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For the past decade, Barracks Row Main Street has worked tirelessly to preserve and enhance Capitol Hill’s historic 8th Street, SE, commercial corridor and to revitalize its business community.
The group’s focus is the five blocks of 8th Street that stretch south from Pennsylvania Ave S.E. to the terminus of 8th Street at the Washington Navy Yard along M Street, S.E.
Barracks Row is located eight blocks east of the U.S. Capitol.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 3:33 PM
Three new businesses open –more sidewalk cafes debut
DDOT overhauls ally in 500 block of 8th
A moonless night, a potholed alley, a low rustle in the air - since way before Dickens this classic brew has been a reliable set up for fictional plots. For Barracks Row Main Street some very real, after-dark action in one particular alley has held our recent attention. Earlier this year a group of 7th Street neighbors and 8th Street restaurant owners met with us to discuss the rat population boom in the alley behind the 500 block of 8th Street. Not the stuff of NCIS drama maybe but rat eradication is high on every city dweller’s wish list- a goal to unite us all.
Cava, 527 8th St SE; Matchbox, 521 8th St SE; Medium Rare, 515 8th St SE and Ted’s Bulletin, 505 8th St SE are four of eight Row eateries which back on to that alley. Stirred up by the ongoing construction at the Church of Latter Day Saints, 522 7th St SE, rats could be seen on the restaurants’ video surveillance cameras as they searched nightly for food and nesting places. The alley’s crumbling asphalt invited rodent homesteading because burrowing was super easy. Then, there was the convenient food supply provided by old style dumpsters.
Technology verses rats
First, ANC6B, neighborhood residents, 500 block businesses and Barracks Row Main Street teamed up and went to work to convince the District Department of Transportation that rebuilding this alley was a top priority. Then, the restaurant group shared among themselves information about modern rat resistant dumpsters. Efforts are being made to bring every restaurant into voluntary compliance with the new technology. In response to neighborhood concerns BRMS and the community raised the issue of the need for a drain in the alley. At press time DDOT confirmed that they definitely will construct a drain as part of the project at the E Street entrance to the alley.
A feasibility study is underway to build a state-of-the-art compacting dumpster which all 500 block restaurants on the west side could share. As we go to press the 8th Street alley has been rebuilt by DDOT with rebar reinforced concrete to withstand the weight of daily deliveries and trash trucks. The next phase of the plan - to replace dumpsters with modern models - will happen this fall; a central compacting dumpster may follow soon after.
Growing on the Row
We count over 155 businesses on Barracks Row and many, like Capital Teas, opening soon at 731 8th St SE, have big plans for growth. New Capital Teas locations are also under construction in Charlottesville and Philadelphia. But, some owners including Winnette Ambrose and Meeka Mathews love the Row so much they are expanding right here. In late summer Ambrose is opening Souk, 705 8th St SE, a destination for spices and other ingredients as well as retail items plus intriguing dishes from Souk’s menu. Souk’s older sibling is Sweet Lobby at 404 8th St SE. There, business boomed and never abated when Ambrose won Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.
Matthews is moving her business, Skin Beauty Lounge, from the second floor above Sweet Lobby to larger quarters at 749 8th St SE, 2nd Floor above District Doughnut. Matthews plans to expand services to include massage, facials, waxing and beauty consultations.
Meanwhile, on the first floor, the month of August will be the soft opening for District Doughnut – the owners have never before had a bricks and mortar business but have won devoted fans with their food truck and catering. Open for breakfast and for dessert, especially after parades, the District Doughnut crew wants to greet you coming and going with smiles, scrumptious retro doughnuts and coffee just the way you like it.
Lower 700 block takes off
Capitol Hill Village will be relocating soon to the Row at 725 8th St SE, 2nd Floor, with parking convenient for its many volunteers at the lot under the freeway. Also, in the 700 block three new sidewalk cafés will be open soon: by mid month District Doughnut will install small tables and chairs out front; next door, Café Kimchi, 751 8th St SE will add sidewalk seating and at Capital Teas, a sidewalk café will be available for seating in addition to the courtyard and dining room.
These same eateries will also soon be sporting new signage and awnings paid for through a Barracks Row Main Street – DC Department of Small and Local Business Development signage grant, bringing the number of Barracks Row businesses to receive these improvements to a total of fifteen over the last three years. New sidewalk cafes blossoming in the formerly dormant lower 700 block, replete with handsome signs and awnings will give patrons attending Restaurant Week a fresh impression of the Row. Zest, 735 8th St SE (plus sibling, Agua 301 at the Lumber Shed); Lavagna, 539 8th St SE; Belga, 514 8th St SE (plus brand extension, B Too, in Logan); and Ambar, 523 8th St SE will all be participating in Restaurant Week, August 11-17.
High heels and software
There are further developments on the 500 block. After a long wait for DC permits Szechuan House, 515 8th St SE, 2nd Floor (above Medium Rare), will be open by July 28 with a menu of classic Asian take-out. The historic townhouse at 530 8th St SE, owned for many years by Thomas Queen, Esq. has been sold to Taoti Creative, an eighteen year old software design firm originally located near Dupont Circle, founded by Brent Lightner.
With the river nearby, our corridor suits Lightner’s important week–end ritual: after Friday staff meetings, the Skipper takes web designers for an inspirational spin on his boat. For more information: 202-546-8946 -www.taoticreative.com. But the Taoti team may not be so apt to head for the water when they discover Momentum Dance and Fitness Studio, 534 8th St SE, just 2 doors away. Classes include Bollywood and High Heel dance as well as Director Roberta Rothstein's special version of Barre Fitness… all guaranteed to foster out-of-the-box insights- momentumdanceandfitness.com.
DDOT, give us a date!
Business owners shop the Row year-round for space and our Barracks Row Main Street office is asked regularly for guidelines on opening a business here. We’ve been privileged this summer to have Robert Hanifin, an intern from Cornell University’s Master of City Planning program, working at our office. He has been compiling information on zoning and permitting how-to’s and best practices that we’ll release as a guide later this fall.
After winning a grant from DDOT earlier this year (funded by performance parking money) Barracks Row is waiting for an installation date from DDOT for tree box surrounds. A historic component of 8th Street before it was improved by DDOT in 2003, the original surrounds were removed during streetscape reconstruction and never replaced. On all five blocks of Barracks Row tree box surrounds (similar to those at Eastern Market) will add refinement and help us maintain flowers and plantings to be installed seasonally by Capitol Hill Business Improvement District and BRMS.
DDOT Street Enhancements in 2003
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.