Needed: A Vision For Van Ness

by Marlene Berlin

We all gripe about what we don’t like about Van Ness: Not enough good restaurants, a dearth of night life, a lack of retail. On Saturday, October 13th from 10 a.m.-noon, the Forest Hills Connection is hosting a walk of the area around the Van Ness Metro station with the Coalition for Smarter Growth and Ward 3 Vision, to discuss what doesn’t work on Connecticut Avenue, and possibilities for a more vibrant commercial area.

There are many changes coming to Van Ness. WAMU is moving in, the Intelsat building has been sold, BF Saul has taken out multi-million dollar loan to be used for a redo of Van Ness Square, and UDC is building a new student center, even as an advisory panel finds that “UDC’s current financial health is under serious strain.”

The Connecticut Avenue corridor through this neighborhood has long been studied by city planners. A 2011 report by the Office of Planning made several recommendations for improving the streetscape and making it more friendly to pedestrians while also reducing runoff and erosion in the Soapstone Valley to the east. And let us not forget about the proposed changes in zoning regulations that would designate portions of Connecticut Avenue a transit zone.

And studies continue. Metro officials have just launched a campaign that seeks public input on how best to serve and move a quickly growing population. This is due to projections that the metropolitan population will grow 30% and jobs 40% by 2040. The question is: What part will the Forest Hills area play in this growth? We already see our schools filled to bursting and our apartment buildings filling up with families who can no longer afford single-family housing in our area.

Well, we have a choice of sitting back and letting change happen or coming together as a community to envision what we want for Van Ness. To start the process, come on the October 13th walk with us. You can register at

Second, get to know our ANC. From October 1-5, we will publish statements by the candidates running for ANC 3F. And you’re invited to our meet-and-greet for these candidates on Sunday, October 21st. Third, vote. November 6th is Election Day, but absentee voting starts on October 1st, and early in-person voting begins October 22nd.

My last suggestion for now is to request that the ANC fund a visioning process for our community out of its large coffers. Then we will be armed when developers come before our ANC for its blessing.

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