by Mary Beth Ray
President, Van Ness Main Street
Van Ness Main Street has been up and running since November, but the Monday, April 11th ceremony at the Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD) made it official. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Council members Mary Cheh (Ward 3) and LaRuby May (Ward 8), Director of DSLBD Ana Harvey, and other city officials congratulated the three latest Main Street designees: Van Ness, Tenleytown, and Destination Congress Heights. Each group was presented with a Certificate of Designation.
— DSLBD (@SmallBizDC) April 11, 2016
Mayor Bowser expressed her full support for the Main Streets, and which she said often provide the spark or seed to generate private investment that can transform neighborhoods. Generating new jobs and higher tax revenue are always the goal of Main Streets, and statistics in DC bear that out. DC’s Main Streets program is considered a successful model to emulate. And DSLBD Manager Lauren Atkins said that the national Main Street leaders are referring new cities like Sacramento to DC to “learn how it’s done.”
Council member Cheh, who found money in last year’s budget to fund the Van Ness and Tenleytown Main Streets, sees great potential in this model.
“When the government and businesses work together, we can achieve the kind of vibrancy and economic health that is fundamental to a successful community. One of the most successful collaborations has been the DC Main Streets program, and I am thrilled that we have two new Main Streets in Ward 3. Van Ness and Tenleytown are both areas that historically have boasted strong commercial activity, but which will benefit from the branding, collaboration, and community-focus that are the hallmarks of the Main Streets program. Both organizations have strong teams in place, and I look forward with great enthusiasm to what they will do in the future.”
And special thanks to our Van Ness Main Street Executive Director Theresa Cameron, and to the board members who attended, Eun Yim (chair of the Events and Promotions Committee and General Manager of Bread Furst), Gary Malasky (co-chair of the Economic Development Committee) and Uzay Turker (owner of Acacia Bistro).
My remarks at the ceremony are below:
In recent years, many people associated Van Ness with traffic jams and monolithic architecture. We’ve lost our Office Depot, Pier One Imports, Intelsat, Charlie Chiang’s, and now even Fannie Mae is moving out.
But thanks to Mayor Bowser, CM Cheh, DSLBD, OP, our hard working Executive Director Theresa Cameron, our Board and community, and the Main Street Vision, we are now on the road to revitalization.
At our core, Van Ness is about diversity: small businesses like Acacia Bistro, Bread Furst and Calvert Woodley; larger local businesses like Polinger and BF Saul; institutions like UDC and WAMU; apartment dwellers and residents in single family homes in Forest Hills; over 25 embassies from Austria to China to Nigeria; and neighbors who are black, white, Hispanic and Asian. We have a rich heritage supporting the arts: UDC’s Performing Arts Center and Jazz Alive program; Hillwood Museum; the Levine School of Music; and numerous artists and musicians.
Van Ness Main Street and your investment allow us to build on that diversity of stakeholders, and that heritage of the arts, to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. To activate our street with performances, public art, & a more beautiful and sustainable landscape. To revive our farmers’ market, to make Van Ness a cultural destination that helps jump start our restaurants. And to attract small local businesses.
Already we’re starting to see improvements. The beautiful new UDC Student Center, Park Van Ness, and new retail like Sfoglina and Soapstone Market. Thanks to this initiative, Van Ness will become a thriving, walkable, sustainable, beautiful Main Street. Our existing businesses will thrive, and new businesses will begin to ask ‘why aren’t we in Van Ness yet?’ Thank you.