What happens when a group of residents decides to invest time and energy in their community? The group becomes a catalyst for investment in the community.
Ryan Hand, the Ward 3 planner with the District Office of Planning, has written to community leaders and major property owners in the Van Ness commercial area to announce that OP will be “initiating a planning process for Van Ness.” He appeared at Tuesday’s ANC 3F meeting to discuss what that means and to take questions.
Hand told the ANC that this process will focus on the Connecticut Avenue corridor from Van Ness Street north to Albemarle Street. The aim will be “to improve the retail climate and the public realm, and try to make both more vibrant and lively.”
Hand said no specific plans are in place. Rather, the goal is to create a “Vision Framework” that pulls together several studies, including a streetscape study completed in 2010, and creates an actionable vision for the corridor. In the letter to community leaders, Hand said this would specifically address redevelopment of some underutilized sites and retail enhancement.
“We’ve really collected a lot of information, and we’re listening,” Hand said at the ANC meeting. And he says the work will complement what the ANC 3F Van Ness Vision Committee is doing. One of the committee’s major goals is to create a community hub and gathering place that takes advantage of “hidden jewels” on either side of Connecticut at Windom Place.
In a telephone conversation, Hand stressed that this is a direct outcome of the efforts of the Vision Committee, starting with its participation in the Vibrant Retail Streets workshop in June 2013. OP and Streetsense co-sponsored that workshop, and Hand says OP has hired Streetsense and specifically Heather Arnold, who led the workshop and worked with the Vision Committee afterward on realizing some of the group’s goals. OP has also contracted with HOK Consulting.
Hand said the planning process will start in December and that a charette on January 31st will go over some ideas. OP wants all stakeholders represented – the Van Ness Vision Committee, ANC 3F, condo/apartment associations, commercial property owners, and small businesses. In addition to seeking input in meetings, OP will use an online forum where people can share their ideas and feedback at MindMixer.com. OP has used this process for planning purposes in other parts of the city with great success. In addition, OP staff will interview our small business owners who have a hard time getting away for meetings.
An advisory committee will guide OP’s effort. Hand explained its role in his letter, saying it “will serve as the conduit for information dissemination and as a resource for coordinating and planning community meetings/activities. Most importantly, the Advisory Committee is charged with ensuring that the Vision Framework truly reflects the needs of stakeholders.”
The first meeting of the Van Ness Vision Framework Advisory Committee will be held on December 3rd, from 6 to 8 p.m. at UDC. Forest Hills Connection will keep you updated on its progress, and let you know how to register your ideas and feedback.