Sunday, July 12, 2009

Shaping the Future of the 14th Street Arts District

If you are interested in having a voice in the ongoing transformation of 14th Street, I encourage you to take in one of the upcoming meetings of the 14th Street Arts Overlay District Committee. The next meeting will take place this Tuesday, July 14, from 6:30 - 8:30 in the Studio Theater. For those who may not be familiar with the Committee's work, I thought that I would present a brief overview here. (In the interest of full disclosure, I serve on the Committee.)

For the past month, a group of interested neighborhood residents have been meeting to discuss and recommend changes to the existing Arts Overlay District regulations with an eye towards guiding the neighborhood's development in a way consistent with the desires of area residents and business owners.

For those who may not be aware, 14th Street (at least the portion that runs north from Thomas Circle to just north of U Street) is part of the "Arts Overlay District", which is a guiding set of zoning regulations meant to shape the development of the street into a diverse, thriving corridor with a particular focus on the arts.

The most tangible component of the regulations is the 25% cap on linear frontage that can be restaurants or bars--a regulation meant to encourage the proliferation of diverse retail and business establishments. However, as 14th Street has grown rapidly over the past decade, two things have become clear: 1) the city has no meaningful way by which to track the % of linear frontage that is a restaurant or bar, and is thus not enforcing the restriction, and 2) the 25% allotment has most certainly been met and has likely been exceeded. (We have written previously on this topic, in a post available here.)

Thus, the Committee's main charge is to review the appropriateness of the 25% restriction, and make additional recommendations that can be implemented by the D.C. Office of Planning in order to guide 14th Street development throughout the coming years.

To date, in addition to reviewing the practices of other urban areas throughout the country (in particular, those who maintain some restriction on how much space in a given area may be taken up by restaurants, bars or nightclubs), the Committee has heard from numerous area business owners, residents, and ANC and District government representatives. Though the Committee will not be making official recommendations until August, several key themes have emerged from the meeting held so far:

  • There is a desire to implement some kind of limitation on the number of restaurants and bars in the neighborhood, but the most appropriate way to do this has not been identified. There is widespread feeling that residents and business owners alike would like to maintain a diversity of retail options along 14th Street.
  • The 14th Street corridor lacks a specific "brand" or message, which could aid in driving additional visitors--including shoppers and consumers--to the neighborhood.
  • There is a demonstrated need to attract more daytime foot traffic. Ways in which to accomplish this include developing additional office space in the neighborhood and marketing it to smaller, creatively-geared organizations, and marketing the neighborhood as a tourist destination for restaurants, shopping and the arts.
  • Although 14th Street has become one of the hottest redevelopment spots in the city, numerous blighted properties remain between Thomas Circle and Florida Ave. The Committee wants to do all it can to continue to attracts redevelopment in to 14th Street to address the vacant or blighted properties.
This Tuesday, the Committee will welcome as speakers:

Sakina Khan (Office of Planning), Creative DC Action Agenda,
Rebecca Moudry (Office of Planning), Retail development incentives,
James Nozar, JBG Development,
Barton Seaver, Owner, new seafood restaurant & market at 1608 14th Street, and
Geoffrey Griffis, former Chair of DC’s Board of Zoning Adjustment.

The Committee is meeting every Tuesday evening through July. You can find additional information about the it at


Anonymous said...

Could we demolish all the commercial buildings and replace them with a sheep pasture? I read someplace that the average restaurant emits as much pollution as a coal-fired electricity plant.

Anonymous said...

I hope that the Committee is considering the impact of additional cars on the residents of this area. The introduction of valet parking by some businesses on 14th street has had a significant impact on the availability of resident parking. Why aren't we requesting that larger businesses, like the CB2 store proposed for the corner of 14th and R be required to provide on site parking?

Anonymous said...

Why would sheep need parking lots?

Anonymous said...

I'm from DC Magazine. I was hoping to talk to you about 14th Street for a piece I'm working on. Could you e-mail me please?

Anonymous said...

The website link is broken (missing http://). Try this instead: