Some Notes from Saturday’s Community Review of Georgia Avenue
While a more detailed and extensive report from Saturday’s Community Review of Georgia Avenue will be forthcoming from the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force, I wanted to share my notes of the event while there are still fresh in my mind.
The day was split into two parts. The morning was divided into four focus areas. The afternoon was a joint session that reported back to all on what was discussed in the morning. The four sessions were:
- Vacant Lots
- New Retail (north of Euclid St.)
- Bruce Monroe Park
- New Retail (south of Euclid St.)
As a participating facilitator, I was only able to engage in the vacant lots discussions. The three vacant lots that anchored the discussion were the lots on the southeast corner of Otis and Georgia, the southeast corner of Park Road and Georgia, and the northeast corner of Kenyon and Georgia. Of those three properties only the lot at Otis Place currently has development in the pipeline.
Because it is impossible to discuss any property on Georgia Avenue without considering what the community would like to see on the entire corridor, there was a lot of discussion on housing and its affordability, desirable businesses (such as grocery stores, restaurants, and professional services), and street presence.
During the discussion, one participant (who happened to be a realtor) stated that there are developers interested in Georgia Avenue but that a chief problem is the availability of land. Apparently, many current property owners are just sitting on property in the hopes for a better deal in the future. As for empty commercial space, they added that the appearance of the corridor needs to shine to attract businesses, or the prospective business will opt for other parts of DC, or even other nearby suburbs or cities.
The appearance of the corridor came up in other ways as well. Most notably in the lack of infrastructure that would allow for sidewalk cafes, sidewalk fruit or flower stands, and the need for facade improvements. Some of this is a problem with the current zoning that doesn’t encourage setbacks for new construction. Whereas keeping the street clean is something that Business Improvement Districts have accomplished in other parts of DC — but would be difficult to get started along Georgia Avenue in its current state.
One idea that I particularly liked was to work with one of the vacant property owners to create a temporary sculpture park. This is not a new idea. A very successful “temporary” sculpture park was located on 7th Street just south of E Street from 1997 to 2001. The DC UNITE sculpture park took advantage of a vacant parcel of land until the property was sold to develop a theater and housing.
The bottom line from the community that I heard from is that there is a desire to improve the goods and services offered while maintaining the character of the neighborhoods that are currently here. Trees, flowers, or general landscaping need to be incorporated if possible. And, new construction needs to relate to the human scale and help make the avenue an inviting place to be — which will further energize the corridor.
As I wasn’t able to capture everything or go to all sessions, I’d like to hear from others. I’d also like to know what suggestions others might have for temporary uses of vacant property in the area.Community Involvement, Development comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.