January 2012

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January 1, 2012

By Sharon Bosworth

8th Street, SE, 2012: DC’s Original Commercial Corridor Echoes Founders’ Visions

Thomas Jefferson had it right, of course: in 1801 he personally selected the site where the future Home of the Commandants of the Marine Corps would be built, 801 G Street, SE, just off of 8th Street, SE. Over the years that corner lived up to Jefferson’s vision and has become the indisputable heart of Barracks Row.  As 2012 begins we review the up-coming changes planned for our historic corridor with homage not only to Jefferson but also to John Adams who sited the US Navy Yard at 8th and M Streets, SE, in 1798. Both Jefferson and Adams used the city map devised by George Washington and his urban planner, Pierre L’Enfant.  Washington and L’Enfant created 8th Street, SE, in 1791, the primary commercial corridor and gateway-by-sea into the Federal City.  Two hundred twenty one years later, their planned commercial corridor has become a phenomenal success.

We begin our 2012 overview of new projects about 100 paces west of the historic Home of the Commandants, at the 8th and G Street, SE, intersection. The most recent arrival on 8th Street, SE, is Spring Mill Bread at 701 8th Street, SE, whose Grand Opening occurred in December 2011. After being open just three weeks, owner Katherine Rhurka states matter-of-fact-ly, “We’ve been slammed.”  As down-the-block neighbors, the Barracks Row Main Street office staff is eyewitness to this happy upheaval.  Word is out. These folks definitely know how to bake bread. Because of the tsunami of business, with deep queue’s forming during breakfast and lunch hours, we predict that something is going to have to happen in 2012 to accommodate Spring Mill Bakery’s overnight success.

It May Be Organic But It’s Very Good, Too

All Spring Mill Bread products are made from organic flour which they grind themselves every day.  But really, it’s the taste not the health benefits that brings crowds back again and again.  The most obvious solution to today’s overwhelming business levels is the arrival of the first balmy day in spring.  By then, with outdoor tables added, the shop could accommodate two cashier lines. But if crowding continues after that, we know of some spots along 8th Street where a second, satellite Spring Mill Bread location could be located!

Opening a second store nearby is not such a far stretch either.  Another newcomer to 8th Street, SE, Yes! Organic Market, now under construction at 410 8th Street, SE, seems to be poised to do just that. With several years left on their lease at 658 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, they are also opening one block away on Barracks Row. Yes! Organic Market will have two locations servicing the Eastern Market Metro Plaza from mid 2012 through 2013. Conversations with neighbors about what we need most on Barracks Row always seem to begin with groceries.  Soon, with two Yes! Organic Markets, we will discover if organic groceries will satisfy the demand for a grocery store the way organic breads and pastries have satisfied the demand for a bakery accomplished so masterfully by Spring Mill Bread.

One of the most watched openings planned in 2012 will be right across the street from the new Yes! Organic Market location.  Streetsense, owner of the buildings at 413-415 8th Street, SE, has plans to lease the 413 side to Chipotle Mexican Grill.  The potential Chipotle Mexican Grill opening has a tumultuous background; months of passionate neighborhood participation at ANC meetings addressed the question of whether Chipotle Mexican Grill is indeed a fast food restaurant like McDonalds, or a new breed, a hybrid, “fast casual.” The debate was settled with the recognition that evolutionary change had occurred on our fast food planet, and “fast casual” was more acceptable in our historic overlay area on a case-by-case basis than true “fast food” venues which are not allowed. Chipotle opens in 2012.

Should A Man Wear the Coat That Fitted Him As A Boy?

Thomas Jefferson would have been proud of this neighborhood which he helped shape for the fervent discussions and long meetings we held to decide this point.  Jefferson had a firm opinion on recognizing and accepting change.  He penned these words in a letter in 1816 that apply well to the fast casual vs. fast food situation:  “As… new truths (are) discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy…”

Chipotle Mexican Grill will open only after renovations are completed by Streetsense bringing the circa 1850 building into ADA compliance.  Another start-up fast-casual venue may be opening in 2012 in the 415 8th Street SE side of the building, too.  Steve Salis, an entrepreneur with a concept for customizable, healthy, gourmet pizza (with gluten free choices) plans to take the 415 side and appears to be making progress compromising, adapting his business profile with spirited input from neighbors and the ANC.

Also in 2012 Pacifico, a tapas restaurant is being installed at 514 8th Street, SE, next door to Belga Café of the same address. The Pacifico build-out has been under way for six months.  When complete, it will be joined on the east side of the block by two new restaurants at 524 8th Street, SE, Tash, downstairs which will feature kebabs and Nooshi Sushi, upstairs.  With the opening of these three restaurants the east side of the 500 block will join the west side of the 500 block, home to Lavagna, 539 8th Street, SE; Cava, 527 8th Street, SE; Matchbox, 521 8th Street, SE; Las Placitas, 517 8th Street, SE , Fusion Grille, 515 Eth Street, SE; Teds Bulletin, 505 8th Street, SE;  and The Chesapeake Room , 501 8th Street, SE, to become the true epicenter of Capitol Hill’s restaurant row with fourteen eateries on one block.

Barracks Row Main Street Façade Program At Work

Meanwhile, in the 700 block of 8th Street, SE, just south of the Home of the Commandants,  three new Barracks Row Main Street façade projects are about to begin which will transform the lower end of that block. “Drawings are done; we expect to have the work completed in 2012,” explained Tom Litke, manager of façade improvements for Barracks Row Main Street.  Three buildings on that block will be involved: 725 8th Street, SE, now home to Jackson Hewlitt Tax Service and Chesapeake Bay Foundation;  737 8th Street, SE, Valerie’s Animal Den; and 739 8th Street, SE, where offices of Ex Nihilo, International Center and A-List Nails are located.

In 2012 Barracks Row Main Street celebrates twelve full years of historic preservation and economic revitalization efforts. We are honored to take park in this amazing revival. This year we plan to lead the corridor in joining the city-wide Cherry Blossom Festival, the 100th Anniversary of the gift of Washington DC’s cherry trees from Japan as well as the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War and the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812. Keep up with events and ceremonies on Barracks Row in 2012 by referring to this article in the Hill Rag every month, by receiving our newsletter and by consulting our website www.barracksrow.org or call us at 202-544-3188.

District of Columbia Main Streets DC Department of Small and Local Business Development

Barracks Row Main Street is a designated DC Main Streets commercial district.  Barracks Row Main Street is funded in part by the Department of Small and Local Business Development.