News & Politics

The Blogger Beat: New Columbia Heights

This week, we explore Columbia Heights with blogger Andrew Wiseman.

Andrew Wiseman stops at 14th and Irving streets for a quick photo. Photograph by Chris Leaman

Andrew Wiseman has lived in Columbia Heights for 2½ years, but he’s been in DC for more than ten. The son of an Air Force officer, Wiseman says that’s a record: “I love DC—so much so, I’m even a Nats fan.”

Wiseman has been blogging about Columbia Heights since March 2008. He tried out lots of names for his site—Heights of Columbia (taken), New (Columbia) Heights (corny)—before settling on New Columbia Heights, a celebration of all the new shops, restaurants, and development in the DC neighborhood. Not surprisingly, Wiseman writes to an audience comprised mostly of his neighbors. He pens features on local bands, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, real-estate development, and even celebrity sightings.

We caught up with Wiseman to get the scoop on what’s new in his neighborhood. The best pizza spot? Architectural eye sore? Bizarre crimes? Read on for his answers.

Five words to describe Columbia Heights:
“Growing, bustling, small, creative, interesting.”

Three reasons to live there:
“Everything you need is within a mile, there are lots of great bars and American and Latin American food, and it’s diverse in pretty much every way.”

One thing people would be surprised to learn about Columbia Heights:
“The George Washington University was founded in the neighborhood in 1821 as Columbian College. Some say that’s why the area is called Columbia Heights and why streets in the area have college names, such as Kenyon and Harvard.”

Pick one: Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza or Red Rocks Pizzeria.
“Tough one! I prefer the pizza at Pete’s, but Red Rocks has a good brunch and lots of outdoor seating, so I’ll give them the edge.”

Wonderland or Red Derby?
“Another hard one. Red Derby is awesome, but Wonderland is closer to my house and I often see friends or bartenders I know there. So, Wonderland.”

Columbia Heights Coffee or Tynan Coffee & Tea?
“Got to go with Columbia Heights Coffee. Tasty coffee and cozy atmosphere.”

Best new development in the neighborhood:
“DCUSA. Target is great and very convenient, and Best Buy is useful sometimes. Marshall’s is kind of a disaster area, however.”

Best and worst condo buildings:
“I like the look of Kenyon Square—modern but still kind of traditional. The worst are any that are too expensive and have empty units.”

Biggest architectural eyesore:
“The Upper Cardozo Health Center looks like a prison from the future. And I hate the concrete cinder-block funeral home that’s been under construction at 14th and Meridian streets for what feels like years. It looks like absolute crap!”

Shop or business you’d like to see move in:
“I do a series on this called What We’re Missing. I’d love to have a laid-back neighborhood sports bar. Hopefully Meridian Pint, coming next year, will fill that gap.”

Favorite intersection:

“Now that the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza is finished, I’ve got to go with 14th Street where it meets Kenyon and Park streets. It’s maddening to cross the streets, though, because the walk signals don’t make any sense.”

Most bizarre crime you’ve heard of in your ’hood:
“There have been a few weird ones. There used to be guys selling live turtles in front of Target, which has got to be illegal. There was also the time a few years ago when Wonderland was robbed by some guys in masks. Everyone thought it was a joke so they went on drinking until finally the crooks were like, ‘No, really, we’re here to rob you.’ After they left, everybody continued drinking. There was also a guy who posted a story on Craigslist about getting robbed in the DCUSA parking garage. It was strangely written—‘My person was searched while my senses were assaulted with all manner of epithets and threats.’—and just seemed very odd. Turns out, it was all made up.”

Favorite local leader:
“Jim Graham is awesomely responsive to anything, and Sedrick Muhammad is a really good ANC commissioner and head of the South Columbia Heights Civic Association.”

Local leader you most wish you could fire:

“I guess they’re not really local leaders, but Nimbys—the Not In My Backyard set. I remember a really angry guy at ANC meetings who opposed the Room 11 wine bar (which is a great place). He was saying things about how it’s going to cause drunken people to run all over and make tons of noise, throw garbage everywhere, and so on. It’s a wine bar, not a frat house! Nimbyism in general is pretty annoying to me.”

Finish this sentence: “If a movie was made about Columbia Heights, it’d be called . . . ”

“ . . . Group House, the story of a bunch of diverse, misfit partiers and their neighbors.”

Where you’d live if you didn’t live in Columbia Heights:
“Probably Mount Pleasant or U Street, if I could afford it.”

Favorite local blog besides your own:
The 42 Bus and Endless Simmer are entertaining, even though I don’t take the 42 or cook much.”

Next week, we talk with the Straight Torquer’s Kashuo Bennett about the good, the bad, and the ugly in Washington architecture. Check back on Wednesday for his bests and worsts.

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