Bloomingdale Bites

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Spark at Engine Co. 12 features family-style plates to share. Photo: Deb Lindsey

NSO in Your Neighborhood
Having the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) based in your hometown is just one of the many perks of living in the nation’s capital. Having the NSO play at your school is a whole new level of perk. Last month, members of the NSO were back in the Bloomingdale area for the second time since the start of the program that brings the country’s best musicians to your back yard.

NSO in Your Neighborhood is a program that has been bringing orchestral music to the masses of DC for six years, and this year the program is touring all of its old haunts. The program started in 2013 at Howard University and the Shaw area and throughout the years traveled all around Northeast and Southwest. “The goal of the 2018 concert series is to reestablish and maintain our relationships with the neighborhoods of DC,” explains Warren G. Williams, manager of community relations for the NSO.

When the NSO was founded in 1931, there were many states that did not have their own orchestras. Being a national orchestra, members believed it was their responsibility to bring classical music to the masses, so they travelled the country to play. There were many of these programs, the last of them being the American Residencies Program, which ended in 2011. Once the program ended, the NSO wanted to look for new ways to use that successful model of bringing music directly to people, and NSO in Your Neighborhood was born.

“We work with our network of community partners with roots and connections in the community to deliver classical music to DC’s neighborhoods,” explains Williams. Each event is free and open to the public. The format allows the NSO to diversify its audience. Those who attend tend to be much younger than the average NSO attendee, and the events are open and kid-friendly, so parents feel comfortable bringing young children to introduce them to a new live sound. “Our goal is to bring music to people with as few barriers as possible.”

It also benefits the musicians as well. Being part of the NSO means participating in these types of events, both on a local and a national level. The 96-member orchestra participates in over 150 concerts each year, as well as televised appearances, Capitol Concerts and holiday celebrations.

Old Engine Gets an Upgrade
The century-old fire station at 16th and North Capitol streets NW has gotten a facelift and new flavor, as Spark at Engine Co. 12. The new restaurant in the old space offers a relaxed and neighborhood feel, while serving elegantly presented dishes and drinks to the people of Bloomingdale and beyond.

The concept is being produced by Jenna Mack, owner of Event Emissary. Her goal was to open a restaurant she’d love to eat in, in a place she’d love to do events in.

Mack kept the same chef but has an entirely new concept to bring to the forefront of DC cuisine. Spark is inspired by Caribbean street food, presented family-style in a smokehouse setting. Guests are invited, if not encouraged, to eat with their hands, digging in and ripping off bites of whole fried fish, cumin spiced pork belly or jerk brisket. “If you’re afraid to eat with your hands, Spark may not be the place for you,” warns chef Peter Prime.

Initially, the restaurant is offering a selection of five meats and one fish, hoping to expand to different local game and shareable side dishes. Spark will begin serving lunch in March and plans to be open six days a week and closed on Monday. The bar will be fully stocked, with a generous happy hour, and the new event space opened by the fire house renovation will be able to hold up to 400 guests.

McMillan Back in Court
The never-ending saga of the fate of the McMillan sand filtration site continued last month with a DC Appeals Court hearing and a lot of angry people. The latest fight over the proposed development took a new tactic than previous battles, which focused mostly on population density. This time, the argument was housing segregation.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission Member Bertha Holliday filed an appeal with the DC Court to block approval of the proposed Parcel 4 building at the McMillan development site at North Capitol Street and Michigan Avenue NW, which was re-approved by the Zoning Commission in December. Holliday argued that the proposed senior housing, which will be mostly HUD housing for lower-income seniors, will create both racial and economic segregation in the proposed community.

“According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development,” argued Holliday, “approximately 90 percent of DC residents in HUD-administered programs are African-American. Consequently, when a developer proposes a single building in which seniors with incomes of 50 percent to 60 percent AMI are physically separated from market-rate tenants (through use of separate entrances, lobbies, elevators, living units and roof-top mechanical ventilation systems), one can reasonably predict that building will be not only socially-economically segregated but also racially segregated.”

The Zoning Commission argues that the building’s configuration meets the standards of the Housing for Older Peoples Act (HOPA) of 1995, which outlines regulations for senior housing and protects age-based housing from fair-housing antidiscrimination laws. The law was enacted to protect senior housing as a valuable part of a vibrant and diverse community.

Holliday’s argument could have wide-ranging implications on a number of other developments in DC. Many similar developments are planned that have separate HUD senior housing, including Mid-City’s RIA development project in Brentwood.

The appeal only relates to the small section of land, Parcel 4, that will house the senior center, but it appears this might be a new tactic for the vocal opposition to the project, taking it apart piece by piece.

Taylor Barden Golden is a real estate agent with The Stokes Group at McEnearney Associates Inc. A former Hill staffer, Taylor lives in Brentwood with her husband, two dogs and a cat. She’s always on the lookout for new places to explore and ways to spend time outside. Get in touch: taylor@midcitydcnews.com; @rtaylorb.