Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Shaping the Future of 14th Street, Part 2

Can we keep the "arts" in the ARTS Overlay?

That was the predominant question put before the ARTS Overlay Committee this summer. What follows is a brief preview of the Committee's report, to be unveiled at tomorrow evening's ANC2F meeting.

First, a little background. The Committee (which, in the interests of full disclosure, I was a member of) was created in order to provide a set of recommendations to the DC zoning regulations that govern the Overlay district. The Committee included a mix of new and longtime neighborhood residents, business owners--and one developer--and held a series of public meetings over the summer, where they discussed the current state of the District, and what could be done to help preserve (and attract) arts uses for years to come.

While the ARTS Overlay restrictions maintain some rather esoteric regulations governing things like bonus density and FAR allowances, their most notorious feature is the 25% restriction on the amount of bars and restaurants (as measured in linear feet). Our findings were that a) the restrictions are not working, as no DC agency is even tracking the amount of frontage currently taken by bars and restaurants (it's currently estimated to be around 29%), and b) 25% is too low a figure, as it doesn't properly reflect the changing nature of the neighborhood.

Also atop the Committee's lit of things to address was the reality that the neighborhood stands to lose some of its arts-related establishments. At several public meetings, we heard from proprietors of galleries, and landlords who had arts tenants, explain that economics were pushing them out of the neighborhood. It seems that while everyone claims to love the arts element in our neighborhood, and the city likes to promote their existence, very little is being done to ensure that they can remain here.

Thus the Committee's task was set: make recommendations to the city's zoning code that encourages arts uses in the neighborhood and helps ensure that once they are brought it they remain, while also seeking to ensure that the 14th and U Street corridors remain vibrant streets filled with a healthy mix of retail and entertainment options.

Though specifics for each of the recommendations in the Committee's final report won't be announced until tomorrow evening, I can tell you some generalities of what will be included, such as:

  • providing additional developmental incentives to encourage arts uses in new developments;
  • instituting arts use requirements for developments above a certain size;
  • increasing the allowed percentage of street-level retail that can be bars or restaurants; and
  • allowing for the use of vacant properties as temporary arts exhibit space.
In addition, we determined that one of the things we could do to economically aid artists, retail businesses and even restaurants would be to look for ways to encourage daytime traffic in the neighborhood, something that is covered under another set of the Committee's recommendations.

Ultimately, the Committee's report will need to go through several stages of review, before ending up in the DC Office of Planning, which will then need to determine whether or not to accept them.

Undoubtedly, the 14th/U Street areas have been transformed during the last several years. However, there is still a significant opportunity for change in the neighborhood, and the decisions that are made today may very well have an affect on the corridor 20-30 years from now. If you're interested to learn more, plan to attend tomorrow evening's ANC2F meeting. Or, you can visit the ARTS Overlay Committee's website, located at http://www.blogger.com/www.anc2f.org/arts.

1 comment:

Brandon Green said...

Will the full report appear online?