I attended Chairman Brown’s Ward 5 Economic Development summit on Tuesday night and although I didn’t testify, I was happy to hear resident after residents speak on the need to redevelop Rhode Island Ave NE. This blog has always contended that the Avenue holds some great potential for a community based Main Street between 18th and 24th Street, and at the Summit, Chairman Brown heard it loud and clear. Before I get into more on this, I would like to thank Chairman Brown for taking the time to put together this Summit to hear from the residents and for his commitment to bring positive development to our Ward, especially the Avenue.
There have been numerous meeting after meeting on how to bring redevelopment to Rhode Island Ave NE over the years but those meetings have always lead to just having more meetings. On Tuesday night, Chairman Brown made some strong commitments to take action, in fact, he directed City staff to start taking action which you will read more about from the various perspectives below. The Friends of Rhode Island Ave (FoRIA) was well represented at this Summit, as were members of PCDC. The combined efforts of both of these organizations helped spur the focus of the City on redevelopment, especially on RIA. James Holloway, Chair of FoRIA’s Board, testified before Chairman Brown on Tuesday and represented nearly 300 residents that are members of that organization. His testimony can be found here.
But enough of my perspective on Tuesday night’s Summit. The Insider has put together perspectives from several contributors and we have an exclusive perspective from Chairman Kwame Brown himself.
Chairman Kwame Brown’s Perspective
I am dedicated to helping Ward 5 residents reinvigorate signature activity centers and development sites such as Rhode Island Avenue, Bladensburg Road, New York Avenue, Brookland/Catholic University, McMillan Reservoir, and Fort Lincoln. These should become vibrant corridors and connected communities that offer new hotels, big-box and neighborhood-serving retail, improved infrastructure, innovative restaurants, more residential options, and access to street cars – all essential parts of the mixed-income and mixed-use goals set forth in the city’s urban renewal plan.
Contributor and President of FoRIA, Stephanie Liotta-Atkinson’s Perspective
My message to Chairman Brown and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) was that we need to implement these plans. Years worth of meetings about what we want on Rhode Island Avenue has not yet yielded concrete benefits for our community. We’re still overrun with auto-related businesses and vacant storefronts. We still have far too few high quality sit-down restaurants and places to buy healthy food. I’m not optimistic that more meetings will result in a different outcome. In fact, the danger in holding an endless stream of meetings planning for Rhode Island Avenue is that the community becomes pacified by merely being heard. It’s not acceptable for DC agency officials to show up at community meetings, listen to us, and then disappear into their offices until we convene another community meeting.
Contributor and FoRIA Board Member Daniella Gibbs-Leger’s Perspective
I was thrilled to see the overflow turn out and to hear resident after resident implore the council member to focus their efforts on Rhode Island Avenue. I focused my testimony on my vision for RIA – not an H Street replica, but a place where there are some restaurants open past 7
Contributor and FoRIA Board Member Nolan Treadway’s Perspective
I must say, after going in somewhat skeptical, I left hopeful. And of all the public testimony, there were three community concerns stick out: redevelopment of Rhode Island Avenue NE, the controversial McMillan redevelopment plan in Bloomingdale and the unfortunate state of the Crummell Schoo in Ivy City.
Let us know your perspective in the comments.