Monday, December 28, 2015

After two years, I'm finally ready to move west (of the river)

First posted 7/10/13. 

Are you ready for me?
After two years, a new job and what feels like endless construction and renovation projects (and let's not forget a pretty badass City Paper cover) I am finally ready to revisit this idea to do a blogger residency in a west of the river neighborhood. What initially started out as a way to give myself a break from living, working and blogging all things east of the Anacostia river all the time it had the potential to really inspire me to  come up with some new ideas for Ward 7 and Ward 8. Not to mention view west of the river's prosperity (and many food and retail options) through my "Southeast" eyes.

How would I see the Shaw neighborhood today after living east or the river for 8 years -- would it really be so different from when I lived there as a Howard University undergrad in the 90's? How would Navy Yard feel to me after the strip clubs and nightclubs were replaced with sparkly new restaurants and gyms? Would H Street still have that homey feel after many of the mom and pop shops have been replaced with a thriving nightlife? Just how would it feel to have not one, not two, not three but four or five grocery stores in walking distance? How comfortable would I feel having neighbors who didn't look like me?

The realization that all of those questions still made me really excited that makes me want to revisit this idea and see if it has some legs.

When I first made this announcement two years ago (to much concern/excitement) the idea was to swap with a west of the river blogger or personality for 3 - 6 months and we both write about our experience. I'm still open to that concept but I don't want to restrict myself finding the perfect west of the river version of The Advoc8te to make it work. For now, if I can find some quality, safe but cheap (or preferably free) housing for 3 - 6 months for myself and my mutt I'm down for it. Ideally in a neighborhood pretty different than my own in Congress Heights. I think Navy Yard and Shaw probably hold the most possibilities but I am pretty open to the right place with the right circumstances and timeline.

So if you know of any housing opportunities -- or are a  fearless developer/property manager/homeowner willing to spot me some digs for this experiment please drop me a line at I'm down for a residency as short as 2 months and as long as 12 months.

To learn more about this concept and my thoughts behind it, read my original post from two years ago after the jump.

The Advoc8te

It is time for The Advoc8te to move out of Ward 8. 

Hold on! Before you call me a "sell out"  and unfollow me on Twitter my plan is not to leave Congress Heights or Ward 8 permanently but I definitely need to change my zip code for a little while. I have come to realize over the past few months that my location (and in part, my dedication) may be effecting my motivation.  I need a change of scenery to be a better person, a better neighbor, a better employee,  and yes, a better Advoc8te. 

It's not that I feel like I am missing out on good things by living and working in Ward 8. I just need to see a bigger part of the picture. I need to see first-hand that Ward 8 struggles are DC struggles and vice versa. I need to see first-hand that there are obstructionists, naysayers, and poverty pimps in other DC neighborhoods too. I need to see that turf fighting and self-sabotage is not exclusive to Ward 8. I need to see other advocates going to war for their communities and I need to learn from them.

I need to feel excited again. I need to feel the optimism that I felt when I first moved to Ward 8 six years ago and everything was new. I need to remember what I am doing all of this for. I need to see how the other half of DC is living and if that is really matching up to what my daily life here is like. I need to know if that life is what I want for myself and for my neighbors. Although only a mile away sometimes I feel like I am living a world apart. This Ward 8 community advocacy thing comes at a high price. I've sacrificed 99% of my B.A. (Before Advoc8te) friends for the cause and I measure the gaps between visits to my family in Virginia Beach by years. Lets not even get started on my love life. The man in my life eats dog biscuits and sleeps in the closet when we have a fight. :)

The broken promises, the delays, and the general tomfoolery is getting to me and I don't want to end up like "She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named" or worse, completely and totally skeptical. I don't want to hate going to community meetings. I don't want to have to excuse myself from another ANC meeting to keep myself from crying because all of the negativity is killing my soul. 

Don't get it twisted. I believe in Ward 8 and I believe in east of the river.  I just don't know if I believe that DC believes in east of the river, at least not now, not in a way that really matters. If so, the Walmart at Skyland would have been first on the list, not the last. If east of the river was a priority the northwest stores would have been in a holding pattern until east of the river got theirs first for a change. Can you imagine that? Something good coming east of the river? First?!

The news that Walmart 86'd Skyland is not a big surprise to me. It doesn't really make me particularly upset in of itself.  I never seriously thought it was going to happen. Just because your mom makes the neighbor's boy take you to the dance doesn't make it a date. Even in the slim chance Walmart did open a store east of the river I had major doubts it (or Saint Elizabeths) was going to be the economic development magic bullet that it was promised to be. I could point to the Giant and Bolling Airforce Base in Congress Heights as examples of overhyped hope. 

So why do I feel the need to make a move now?

Sometimes I feel the crushing wave of disappointment and delays washes out my happy moments of living in Ward 8. The starts and stops of economic development, lack of quality retail, and lack of jobs fills me with such a sense of... hopelessness  that I am starting to see any change as a positive change. 

That's not good. 

I need to be inspired, I need some hope, I need some happiness, I need some new ideas, I need a work/life balance, I need to be able to walk to a grocery store/restaurant/bar/pharmacy/dog park/coffee shop. I need to believe that my future as a Ward 8 resident is not going to leave me naive, or worse bitter. I don't want to be that "crazy lady" screaming in a community meeting. 

Most importantly, I need to come back stronger than before so I can kick some extra ass in advocating for more good things in my neighborhood. This is after all the place where I bought my first home, my first dog, and where I started my business. 

It is for you my readers and friends, and mostly for me, that I am NOT shutting down Congress Heights on the Rise (I hope that makes you happy!) but I do need to blog on it while spending part of my time living somewhere else. I will still work in Ward 8 in Anacostia but I need a bigger perspective, I need some new tools, I need some new ideas, and frankly, I need some new hope (with some margaritas on the side).  I am not shutting down the blog, I am doing this so I won't have to shut down the blog. I will still keep up my marathon posting sessions so you can still buy ad space here. :)

I'm happy to be "The Advoc8te" but I also need to be just Nikki and Nikki really needs to keep this blogging relationship "grown and sexy" and I really need to put a little more "life" in my work/life balance.

So that being said, I am proposing an experiment. I am looking for a intercity field trip of sorts. A "neighborhood exchange program" so to speak. A temporary home within my permanent city.

I posted this on Twitter a few hours ago and I am as serious as a Walmart-sized heart attack.

Here's the proposal:

I am looking for a TEMPORARY (3 - 6 months) housing situation that takes me to another neighborhood. Preferably another "emerging" neighborhood west of the river that will give me enough change of scenery to be excited but still afford me the opportunity to learn. Because I am keeping my condo I need free housing (or ridiculously reduced rent including utilities) during my temporary stay. My temporary digs also has to be dog friendly because you know Teddy goes where I go. Please send offers to 

I'm not sure what kind of opportunities are available but I am open to hearing about them. Maybe part of me wants to do for another neighborhood what I feel I accomplished here. I think I did some good for Congress Heights and Anacostia and by extension Ward 8 and "Southeast."

So if you know of a developer or property owner who may have room for a compulsive blogger and her crazy dog please have them contact me. I can blog, blog, blog, about what it is like to live in their digs. FYI - I work crazy hours so ideally I am looking for an apartment/condo situation where I can live alone (and sometimes pants-free) but still be in a community of people.  I'm even thinking this may be an interesting opportunity to swap with someone from a more affluent/diverse/retail-rich neighborhood and we both blog about our experiences discovering our new surroundings. I am pretty much up for anything and I am willing to write about it and share it here (or for some other publication) my experience as it happens.

I think we can all use a different perspective and maybe, just maybe, this is it.


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Anonymous said...

Am sad but understand. You haven't said anything that's wrong. I saw you said you were leaving the blog up but I am assuming you will not be reporting as much on W8 meetings/events. If that's true, can we have contributors to report on your site so people can still have this wonderful portal of Ward 8 coming and goings? Also, that might be a way for all of us to clearly analyze, compare, contrast the environment, challenges, solutions, and best practices of the new neighborhood you'll be blogging about versus ours. What do you think?

The Advoc8te said...

I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE PEOPLE CONTRIBUTE TO CHOTR! I am always asking people for guest posts and to submit recaps of meetings they attend. I can not do it all and to be honest a fresh perspective and pair of eyes is what is needed!


I will still be blogging but I agree, I would probably drop back a bit so to have the help would be much appreciated. :)

Thank you for asking!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty damn excited!!!!!!

I would love you to come to my neighborhood! Posting this on our listserv now!!!!!!

Todd said...

Love the blog! Looking forward to where this leads. I get what you are saying and I think it was honest of you to share.

DaReslnt1 said...

sad to see you go but hope to see you soon!

Anonymous said...

Much respect for the honesty and I think the idea is genius. Good luck.

The Advoc8te said...

Thanks DaResIn1!

This is just an idea. I may not get any takers on my plan. If not I may have to think about renting my condo out which I don't want to do because then I would have to leave longer than a year. I really do want to keep this short-term although I wouldn't rule out a year long visit IF the location was close enough to my job in Anacostia. One thing I LOVE is the 2 minute commute! Unless of course lodging comes with a job offer! LOL!!!!!

I really do want to keep the blog going for another 5 years (and more). CHotR is my baby. :)

Anonymous said...



The Advoc8te said...

I just noticed that most of the bloggers who started when I did in 2008 aren't here today and I think burnout and frustration did play a part for some of them. I can relate and don't want that to happen for me here. Besides, I do think you can teach an old blogger new tricks. :)

Now the question will be, does anyone want to take me up on this offer? :)

Anonymous said...

Come to Brookland! There is lots to do and lots to see. Join our neighborhood family.

Okomfo Akosua Nwotwewaa said...

I really understand your need for a change of scenery and new inspiration plus a sense of hope. I moved to Congress Heights with lots of hope and dreams. But, after 2 years, I'm becoming disillusioned with the process of change which is slow among numerous amendments.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to see you move, but I can understand where you're coming from as a Ward 7 resident. We have the same battles, with the back-stabbing and backbiting as we try to aim for a better quality of life over here. After 20 years, some folks haven't been able to get it together. They just need to move aside and allow others to take the reigns. Sigh.

I have a feeling I know who is this person who shall not be named. Sigh. Please feel better when you return.

SilentWarrior said...

Though I hate to see you go (even for a short period) I totally get what your saying. In the military we called this "battle fatigue". And your doing the right thing by yourself and this community, step away and get a new perspective, it does wonders for the mind-body-spirit. Glad this site will stay up, it really helped me get settled into the community when I moved here two years ago and continues to be my go-to spot for relevant information. I hope everything works out, the idea is brilliant and no matter what, just take care of yourself, we need you on our team!

Old Crow said...

I housesit for six weeks every summer in the Columbia Heights/Mt. Pleasant area. Yes, it's different. I'm glad to get home to Ward 8, too, though, when it's done.

Consider advertising your services as a housesitter? I'm doing it for friends and it works for a summer project I do over here every year, so don't know how the ad thing works; just a thought.

Old Crow said...

Try offering to housesit? I do it for friends for six weeks every summer in Columbia Heights/Mt. is different. I do like coming home to Ward 8 when it's over, though!

Good luck.

Mari said...

I will second the housesitting idea. My other half, when he was single would housesit for traveling scholars and snowbirds who would leave for several weeks or a month. Now the tricky part is with your puppy dog. Owners would have to be cool with it, but understandably many are not.

H St LL said...

good luck! grass is always greener on the other side and i am sure you will appreciate it more upon your return.

you should rent ya place while you are gone tho. unless your association wont allow shorter rentals.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog for a few years now and just begain commenting. Your plea to leave ward 8 isnt a great thing. You are truly an "advocate" for EoTR neighborhoods.

I don'tthink you should move. Its unfortunate that you have been so discouraged in the development of certain areas in ward 8, but I dont think the answer is for you to move west of the river and "reflect". When we moved into ward 7/8 we knew what the demographics were, we understood the challenges ahead of this area.

I understand you have a very colorful blog and become very passionate, but at times that can take away from some of the great things you do share with us on this blog.

-Ward 8 Loves Nikki "The Advoc8te"

Alan Page said...

It seems like with all the action on the west side of the Anacostia (waterfront development) and Anacostia just being mere footsteps away from "Near" Southeast thanks to the pedestrian bridge that runs parallel to the 11th St Bridge, it seems like change is inevitable. I know change seems much slower when you're in the middle of it (believe me, I live next to the H Street streetcar line....ha-ha), but change is coming to the east side of the Anacostia. I just read about a new development on the west side of the Anacostia next to the 11th St bridge that will bring hundreds of new market rate renters to that area. I think it's a matter of time before all of this trickles east.

Perhaps CHotR could start sponsoring its own community meetings so like-minded people can get together and share ideas/strategize towards how to improve the community?

Does anyone think the possible relocation of Reeves Center employees to the intersection of Good Hope and MLK will spark things off? The third phase of Sheridan?

Anonymous said...

Love this idea! We would love to have you in Shaw!!!!!!! Going to email some people today!

Old Crow said...

Update: After 10 years, I had a cheap housing opportunity in Ward 1 and took it. Reviews: Ward 1 is Disneyland compared to Ward 8, and no one this side of the river gives Ward 8 a second thought, let alone a first one, unless they're looking for a volunteer/charity project.

SpicyPisces2251983 said...

As someone who grew up in the Shaw area in the late 90's-early 2000's I can tell you Shaw has changed a lot!!! Everytime I visit my mom (bi-wkly) I notice new development left & right. Her newest neighbors purchased there place for 2 million dollars. I would love to see you insite of have eateries & grocerors within 3 feet of each other. I hate say it I'm dreaming for the day that I can walk from my condo in Congress Height to a Starbucks, Trader Joe's or even Whole Foods aka Whole Check....generfication should come visit east of the river. It would improve the school, hold the elected Ward rep accountable for her lack of understanding Ward 8 issues. Not every person in Ward 8 is under educated or reciving public assistance. There are a lot of hard working families & singles striving in the area.