Report on exhibiting at the City Living Expo, 2003
This is from the email archives of the H Street Main Street organization, 10/27/2003. I mentioned that Expo recently, which was a center city promotion event sponsored by the Williams Administration. This is the "after-action" report, with the removal of the first paragraph thanking most of the volunteers. It's probably worth doing an event like this for the city every couple years. This ended up being a "one and done" event, but the city ought not to rest on its laurels. It must constantly tout (and extend) its advantages and benefits vis-a-vis other locations in the region.
First, people kept asking about condominiums. I explained that this is coming but we are working on some zoning changes to make this happen. We need to work with the property owners on the 200 and 300 blocks of H Street to make sure this happens. It should also shape the development of the BP site. The land that we have available is too precious to waste. And as everyone knows we need more residents to strengthen the neighborhood ane more customers for the commercial district.
Second, it means that over the long term we (HSMS) really need to work on some of these broader housing issues as they relate to revitalization of the greater neighborhood and the strengthening of the H Street retail trade area.
We need to develop a position statement on housing issues in the broader neighborhood. We need to monitor developments that are in our trade area, developments that we might not ordinarily monitor, because they are in Wards 5 or 7. This should be linked to the encouragement of transit-oriented development associated with the proposed light rail developments along H Street/Benning Road and Florida Avenue.
(We probably need to develop a position statement about light rail as well. Personally I think it should be encouraged, and on an accelerated timetable. The paper on the www.apta.com website called "Bring Back the Streetcars" indicates that a 4-6 year timetable is not out of the question.
It makes sense to coordinate this with the streetscape improvement program. Fixed-rail transit investments generate great economic returns. It will vastly benefit the H Street commercial district. It should be no surprise that the H Street commercial district began declining once streetcars were removed from the corridor...)
It means that we need to weigh in on projects such as the Clark Realty development on Bladensburg on the old Sears site. Maybe they need more density. It means we need to advocate for housing above Hechinger Mall (like Kevin and I have been saying for years.) It means we need to look at the northern parking lots of RFK (problematic because they are owned by the federal government? which are wasted. Condominiums could be developed here, along with maintaining quality public space so that the Open Air Farmers Market would not be displaced. Etc.
We also need to work on inclusionary zoning and related incentives to ensure that affordable housing is required, as well as to ensure quality design. (WRT design, don't think it doesn't matter. The Pritzker condominums at 400 Mass Ave. NW are much more attractive than the condos at 5th and Massachusetts by Paradigm, and that is because the latter development used office building style window glass instead of the residential style windows of the former.
Similarly, the new apartment building on the 1000 block of New Jersey Avenue NW is pretty utilitarian. Incentives should have been provided to get them to include balconies and other design features that would have softwened the facade and made the building look more inviting.)
(Note that the newest housing in the greater neighborhood -- 800 block of 10th St., Wylie Court, and the development across from Hechinger Mall -- is all pretty utilitarian and cheap looking and really denigrates the overall aesthetic of the neighborhood's architectural style and sense of place.)
Also, we need to make up a sheet about the residential living opportunities in the neighborhood, comparable to the sheets that the DC Marketing Center has developed for the H Street commercial district (as well as others throughout the city). Similarly, we need to add a "residential house photo tour" to the hstreetdc.com website.
Logistics. When we exhibit next year I think we need to have 3 people in the booth at all times. Saturday was the busiest day. At times there were 15-20 or more people in the booth. We also need to take a map of the entire city, because many people need that in order to put the neighborhood in context. We should either wear tee-shirts or have nametags that identify us (oops). We should also sell our tee shirts and tote bags (this will be in the workplan for next year).