City Desk

Chatter: The Book of Renovations

edsedgIn last week’s Young & Hungry column, Jessica Sidman looked at the Great Streets Small Business Capital Improvement Program, a D.C. government initiative that, to date, has helped upgrade businesses in certain up-and-coming retail corridors to the tune of $4.7 million. But should establishments with tavern licenses like Shaw’s Ivy and Coney—which will use part of its $85,000 grant on a retractable roof—receive funding even though the program isn’t meant to help bars? “I don’t mind grants or small business loans,” commented reader sbc, “but I do wonder if the District could attach some more strings—what if people had to promise to hire D.C. residents (perhaps even to interview folks who are currently in TANF or DOES job training?) and pay a living wage?”

And must the program be a giveaway? “Why couldn’t this program be structured as a low interest, long term loan (in other words, ‘generous terms’) as opposed to a grant?” wrote 7r3y3r. “That way the businesses get a cash infusion and the city is nearly guaranteed to make their money back, which could then be used to fund new loans.”

Reader Corky’s take: “I don’t see a problem with it. Anything that helps small businesses grow and create new jobs is a good thing. After all, since when did anyone in D.C. give a damn about spending? We have a multimillion dollar street car to nowhere that, when it ever gets running, will literally follow metro buses down H Street. And we are supposed to care about $85,000 for a bar? That’s chump change in the world of DC waste!!”

The Fright Act

The debate over the Heights of Buildings Act has heated up as the National Capital Planning Commission and the D.C. government have prepared recommendations for changing the law that governs how high developers can build in the District. In last week’s Housing Complex column, Aaron Wiener cast the issue not in terms of height or development but, rather, the city’s autonomy. Readers like tim showed support for the D.C. Office of Planning’s proposal, which would raise just slightly the allowable height within the so-called L’Enfant City and give authority over height throughout the rest of the city to the Zoning Commission. “It seems like a very reasonable plan that 1) preserves the low-slung nature of the skyline; 2) doesn’t allow high-rises (it only raises building heights by 30 to 40 feet downtown; 3) specifically protects views of the Capitol, White House, and Washington Monument; and 4) provides D.C. with more room to grow in the walkable, urban core.”

To others, D.C. is low-slung enough as is. “What makes the City of Washington special is that it is planned city,” wrote A.Loikow. “L’Enfant’s grand design is sensitive to the city’s sitting in a topographical bowl formed by the hills surrounding the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. The Height Act protects the scale of the built environment and by protecting the light and air in all parts of the city creates a sense of human scale and spaciousness. As the NCPC staff noted in their report: ‘It is a skyline not dominated by corporate towers, but a cityscape that reinforces symbolic civic spaces and structures...The law is simple, equitable, and has distributed development to all parts of the city rather than concentrating growth to a single high-rise cluster.’”

Department of Corrections

Due to a production error, a photo in last week's cover story was credited to Sam Lavine when, in fact, it was taken by Yamazaki Ayumi. And due to an editing error, last week’s Loose Lips column misidentified the Office of Campaign Finance as the Office of Campaign Finance Reform.

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