Downtown Observer, November 16, 2011


Public Can Now Search Geographically for Permit Details

The District Department of Transportation announced this month that it has added new features to its Transportation Online Permitting System that makes the program more user-friendly for the public. The changes will make it easier for some businesses to apply and pay for permits, and also enable residents to search online for information about public space permits.

The geographic information system enabled Public Space Permit Lookup Tool gives the public the ability to see permits on an interactive map. The user can enter a specific address or area and pull up all the Public Space Occupancy and Construction permits issued for that location or within that area, and see information including who the permits were granted to and for how long. They can also see permit applications that are pending approval or pending payment, and can export the data for the selected area in spreadsheet format.

“We get a lot of inquiries about permits and this new tool puts the information directly in the hands of our residents,” said DDOT Director Terry Bellamy. “They can now check themselves to see if work being done in public space on their block is permitted, and whether the applicant is abiding by the provisions of that permit.”

Top Downtown Restaurants Released

BISNOW’s Top 40 Power Restaurants were released this month and downtown restaurants include The Source by Wolfgang Puck,Charlie Palmer Steak House,The Capital Grille, Central Michel Richard, Georgia Brown’s, Old Ebbitt Grill and 701 Restaurant & Bar. A few Downtown restaurants made the Washington Post Magazine’s Fall 2011 Dining Guide. Food critic Tom Sietsema picked the restaurants, featured in the Oct. 16 magazine, which he fantasizes about developing steady relationships with. The restaurants were rated based primarily on food quality, although service and ambiance also were taken into account. Included in this year’s guide are Graffiato, Jaleo, andd Rasika.
Italian Restaurants Takeover

Downtown has no shortage of Italian restaurants. Elisir (427 11th Street), a contemporary fine dining restaurant by Chef Enzo Fargione, opens in mid-November, joining Graffiato, Carmine’s and Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca. Elisir will serve a variety of lunch and dinner options, including Italian style sushi rolls and pan seared cubes of tuna loin, and offer an extensive wine list.

Opening just blocks away: Roti Mediterranean Grill, the fast-casual eatery specializing in fresh cuisine. To celebrate its Nov. 1 arrival, the restaurant will offer free food, and not only on opening day. One lucky customer will have the chance to win a free lunch every day for a year. Ten second place winners will receive free Roti for a month, while everyone who enters the food giveaway will be given a free order of falafel.

Also, keep an eye out for Freshii. The nutritious, fast casual franchise that sells customized salads, wraps, burritos and other healthy fare is coming to a space once occupied by Gifford’s Ice Cream & Candy Co. at 555 11th Street. No word yet on a date.

Get Holiday Shopping Done

The seventh annual Downtown Holiday Market kicks off on Friday, Dec. 2 and runs through Friday, Dec. 23, from 12 to 8 p.m. between 7th and 9th Streets, in front of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. This year more than 150 local artisans and exhibitors will sell unique and quality crafts, fine art, jewelry, pottery, clothing and photography. Check back often as the exhibitors rotate, meaning the goods will vary daily. Don’t forget to purchase Downtown Holiday Market Dollars—gift certificates that can be used at this Market—for the picky types on your shopping list.

New Use for Library?

The DowntownDC BID and the D.C. Public Library have partnered to help determine the best use of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library building, long considered to be located on prime Downtown real estate. Both entities have engaged the Urban Land Institute to review and assess the nearly 40-year-old modernist building’s value then recommend how to leverage it to the city’s advantage.
“The city’s central library has served as an invaluable repository since its inception,” said Richard H. Bradley, the DowntownDC BID’s executive director. “It offers books, yes, but also engaging speakers and workshops, and an innovative outreach program for the homeless. However, the library needs to grow along with the city to meet varied and ever-increasing demands.”

ULI, a non-profit research and education organization, will convene an advisory panel of national experts to study demographics and trend data; interview a diverse group of neighborhood stakeholders; and discuss potential building uses and the ideal location for a Downtown central library. The five-day review will culminate on Friday, Nov. 18, at which time the ULI panel will present its findings and recommendations from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the MLK Library. The presentation will be open to the public.

Going Green

One Judiciary Square (441 4th Street), a major building owned and operated by the city and home to several mission-critical D.C. government agencies, has gone green. It’s now outfitted with a new energy management system, digital controls, and upgrades to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. The energy retrofits, worth $7.5 million, will reduce the 850,000-square-foot building’s energy cost by 20 percent, ultimately saving taxpayer dollars. Funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery, the project created more than 100 construction jobs.

The Cathedral Reopens

Washington National Cathedral started celebrating its reopening Nov. 12 and festivities last all week. A culminating concert will be held on the 19th featuring the Cathedral’s chamber music ensemble in a program called “East Meets West.” On Friday, Nov. 18, the St. Albans/National Cathedral School Student Concert will showcase more than 400 student musicians featuring five choral ensembles and an orchestra, with music ranging from classical to contemporary. The reopening of the Cathedral will also mark the start of a new single point of entry process for entering the building. Visitors will now be asked to enter through the northwest cloister, conveniently located next to the parking garage. Worshipers and guests will still be able to enter the building through the west front for Sunday services and other major events. For more information, call 202-537-6200

Eating for a Cause

On Nov. 21, Michelle Norris, host of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” will moderate a guest panel discussion on farming systems that are capable of maintaining their productivity and usefulness to society and the ecological, economic and social issues surrounding the practice of sustainable agriculture, along with the implications of changing production practices to preserve natural resources. Panelists include USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, Chief Culinary Adviser for the exhibit “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” José Andrés, and Co-Director of Freshfarm Markets Ann Harvey Yonkers. It will be at The National Archives. Call 1-86-NARA-NARA for more information.

Celebrate Louisa May Alcott

The Library of Congress will celebrate the birthday of American novelist Louisa May Alcott with a reading of her work by award-winning authors Jo Ann Beard and Maud Casey on Tuesday, Nov. 29 at noon. The event, sponsored by the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center, is free and open to the public; no tickets are needed.

Beard and Casey, in addition to reading selections of Alcott’s work, will discuss her influence on their own writing. Beard is the author of a collection of essays titled “The Boys of My Youth” and a novel, “In Zanesville.” For more information, visit or call 202-707-5000.


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