For those who may have missed it, on Friday the Post ran what I can only call an "interesting" piece on how some U Street-area residents feel that the ambient noise along the corridor is too loud. As I read the piece on Friday morning, I began composing a response in my head addressing the points raised in what was, unquestionably, a slanted article.
And then I saw the response composed by area resident, former CSNA president and
executive director of the 14th and U Main Street Initiative Environmental Programs Manager for the Downtown DC Business Improvement District Scott Pomeroy, that had been posted to the U Street Listserv. Scott's response encapsulated everything I could have hoped to convey, albeit from the perspective of a longtime neighborhood resident who has a tremendous understanding of the fabric of the neighborhood and the ways in which the neighborhood has progressed to its current state.
I thus asked Scott if he would acquiesce to having his response posted here, in the form of a guest commentator, and he obliged. What follows below is his response, verbatim, to the issues addressed in the Post article.
I felt compelled to encourage everyone (Washington Post writer included) who thinks (or reports) that 14th Street and U Street is just about bars and nightlife to take the time to come out next weekend and see the variety, quality, and quantity of retail offerings MidCity/14th & U (http://www.midcitylife.org) has to offer its residents and visitors. There is an amazingly good mix of morning, daytime, early evening, and night time offerings to experience, even including 24-hour 7 Elevens for those late night early morning needs.
I am also writing today because I truly cringe every time I hear a community discussion about U Street started as the reporter did in this article:
“They worry that U Street will one day become like Adams Morgan, where traffic and crowds brought in by clubs and bars make living in the area almost unbearable.”
U Street is Not and Never will be Adams Morgan!
U Street and 14th Street were both designed and developed as retail destinations for the Washington, Maryland, Virginia region. The early car showrooms on 14th and the theatre district on U Street historically drew people from all over the region and even the world. Here are some additional reasons why U Street will never be Adams Morgan as Adams Morgan is perceived today:
Infrastructure and Design: Unlike Adams Morgan, U and 14th streets are very well served by public transportation, with Metro subway entrances, multiple bus lines, and the new Circulator line, as well as dozens of Zipcars. The roads are all six lanes wide, to better manage parking, loading, unloading and all the traffic generated by business activity. These corridors, unlike 18th Street, also have wide alleyways that mitigate the competing needs of businesses and residences.
Sustainable Destinations: Unlike Adams Morgan, U and 14th streets have a diverse array of preserved and well-supported live performance destinations -- Source Theatre, 930 Club, Studio Theatre, Twins Jazz, Lincoln Theatre, Black Cat, HR-57, 1409 Playbill, Busboys and Poets and others -- along with over a dozen galleries, cultural attractions and other features, that bring tens of thousands of people to the area every week in the early evenings, for something besides food and drink. But guess what? While they are here they do sometimes shop, dine and drink, before and after those performances. Or, they return to the area to make a purchase of an item seen in a store window or otherwise advertised in the neighborhood.
Leveraging Base: The fine dining restaurants that have been attracted to the area in the past few years are leveraging the base of neighborhood density and regional-serving entertainment venues which is why you see the dining nexuses that have developed around the theatres. We’ve also seen the development of several retail clusters that leverage the dynamic energy of the area. Fashion, home furnishings, design centers and boutique shops add to what makes our neighborhood unique and sustainable. Go into most any restaurant or retail business and take a look at the walls and you will see artwork from local artists, or the business owners themselves (as is the case at ACKC or Utopia), for sale as part of their business models.
Doing Things Now: We can and are dealing with the real issues of trash, noise, parking and safety: these are the quality of life issues that everyone complains about that can be mitigated by focusing on solving the specifics. Examples are:
- Developers are advised not to put bedrooms on the fronts of buildings that face the commercial district, particularly on lower floors.
- We are working with businesses on rodent proof compactor trash and recycling solutions that will minimize the number of trash truck visits to the alleyways that residents and businesses share.
- Our Ward 1 and Ward 2 Council Members both have pending legislation that respectively, would help address overall parking and trash issues in the area and funding is pending to maintain the daily cleaning services for the commercial district.
I just hope that as we move forward as a community that we work together to utilize the limited resources available to cultivate, manage and adapt to our growth wisely, and focus on solutions for the real issues facing 14th & U Streets. I say let’s get away from wasting time trying to stop “U Street from becoming Adams Morgan" and instead, lets be U Street, a great place to live, work and experience.