Excuse us while we brag about our editor in chief.
Marlene Berlin was recognized at Van Ness Main Street’s annual meeting with the organization’s first Visionary Award.
“Her foresight, knowledge of city government, and sheer persistence could have been enough,” said Van Ness Main Street President Mary Beth Ray said. “But Marlene brings something even more to the table. She brings a unique blend of imagination, practicality and wisdom.” (See below for her full remarks.)
And then, in a May 10th editorial, the Northwest Current praised the work by Marlene, other community leaders and residents in revitalizing what it had called in 2012 “the least-loved stretch of Connecticut Avenue.”
“It is wonderful to be recognized by the Visionary Award and this editorial,” Marlene told us, “but the real reward is to see positive change coming to Van Ness. And it has taken a team of people and lots of work to accomplish this.”
Here is the speech Mary Beth Ray after she presented the Van Ness Visionary Award to Marlene at the April 29th VNMS annual meeting.
We look back on our first year as Van Ness Main Street with joy, a sense of accomplishment, and gratitude for the hard work of our fantastic Executive Director, Theresa Cameron, and so many volunteers. Many of our board members have been with us from the very beginning, when we started out four years ago as the Van Ness Vision Committee of ANC 3F3.
That Committee was aptly named: it truly took far-sighted vision to realize that what Van Ness needed was… a Vision Committee.
The visionary behind the scenes, and the winner of the first Van Ness Visionary Award, is Marlene Berlin. Her foresight, knowledge of city government, and sheer persistence could have been enough. But Marlene brings something even more to the table. She brings a unique blend of imagination, practicality and wisdom.
When Marlene goes on a walk, she comes back with ideas. Back in 2012 when she proposed the first Van Ness walk with the Office of Planning and the Coalition for Smarter Growth, she identified and tapped into the energy she felt that day. Then she took me for a walk to pitch the committee idea.
As a not-yet elected ANC Commissioner, I barely knew the difference between DDOT and DOEE. But I realized immediately that Marlene did, and that she could propel our hopes and dreams for a better neighborhood into reality.
Marlene tapped every contact in her Rolodex and found the Vibrant Retail Streets workshop, which stressed the need for a management structure. She spent hours researching models, and identified Main Streets as our best fit. And thanks to hours of drafting, editing and meetings, we were able to secure funding for our Main Street. Serving as founder and editor of the Forest Hills Connection, and living next door to Council member Mary Cheh, did not hurt!
From the beginning, when others bemoaned our lack of retail, surplus of traffic, and brutalist architecture, Marlene focused instead on our wealth of artists, cultural resources like Hillwood Museum and UDC’s Jazz program, and how we might build on the arts to activate our local businesses.
When a project hits a wall, Marlene eagerly looks for a way to work around it. When personalities clash, she always takes the high road. And when a project succeeds, she’s always the first to praise others.
Marlene is an esteemed colleague and a dear friend. It is my greatest honor to present this award to Marlene, the first Van Ness Visionary.