Housing Complex

Local Governments Partner With D.C. Tech Incubator to Make Cities Smarter


A woman is biking north on 15th Street NW on a recent afternoon, in front of the Loews Madison Hotel. Suddenly, a taxi driver heading the other way U-turns into her, knocking her to the ground. A few passersby and the hotel doorman quickly help her up, and the driver gets out of his cab to check on her. She appears to be OK. Information is exchanged. The driver leaves; the cyclist lingers a while, then leaves, too.

A few minutes later, Dan Hoffman arrives at a coffee shop across the street, 15 minutes late for a meeting. He has just come from Capitol Hill, he says by way of apology, where he briefed Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and several congressional staffers on the “Internet of Things”—a future of networked devices and systems that communicate with one another. When told of the incident that just occurred, he cuts in with a vision of the future, when sensors and “vehicle-to-infrastructure technology” will prevent such occurrences.

He lays out the scenario. “Someone’s in the bike lane. Someone’s pulling around. Car senses that that’s a bike lane, shouldn’t be going there. Or car senses biker. Car stops.”

Hoffman thinks he can help get us to that future. As Montgomery County’s first-ever chief innovation officer, a job he’s held since October 2012, Hoffman is responsible for bringing creative and efficient new approaches to the county government and its technology efforts.

Put another way, he’s the grown-up supervising the county’s tech playground. And the sandbox at the center of the playground is the Thingstitute, an innovation lab that the county opened in January in a historic Rockville courthouse. The Thingstitute serves as a test bed for local entrepreneurs to experiment with new technology, with the goal of getting a jump on the Internet of Things and incorporating it into the county’s development. The Thingstitute’s cornerstone project, the Safe Community Alert (SCALE) Network, builds sensors that can send automatic signals to first responders when they detect, say, hazardous gases at a senior housing facility.

Last month, Montgomery County took a step that Hoffman thinks will help get it to the smart-cities future he envisions. The county announced a partnership with 1776, the tech incubator that launched in downtown D.C. in 2013 and quickly became the epicenter of the District’s tech scene, with 285 member startups now. The arrangement is designed to give Montgomery County startups access to 1776’s resources and guidance, and to allow the county government to work with existing 1776 members to incorporate their technology into public infrastructure that could include everything from traffic lights to government buildings.  Read more Local Governments Partner With D.C. Tech Incubator to Make Cities Smarter

Morning Links

deanwoodEdens expands its Union Market empire. [WBJ]

How to take 100,000 cars off D.C.'s streets. [GGW]

Firefighter dies in Shaw apartment fire. [Post]

A new PAC challenges politicians who challenge D.C. [LL]

The proposed parking tax is basically a commuter tax. [GGW]

The story of the not-yet-extant Anacostia streetcar. [GGW]

Today on the market: House in Deanwood—$330,000

In a Changing Neighborhood, Whitman-Walker’s Move Means More Transparency—and Revenue


Just two blocks separate Whitman-Walker Health's old and new buildings on 14th Street NW, but they feel worlds apart. The squat, bunker-like two-story building at 14th and R looks like a vestige of tougher times on the once crime- and prostitution-riddled street. Its glistening six-story successor blends in seamlessly with the high-end apartments and condos that have sprung up along the corridor. But the main difference is the glass.

"There was an assumption that LGBT people would have to go to a seedier part of town to get care," says Shawn Jain, Whitman-Walker's director of communications. When the facility at 14th and R opened in 1987, the AIDS epidemic was in full force, and Whitman-Walker, which has catered principally to LGBT and HIV-positive patients, shielded its clients from the judging public with a building that was inscrutable from the outside. Now, both the clientele and the perception have changed, along with the neighborhood, and the glassy exterior of the new building is a reflection of that change. "Our goal with this building is to help people own their identities."

The new building, located at 1525 14th St. NW and nicknamed simply "1525," is scheduled to open for patient care on May 18. It comes courtesy of a $9.8 million build-out from Whitman-Walker. But in the long run, the nonprofit community health center expects the move to be a money-maker.

Read more In a Changing Neighborhood, Whitman-Walker’s Move Means More Transparency—and Revenue

Morning Links

kalorama11th Street Bridge Park group tries to avoid gentrifying nearby areas. [Next City]

A profile of a particularly bad house flipper. [WAMU]

In 2012-2013, 13 percent of D.C. students were suspended at least once. [GGW]

An interesting but impossible proposal for adding housing by narrowing streets. [Vox]

Muriel Bowser's attempt to rally support for 'Skins-to-D.C. backfires. [Post]

Hine School redevelopment will start this month. [UrbanTurf]

"Rain" is coming to a NoMa underpass. How about bike lanes? [GGW]

No shadow in my backyard: the latest twist in the development wars. [Post]

Car2Go is getting pricier. [DCist]

Today on the market: Kalorama 1BR—$399,000

Morning Links

u stMartha's Table plans to move across the Anacostia River. [Post]

The perils of buying a flipped home. [WAMU]

D.C. is America's second-worst city for driving. [NerdWallet]

The evolving plans for D.C.'s streetcar. [GGW]

Domestic tourism to D.C. has its fifth straight record year. [Post]

New renderings of a Navy Yard development set for 2016 delivery. [UrbanTurf]

Abandoned Columbia Heights apartment building finally gets rehabbed. [New Columbia Heights]

A 1968 brochure for the upcoming Metro. [GGW]

The number of Americans with severe housing-affordability problems is finally dropping. [Post]

Today on the market: 1BR co-op in U Street NW corridor—$340,000

Morning Links


H Street NE strip mall will become 420 apartments and retail. [WBJ]

A slimmed-down Dupont Underground is set to open in July. [Post]

Petworth funeral home could become 20 apartments and retail. [UrbanTurf]

How has Ben's Chili Bowl survived gentrification? Turkey burgers, apparently. [Post]

On Metro fare jumping. [WAMU]

In Palisades, park planning done right. [GGW]

Today on the market: Friendship Heights 5BR house—$1,700,000

With Prices Tripling, Homeownership Tanks Among Low-Income Washingtonians


Across America, home prices rose by an average of 45 percent between 2001 and 2014, according to data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency, compiled by the District, Measured blog from the D.C. Office of Revenue Analysis. In that same time period, prices more than tripled in D.C.

It's no surprise, then, that D.C. wasn't exempt from the decline in homeownership that affected the whole country. Nationally, the homeownership rate dropped from 70 percent to 67 percent over those 13 years; in D.C., the rate declined from 48 percent to 44 percent, although that drop occurred entirely between 2013 and 2014, according to the data.

But the decline in homeownership wasn't distributed equally across income levels. The highest-income 25 percent of D.C. residents saw a slight reduction in homeownership, from 77 to 72 percent. The middle quartiles actually stayed at the same homeownership rate of 43 percent.

Among the lowest-income 25 percent of residents, however, the drop was severe. In 2001, the share of those households that owned their homes was 31 percent. By 2014, that figure had dropped to 19 percent. And unlike the higher-income groups, this category of Washingtonians saw a steady decline over the 13-year period.

Read more With Prices Tripling, Homeownership Tanks Among Low-Income Washingtonians

D.C. Is One of the Most Segregated Cities in America

Ward 8, where Marion C. Barry campaigned for a D.C. Council seat in this week's election, is TK percent black.

Ward 8, where Marion C. Barry campaigned for a D.C. Council seat in this week's election, is 94 percent non-Hispanic black.

Vince Gray may have repeated his "One City" mantra a thousand times during his tenure as mayor, but this city remains among the most segregated in America.

Data guru Nate Silver has crunched the numbers on racial diversity in the country's 100 biggest cities, and he's broken them down in a novel and important way, plotting overall city diversity against neighborhood diversity. Some cities, like Chicago, are very racially diverse, but the races are clustered in certain sections of town, with little mixing. Others, like Portland, Ore., have reasonably diverse neighborhoods given their overall demographics, but lack enough racial diversity citywide for it to mean all that much.

Silver compiled an "Integration/Segregation Index," which measures how far a city's diversity in its individual census tracts strays from its overall diversity. Irvine and Sacramento, Calif., come out on top, with neighborhoods that are nearly as diverse as the cities themselves. Chicago is in dead last, with highly segregated neighborhoods.

And D.C.? The nation's capital is its sixth most segregated city.

Read more D.C. Is One of the Most Segregated Cities in America

Morning Links

hillPreservationists prepare to fight plans to raze mansion by Naval Observatory. [WBJ]

Ivy City confronts its unlikely renaissance. [UrbanTurf]

The most popular Capital Bikeshare bike. [Post]

A discussion of D.C.'s slowing population growth. [Kojo Nnamdi Show]

Seven charts that explain the affordability crisis in D.C. [GGW]

Taking stock of Navy Yard development. [JDLand]

An exclusivity debate in Silver Spring. [GGW]

Today on the market: Capitol Hill rowhouse—$1,049,000

Gone to the Dogs


The elevator doors open on the RF (roof? ruff?) floor of the Apartments at CityCenter, and out trots Chompers, a six-and-a-half-month-old French bulldog, trailed by Dan Sax. In front of them is a sign on the wall:

Screen shot 2015-04-29 at 5.51.40 PM

They head left.

A year ago, Sax moved into CityCenterDC, the tony downtown development erected over the past several years on the old convention center site. The apartments there aren’t cheap—studios start at $2,300 a month, and three-bedrooms rent for as much as $7,300—but the luxury amenities on offer (rooftop bocce and grills, an outdoor pool, and a two-story gym) extend to its canine population as well. They’re partly responsible for Sax’s decision to set up residence there.

Read more Gone to the Dogs