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The 2010 D.C. campaign so far: Another day, another groundbreaking ceremony.

Over three dozen people gathered in the sweltering heat this morning on the 1400 block of Park Road NW, in Columbia Heights, for a bricklaying on new storefronts for a retail strip next to D.C. USA. The Samuel Kelsey Community Outreach Center, Deli Grocery, and Pho 14 are among the 13 businesses getting façade renovations. The project, overseen by the Development Corporation of Columbia Heights, is expected to be complete by this fall.

Of course, that might be too late for elected officials to take credit for their part in the whole thing before the September primary. Conveniently enough, Mayor Adrian Fenty and Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham were able to drop by the ceremony today—even if they did show up 17 minutes late (as we were melting). Speeches were made, before Fenty and Graham laid the first brick together.

“Park Road is a place where you see the new stores as you go west out of Columbia Heights, now today, we are saying this will not be the end of the revitalization…[it] will continue all the way down Park Road, some 24 stores deep,” Fenty said. “The leadership that has become such a staple of anything that’s happening in Ward 1, that’s born about by our fabulous Councilmember Jim Graham, give him a round of applause.”

“Mr. Mayor, you get several thank you’s today,” for moving in the lighting and the streetscape before the facades came, Graham adds.

After Fenty and Graham finished their high praise for one another,City Deskseized the chance to ask about something a little more controversial. Just a few blocks southwest of the bricklaying, residents (and potential voters) have been buzzing about a tree that was just removed from in front of Haydee’s, a Salvadorean restaurant on Mt. Pleasant Street. It seems Haydee’s—after their attempts to set up an outdoor café and register as a nightclub—decided to cut down the tree in front of their establishment, apparently without permission.

The missing tree was discovered after Gabriela Vega, a transportation planner and Ward 1 resident, noticed the tree had mysteriously lost all of its leaves earlier this month. And then, when she went to investigate it, she found something even more surprising. She wrote on the Mt. Pleasant forum, “Last night I met with [Mt. Pleasant Main Street]… I assured them I had a photo of a healthy looking tree. We walked over there and were shocked to see the tree no longer there and the tree box covered.”

Apparently, Haydee’s decided to go into the tree removal business.

When Prince of Petworth wrote about the tree recently, commenters erupted in anger, some supposing Graham had taken Haydee’s side, keeping District officials from planting a new one. “Mr. Graham likes campaign contributions as long as they aren’t from jumbo slice,” writes commenter Ragged Dog.

But Graham says that’s not so. “We’ve been working with everybody involved,” he told City Desk. We want that fixed right away, it’s being fixed right away… the tree box, everything.”

Finally, here’s a video of Graham dancing to mariachi music during the ceremony:

Photos by Kim Chi Ha