Check Out What the Old Bi-Rite at 11th and Park is Going to Look Like

by Prince Of Petworth February 12, 2008 at 11:11 pm 64 Comments

New BiRite, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

Thanks to a commenter from the forum section alerting me to this development as posted on the North Columbia Heights Civic Association Web site. Apparently, this is the design of 3DG. My first reaction is ‘Awesome!’ because obviously the old Bi-Rite is in pretty beat shape. But now that I look at the rendering a little longer, what the hell is that black wall? It seems a little weird, no? So what do you think of the design?

  • Love it!

    Love the clean lines!

  • saf

    Too bad they aren’t planning to restore the facade. It could be a beautiful building.

  • Anonymous

    At least they’re not going up! Can’t the neighborhood rally to keep that block occupied y indie stores? I fear it will be another dunkin donuts or some such. How about some clothing stores? target is great but..

  • anderlank

    Fantastic! 11th St is steadily becoming a showcase for modern boutique buildings and homes.

  • Geezer

    Reserve the “urban, chic, DC comes Miami look for new buildings, please. This rendering may look cool now, but in ten years it will look as dated as The Reeves Center.

    DCRA should require the developer to restore the old facade. The proliferation of pop-up roofs and disfiguring “improvements” on historic structures (pre 1955) in this city makes me sick. We need to take the “long view” on architecture in this town and consider what we want things to look like in 40 years, not next year.

    And for those who notice such things, take a gander at the cinder block protrusion being built on the front of the once beautiful Italia-Flemish, red-tiled, flat-front residence across from the Allegro Development site. That building has sat in ruinous decay for years and now it’s glory is being shorn in the name of building another funeral home on 14th St, NW (the 3rd or 4th along a 10-block strip). WTF?

  • New Hampy

    If this rendering is an indication of the developer’s level of effort then there’s no need to dust off the welcome matt. Where are the street trees? Where’s the street furniture? What kind of tenant does the developer envision bringing? There’s no attempt to blend in with the surrounding neighborhood buildings and homes. Just because the Bi-Rite has been defunct for years doesn’t mean that the community is going to applaud a development just because it’s new.

  • jasong

    I don’t get the big brown wall either, but I guess maybe they are thinking it will look more integrated with the neighborhood once it is covered with graffiti.

    I agree with Geezer in full.

  • Steve

    I still see the lines of the existing building in the rendering. I don’t even mind what appears to be residential space in the added second floor. The black walls look awful! Trying to channel the architect…hmmm looks like a gread place for a 2001 monolith… I know this would be a great place for a tennis /soccer practice backstop…..this climbing wall will attract the outdoors type to the neighborhood. PoP – any info on the developer/architect? Might be good to post. We can lightem up with calls and emails….maybe they might think twice about the walls.

  • Laurie

    I also agree with Geezer and would much rather see the old facade restored.

  • Anonymous


    they’re known for adding ugly third floors to rowhouses in columbia heights.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, I’m not going to pretend like I know what that black wall is all about, but it’s certainly better than what’s there now.

  • poo poo

    that’s probably the first rendition. to build stuff in dc, you have to jump through a lot of hoops. there are all kinds of stages of “acceptance”, one of which is with the community/council.

    smart developers add ugly shit like the black wall so they can walk away with what they really want. everyone will rant about the black walls, the developer will nix them during the approval process, and the hood will allow them to follow through with the new design while feeling victorious. meanwhile, the developer had never intended to go with the black walls. they were just diverting attention from other stuff that the community would rant about – like the tenant or the ensuing traffic problems, etc.

    pretty savvy folks, i tell ya!

  • Otis Gal

    It’s just begging for graffiti.

  • ColHeightsChic

    Are they going to install a chic in a red tank top reading a book as well? Right on!

  • Arkansas

    I usually appreciate the spirit behind 3DG’s efforts. If only they’d try to make just a wee bit less of a statement. I’m hoping poo poo’s right.

  • DCDirewolf

    I know they paid a lot for that space as we looked into buying it. Given what the sellers/lessors are asking for in price/rent and their willingness to wait a long time to get it, I’m afraid the dream of a lot of independent, local places on 11th Street might be slipping away.

    Thankfully some of the local restaurant chains can afford to move in and keep some of the big national chains away.


  • Flipflopirate

    I’m thinking a giant mural… or graffiti, whichever comes first.

  • anonomooo

    i heard that the restaurant will be by a local as well as the office people upstairs.

    i think there are already tree boxes and stuff there i doubt they’d be taking it out

  • poo poo

    here’s an excellent write up of the history of that building.


  • poo poo

    Oh yeah, and check the comments on the link above. a 3DG representative chimes in and actually CONFIRMS the black walls!

  • New2ch

    I like the design, personally. 3DG explained at the meeting that what is there now is actually not historic nor high quality, the materials were really cheap and falling apart, and a lot of the brick is not original but was infall after windows were destroyed, basically this is not an example of historic architecture that calls for preservation (and believe me, I HATE the proliferation of third story pop-ups, but better to start from scratch with something clean and modern than try to integrate crappy architecture into a new building which just looks all the worse).

    I believe this is final or all but final. They already have zoning approval. Construction starts in late March. This is good to go.

    The graffiti point is a valid one, not sure how they are going to deal with that …

    Info on tenants can be found here:


  • Thanks, Poo:
    yeh; the comment from the 3DG rep confirms that (to be fair, i’m paraphrasing here) utter, mind-blowing shock value was the whole idea behind the design. But then, that’s what people hire architects to do. It’s their purpose in life. If the idea isn’t to blend seamlessly into the block, it’s to try like hell to be a blockbuster attention-grabber.

    But as I said over at IntangibleArts, I just fear that any attempt at modernism will not age well. Much of Southwest DC fell to that axe. At one point, folks must have thought that those soul-sucking concrete-slab designs were sleek, clean, and new.

    Anyway; he claims the black wall will be treated with a spray-paint resistant coating, so I wish them the best of luck with that one. Our taggers are a feisty lot.

    But as long as DC-USA is the architectural nightmare it is, I can’t come down as harshly on this place. It’s not to my taste, but I’m just grateful that somebody’s taken an active interest in that building, finally.

  • Steve

    I got it! The black wall will be where the Archetural critics and Neighborhood blogging heads to piss on this design!

  • Cliff

    I think its a grafitti wall. They just provide them as a standard feature now.

  • Annonymous

    Umm, so what’s actually going to be inside the building?

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Belgian restaurant on the first floor…

  • aj

    May a defend some of SW’s midcentury architecture? Charles Goodman is one of our area’s most renowned architects of the 1950s-1960s and designed some of the structures in SW. While the style is not popular with everyone, I really like it and so do a lot of other design enthusiasts. Even if you hate it, it still represents an important era in architecture and design. Check out the blog, Modern Capital, (moderncapital DOT blogspot DOT com) for more info on SW, Charles Goodman, and midcentury design in the DC area, if you’re interested.

  • poo poo

    what’s up with belgian restaurants anyway?

    one opened up in barracks row, there’s one now on h street, y’all are gettin’ one….

    ‘n how come there’s never any belgians eating at ’em?

    ‘n how come there’s never any belgians working in ’em?

  • AJ, it’s not so much the architecture itself in SW that’s terrible, though some of it is, it’s the fact that the whole neighborhood was leveled and the street grid itself was destroyed. The layout of the buildings in SW is atrocious and makes for uninteresting pedestrian experiences, poor sidewalk-level retail, auto-centric feeder and arterial streets, and interrupted sightlines. I wish that design enthusiasts would think about how things work at street level before foisting “sculptural” and brutalist designs down the throats of neighborhoods. Ultimately, the crime of SW was not the experimental nature of the buildings, it was that a neighborhood full of historic structures (run-down but salvageable) vanished to accomodate them. The architectural elites could have just as easily built their Jetsons-style fantasyland in the suburbs.

  • Mr.T has the word.

    Another classic example is Thames Mead, London, where they shot the exteriors for A Clockwork Orange. Cold, brutal, aggressive council planning at its creepy finest.

  • dj

    I like the rendering. It stands out enough and identifies itself as a new building but isn’t overwhelming the block. And I don’t mind the black wall. It might get graffitied (pray no), but remember 3DG will have their offices in there so they’ll either have to look at it every day or keep cleaning it.
    How about more sidewalk seating?

  • Black Walls

    References good and tragic abound. A Blackwall was the colloquial name for a type of three-masted full-rigged Frigate ship built in the 1800s when oils and weather would soil and darken the massive sails . The “black wall” was also an execution area in the concentration camps of WWII Germany. On the buildling, the wall is echoed further up the facade. The wall has served as a point of reverberation for the many views expressed here, perhaps that was the designers intent .

    I like the Black Walls on the building. The current structure may fit the streetscape, but not all designs from the past are useful and we sometimes have to sacrifice the “appropriate” design of the past for something that makes sense from both a design and usage point of view. The worst mistakes are made when you try to achieve both goals as in the case of the Mandarin Oriental DC which looks like a prefab version of the Willard Hotel facade jutting out over the Southwest waterfront. Bold strokes are sometimes used in neighborhoods like Columbia Heights and Petworth as these designs offset what can sometimes become a charming monotony of chock-a-block row-houses.

  • aj

    Easy there, I’m not defending the leveling of a historic neighborhood to build a modern one. I’m defending a mid-century architecture as a style. It was the style of design being attacked in the SW references (e.g., use of concrete), not the approach to urban planning/development. I am familiar with some of the unfortunate history of SW and I was not speaking to that.

    Please, don’t label everyone who likes design as being oblivious to community/social/political issues. In fact, good design incorporates and takes into consideration A LOT more than aesthetics.

  • Steve

    Poo Poo…I am with you, I just don’t get the Belgian thing. I brought it up in a past thread, and someone told me I wasn’t sophisticated. Peronally, I think it is a flash in the pan. Look for there to be some other restaurant in there in a two or three years when this fad runs the course. I can’t wait until the hip beer and food du jour is Bavarian…ummmm bottle fermented Heffewiessen and wiess wurst for breakfast, no better way to get your day started!

    On the larger points…I would hope everyone would recognize that modern architecture contributes to society for better or for worse…but this is a small, former corner market in a neighborhood of victorian/federal style row houses. I am not sure the context is appropriate to make a statement – be it good or bad on such a site. Personally, I would have prefered that the firm stick with the context of the neighborhood for that particular location.

  • New2ch

    Originally heard it would be Belgian, but at the NCHCA meeting, the owner said that menu was to be determined, but likely to be some sort of New American / comfort food type of deal.

    One other point of note. 3DG stated that Rorshacht Theater was thinking of moving into the basement space, and suggested that community support (by contacting Rorschact) might help to encourage them to seal the deal. So if you want more theater options in the neighborhood, drop them a line!

  • alaaro

    I think the belgian theme is re: the beer options.

  • Anonymous

    yeah belgian will go out of style like you know english or french or german or italian.

    with the asinine food and drink commentary here no wonder no one takes what you say about architecture seriously either

    yeah um italian food is a fad! yeah, belgian beer, you know the beer thats been around for 800 years is a fad! yeah!

  • Hopefully, regardless of what the restaurant serves, it will liven up the somewhat sterile-looking facade with signage, a touch of neon, outdoor seating, and one of those chalkboards with specials out front. Maybe in reality as opposed to this rendering, the starkness of the black wall won’t be so bad?

  • poo poo


    asinine commentary?

    i’d much prefer a moldovan restaurant, or brasilian, or argentine, or south african, or scottish….

    i’m just saying….

    if you’ve ever travelled to belgium the food isn’t that, um, worthy of a cool new restaurant. i dated a belgian who laughed at what dc had to offer. so there.

    i have travelled to the above mentioned countries, and those foods are off the hook!

    methinks anonymous needs to get out more, and raise his/her/its expectations a bit more.

    belgian? i still don’t get it. the beer angle makes sense, but belgian food?

    clearly anonymous understands “asinine” better than me. matter of fact, methinks he may have written a book on the subject. :o)

  • Ed

    What’s not to love about Belgian food poo poo? It’s French food in German portion sizes!!

  • BS

    RE: The Architecture: I live around the corner and i welcome something new. The old Bi-Rite building would have been really cool to incorporate somehow into a funcitonal space…however, if the bones arent good I completely understand the aspect of starting over. Generally, the overall design isnt that austere or super-modern, only the monolithic black walls. My gut reaction is against it…but the more I look at the rendering and picture it on that block, I could actually see it adding a twist of interest to the landscape. (um, and perhaps it will draw attention away from Acuario…more on that later) Im willing to give it a shot…although if they are smart, they might pay Banksy to come over and paint up that wall with something really cool before PEAR gets to it.

    RE: Belgian places: Here is the deal, IMHO. Bistro food is easy, tasty, comforting, and accessible-while-seeming-fancy. As well, it fits the price point to bring people out for a random dinner on wednesday as well as for a meal/drinks on the weekend. Belgian beer is great and is coming in more and more varieties as it gains popularity. There are new styles of Belgian beer that are being developed with great results (i.e. if you havent tried a Belgian Stout yet and are a beer geek…I recommend!) I think that the style of bistro/restuarant just offers an upscale informal atmosphere as well that has its attraction to a lot of folks.

    RE: 11th St. in general: I do wonder what effect this new development will have on the likes of Acuario. I also hear that CH Coffee is expanding! I hope that some of the other store fronts on that block open up to some small, cool spaces – maybe some small retail(i think that Ms. Pixie from Adam’s Morgan should open a second store? maybe?)? Anyway, looking further will the increased activity on the block lessen the amount of use the park gets from dudes “jusst hangin out” and let that become a more kid-friendly place like it might have been intended to be? Just thinkin out loud here. What do y’all think?

  • Anonymous

    No tienen nada ahora y no se conforman con lo nuevo. Ustedes hablan mucha mierda y no hacen nada.

  • Arkansas

    I’m liking what Mr. T said about the reality possibly being better than the rendering. Was also imagining some cool neon. Could be iconic in a nice way if done right. Still, I’m glad the chic at the little table is wearing a halter top. One could probably fry in the radiant heat being generated by the black slab come summertime.

  • anonomoo

    10:05 Anon:

    absolutely correct!!

  • I think it looks pretty cool. It isn’t a lame “pretend to be a hundred years ago” design, and yet it is also Human Scaled – not a giant monstrosity.

  • toes

    Horrid. The heat generated by that black wall would make any idea of sidewalk dining impossible. When that DC summer sun hits on that thing (that wall faces East) it’ll be like sitting in front of a ceramic heater. I understand the need for a second story (revenue) but do we really need any more useless design elements like those brick(?) colored slats? What that upper story could use is some shades over the windows. One, it’ll reflect the residential location of the building and two, save a bundle on cooling that mofo.

  • anderlank

    UGH! You’re all so bourgeois.

  • lazy cake

    ouch, anderlank, that’s quite a zinger!


  • maeella

    I thought Belgians just ate waffles, drank monk brew and waited for people to conquer them.
    What? Am I wrong?

  • maeella

    Oh, and re: the wall/restaurant:

    I am not really a huge fan of the wall, but really excited about a new restaurant coming to my area. Options people, options. Maybe they’ll make it into a mural. That’d be cool.

  • Steve

    The ironic thing is Belgum might cease to exist break into two countries soon What will they call it then? Flanders beer?

  • anonomoo

    you guys are so funny. how can BEER be a fad?

    belgium, land of beer, home of beer, world leader of beer – how can that be a fad? you know what was a fad? people drinking american budweiser. now thats a crap fad.

    oh and since when are mussels a fad? or lesse, steak and potatoes? you guys are so silly. about as silly as you are about a building that is neither modern, monolithic, concrete, or out of context. jimminy! as i said before, the spanish speaking anonymous earlier summed it up best!

    i’ll translate:

    you have nothing now. you dont do anything to make anything new. you talk a lot of shit and dont do anything.

  • poo poo

    you all forget about the valooners (i know, my family is descendent of them).

    there are portions of belgium that are very mediterranean/latin, but most retards think they are french or german. but what do i expect? americans, by and large, are pretty much uncultured idiots thatn think they understand the world.

    and it makes the rest of the world laugh.

    but i have to say, i love hearing the idiocy of some folks on this blog, it simply reaffirms what people that live outside of petworth, let alone AMERICA think.

    i believe they call it “tarded”, or some such.

    good laughs.

    thank you PoP!

  • What me Bourgeois?

    Sitting there in front of a lap top, reading 40 threads deep into this commentary, Anderlink says Ugh! I dare say Anderlink belongs to the same mediocre social middle class as the rest of us. Is it Baronet Anderlink or perhaps one of those insidious armchair anarchists or Marxists… double ugh!

  • steveg202

    I’m with the posters who appreciate what our neighborhood will be getting. The old bi-rite building is structurally and cosmetically in very bad shape. NOBODY wants it to remain as is. A builder is reconstructing and signed a tenant who will offer food and beer at a time when many developers can’t find cash. When 11st street construction has really slowed down and eatery options are few. Notice the fast pace at the coffee shop expansion? The building at Park and Sherman?

    I remember when a night out in CH offered few choices, and most were take-out behind bullet-proof glass. In a few years the options have changed much for the better. Perhaps all the complainers on this board could channel thier positive energy by building something themselves? Or if short on cash opening a retail establishment that would add better than the proposed belgian place? I know that many developers are mandated to give local businesses favorable terms and know a few (ie Carvel) that have taken advantage of those terms.

    My guess is that many will be happy to have another venue to choose from and the complainers will be happily downing a few pints of beer at brunch while talking aloud about how they could make the place even nicer.

    Reality Check Steve

  • DistrictDirt

    Can someone please post a photo of what it looks like now for the sake of comparison? My stomping grounds don’t extend much further north of U St.

  • anonomoo
  • Mr. Pint

    I realize that this response comes several days late but I’d like to introduce myself nonetheless. My name is John Andrade, owner of Asylum in Adams Morgan and owner of what will be The Meridian Pint at 11th & Park. So much has been said about 3DG’s building design so I won’t get into that but I would like to touch on my ideas for my space. To clarify, it is not going to be a Belgian restaurant, it is going to be an American style restaurant and lounge with international flavors. The beer will be draft only to minimize environmental impact as well as noise impact from the dumping of bottles. With 20 beers on draft I intend to have a large selection with strong Belgian influences. Wine will also be in abundance and both beer and wine will come with pairing suggestions for an excellent dinner experience.

    Since I am still in the planning stages I welcome any comments or suggestions that anyone may have. If there is something in particular you’d like to see me incorporate into the design or menu I’d be happy to consider it.

    John Andrade
    [email protected]

  • Jay’O

    Dear God is that ugly! But I’m psyched to see a nice restaurant going in there…

  • Anonymous

    how come there are no black or hispanic people in the picture, but all white people?…just another addition to the gentrification process….makes me sick….the “new and improved” building is tacky as hell anyway….lol….this is a real washingtonian speaking…..that grew up in columbia heights by the way…..

  • Christina

    Uh, wow. Are you really commenting on the ethnic diversity of an architectural rendering? In a post that’s nine months old? If it makes you feel better, just pretend that the fake people in this rendering are all biracial.

  • Anonymous

    Your right, its only an architechtural rendering and your also right that it is nine months old……but thats not the point of my statement. You and I both know whats going on in this city….a Belgian restaurant, c’mon….think deeply about who the target market is for a Belgian restaurant….and like i said before….to comment on this oh so precious architechtural rendering…its tacky compared to the rest of the neighborhood…

  • SG

    Anon- Gentrification is happening. You’re right. You can think it’s a bad thing all you want, but there are plenty of wealthy blacks who live in their gated communities in PG and Montgomery Counties who could pay old residents (not ORIGINAL residents, mind you… since that, you know, would be white people) handsomely for their places… but they don’t. It is what it is. Different strokes for different folks. Things change, and it doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, or otherwise, it’s just a FACT of life.

  • Anonymous

    Yea…your right that wealthy blacks could do the same with properties, but they wont destroy communities by building Belgian restaurants and over-priced “tacky-looking”condos that take so much away from the beauty of the neighborhood…second of all…white people may have been the original inhabitants of Columbia Heights, but they chose to leave in the late 60s early 70s…minorities have been driven out by property values…they didnt ask to be driven out…mind you…whole families…Im all for capitalism, but where are your “srupples”…people literally “snoop” around trying to flip peoples houses…its a dirty business…you can think that you’ve helped the neighborhood all you want, but in reality you’ve turned it into a haven for robberies…look at the statistics…When I walk down the street and a white woman doesnt hold her purse closer to her body, then ill say ok…things are better…oh by the way, these white people in Columbia Heights today are all mostly yuppies that havent been there for more than 5-10 years…u tell me how u can compare to your so-called “original residents”…at least those resident are actuallly from here…..


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