by Mary Beth Ray
Several months ago we reported the good news that the DC Council allocated $1.5 million to DDOT for a new and improved design of our Van Ness streetscape. A recent site meeting with DDOT representatives gives us reason to be optimistic that progress is being made.
We gathered on a gray and frigid January morning, but the coziness of Bread Furst and the enthusiasm of the team of 14 participants quickly got things warmed up. Representatives of Van Ness Main Street (former ANC 3F Chair and VNMS Board Member Pat Jakopchek and I) met with Ted Van Houten and his terrific DDOT and Office of Planning colleagues. The team included a deep bench of expertise, from green infrastructure to construction, neighborhood planning, signals, transit and even urban forestry.
Our goal was to share our community’s vision with the DDOT and OP team: to make Van Ness more pedestrian-friendly, beautiful and environmentally sustainable, to boost our local businesses and raise the quality of life for neighbors and community stakeholders.
According to Van Houten, original dates have slipped, but DDOT hopes to stick with the existing timeline as much as possible. The next step for DDOT is to hire a consulting team to assist them with the project. DDOT anticipates holding a public meeting this spring, and VNMS Executive Director Theresa Cameron will work to ensure that the community is given notice to encourage public engagement.
Our main focus is on Connecticut Avenue between Albemarle and Van Ness Streets, and the Windom Place crossing from the Soapstone entrance to UDC’s Theater of the Arts.
We walked back to the Soapstone entrance and the UDC theater, and they saw the “hub” possibilities, but they also understand the realities of Giant’s delivery trucks. We walked behind 4250 Connecticut Avenue (the former Fannie Mae building) and to Veazey Street to discuss a possible “kiss and ride.” DDOT is also interested in replacing/revamping the broken brick sidewalk on the north side of Van Ness Street.
DDOT hopes to focus on blocks that are not yet “done/” The “done” blocks include Park Van Ness, and UDC. While the Giant/CVS block is technically “done,” they agree there are more options with landscaping there. DDOT folks are excited about the public art/wayfinding work that Van Ness Main Street has pioneered, and they are reviewing renderings to weigh possible venues.
Much work remains with regard to design, but overall our community meetings over the past 6-7 years show that neighbors want a modern, clean, green, consistent look. We hope stormwater management will be part of the design, but we understand that the work we do on Connecticut Avenue will not solve all our flooding problems, which according to experts need a more comprehensive fix from neighborhoods west/uphill.
As the co-founder of Van Ness Main Street, and the chair of the Streetscape Subcommittee, I will continue to advocate for Van Ness and keep you posted on progress.