Monday mornings don’t usually find us in a party mood, but this wasn’t your typical party.
On Monday, March 21st, Van Ness Main Street and its boosters from within and outside the neighborhood celebrated efforts to transform Van Ness into a walkable, vibrant and beautiful area.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony at Acacia Bistro marked the launch of Van Ness Main Street as well as the $50,000 Great Streets grant awarded to Acacia owner Uzi Turker for improvements to the restaurant’s outdoor cafe. VNMS assisted Turker in applying for the grant. The group has also been developing a partnership with Fannie Mae to activate the empty retail space at 4250 Connecticut Avenue, bringing in experts in restaurant development to advise our local restaurants, and organizing events such an arts forum coming up on April 23rd. And that’s just to name a few of Van Ness Main Street’s efforts on behalf of the Van Ness commercial corridor.
Here’s what the Mary Beth Ray, the president of Van Ness Main Street had to say about the event:
A passionate and enthusiastic group of 70 neighbors, businesspeople, and city officials gathered Monday at Acacia Bistro to celebrate success at Van Ness. Council member Mary Cheh and I cut the bright red ribbon honoring the launch of Van Ness Main Street, and the victory of Acacia Bistro’s Great Streets grant application.
As Forest Hills Connection founder and editor-in-chief Marlene Berlin says, “It all began with a walk.” When neighbors gathered on a chilly morning in 2012, few would have believed that in four short years we would come so far.
The Van Ness Vision Committee started as an ANC 3F committee, and then incorporated in March 2015. The group applied for and won a $200,000 grant from the Department of Small and Local Business Development, and in January we hired our first executive director, Theresa Cameron.
“I was impressed at how many of our great local businesses, neighbors and supporters joined us for our first ribbon cutting in Van Ness. Van Ness is on the move and open for business,” Cameron said.
The area is still plagued by traffic, empty retail space, and a concrete canyon motif. But Van Ness Main Street is poised to work with a wide variety of stakeholders to begin correcting those problems. In fact, the opening of UDC’s Student Center and the late spring completion of Park Van Ness will demonstrate to skeptics that positive change is coming. The group’s committees include Economic Development, which focuses on increasing the economic vitality and retail mix at Van Ness; the Design Committee, which focuses on making our corridor’s streetscape more beautiful, green and sustainable; and the Events and Promotions Committee, which ably coordinated today’s event, and has several other exciting programs scheduled as well.
Attendees at the ribbon cutting included an important array of representatives from our business and institutional community: University of the District of Columbia, WAMU, Fannie Mae, Hillwood Museum, Van Ness Center owner Polinger, Bread Furst (which generously provided delicious pastries), Italian Pizza Kitchen, Thai Pad, and Calvert Woodley, to Wells Fargo, Starbucks, and our host, Acacia Bistro. Architect Travis Price, who has led two design charettes for Van Ness as well as drawing some conceptual drawings, attended. And we were honored to hear remarks from Council member Mary Cheh, who championed our grant application. Participants also included DSLBD Director Ana Harvey and her staff, Council member Vincent Orange staffer Elizabeth Webster, Arthur Espinoza, the new Executive Director of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and Ryan Hand of the Office of Planning. ANC 3F Chair Malachy Nugent attended, as did Van Ness Main Street Board members.
Future events include a Van Ness Arts Forum on Saturday, April 23rd, and Jazz at Van Ness on April 30th. Van Ness Main Street hopes to build on the depth and variety of arts already in Van Ness, transforming our area into a cultural district. With more than 26 embassies in the area, as well as numerous schools, artists, musicians, art and music stakeholders, and a well-educated, densely populated area, a beautiful, walkable, economically vibrant, sustainable corridor with great performances, restaurants and a spirit of place is what our community hopes for and deserves.
Van Ness Main Street is working hard to make that a reality. Volunteers and donations are always welcome. For more information, please contact Theresa Cameron at [email protected].