RISING TIDES How the Wharf Is Set to Redefine D.C.

July 12, 2017

Phase 1 of the Wharf, the multibillion-dollar project springing up from the Southwest waterfront, is set to open Oct. 12. PN Hoffman’s Monty Hoffman couldn’t be more excited for Washingtonians […]

Star Shops of Georgetown: Mashburn Retail Therapy

January 2, 2017

Fashion is the Mashburn family business, and it just keeps growing, as evidenced by the brand’s new store in Georgetown. Husband-and-wife team Sid and Ann are behind the operation, and they bring every bit of their background — his in retail, hers in writing for fashion publications — to the new digs at Georgetown Court, with entrances on N Street and Prospect Street, and to their other stores in Atlanta, Houston and Dallas.

Club Monaco Returns to Georgetown

January 11, 2016

Club Monaco is back in town on with a fresh concept at the renovated former Rhino Bar site at 3295 M St. NW. The new store marks the return of the Ralph Lauren-owned, prep-focused retailer to the area after stores in Georgetown and at Pentagon City were shuttered over four years ago. The new store opened Friday, Dec. 4, and Club Monaco plans on opening another outlet in Tysons Corner next year.

According to the company, the new Georgetown store “reflects the art, architecture and culture of its neighborhood,” with its townhouse-inspired interior, custom-designed Cherry Blossom wall coverings, and southern-inspired furniture and decor. The first floor houses the women’s shop and the second the men’s.

The new shop opens as the brand seeks to broaden its appeal among younger shoppers, who value the experience of shopping as much as they do the apparel they buy, according to retail analysts.

One thing that could help draw in young shoppers: Club Monaco plans on using one of Rhino’s old bars as a men’s cash wrap.

The circle of life continues in Georgetown.
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Mayor Bowser Unveils Vision Zero Plan with Goal to End Traffic Deaths


Mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled a two-year action plan Dec. 17 for the city’s Vision Zero program, an initiative started in Sweden that is aimed at eliminating traffic deaths in the District by 2024.

“We know over the past two decades we’ve seen annual traffic fatalities in our city reduced very significantly, but still too many people are dying as a result of traffic accidents,” Bowser said said. “That is why we talk not of reducing traffic fatalities, but getting to zero.”

The new plan, which spans 56 pages and 68 action items, is broken into four parts. Some steps are intended to create safe streets and protect vulnerable users, while others are meant to prevent reckless driving and promote transparency. Some steps are ambitious, like redesigning roads for all users, while others, like increasing fines for driving violations and expanding D.C.’s automated traffic cameras, are intended to deter bad behavior.

Learn more about D.C. and Mayor Bowser’s Vision Zero action plan here.

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High-End Shopping Outside Georgetown


Georgetown used to be the only game in town when it came to retail in D.C., touting easy walkability, historic charm and a diverse array of shops with broad appeal to customers. New retail hubs are starting to compete with that model though as large-scale redevelopments sweep over the rest of the District. Some of these new retail centers are the result of decades of planning. Others reflect the natural evolution of gentrification in dense, central corridors. And some are just now being unveiled. Each one offers something different: interesting shops or food choices, or extra activities outside of shopping. But they’re all worth exploring.

14th Street

Restaurants, retail and condos have risen quickly and concurrently on 14th Street NW between Thomas Circle and W Street over the past decade. A slew of new luxury retail players has diversified the mix and brought added draw to the corridor.

First, there’s Shinola. The Detroit-based watch, bicycle and leather brand moved into a massive, sun-soaked historic space on 14th and R streets NW earlier this year. Even if you’re not interested in buying a watch, bike or fine leather football, the store is worth entering, just to look around.

Anyone in need of gifts for the outdoorsy men in their life should visit Filson, right down the street. Inside the small store you can expect to find Barbour-esque leather jackets, bison wool gloves and hats, and plenty of flannels. Be sure to feel the moleskin shirt, an incredibly soft and warm layer for winter.

There’s more menswear on the northern part of the strip at Federal, which shares a space with skate shop Palace 5ive. Head to Federal for hip clothing, outerwear and wallets, or to Palace 5ive and grab a stylish pair of Vans for someone on your list.

For the hip chicks in your life, Treasury and Current Boutique are two high-end vintage shops where you need to be, on 14th between S and T streets NW.
Need something for the house? There are at least a dozen home décor and furniture stores on the strip for small gifts like scented candles or big ones like a new couch.

The best part about shopping on 14th Street though is access to some of the city’s best food. With Le Diplomate, Barcelona, Kapnos and other restaurants nearby, you’ll never get hungry while scouring the corridor for the perfect gift.

CityCenter

From afar, CityCenter looks much like the rest of downtown D.C. The development is square, glass, imposing and pretty much lacking in personality. A Christmas tree, an LED screen walkway and music playing do lend some holiday cheer, but make CityCenter even more reminiscent of a run-of-the-mill vacation destination shopping center, like Disney World or Honolulu.

But what CityCenter lacks in charm, it makes up for in high-end shopping. And we are talking the highest of the high. Big names in fashion — Gucci, Hermes, Burberry, Hugo Boss, Louis Vuitton — are there. Outerwear giant Arc’teryx has a shop for anyone going skiing this winter. And if you don’t have good luggage, check out the premium products at Tumi. But Loro Piana and Paul Stuart, two lesser names, are the standouts for their winter wear designs and the high-quality materials used to make them.

A big part of CityCenter’s appeal, though, is the food. Try out Momofuku’s world famous ramen or some of famed chef Daniel Boulud’s recipes at DBGB. For something more low key, grab some Crack Pie ice cream or a cookie at Milk Bar, Momofuku’s bakery concept. Or try something healthier, like a salad or smoothie at Fruitive, a new vegan concept that uses fresh, organic ingredients.

The Shay

Stores are rolling open at the Shay, a new development in Shaw that packs a retail punch along with the nearby Atlantic Plumbing development.

Just across the street from popular gay sports bar Nellie’s is Warby Parker, the eyewear brand that opened its first D.C. store at 3225 M St. NW in Georgetown. The space is a bit larger than the Georgetown store, and has a more modern aesthetic and a bright, nearly neon mini-marquee that shouts the brand’s name from the corner of 9th and U streets NW. A few doors down from Warby Parker, Chrome Industries, an outfitter specializing in durable apparel and messenger bags, opened last week.

Another formerly online-only retailer, Frank & Oak, also moved in over the past few weeks. The Montreal-based company is known for its reasonably priced, fashionable menswear, which is designed in-house, and has been expanding its brick-and-mortar operations over the past few years with store openings in Chicago, Boston, Toronto and Montreal.

Other highlights at the Shay include a newly opened Compass Coffee and a huge, window-front space for Kit and Ace, a new brand from the family that owns Lululemon. Much of the relatively hip apparel is made with what the company calls technical cashmere, a machine-washable blend of fabrics that mimics cashmere but requires little maintenance.

DDOT Unveils Steep New Traffic Fines


The District Department of Transportation announced Friday that the prices for tickets related to traffic violations are going way up. Under the new proposal, exceeding the speed limit by 25 mph or over could cost you $1,000 while turning right on red without stopping could cost as much as $200.

Other newly proposed fines include $500 for drivers who fail to slow down or move out of the way for emergency vehicles and $100 for going over the speed limit near recreation and senior centers. There’s also a new $500 fine for failing to yield for buses reentering traffic.

The new proposal also includes fine increases for a number of violations regarding car-bike and car-pedestrian interactions. For example, the fine for hitting a bicyclist will increase from $50 to $500, parking in a bike lane will go from $65 to $200, hitting a pedestrian will cost $500 instead of $50, and failing to yield to a pedestrian before turning right on red will run $200 rather than $50.

DDOT proposed the new changes without the District Council’s input, a development that auto club AAA Mid-Atlantic questions. “DDOT is doing this through the regulator process,” said AAA’s John B. Townsend II. “Why not do it through the legislative process, where you can have public hearings?”

DDOT Director Leif Dormsjo told the Washington Post that there is no formal vote required by the Council on the changes, which are part of Mayor Bowser’s Vision Zero plans, but members can ask to amend or reject the proposed rules through the legislative process.

Bicycle and pedestrian advocate groups supported the proposal as a part of the larger Vision Zero initiative. They argue that stricter penalties will make D.C.’s roads safer for all users, whether they are pedestrians, bicyclists or drivers.

Under D.C. law, regulations can be changed after they are published in the D.C. Register twice, with a comment period of 30 days in between publications. So, while these rules are not final, they are currently in effect.

ANC Supports Georgetown U.’s Franklin School Proposal

January 9, 2016

After weighing a number of redevelopment options for the Franklin School at a special meeting on Nov. 16, the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, or ANC, with jurisdiction over the area, voted unanimously to support Georgetown University and Thoron Capital’s plan to turn the old school into new academic center focusing on technology and multi-media art. Previously, the school was slated to host a contemporary art museum but Mayor Muriel Bowser shelved those plans in February shortly after coming into office.

Four companies presented redevelopment proposals for the school, built in 1869, to the ANC. The crop of proposals included plans to turn the space into a co-working office space or a boutique hotel, with a focus on either the arts or on fine dining.

Georgetown’s plan, on the other hand, involves turning the space into “a technology, arts, and media center envisioned as the ‘Y Combinator start-up model meets Juilliard with live performance, educational activity, and a dynamic space where technologists, artists, and entrepreneurs come together,” according to the ANC. Robert Taylor, founder of Thoron Capital, explained to the Washington Post that the plan is based off “the idea of bringing different arts disciplines together and letting them play off of one another.”

Included in the plans are a performing arts hall run by the operators of Bohemian Caverns, a live music staple on U Street, an outdoor performance courtyard, and a restaurant facing 13th Street NW. According to Urban Turf, “there will also be community-based courses for Georgetown students which the public can audit, as well as a partnership with various public high schools in the city to teach and train youth and provide college students with community-based learning credits.”

Randall Bass, Georgetown vice provost for education, suggested to the Washington Post that a new university center at the Franklin School would help connect the school’s other downtown programs, like its continuing education campus near Mount Vernon Square and the Georgetown Law premises close to Union Station.

“We think that this is a really unique opportunity to be able to bring the music and film studies work to the heart of downtown,” he said to the Post.

Under the ANC’s recommended plan, Thoron would lease the old school from the city and undertake renovations, while Georgetown University would be the primary tenant. Thoron will consult with a number of experts on historic preservation for the project, but Taylor called the project a “comfortable undertaking” because it will not seek to “radically change the layout of the building.”

A panel within the Deputy Mayor of Planning & Economic Development’s office is in charge of the final decision on the building’s redevelopment. Bidders anticipate a decision by the end of the year and the Bowser administration aims to begin construction in 2017, around the same time that the National Park Service will be putting the finishing touches on its overhaul of Franklin Square Park.

Beware of Christmas Tree Lighting Traffic, Security

December 7, 2015

Tonight, President Obama and his family will turn on the lights for the 93rd annual National Christmas Tree Lighting held at the Ellipse in President’s Park. While hundreds will attend, and thousands more will watch at home, D.C. workers and residents will have to deal with the traffic nightmare presented every time the White House holds a major event. Below is a list of road closures so that you can avoid traffic and get home quickly tonight, maybe even to turn on the tree lighting ceremony when you get home.

– 17th Street, NW closed from Independence Avenue to New York Avenue, NW
– 15th Street, NW closed from Independence Avenue to New York Avenue, NW
– Constitution Avenue from 14th Street to 18th Street, NW
– Pennsylvania Avenue from 14th Street to 15th Street, NW
– Madison Drive from 14th Street to 15th Street
– Jefferson Drive from 14th Street to 15th Street

Anyone with a ticket to the ceremony should beware of heightened security, which restricts a large number of items allowed into the event. The list of restricted items includes large bags and backpacks, aerosols, coolers and balloons in addition to obvious leave-at-home items like laser pointers, weapons, ammunition, toy guns, mace, explosives and pets.

Guests can enter the ceremony through a secured entrance on 17th St. NW.

Obamas Hit Up Petworth and Pleasant Pops for Small Business Saturday


To celebrate Small Business Saturday, President Obama, along with his daughters Sasha and Malia, patronized Upshur Street Books, an independently owned bookstore in Washington’s quickly gentrifying Petworth neighborhood. The 800-square-foot Upshur Street Books opened last year thanks to Paul Ruppert, owner of Petworth Citizen and Crane & Turtle, restaurants that abut the bookstore on either side. Aside from the Obama family stop, the store celebrated Small Business Saturday with baked treats, free drinks and discounts.

After buying a number of books, including Jonathan Franzen’s “Purity: A Novel” and the latest chronicles from the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, Barack, Sasha and Malia were off to Adams Morgan, where they stopped at Pleasant Pops for some frozen confections. (Read The Downtowner’s profile on Pleasant Pops here.) According to the Washington Post, President Obama declared the shop’s pops “the highlight of Small Business Saturday, before departing the store with a wave and a “happy holidays.”

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Georgetown University Students ‘Feel the Bern’ at Gaston Hall

November 30, 2015

Democratic presidential contender Senator Bernie Sanders spoke to a packed room at Georgetown University’s Gaston Hall Thursday, Nov. 19, in what was billed as “a talk on democratic socialism in America.” What followed was a reiteration of points Sanders has made throughout his campaign for the presidency about wealth inequality and an explanation of how he would deal with terrorism and the problems plaguing Syria.

Anticipation for Sanders’ was running high at the Jesuit university. Students waited in long lines in the rain to see the independent senator from Vermont, and the excitement only ramped up once they made their way inside Gaston Hall. When Mo Elleithee, the head of the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service, a part of the McCourt School of Public Policy that was established in June, made his way to the stage to commence the program, students whooped and chanted, “Feel the Bern,” a Sanders-derived meme that has almost become slogan to the senator’s supporters.

Sanders received a standing ovation on his way to the podium before beginning his speech by harking back to the times of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. “He saw tens of millions of its citizens denied the basic necessities of life,” Sanders said before describing mass poverty brought on by the Great Depression. “He saw millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children. He saw millions lacking the means to buy the products they needed and by their poverty and lack of disposable income denying employment to many other millions. He saw one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.”

Sanders continued, describing the steps Roosevelt took to alleviate poverty, like instituting Social Security and Medicare, in the face of critics who called him a socialist. Then, he juxtaposed the past with economic conditions today, particularly inequality, the cost of health care and the hollowing out of the middle class, calling for a combative approach in dealing with what he called, “the ruling class,” one similar to the approach Roosevelt took while he was president. “The billionaire class cannot have it all. Our government belongs to all of us, and not just the one percent,” he said, before quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. in arguing that, “This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.”

Returning to Roosevelt, Sanders recited items from the 32nd president’s proposed second Bill of Rights, highlighting, “the right to a decent job at decent pay, the right to adequate food, clothing, and time off from work, the right for every business, large and small, to function in an atmosphere free from unfair competition and domination by monopolies, the right of all Americans to have a decent home and decent health care.”

“We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men,” Sanders quoted Roosevelt.

Sanders emphasized, “Democratic socialism means that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy,” before calling for young people and working people to start a democratic movement that would further the second Bill of Rights and challenge the power of big political donors like Charles and David Koch.

“Democratic socialism means,” Sanders said over and over again as a lead up to expressing support to progressive policy proposals like a $15 minimum wage, universal single-payer health care and paid family leave, which he argued are all popular policies that have not been enacted because a lack of widespread political engagement in the U.S. “It is extremely sad that the United States, one of the oldest democracies on earth, has one of the lowest voter turnouts of any major country, and that millions of young and working class people have given up on our political system entirely,” he said.

Smattered in between the policy proposals, all of which Sanders has raised before, were bits attacking the GOP, Wall Street and industries that profit on fossil fuels. “I believe in private companies that thrive and invest and grow in America instead of shipping jobs and profits overseas. I believe that most Americans can pay lower taxes – if hedge fund managers who make billions manipulating the marketplace finally pay the taxes they should,” he said before expressing his support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

As in his opening statement at the last Democratic debate, Sanders used the tail-end of his G.U. speech to talk how he would deal with the threat ISIS presents to the West. He stressed international cooperation as a key factor in eliminating ISIS, saying, “We must create an organization like NATO to confront the security threats of the 21st century – an organization that emphasizes cooperation and collaboration to defeat the rise of violent extremism and importantly to address the root causes underlying these brutal acts.” He called on “Muslim nations” to lead the regional effort against extremism in Syria and Iraq.

In the end, what was billed as a big speech defining Sanders’ campaign ended up being a long, winding speech, featuring a smorgasbord of past policy proposals and talking points in addition to fresh foreign policy details. This was not the star-quality charisma or soaring rhetoric of President Barack Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012, but Georgetown University students seemed pretty pumped nevertheless.

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