Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Automotive Adaptive Reuse in the Farmer's Market

Just beneath the pile of watermelons in the middle of the photograph is a wonderful example of automotive adaptive reuse. The Washington DC alleys have historically been full of auto repair shops and consequently used "bits and pieces" would find themselves serving novel uses. In this case a ring gear and flywheel have found themselves serving as a utility cover on the sidewalk. Few would be able to identify the "cover" and most don't even recognized that the cover is unconventional. It's a quaint reminder of another time. The original vehicle is probably long "dead" but the donated part lives on in another capacity. Much like an organ transplant.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Stables Struggle as Auto Repair Shops Today

This auto repair shop in the Mt Vernon Square area was once part of a row of stables. The hayloft beam can easily be seen on the second floor.
It’s not easy to get an older car fixed in DC today by someone with both experience and integrity. Dealerships have long left the city and the heart of the auto repair and sales businesses on the 14th Street corridor now beats to a new rhythm of cash, croissants, coffee and corks.

The transition from stables and blacksmith shops to alley auto repair shops was one that many owners easily made in the early 1900’s. At the turn of this century new transitions continue to occur so that even if the lives of the business become extinguished, the lives of the buildings continue. Most small alley buildings have survived many reincarnations. In fact a music group practices above the garage shown above.

Today, rather than being nestled in “quiet alleys” they are often open and exposed. Customers are aggressively ticketed. It’s not an easy business to run.
 The “Cash for Clunkers” program eliminated a generation of cars (about 675,000) many of whom had miles to go, if properly maintained and repaired. People who choose to continue to service their old faithful (paid for) family vehicle are quickly running out of economical maintenance options. To make matters worse, with Zip car costs likely rising due to parking taxation and DC meter rates and enforcement hours rising,. It looks like the value of pedal power just went up in this city!