As neighborhoods throughout Ward 1 - including Columbia Heights, U Street and the 14th Street Corridor - have developed and morphed, the Mount Pleasant Street corridor has, for better or worse, remained largely the same. Yesterday, the Office of Planning (OP) furthered a process to change that when it released the Mount Pleasant Street Revitalization Strategy draft plan for public comment. The plan seeks to support existing local businesses and encourage new investment on the half-mile stretch of pavement from Park Road to the intersection of 16th Street and Columbia Road. OP seeks to reinvigorate the commercial heart of Mount Pleasant, starting with short-term plans over the next 24 months and continuing with five and ten year goals. Residents and businesses can comment on the draft through June 18th.
First, blame Columbia Heights. The OP draft draws a correlation between the increase in economic development in surrounding neighborhoods with the decrease in business for the Mount Pleasant commercial area. Citing the 2008 opening of DCUSA and fire at the Deauville Apartments, the document draws a bleak economic picture of the Mount Pleasant commercial corridor over the past few years.
OP's study of the demographic, housing and commercial profile of Mt. Pleasant resulted in recommendations to consolidate retail uses in a core area and keep non-retail venues at the periphery. The current retail scene, it found, is dispersed and discourages shoppers from going beyond the immediate vicinity, resulting in the polarized patronization of local businesses. Bunching retailers and locating non-retailers, such as doctor's offices or a yoga studio, it predicts, will draw non-residents to the area and more potential customers to the retail core.
The three principles of the study: improve the corridor's economic climate; diversify commercial activity by attracting non-retail and creative uses to the area; and promote sustainable development practices to improve the physical condition of the corridor. From these principles come five goals.
The first is to capture more of the local customer base and create a welcoming environment for entrepreneurs. The plan suggests this could be done within 12 months by promoting the demographic and ethnic diversity of the corridor. Easier said than done, but the plan recommends creating a "small business manual" to demystify the various authorizations and permits needed to operate in the District (if only it recommended reducing the number of forms and permits actually needed). Additionally, OP suggests reworking the way liquor licenses are distributed and managed.
Next, the strategy seeks a PR campaign to promote unique qualities of Mount Pleasant - with increased signage and a marketing and PR plan like the one entreating people to vacation in Virginia, only smaller. "Mount Pleasant is for hipsters" could work.
Third, OP wants to make Mt. Pleasant Street a "Green Street" by encouraging local businesses to partner with government agencies to create rain gardens to control surface runoff, add bike racks, use recycled materials and add alternative funding for such initiatives.
Fourth, lure in non-retail businesses like health care offices, educational facilities and creative enterprises. The Creative DC Action Agenda offers a game plan for establishing creative corridors and arts-friendly regulations to make it easier for such uses to come to the area.
Finally, the plan seeks to assure existing businesses that they will not get the boot when new development comes online. The core of this goal is linking business owners or would-be owners with financing sources, such as non-profits, and create training for small businesses on funding and business operation fundamentals.
A Mayoral hearing will take place Saturday, June 19, 2010 at Bancroft Elementary School for those interested in learning more about the plan.
Washington, DC real estate development news