ANC Commissioner responds to redevelopment concerns

***UPDATE***

Seems that our cause is picking up steam. Check out this article from the City Paper. Will our ANC and the Council respond to residents’ concerns?

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Here is a response from an ANC Commissioner that covers the RIA area. I want to ask him to acknowledge that he will hold a meeting with the residents to cover what we want and do not want on RIA before he makes any movement on this. The residents, as you can read in the previous posts on this blog, have their opinions and want to be heard!

Also, Corey, if you could disclose to us whether or not you have any family or friends who own businesses or wants to own businesses along RIA, just so we know where you are coming from (as you know, we have grown skeptical of our ANC lately with the recent financial issues going on that caused some of them to resign)….

Will you, Corey?

“Hi all, this is Corey Arnez Griffin, ANC representative for SMD 5A10. I have responsibility for the north side of Rhode Island Avenue from South Dakota Ave to the corner of 18th Street. I share the concern about the economic development potential for this amazing avenue. The potential is evident as you monitor the amount of traffic on Rhode Island Avenue flowing in and out of our city everyday. I have been actively working with some of the business owners in our SMD to promote business vibrancy and the much needed renaissance for our corridor. In the time that I have been serving in office, I have made a deliberate decision to host all of my ANC SMD meetings on Rhode Island Avenue. My strategy is simply to introduce our community to the businesses on the avenue and to promote foot traffic. The desired output is to create a buzz that helps to reduce crime and to attempt to increase presence and patronage with our existing businesses.

Building partnerships with our businesses is paramount to sustaining and capitalizing on the small growth we have seen in the last 12 months or so. We have many new businesses on the avenue in and outside of SMD 5A10. We have Lace Lounge, Flip It Bakery II, American Quality Home Care Services, and Art Enables, among others. The key will be promotion, partnership, and public patronage. I sponsored, along with others, a letter of support for the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to provide technical assistance to the business owners on Rhode Island. This is a small effort to support business growth and sustainability. Alone, it will not be enough, we have to have the other elements to create the desired outcome. I would like to see us organize a business association with specific representation from the owners on RIA, to include the churches. Working together with the entire community and our government, in my opinion, is the only way to begin to change the dynamics on RIA.

Lastly, I am committed to work with the other ANC stakeholders and Civic Association leadership to begin to organize around concrete efforts that attack, what I will call the 3P’s for RIA mentioned above. Tactically, I would like us to pull together the neighbors to work with the MPD to walk the avenue and show community presence to eliminate the prostitution, organize efforts to remove the blight of the “We buy…” signs and trash, and plan a series of events that support our businesses and that celebrate RIA’s history and potential.

I have more on the subject, but I suspect that I should stop here and get some reaction.

The point I would like to emphasis is that I am prepared to roll up my sleeves and do whatever is necessary to exploit the potential RIA.”

*Photo from Brookland Ave blog

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19 thoughts on “ANC Commissioner responds to redevelopment concerns

  1. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – we need a plan. P erhaps this can be discussed at the September ANC meeting that Corey is hosting.

    – My two cents is that we need someone/a group of people to act as unofficial brokers/area cheerleaders. We should match the empty storefronts with potential business owners. That means we (and Corey) need to go out and hustle existing business owners in other parts of the District and convince them to set down new roots on RIA. We need to be armed with market research on our area, traffic studies, etc, so that we make a good case that customers are just sitting in their houses waiting for something worthwhile to pop up on RIA. Then we need to be prepared to offer technical assistance to new business owners — work with them to buy property or lease it, help them navigate DC gov’s permits and licenses, etc. Finally, we need to publicize the hec out of new establishments on RIA so that their businesses flourish – growth begets growth. Just look at H Street. Point being, I’m not going to sit around hoping the Harry Thomas gets a fire under his rear to do something about our section of RIA. We’ve got to do it ourselves.

    I’m happy to work with others in some sort of formalized project if there is a collective interest and the technical capacity amongst fellow readers and Corey.

  2. I’ve read a number of articles on the internet where Urban Atlantic has thanked participants on this blog for providing input on the type of retail we’d like to see at Rhode Island Row. It really would help if Urban Atlantic could pay us back by recommending what type of retail they’d like to see further east along Rhode Island Avenue and to provide us with some leads. Surely, not every business owner who has applied to them for retail space at Rhode Island Row is suitable, but some of the rejects might just help with providing adequate quality retail along Rhode Island Avenue. Urban Eats, which now occupies what was once the Spotlight Cafe and Artmosphere Cafe, in Mt. Rainier, used to be on Barracks Row, but the rents were too high. If people like Flip It, they should like Urban Eats.

    How does Commissioner Griffith feel about the number of churches along Rhode Island Avenue and 18th Street? The majority of responders on this blog are against the ever increasing number of churches and would like to see them go. They add no value to the Avenue. Limits have to be put in place. We don’t need to publicize the churches. I can’t believe God told all of them to move onto Rhode Island Avenue!

  3. I like some things that Mr. Griffin has said, but two things scare me.

    The first one, maybe I just don’t understand, but why does he want to work with the Great Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce? Why not everyone else? I’m sure Hispanics aren’t the only ones who want to open businesses here. Discrimination is discrimination.

    Secondy, Mr. Griffin didn’t state anything in opposition to the churches on RIA. Half the problem with getting development going is the churches and yet he wants to work with them? How about limiting them greatly? All they do is take up space that could be used by the people who live around here.

    Truthfully I feel like a lot of the good things I hear from Mr. Griffin are just fluff and he and everyone else in the commission are not going to do anything productive to help RIA. I hope I’m wrong.

    I hope that people like Stephanie and Woodie step up and do something about it. When is the first meeting Stephanie? I don’t have much political expertise, but I’ll help in any way I can.

  4. Stephanie (and others), I recently stated in a different, but related, thread that my husband and I are willing to help. We don’t have a lot of experience but we definitely want to be involved. I think it would be a good idea for those who are interested to get together and form an action plan. Everyone seems to have good ideas but its going to be hard to carry these things out when no one knows each other. There is a discussion board on RIA Insider’s facebook page. I think it would be a good place to start planning some kind of event. I hope you and others will join.

  5. Roy, let me assure you that I am not about fluff, I’m about getting things done. What I attempted to do was to lay out a draft plan of action to address the concerns that we share in the collective. On the GWHCC, they applied for a competitive grant to provide technical assistance to small businesses on Rhode Island Ave. The GWHCC asked me for a letter of support to submit with their grant application to the Neighborhood Investment Fund, which is operated by Office of the Deputy Mayor of Economic Development and Planning. I enthusiastically jumped at the opportunity to support this request to bring the much needed resources to RIA. I considered that any help we could get would be useful to support our endeavor to revitalize RIA. GWHCC won a $34K grant from NIF to provide specific support to RIA.

    The Neighborhood Investment Fund is an annual, non-lapsing fund to finance economic development and neighborhood revitalization in 12 targeted areas of the District. The fund is capitalized by an annual contribution of 15 percent of the personal property tax, not to exceed $10 million. The Neighborhood Investment Fund supports neighborhood revitalization through the Target Area Grant Program (TAPG) and Predevelopment and Project Grants (PDG).

    See link: http://dmped.dc.gov/DC/DMPED/Opportunities/Grant+Opportunities/Neighborhood+Investment+Fund

    To be clear, the grant was a competitive award, which was open to any District of Columbia 501c3 organization, not just Hispanic organizations, that can meet the requirements and can provide the technical assistance under the grant. The GWHCC’s services are available to any small business owner on RIA who is seeking technical assistance. The Chamber has been actively meeting with small business owners on RIA, hosting seminars, and providing training on marketing and social media. Clearly, there is much more to do to get us where we’d like to be, but again, I view these as a starting place.

    With respect to the churches, I am not opposed to their existence. I would, however, like to see more of a variety of businesses that generate jobs, income, and a tax base. Until we are able to effectively attract other types of businesses on RIA, it is likely that we will continue to attract storefront churches. I believe that churches can be a meaning partner to our endeavors, but we must engage them, and not view them as part of the problem. As I believe was stated earlier, without the churches, we would see even more blight. Basic economics can and will begin to change these dynamics, but it will not happen without our collective involvement and action. As I have stated, I am and have been ready to work with my fellow commissioners and leaders to do all that I can to be a part of the spark to ignite the RIA renaissance.

  6. Count me in too! My wife, son and I are moving (next week!) into our new place on RIA. We look forward to joining the rest of this great community and making it even better.

  7. @RIA Insider, I would be more than happy to add this item to my agenda for my upcoming SMD meeting on Sept 29th. With respect to your inquiry about my interest on RIA, I have absolutely no family or personal business ownership interest on any properties on RIA. I have no friends with any property interest, to my knowledge, on RIA. I only have constituents, whom I represent with property interest on RIA. All of whom I have come to meet since I sought election of the seat.

  8. Corey, where does your SMd end on ria going north? And who is the anc for the part you don’t cover? Is it janae grant? If so, might you consider having a joint mtg with her to discuss this very issue?

    D on monroe

  9. Good job RhodeIslandInsider! The more public attention we can get on this issue the better. Clearly Mr. Griffin wants to make this area a storefront church ghetto as he has done for 18th Street. We don’t need that.

    Fenty, when he was Mayor, was able to remove many of the used car shops from Rhode Island Avenue. This helped clean up the blight a great deal. Both Councilmember Thomas and Commissioner Griffin can clean up the storefront church blight they have created. Neither Mr. Griffin nor Mr. Thomas have proposed storefront churches as a means to stimulate economic development on 12th Street. So, why is Mr. Griffin proposing this for Rhode Island Avenue? Does Mr. Griffin actually attend any of these storefront churches? If so, which ones?

    Last year the GWHCC gave National Wine & Liquor a marketing award. There was a ceremony for it attended by Harry Thomas. National Wine & Liquor just closed its doors forever this Friday. So, where was the assistance from the GWHCC in helping this struggling merchant? We really need organizations that have proven track records in helping merchants survive. Not even Georgetown has sunken to level of bringing in storefront churches under the myth of stimulating economic growth as Mr. Griffin has.

  10. @Woodie, I’d like invite you to sit down with me over coffee, so that you can understand my point of view on RIA development and churches. There are many distortions, misinterpretations, and untrue statements in your response. I have, in no way, promoted storefront churches in any part of our SMD. I am happy that they are there, in absence of other viable businesses. The alternative would be vacant buildings. I definitely don’t want that. Lastly, I invite you to attend the SMD meeting scheduled for September 29, 2011. We will take this issue up and hear directly from the community and the business owners on RIA development.

  11. @Mr. Griffin

    I would like to thank you for discussing everything with us in this format and also for explaining the GWHCC’s involvement on RIA. Its nice to see that an ANC Commissioner actually wants us to know they care about our opinions. Not all of us can make the commission’s meetings.

    I like the article you posted from the Washington Post. The kind of shops that are leaving Georgetown are the kind that we need on our main street and really the rest of RIA. I think RIA needs to be marketed as being the way Georgetown used to be or something along those lines. I think the main thing is to make sure we treat the RIA main street as a business first and foremost. We have to make it attractive to businesses somehow and market the hell out of it.

    I just want to be clear on your view on store front churches. In the future you want most of the churches replaced with job and tax generating businesses, but for now you are glad that the buildings aren’t vacant. Do I understand that correctly? If so I can understand that completely.

  12. Mr. Griffin,

    We will see you at your September meeting, please supply the exact location and times. Again, you would never fill empty buildings on 12th Street with storefront churches. Why are you doing this on Rhode Island? Are you also proposing this approach for 901 Monroe and the Catholic Univesity Project? The community verbally stated to the DC Government in the Rhode Island Avenue Great Street program 2 years ago “No storefront churches!” Why have you not taken the time to read this document. Please desist with your Storefront Church Ghetto efforts.

  13. Now Woodie. I don’t think that’s what Corey is saying at all. I think he’s saying that he’d rather have a church than an empty building, but would rather have a business than a church. In the absence of businesses, I’d rather have a church than an empty building.

    That said, there should be NO NEW CHURCHES. The priority from here on out should be to fill any empty space with a business that brings daily foot traffic to the area.

    Comm Griffen, please answer my question about working with Janae Grant when you get a chance. Thanks.

  14. @D on Monroe, thank you. You have summarized my position very well. There are many vacant and empty buildings on RIA available to prospective non-church business interest. Perhaps the proliferation of the storefront churches play a role in whether or not other types of businesses find it feasible and attractive to decide to co-locate. I don’t know this to be a fact, but through a focused study on this, we can get the answers. What I do know is that there are other factors that play a major role in determining where to locate your business, including density, traffic, parking, accessibility, access to public transportation, government incentives, income levels, etc. I happen to know that there are property owners ready and willing to sell their properties to non-church, highest price, best offer interest.

    As I have noted, I am ready to work with all of the stakeholders for RIA. I serve on the 5A commission with Commissioner Grant and would welcome the opportunity to work with her on the RIA development effort, along with the 5B Commissioner, Vaughn Bennett. Commissioner Bennett and I attempted to host a joint meeting several months ago to address this very issue. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in securing a time and date with the Deputy Mayor.

    @Woodie, I am not promoting and have not promoted RIA as a choice destination for churches, neither have I done this for any other part of our ward. Additionally, I have never had any conversations with any church about locating in our ward or on RIA. I have, however, had conversations with other business interest about the great potential of locating their business on RIA. I consider that to be part of my job as an ANC Commissioner, who is committed to our community and economic development interest.

  15. D the issue we are raising against storefront churches is the same issue raised against Nail Salons and other businesses on 12th Street that do not promote vitality and economic growth for the community. The community loudly voiced their opposition to them. We have the same right. And it’s important that everyone hears us. I do not know why these real estate investors/speculators won’t come to the community or be involved in the programs that have already been set in place, such as the Great Streets program. Again, the area between 18th and 24th on Monroe is supposed to be a Main Street/Arts District. Why aren’t these investors wanting to support that concept? It’s been 2 years since this has been established. Yet, no active efforts by the community nor elected officials have taken place to bring this about. We just can’t sit around hoping and praying. For some reason our prayers (and inactivity) are attracting storefront churches!

    1. I’d like to add that if the Government could put up some banners saying “Arts District” this might help to let everyone know what this area is supposed to be becoming. So far there is nothing. I know Mr. Griffin has told us what he has done with a few business organizations. Art Enables recently had a Rhode show featuring 13 local artists along the Rhode Island Avenue corridor. Do any of them want to open up galleries or arts related businesses where the vacant properties/storefront churches are located? If not, why not? Are the rents too high? Do you need subsidies, do you need loans? If so, what can the Government do to provide these subsidies/loans?

      My impression of the Government even wanting this area to be an Arts District is that it would be the lowest cost way to stimulate growth in a blighted area. Art Enables has been situated in far worse areas. So, having other arts related businesses shouldn’t be hard to recruit to this area. The high rents on H banners stating that this area is an Arts District.

      I’ve seen a number of grants other communities are using for arts promotion/awareness. Why isn’t this area taking advantage of any of them?

      1. One more thing related to the Banners. Art Enables has a bevy of capable artists who could design the Banners. There are even a couple of Print Shops on Rhode Island Avenue that could help with this effort. I don’t know how much Banners would cost but at http://www.anc5a.org, they are giving grants for $500. This money could be used to jump start this effort. Hopefully, Mr. Griffin can get involved with this so we can see some immediate results.

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