Metro has been breaking ridership records. WMATA’s core capacity study, conducted in 2001, did not anticipate ridership to surge past 850,000 riders per day until 2014 yet we’re already there. The Silver Line expansion to Tyson’s Corner and Dulles will continue to feed in new riders to the system. But having the Silver, Blue, and Orange lines share one set of tracks from Rosslyn to Stadium Armory would likely choke capacity at the core. A separated blue line, while an expensive venture, would increase core capacity and connect Georgetown into the Metro system. WMATA included Alpert’s system map in a May 22nd press release.

Images from [double click to enlarge]

This vision is long term and a Blue Line separated in this manner would not arrive until after 2020.

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DDOT suggests cutting 395 to Mass Ave

WTOP has reported that section of Interstate 395 between New York Avenue, NW, and Massachusetts Avenue, NW, could be closed to traffic permanently.

A letter obtained by WTOP from DDOT Director Emeka Moneme to Council member asks for a study on I-395 traffic in a letter to Phil Mendelson.

“Based on a Transportation Planning Board finding that a high proportion of New York Avenue traffic has neither an origin nor a destination within the District, DDOT has requested the option of closing a section of I-395 between its current northern terminus at New York Avenue and its interchange with Massachusetts Avenue.”

At this stage no action is eminent DDOT just wants to leave the option open to explore. has suggested that DDOT could coincide this move with the completion of the 11th Street bridge improvements that will improve a current bottleneck of the SE Freeway. This will make the SE Freeway the best bet for through traffic and in theory ultimately reduce traffic along New York Avenue.

Impact to the Triangle:
What is the impact to the Triangle? I’m just absorbing and processing this information but at the moment it still feels like a mixed bag.

Let’s first consider the improvements that DDOT already planned for the Triangle because a potential closure would occur 5 or more years down the line.

  • 4th Street changed from one way to two way traffic
  • New Jersey Ave changed from one way to two way traffic
  • L Street extended over I-395 to New Jersey Ave
  • 3rd Street extended to meet new L Street extension
  • DDOT would allow for a park along the 3rd St extension
  • Presumably the District would sell the air rights along the new L Street segment to developers
  • These transportation infrastructure improvements help connect Northwest One new community to the MVT

Image from Mount Vernon Triangle Transportation and Public Realm Design Project
[double click image to enlarge]

So while cutting off I-395 at Mass Ave would allow the city to remove the big divide in the Triangle created by the highway – existing plans were in place to take on this task by building over it. Was a build over more a hypothetical pie-in-the-sky idea than one that would have received enough budgetary funding to come to fruition?

What I wonder is what this closure does to the proposed new end of the highway at Mass Ave. That area has a confluence of roads including Mass Ave, H Street, 2nd Street, 4th Street, and New Jersey Ave. That interchange area could become a mess. The new two way streets at 4th and New Jersey could see a dramatic surge of through traffic. Thoughts?

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Jesse Kaye of has a new video blog posting discussing Madrigal Lofts. He briefly touches on the Mad Money promotion and the use of full page ads in the Washington City Paper.

However the crux of the post is that he questions The Mayhood Company’s use of radio advertising as an effective way to spend their client’s marketing dollars. His analysis is based around the assumption that the national average income of radio listeners is $65K/year. Jesse breaks down what loan products Countrywide would be presently willing to offer to an applicant making $65K/year and concludes it’s not enough for anything but the smallest unit at Madrigal Lofts.

It’s a very narrow perspective and seems more geared towards real estate industry insiders than information the general public would benefit from. It also does not delve into the prospective alternative advertising options with statistics or Jesse’s recommendations. What’s the average income of City Paper readers? Does any local medium have a deep penetration into high income local singles? Maybe the Washingtonian – anything else?

Has anyone heard the radio ads? Are they cheesy? Do they have the stereotypical announcer guy voice over? =)

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5th Street Ace Hardware

5th Street Ace Hardware at City Vista (1055 5th Street NW) is set to open this upcoming Monday, June 30th. The location will have over 9,000 square feet of retail space and will be open Monday-Saturday 8am-8pm and Sunday 10am-6pm.

Photo is of the Logan Circle P Street location

5th Street Ace Hardware is a new location of the local chain A Few Cool Hardware Stores. The original store is Logan Hardware which opened on March 1, 2003 at 1416 P St NW.

Other locations can be found in Tenleytown, Glover Park, and Federal Hill (Baltimore). The stores are affiliated with the ACE Hardware retailer cooperative. The products offered span the categories of Paint & Cleaning Supplies, Tools, Electrical, Plumbing, Hardware, Automotive, Housewares, and Lawn & Garden.

Yelp! has 24 reviews of the Logan Hardware location.

I’ll visit the store next week and report back with more detail and photos.

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