22 Jun 2012

Things We Try Not to Take for Granted: Businesses in Hill East

So I’ve been corrected here about the boundaries of my neighborhood of Hill East, but when I think of it in commercial terms, I really think of 10th Street, SE as the western boundary, with the DC Jail and Congressional Cemetery as the eastern edge. A number of successful businesses have made the neighborhood home for a good many years, but I’m so happy to see more entrepreneurs reaching out to my underserved neighborhood.

Kudos to bar owner Eric Holzherr, a master mixologist who has provided some nightlife, other than hanging outside the carryout, with his bar Wisdom, and God bless Joe Englert for daring to open Trusty’s in 2005– eons ago. We were hoping he would develop the space on the corner where the scary quickmart was for years. Remember the $1 ATM there? Those condo owners have got to be anxious to have the vacant space filled. Perhaps coffee gods at Peregrine will branch out?

La Lomita has been on my block for ages, and now Henry’s Mi Vecindad offers another local Latin dining option. But the Iole, adjacent to Frager’s, is getting good reviews, as is the much anticipated Crêpes on the Corner; and of course there’s now the line-producing Pretzel Bakery. I wish there seemed to be more going on at the B Spot. When I have ventured up the steep stairs I’ve been happy with what I’ve found — awesome smoothies and an interesting global tea selection but I’m never sure if it’s really open. The G-Man subs at Mangialardos have been filling stomachs for some 30 years.

Michael Craig’s Grooming Lounge has been on the 1300 block for a number of years, and there’s nary a better place on the Hill for a hot shave. He also boasts a salon across the street that sports a fabulous chartreuse door. Stylist Tara Manson recently has set up shop above the Grooming Lounge and she’s got quite a following from years at Bravado. Closer to the Hill Center is Spa on the Hill and the shops on 11th Street.

Some of the spaces on 11th Street just can’t seem to hold tenants (bridal store anyone?) but Two Lions has been there for 10+ years selling everything from lamps and decorative planters to rugs and paintings. And then there’s the grand dame: Frager’s. Thank heavens things have been worked out regarding their commercial use of the alley-facing property. Ginkgo’s down the block has an awesome selection; you can find some unusual trees  and a great selection of houseplants.

Other new businesses include the Capitol Hill Animal Clinic which relocated from 8th Street. There’s also the women’s clothes emporium Indigo Frenzy, and (gotta love it) Gamestop. (Not so much.) Who am I forgetting? The paint store (?) on the corner of 13th and Pennsylvania seems mostly empty, but they seem to be hosting painting workshops. Easels were set up for the last few weeks.

This brings to me to the angsty part of this post. I have oft found myself brooding about the shuttered business properties littering Pennsylvania Avenue and scattered throughout Hill East. The three tall white buildings in front of Potomac Gardens comes to mind. Some of them will shortly be the home of a teachers union. The property just across 13th on the corner should be converted into something interesting. I’m curious how the sealed bid process is going. And then there is the damn fence. That ugly monstrosity is the bane of my existence and has been for the 14 years I’ve walked by it. Now the fading murals have been defaced by graffiti tagging, and many of the panels are rotting, their hinges weakening. What in the hell is going to happen to the lots behind them, and how long is the owner of the property going to let Hill East boast this rat-infested, weed and mosquito growing atrocity bringing down property values to the detriment of business owners who do set up shop near it? Mr. Larry Quillian, please do your neighborly part and give us a timeline.

OK, enough ranting. All of this is to say I really applaud the business owners who’ve helped energize our end of Pennsylvania Avenue, and I want to give some encouragement and food for thought to a number of them that don’t seem to be capitalizing on our enthusiastic consumer base. Open it, perhaps serve coffee or ice cream — WiFi would be best — and trust me, we will come.

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  • Hill Observer

    I am surprised and disappointed to see the blog that did such fine original reporting on 820 C St SE repeat the tired old canard that the lack of development on the 1200 block of Pennsylvania Ave SE is somehow the fault of Larry Quillian.

    Quillian has been working tirelessly for years to develop the 1200 block as well as the 1229 E St SE “Shotgun House” only to be thwarted by the preservationist fanatics in the Capitol Hill Restoration Society and their ideological soul mates on the Historic Preservation Review Board.

    The Restoration Society holds the community hostage by holding developers and property owners like Quillian to preservation standards that are impossible to achieve economically.

    So, on it goes…a developer proposes an idea and then the Restoration Society crosses its arms and insists on the tiny good of preservation of some structure or another at the cost of the enormous good of a new development that fits in with the neighborhood style, adds density and new residents, and makes economic sense. Their implacability and intentional indifference to the pleas of impacted neighbors is legendary.

    What can neighbors do?

    1) Resign from the Restoration Society today and request an immediate refund of your dues for the rest of the year. Explain to the Society leadership that you oppose extremist preservationist nonsense and that you are happy to trade off a few “historic buildings” for new development and new shops and restaurants on the Hill.

    Here’s the info:

    Mailing address:
    Capitol Hill Restoration Society (CHRS)
    P.O. Box 15264
    Washington, DC 20003-0264

    CHRS office location:

    420 10th Street, S.E.
    Washington, DC 20003

    Email: info@chrs.org

    Office phone/fax: (202) 543-0425

    2) Spread the word about the obstacles that Larry Quillian and others face and the “to hell with what the community wants” attitude of the Restoration Society.

    3) Support developers like Larry Quillian in their efforts to improve the neighborhood in the face of the relentless entangling interference of preservationist busybodies.

    The Hill deserves better –and this blog should know better.

  • Kate & Pablo McFadden-Gonzalez

    Thanks for all the info. I’m aware of Mr. Quillian’s beef with the Restoration Society. It’s been a long time since the issue has come up, no? It would be in Mr. Quillian’s interest to educate the neighborhood about his situation, considering there’s been huge number of people move into the neighborhood with no idea at all what’s going on there. I agree it’s time for the Restoration Society and the city to readdress the property. It’s a huge financial loss for the city.

    As an owner, it is his job to keep his property in good repair. The fence covers more than a third of the block and it is an atrocity, and that is no way the fault of the Restoration Society. The very least Mr. Quillian could do is keep it from sagging and remove the graffiti. By God, he could even encourage more enterprising organizations to paint murals. Taking care of the weeds and rats would be responsible too, as well as making sure the sidewalk smooth and safe all the way to the property line. As a property owner who stands to profit immensely from the eventual sale or development of the land, spending a few thousand and helping maintain the block and his standing in the neighborhood seems like a no-brainer.

  • JayFK

    Mr. Quillian, Tear Down This Wall! Or at least fix it. The fence/wall has become an eyesore as well as a safety hazard. Mending Fences literally and figuratively is the neighborly and right thing to do.