If you’re just becoming aware of tonight’s unveiling of plans for a Van Ness neighborhood hub at Windom Place, you might wonder how this all came about.
In fact, it has been in the works since ANC 3F created the Van Ness Vision Committee in February 2013. The committee’s purpose: To breathe new life into this commercial area, which hasn’t been living up to its potential despite a relatively well-educated and well-off residential population, office buildings that bring workers here during the day, a university with its workers and students, and foot traffic to and from the Van Ness Metro station. These are all ingredients for a vibrant, successful commercial area, but something is lacking.
ANC 3F03 Commissioner Mary Beth Ray was appointed chair of this committee. She recruited eleven other residents who are committed to figuring out how to transform this commercial area into an active community space. This twelve-person committee includes ANC Commissioners Adam Tope, Sally Gresham and Karen Perry. Eight other members are diverse of age and type of residence. Some live in apartment buildings and others live in the single-family homes in Forest Hills and North Cleveland Park. I am also a member, and provide a communication link to the community as the editor of the Forest Hills Connection.
In the beginning, there was a lot of head scratching and searches that led to dead ends. The DC Office of Planning suggested we apply to attend a “Vibrant Retail Streets” workshop. Mary Beth and I hammered out an application one afternoon, delivered it the next day, got accepted and attended in June 2013. Zach Friedlis from BF Saul accompanied us, and Andrea Limauro, our Ward 3 Planner at the time, participated, as well. Over and over again, we heard this message: We would need to actively manage our street in order to have a bustling retail corridor.
OP’s Sakina Khan organized this workshop and told us that we needed to build on our neighborhood’s assets. She made us think about what makes Van Ness special. What bubbled up was our Metro-accessible trails into Soapstone Valley and Rock Creek Park from the east side of Windom. And we have a UDC Performing Arts Theater and outdoor amphitheater on the west side. While we considered how best to take advantage of these assets, Travis Price, a Forest Hills neighbor and famous architect, came on the scene. He wanted to help.
I thought, “Let’s start small.” Travis joined me and ANC Commissioner Sally Gresham to discuss the Windom Place parklet, a small underutilized space at the end of Windom next to WAMU’s headquarters on the east side of Connecticut.
That soon morphed into looking at Windom as a town hub for Van Ness. The next step was getting input from the community and from area businesses and property owners. We wanted everyone to be on board.
The three of us took this back to the group and the whole committee rallied in support. WAMU provided space for a community charette in March of this year, and UDC hosted us for a follow-up charette in July.
Both were led by Travis Price, and the ideas flowed. Later in July, Mary Beth Ray proposed that ANC 3F commission Travis Price to provide a design and visuals of a Van Ness hub. The vote was unanimous.
Tonight at 7:30, Travis will present his conceptual designs to the community during ANC 3F’s November meeting at Forest Hills of DC (4901 Connecticut). Tomorrow night, he will present the concept to property owners and businesses along Connecticut Avenue, as well as interested developers and other parties.
The Vision Committee’s goal is to create a vision for Van Ness, and to involve all those who have a stake in its success to participate in creating that success. Stay tuned for next steps.