by Marlene Berlin
Van Ness property owners, meet the Van Ness Vision Committee. Last week, they came together for the first time to discuss opportunities for building community and commerce in the neighborhood.
“Change is coming to Van Ness, and we do not want to sit on the sidelines,” said Mary Beth Ray, ANC 3F commissioner and founder of the Vision Committee, as the event got under way. “We want property owners to partner with residents to build on what Saul Centers, WAMU and UDC are bringing to the Avenue.”
Architect and Vision Committee member Travis Price hosted the Feb. 20th gathering in his home, which looks out over Rock Creek Park. The park became a theme that wove in and out of the evening’s conversations and presentations. Attendees included representatives of Fannie Mae, Saul Centers, the University of the District of Columbia, Polinger Shannon and Luchs, and Days Inn. Calvert Woodley provided wine for the event, but sent its regrets, as did Doug Jemal, a developer and commercial property owner whose son lives in Forest Hills, and WAMU . The turnout was good being rescheduled due to a snowstorm the previous week.
In going around the room with introductions, Arnold Polinger, the owner of the Giant-CVS building (Van Ness Center), mentioned that it used to house a vibrant mini mall that had a Casual Corner and Scans. He invited the Vision Committee to provide input in his process of redesigning the lobby. Barbara Jumper, vice president of real estate for the University of the District of Columbia, also invited the Vision Committee to engage in conversations about future plans for the campus.
The Vision Committee’s presentations stressed what is unique about Van Ness: Its close proximity to Rock Creek, the trail at Windom Place leading into Soapstone Valley Park, and the international community, with many embassies and residences in the area. And with the Metro, UDC and other schools in the area, this location has not even begun to realize its value to residents and property owners.
Marlene Berlin, editor of the Forest Hills Connection, described the Connection’s recent retail survey and its findings. She mentioned that the single most requested specific establishment was Trader Joe’s. A better choice of restaurants was the most popular general request, with retail merchandise shops being a close second. Of the 611 who responded to the survey, an almost equal number of visitors to Van Ness drive and walk there.
The mood of the group was upbeat. And everyone left the reception with visions for Van Ness dancing in their heads.
At the end of the presentation, Ms. Ray mentioned the upcoming Connecticut Avenue/Windom Place community hub charette, a dream and design workshop to be led by Travis Price on Saturday, March 8th, from 9 a.m. to noon at WAMU (please register here). There will be another charette with developers later in March or early April.