Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan Closed Due to Maintenance Issue — Capitol Hill Montessori School at Logan is closed today after a pipe burst in the boiler room. [Facebook/ Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan]
ANC 6B Commissioner Brian Flahaven to Resign Friday — Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B09 Commissioner Brian Flahaven announced yesterday that he will be resigning from his seat on Friday to spend more time with his family. [Capitol Hill Corner]
CSX Announces Early Morning Demolition Work at Old Virginia Avenue Tunnel — Transportation company CSX has warned residents near the old Virginia Avenue tunnel that demolition of the tunnel will begin on Jan. 18 and will include loud tools and early morning work. [JDLand]
Neighbors Unite to Protest Tree House That Extends Over Public Alley Near Eastern Market — Residents of Archibald Walk, a residential alley in the block between G and E streets SE and 6th and 7th streets SE, are protesting a tree house that one resident built for his children which extends into the historic alley. [Capitol Hill Corner]
Capitol Hill Boutique Luxury Condo Building to Hold Grand Opening Party Wednesday — The Jackson, a seven-unit luxury condo building at 630 14th St. NE, will hold a grand opening party Wednesday. [Urban Turf]
The Virginia Avenue Dog Park, near 10th and L streets SE, is within an area that CSX will block off to the public to facilitate the construction of the company’s train tunnel. CSX will install a fence around the area as early as Monday, the company announced yesterday.
The fence will run along Virginia Avenue SE between 8th and 9th streets SE, before heading south through the park. It will then go east on L Street SE between 10th and 11th streets SE and head north on 11th Street, until it reaches the Southeast Freeway.
“These restrictions are necessary to ensure the public’s safety while utilities located within the park’s boundaries are relocated, and to create a staging area to support that work,” CSX said in a statement.
The dog park takes up the northeastern corner of Virginia Avenue Park, which includes a community garden. The garden and the area of the park near 9th Street and Potomac Avenue SE will remain open to the public.
After construction is completed in about 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years, the dog park will be restored, according to CSX.
Photo via Google Maps
Brand-New Condo Building to Be Torn Down — The new condo building at 1744 D St. NE is being demolished after D.C. Water found the building could damage the aging water tunnel beneath it. The developer, Edge Investments, said they had all the proper permits. D.C. Water said they found damage to sewers caused by improper construction of the building. [NBC Washington]
Boozy Cupcake Law Now in Effect — Bakeries that serve alcohol-infused cupcakes — like Crunkcakes and Curbside Cupcakes — are now required to get a liquor-license. As Hill Now previously reported, the law requires businesses that sell booze-infused baked goods to sell the products only to people 21 or older, and sell the sweets in sealed containers. [DCist]
New York Pizza, Paint Store Moving Onto Pennsylvania Avenue — New York Pizza and McCormick Paints will move into 1442 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, the website for the development says. Two other paint stores are nearby. [Capitol Hill Corner]
Group Still Trying to Stop CSX Tunnel Work — The Committee of 100 on the Federal City is fighting a judge’s decision last month refusing to stop CSX tunnel construction. The group filed a motion to freeze the project before “irreversible” work like tree removal occurs. [Washington Post]
Capitol Hill CSA Guide — Interested in getting deliveries of local produce? Hill Rag has a guide to community-supported agriculture groups in the area. [Hill Rag]
Second Tour Bus Fire in NoMa — A shuttle bus caught fire in NoMa yesterday for the second night in a row. A witness to the fire Tuesday night told PoPville that he or she saw “apparently homeless people” exit similar shuttle buses parked nearby. We’re checking it out. [PoPville]
Capitol Police Crackdown on Holiday Parties — Officials at the Capitol announced yesterday that only select members of Congress will be able to celebrate Memorial Day and the Fourth of July on the Capitol building’s terraces. The changes were made to prevent possible embarrassment for Congress and for security reasons, authorities said. [NBC Washington]
Pedestrian Safety on Maryland Avenue NE — Hill residents say Maryland Avenue NE is still too dangerous. A speed camera installed in October doesn’t seem to have helped. [WAMU]
Traffic Changes for CSX Construction — The CSX reconstruction of the Virginia Avenue train tunnel will shift traffic on 4th Street SE. The ad hoc skate park under Southeast Freeway is also affected by the work, as Hill Now reported. [The Hill Is Home]
CSX tunnel construction is about to become a real bummer for skateboarders.
The latest phase of work to reconstruct the Virginia Avenue SE train tunnel will limit skaters’ access to the ad hoc skate park under the Southeast Freeway near 2nd Street SE.
When workers are on the job, access to the area will be limited, the company said. A CSX representative wasn’t immediately available to elaborate.
Part of the street art-covered skate park, which is not an official D.C. or federal park, ultimately will be demolished as part of the reconstruction work, according to CSX. But the company said it intends to replace the recreation space.
A timeline for the demolition and restoration of the park wasn’t immediately clear.
On Monday afternoon, a few skateboarders were tearing around the park, which has rails and half-pipes. They said they were disappointed to hear about the changes coming to the park.
Capitol Hill resident Anthony Piscioneri, 37, said he likes the friendly community of skateboarders he has found at the park since he started skating there four months ago.
“It sucks,” Piscioneri said of the changes on the way. “There’s not too many places you’re allowed to skate in D.C.”
Shepherd Norman, 18, who regularly drives in from Woodbridge, Va., to skate at the park, said the space is “so special” to him. But he said he understands that CSX needs room for its construction work.
“I hate to hear that,” Norman said. “But they got to do what they got to do.”
In a decision issued today, a federal judge in D.C. refused to grant an injunction to a city watchdog group trying to stop work on the CSX railroad tunnel.
The Committee of the 100 on the Federal City filed an application in November asking the court for a preliminary injunction banning the District Department of Transportation from issuing permits for the project.
U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper ruled today that the Committee did not prove the worthiness of their request. “Nor has it shown that the potential environmental harm of reconstruction outweighs the public benefit from modernizing the tunnel,” his opinion said.
Cooper wrote in the 46-page court filing that the Committee did not prove that reconstruction of the 111-year-old tunnel would cause “certain and great” injury because of noise, vibrations, air pollutants or the risk of a rail accident. Here’s an excerpt from the document:
… the Committee’s contentions that a new tunnel will lead to more accidents and a greater risk of terrorist attack are speculative at best. And with the exception of the removal of some 200 trees, the Committee has not established that any environmental effects of the construction activity will be severe or irreparable.
Moreover, although the construction inevitably will be disruptive and unsightly, the Committee has identified only one of its members who will be directly affected. This is not to minimize Ms. [Maureen Cohen] Harrington’s understandable misgivings over the prospect of a large-scale construction project outside her front window in the coming years. But her concerns do not outweigh the broader public’s substantial interest in modernizing this deteriorating and outmoded tunnel.
The $170 million CSX project will enlarge and reconstruct the aging freight tunnel that runs beneath Virginia Avenue SE from 2nd to 11th streets. The work will eliminate a bottleneck that delays freight and passenger travel.
ANC 6B commissioners said late last year that they support the advancement of the work.
Snow Total — Capitol Hill got 4 inches of snow, according to Ward 6 Councilman Charles Allen’s measurement. Another local measured 5 inches of accumulation. [Twitter/Charles Allen; Twitter/LBFindMyStrong]
CSX Tunnel Lawsuit to Be Heard Today — A District Court judge will hear a petition today to stop the $170 million Virginia Avenue tunnel project. ANC 6B Commissioner Kirsten Oldenburg said she hoped the litigation would not delay the project. [Washington Post]
Quaker House Fighting D.C. Tax Office — The William Penn House, the Quaker center at 515 E. Capitol St. SE, may be forced to close because of a battle with the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue. The city considers the house of worship a hotel — not a tax-exempt church — because they rent beds to people on educational or ministry trips. [NBC Washington]
Eastern Branch Boys & Girls Club Update — ANC 6B commissioners and locals were critical at a meeting last week of both plans to create senior housing in the long-closed Eastern Branch Boys & Girls Club building at 261 17th St. SE. [Capitol Hill Corner]
Photo via Twitter/Charles Allen
WAMU Series on Capitol Hill — WAMU is airing nine radio segments on Capitol Hill today. Topics include why Reservation 13 hasn’t been redeveloped, Hill parenting culture, and the history of the Hawk ‘n’ Dove. [WAMU]
Veteran Threatened Shooting at Capitol Building — An Army veteran threatened to shoot his wife and others at the Capitol Building, federal prosecutors say. The 33-year-old texted threats to his wife, a Senate staffer, on Monday, according to authorities. [NBC Washington]
CSX Tunnel Construction Update — CSX representatives showed locals how Virginia Avenue Tunnel construction will affect traffic, trees and sidewalks in the first four months of work. [JDLand]
A Look at NoMa Real Estate — The Washington Post profiled NoMa, checking the status of home sales and store openings. “NoMa feels spacious. It’s busy but not crowded,” the story says. [Washington Post]
Sticky Fingers Spinoff Restaurant — The owner of the Columbia Heights vegan bakery Sticky Fingers will open a “diner-style” restaurant/bar/bakery at 4th and H streets NE called Fare Well. [Eater]
CSX Tunnel Gets First Permit — CSX Transportation received the first permit for the expansion of its freight tunnel beneath Virginia Avenue. The permit allows site-preparation work. [JDLand and Washington Business Journal]
Post-Industrial Chic in the ‘Union Market District’ — Developers are modeling a building at 3rd Street and Florida Avenue NE after the feel of New York’s Meatpacking District. The development will be called the Highline, after the elevated NYC park. [Washington Post]
A Tribute to Steve Cymrot — Capitol Hill philanthropist and Riverby Books owner Steve Cymrot was remembered by the American Historical Association for his devotion to community service. [American Historical Association]
As Hill Now reported last week, The Committee of the 100 on the Federal City opposes the project to enlarge and rebuild 110-year-old tunnel because it says the project would be unsafe and it would hurt rail circulation over the long term.
Today at a press conference, representatives of the committee and other stakeholders emphasized that they want to delay construction until the D.C. Council completes its $500,000 study of the area’s railway system next year.
“Our goal is to maintain the status quo, let the D.C. Council complete the D.C. rail plan and then look at the environmental impact statement again after we have all that information,” said Monte Williams, a representative from the committee, after a press conference in front of D.C.’s Federal District Court.
The lawsuit claims that a federal environmental impact statement regarding the project was improperly carried out because the District Department of Transportation entered into an illegal quid pro quo agreement with CSX. Also, the lawsuit claims the environmental report studied an arbitrary area and it failed to take account of safety and environmental concerns.
Leslie Alderman, a lawyer for The Committee of 100, said he would file a preliminary injunction to halt any construction today.
The Federal Highway Administration, the principal federal defendant in the case, said it does not comment on ongoing litigation. Council member-elect Charles Allen did not immediately return inquiries about the matter. Advocates have also called on the District Council to pass legislation delaying the project.
“No one is looking to delay for delay’s sake. I think it is very compelling to complete the comprehensive rail plan before starting this project,” said Meredith Fascett, a newly-elected ANC 6D commissioner, who spoke at the conference. “Let’s see what the results are.”
A day after the Federal Highway Administration gave the Virginia Avenue SE railway tunnel project its final stamp of approval, a representative of the Committee on 100 for the Federal City told Hill Now the nonprofit will file a lawsuit against the administration in the coming days.
The lawsuit will claim the $170 million project to enlarge and reconstruct the 110-year-old tunnel that runs beneath Virginia Avenue SE from 2nd to 11th streets would inhibit the growth of commuter and passenger rail and inadequately handle hazardous cargo, vice chair Monty Edwards said.
“This project would be unlawful, premature and problematic,” he said.
The filing will also argue that the District Department of Transportation improperly entered into an agreement with the owner and operator of the tracks, CSX Transportation, before an environmental impact study was completed.
The FHWA would not comment immediately on the issue. Rob Doolittle, a spokesman for CSX, declined to comment on the expected suit but said CSX is committed to working with the community and keeping locals informed through a community office, briefings, its website and its social media accounts.
James McPhillips, who lives near the tunnel at 3rd Street and Virginia Avenue SE, called on the D.C. Council to deny CSX the permits it needs at least until the Council finishes a survey of the D.C. rail system. McPhillips said he worried that having construction and moving trains in one place could cause catastrophe.
“We’re going to continue to fight because we have elected representatives who need to listen to us,” he said. “This project is going to harm a lot of people.”
McPhillips is a member of DC Safe Rail, a grassroots group opposed to the project. The group is planning a protest soon against the FHWA’s decision, he said.
The CSX spokesman said crews will only work on one tunnel at a time, keeping a lane clear for trains. He addressed another common concern from neighbors, saying, “at no time will a train operate in an open trench in front of residences.”
Despite vocal opposition from some locals, other Hill residents are eager for the CSX project to advance. ANC 6B Commissioner Kirsten Oldenburg said she “breathed a sigh of relief” when the FHWA released its decision because it meant the work can advance.
Phil Peisch, another ANC 6B commissioner, said dragging out the process would be bad for the community, because construction will make it harder to pass between Navy Yard and Capitol Hill.
“The two things we need to balance are robust oversight and getting this project to start and end as quickly as possible,” he said.
The FHWA found that the 3,800-foot-long tunnel must be rebuilt to maintain the city’s rail system. Turning the single-track tunnel into two tracks will cut delays to commuter and freight trains, CSX says.
Doolittle said that if CSX is able to obtain city permits without delay, construction could begin “in a few months.” It will then last for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years, he said.
Ward 6 Council Member Tommy Wells and Ward 6 Council Member-elect Charles Allen each declined to comment and said they are still reviewing the Federal Highway Administration’s Record of Decision on the environmental impact report.
Photo via Flickr/David Wilson
Catania and Schwartz laid out their plans for the neighborhoods at a forum held at Arena Stage Monday night.
Muriel Bowser (D) was invited to participate but said “her schedule did not allow for it,” moderator Shannon Vaughn said, indicating a seat left empty for her.
Both Independent candidates said they would aim to fund the operational costs of the Navy Yard community center at 5th and K streets Southeast, which is slated to open in late 2015.
“This has got to be an amenity that’s supported by the city,” Catania said, citing expected population growth and growing demand for public space.
Schwartz she didn’t “know all the details” on the center but wondered whether locals could pay fees for activities or membership.
On the future of the Southwest Neighborhood Library, Catania said he would commit to keeping the facility at its current location, rather than incorporating it into a mixed-use building.
Schwartz said she would have to evaluate the plans. “I really want to support what communities want for themselves,” she said.
On the redevelopment of the Greenleaf public housing complex, Catania said he would work to create and maintain acceptable housing for locals.
“We have to make sure that the units that are planned are comparable to the units taken off-line,” he said. “We have to build first, before we demolish.”
The city must use “every nickel” of federal funds for affordable housing, he added.
Schwartz agreed on the need to get all available federal funds for affordable housing and said she would push for tax credits to encourage displaced residents to move back to the area. She said she would support looking “a little farther from the city” for public housing and affordable housing sites.
On the proposed expansion of the CSX rail tunnel that runs along Virginia Avenue, Catania said he would fight for a community benefits package “commensurate with the imposition” on residents. Locals need more information on the safety and speed of the trains, he said. Schwartz was not asked the same question.
Catania is falling just 4 points behind Bowser, according to polling results published Tuesday by Washingtonian. Pollster Ron Lester showed Bowser commanding 34 percent of the vote to Catania’s 30. Schwartz received 16 percent, and 19 percent of those polled were undecided.