by Mary Beth Ray
ANC 3F03 Commissioner
It’s hard to imagine a more dynamic neighborhood than Van Ness in 2013!
- UDC is building a new student center, including some retail.
- Intelsat has been purchased by a New York group which plans a $45 million renovation and a facelift, including landscaping and a water feature to make the site more welcoming.
- BF Saul begins demolition this summer of the old Pier One and Office Depot, and luxury apartments will be built in their stead. Approximately 10,000 square feet of retail space will occupy the ground floor of the new Park Van Ness, where at least one new restaurant with an outdoor café is anticipated.
- WAMU is renovating its new headquarters across from Calvert Woodley, and their open studio will add a unique vibrancy to the neighborhood. Hopefully, American University will help to improve and maintain the mini-park behind the building, which provides a potentially bucolic setting for employees and neighbors to relax or picnic, and for hikers to enter Soapstone Valley and Rock Creek Park.
- Rumor has it that a new bakery is coming to the street as well.
The Van Ness Vision Committee (a committee of the 3F Advisory Neighborhood Commission) aims to connect the community with these ongoing projects, and also to create a vision for a more vibrant and beautiful Connecticut Avenue corridor. Vision subcommittees focus primarily on retail, street life, public art, trees, trails and transportation.
Several Vision Committee members, along with BF Saul representatives, recently won participation in the Vibrant Retail Streets initiative of the DC Office of Planning. The OP’s consultant, Street Sense, prepared a retail inventory and collected other data, including demographics, that will allow the team to analyze what works along the Van Ness corridor, what doesn’t work, and how to improve it. The team joins representatives from other neighborhoods, including Mt. Pleasant, Adams Morgan and Brightwood, for an all-day workshop on June 26th. Follow-up sessions will be tailored to Van Ness.
Vision Committee members hope to develop a closer relationship with the embassies in our area, and we met with Patricia Elwood, Mayor Gray’s chief of protocol and liaison for international affairs to brainstorm ways to involve embassies in our community. Several ideas include embassy-sponsored mini-concerts near the Van Ness Metro, outdoor tai chi or yoga classes, and an international food festival. Giant has offered to help sponsor international food displays and Calvert Woodley has expressed interest in participating, as well. Discussions are under way for a Forest Hills Fall Festival in October 2014.
One of the things that makes Forest Hills special is our access to Rock Creek Park. Vision Committee members are working to enhance the trail heads at Albemarle and Windom Place so that they provide a more beautiful link to the park. The DC Department of Public Works recently mowed and removed brush, an important first step which hopefully will be followed by further work to remove unsightly concrete, upgrade guardrails and address erosion problems.
While Forest Hills is blessed with many trees, the Van Ness corridor tree boxes are sorely lacking. Vision Committee members are working with DDOT’s Urban Forestry, Casey Trees, RiverSmart, UDC’s CAUSES and Master Gardening programs, and private landowners to improve our tree boxes. In addition to beautification and providing a unified look, these spaces can serve an important role in absorbing storm water, which ultimately benefits the health of Rock Creek.
Our next Van Ness Vision Committee meeting is Wednesday, July 10th at 7:30 p.m., location to be announced. Many thanks to this dedicated group of neighbors for volunteering their time to make our neighborhood a better place.
For more information on the Van Ness Vision Committee, write to Commissioner Ray at [email protected].