by Mary Beth Ray
Van Ness Main Street
Since 2011, the District has invested substantial time and resources in producing three comprehensive studies* of the Van Ness streetscape’s challenges and potential solutions. For the first time, there’s funding to begin turning those plans into action.
The Van Ness Main Street Sustainable Streetscape Subcommittee announces that the DC Council has approved a $1.5 million allocation to DDOT in Fiscal Year 2019 to design an improved and sustainable streetscape at Van Ness. Work is already under way to ensure coordination between DDOT, VNMS, ANC 3F and the community, and to seek additional funds over the next three years to implement the design.
This builds on the city’s investment in studies by the Office of Planning, and OP’s recommendations for attracting businesses and patrons to Van Ness.
What do the studies propose?
The three studies provide thoughtful and practical proposals on four key blocks of Connecticut Avenue from Van Ness to Albemarle. Improvements include:
- Permeable paving
- Planting zone for trees, ground level plantings and structured soil
- Infiltration areas
- Sidewalk zone for pedestrian movement
- Outdoor café zone
Citing past projects**, several sources, including the Department of Energy and the Environment and Office of Planning, estimate a realistic cost of $10- to 12 million for four blocks. That includes the $1.5 million for the design.
The Sustainable Streetscape Subcommittee of Van Ness Main Street is chaired by Mary Beth Ray, who together with VNMS President Marlene Berlin has met with numerous representatives of the Mayor’s Office, several Council members, DDOT, DOEE, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District and others to gain insights and seek funding. Council member Mary Cheh, who chairs the Transportation Committee, was essential to the success of the effort.
Van Ness Main Street will continue to work with DDOT, which will be the lead agency, to manage this project while building consensus among its stakeholders: businesses, property owners, and community residents.
What are the desired outcomes?
The subcommittee is optimistic that together we can achieve a more vibrant and environmentally sustainable Van Ness by:
- Elevating the appeal of VN’s commercial, residential and public spaces to attract businesses and people, ultimately creating a showcase of economic vitality and sustainability
- Creating a safe and environmentally responsible streetscape that enhances the pedestrian experience and supports patronage of local businesses
- Improving access to the Metro station and other features that define VN as a transit-hub in the District
- Substantially expanding the city’s tax base by creating more assets that will nurture businesses, create more jobs, and serve the needs of District residents.
* Van Ness UDC Commercial Corridor Enhancement Study, June 2011; Shades of Green: Green Infrastructure & Pavement Removal Strategy for Van Ness, January 2016; Van Ness Commercial District Action Strategy, April 2016
** Similar projects include K Street in Mount Vernon Triangle, between 7th Street and New Jersey Avenue ($7 million budget in 2013); Barracks Row on Capitol Hill ($8.5 million budget over the last 10 years); 17th Street NW between Massachusetts Avenue and New Hampshire Avenue (cost figures requested).