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Happy Holidays

Hope you are having a Happy Holiday season. Posting on the blog will be on hiatus for the remainder of 2011. See you next year.

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Response to Chinatown Disneyfication

Last month I highlighted the Citypaper’s posting on the “Disneyfication” of Chinatown. Among the items the author described as superficial Disneyfication were converting the usually-blue wayfinding signs to ornamental red, installing Chinese inspired lampposts and benches, designing bike racks and crosswalks in the shape of stylized dragons, adding a “Chinese-themed” sculpture to Chinatown Park, the translation of street signs into Chinese characters, commissioning “Chinese-inspired” murals for blank commercial storefronts, and installing more decorative Zodiac pavers.

I’ve wanted to dedicate a post to respond to that argument. It is increasingly difficult for me to find time for longer posts but this is a good one to end the year 2011 on…

I disagree with a blanket statement that any Chinese theme to the streetspace improvements is automatically farcical or superficial Disneyfication. I’ve visited other cities with successful public spaces that integrate the heritage of the past into the redesigned streetscape of the future. Pittsburgh for instance has a massive old steel mill furnace repurposed as public art in a plaza. That is meaningful and interesting. In contrast think about 5th & K in the Mount Vernon Triangle. The site of City Vista once was home to a beautiful building that served as a central market and later a convention hall. How great would it have been if the public art integrated at 5th & K payed homage to that heritage of the site? Instead we installed abstract twisted metal sculptures named Lift Off and Inspiration that aren’t really embraced. I think an opportunity for truly great placemaking art was missed in favor off somewhat generic abstract art.

Yellow Thing

No to Chinese inspired design for Chinatown? Must we always resort to safe generic abstract art like Lift Off in MVT

I believe the Chinatown theme can be done successfully in moderation and with a tasteful eye. Tasteful may be too much to expect of from government (fingers crossed) but moderation is possible. First and foremost I think it is important to limit the boundaries of the Chinatown theme. I would recommend 5th to 7th east-west and I to H (including Chinatown Park) north to south. In my mind it shouldn’t spill into Gallery Place or office blocks that are completely devoid of historic fabric buildings. I’m in favor of having the red wayfinding signage. Installing Chinese inspired lampposts, benches, bike racks and crosswalks seems reasonable to me but I would strongly favor using mostly Chinese motif geometric patterns rather than overdoing the dragons. Zodiac pavers also would be a welcome – I feel DC doesn’t utilize special pavers nearly as much as they should for a place of it’s stature. Chinatown park would benefit from a red iron fence with a Chinese geometric pattern, new lamp posts, some nice pavers for the paths through the park and a statue or fountain of some kind. I’m not familiar with all the proposed elements in the Office of Planning recommendations but the one I heard about that I’m not in favor of would be putting the street signs in Chinese.

These enhancements could up the ante for Chinatown and elevate it to a different level. Of course Chinatown is doing well as-is so it’s debatable as to whether upgrades are necessities. If I had to prioritize only Chinatown Park is in desperate need of improvement.

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315 K Street renovated

The building at 315 K Street has undergone some exterior (and possibly interior) renovations. The second floor of this property most recently was leased by World Class Cuts which moved to 401 K Street last winter.

Before and After of 315 K Street NW, click to enlarge

Gone is the barbershop striped door that formerly presented the entrance to World Class Cuts. The old purple awning for the long-gone Dollar City & Up is removed. The spastic paint scheme of faded whites and reds combined with a bright yellow is now replace with a muted neutral yellow.

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Yale West to begin leasing

The Yale West Apartments at 443 New York Ave NW will begin leasing on December 19th. Construction on the 218 unit project has been a long time coming and at one point had a 9-month hiatus before securing HUD funding and resuming in January 2010.

According to Urbanturf, the Yale West will be one month free on 12-month leases. Studios will start at $1,870/month, one-bedrooms at $2,160 and two-bedrooms at $2,950.

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Caldo, Caldon’t

In late September we learned that Chef Alfio planned to open his Italian concept Caldo at Mass Court (300 Mass Ave NW). Last night I received an email from the Chef citing a change in plans.

I am sorry to say that we are not going to be taking the space in the Mass Court Building. We have come to the decision that we would need to be open a lot faster then the schedule placed before us by the space. This was decided after my team and myself weighed every option we could think of to make this work. I am very sorry we cannot serve the MVT area directly. We will be opening our second location (Zuppa Fresca) in 4 weeks in NOMA under the Loree Grand Building on 3rd and K NE. Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience. Hopefully a restaurant will be able to break through the walls and set up shop in that space in the future.

Back when we first learned of the possibility of Caldo coming to Mass Court Chef Alfio posted in the comments that he hoped to be open by December. I was skeptical of that time frame. Since I began the blog I’ve just watched so many restaurants take a full year or more to build out from raw space. It can take two months just to get Pepco to turn the power on. Perhaps the Loree Grand will genuinely offer Chef Alfio a chance to open Zuppa Fresca more quickly than Mass Court ever could. That retail space in NoMA was originally going to be Gillian Clark’s Kitchen on K Street. Frozen Tropics reports that project did some of the permitting and buildout before folding which will transfer and therefore help expedite Chef Alfio’s plans.

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Second Annual Santa Event Recap

The Mount Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District (MVTCID) held their second annual Photos with Santa event beneath the Lift Off sculpture at 5th & K last night. I was told the event was so successful that Bill had to walk back to the office to retrieve an additional sign-up sheet midway through. The photostream has been uploaded to Facebook this morning.

Photo from 2011 5th & K Santa Event

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Holiday Tipping

I received a request from a reader named Sean to revisit the holiday tipping discussion. His building has suggested he make a contribution at a rate of 1/2 of his condo fees to a tipping fund. Is that appropriate?

Below is KimFromTheK’s post on Holiday Tipping from 2009. The comments of that post had some good discussion.

A recent thread has come across our condo’s listserv regarding holiday tipping. This is usually a touchy topic this time of year, as many people may be worried whether they tip on par with others, and tipping is certainly a personal choice.

Who do you tip during the holidays and how much do you give? Your doorman/concierge? Property manager of your building? Cleaning people? Hair stylist? Please share for those who are unsure who to tip and how much, especially given the anonymity of writing it here versus on your condo’s listserv!

Editor’s note: Please refrain from referring to any building employee by name

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