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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Thinking About: Activity Districts within Shaw’s Commercial Corridors

Shaw’s commercial corridors are generally defined as Seventh and Ninth Streets between K Street and Florida Avenue/U Street . The corridors possess -- or are in very close proximity to –- several very significant anchors that bring many people to our main streets daily, such as the convention center, the 9:30 Club, and the Giant grocery store. Additionally, several significant projects are on the drawing boards for our commercial corridors, including the Broadcast Center One development and the CityMarket at O Street redevelopment. Many locales salivate over the idea of having the draws we already have. These anchors (and planned anchors) present incredible opportunities for business and development recruitment and marketing.

In order to capitalize on our assets, I propose thinking about Shaw’s commercial corridors as possessing several distinct districts of activity based on the corridors' various anchors. I think we should use such informal characterizations as guidelines in how we promote, design and recruit in the different areas. Of course, I do not mean to imply that a district should possess just one use or cater to just one particular patron, but I aver that we should build on and enhance the major draws of each unique district within Shaw’s commercial corridors. Note that I am mainly focused on the non-residential uses and aspects of development within the corridors.

In future posts, I will analyze each district individually. But as a jumping off point, I thought I would share my breakdown of the activity districts, derived from the anchors in each, and see if you agree with my assessments.

Districts of Activity Along Shaw’s Commercial Corridors
Hospitality District - The biggest anchor of this district is, of course, the convention center, with its main entrance on Mt. Vernon Square. Several existing hotels – including the Renaissance, the Henley Park, and the Eldon – serve the convention center and help define this area as a hospitality district. This area will truly become a hub for conventioneers when the planned hotels are built (the Marriott Marquis Convention Center Headquarters Hotel (to be built in the block bounded by Ninth Street, Massachusetts Avenue, and L Street), the two smaller Marriott hotels (to be built in the 900 block of L Street), the Douglas Development hotel (to be built on Seventh Street or New York Avenue), and the four star hotel on the old convention center site’s northeast corner).

Neighborhood and Specialty Retail District – Anchored by the O Street Market’s Giant grocery store, this district features neighborhood-oriented retail, stores and cafes. With its proximity to and overlap with the convention center, this district also features hospitality oriented businesses, specialty retail, restaurants, and cafes.

Education, Recreation and Health District – Several notable public institutions serve the community in this district, including the Shaw Middle School, Seaton Elementary School, the (temporary and under-construction) and the Watha T. Daniel Shaw Neighborhood Library. This district also boasts the Kennedy Recreation Center, several public recreation fields (Shaw Recreation Field, Seaton, and Bundy), and a dog park. Bread for the City is expanding its medical clinic in this district.

Office District – Major office space is planned in the forms of the Broadcast Center One development and the Wonderbread Factory redevelopment.

Entertainment/Nightlife District – Two significant draws to this area are the 9:30 Club and Town Danceboutique. This area is part of the bustling U Street Corridor district and boasts other smaller nightlife options, like Nellie’s and DC9. Additionally, this area has a vibrant restaurant district, including a notable hub of Ethiopian restaurants. The Howard Theatre will be another anchor to this area.


Anonymous said...

I think this is actually a fantastic way of looking at it. Great post!

Too bad this area doesn't have a BID or something to really promote it. The Convention Center authority couldn't care less, obviously.

Anonymous said...

Good idea and good way to think about things. As the thinking advances, I would suggest considering whether one particular district would ever "go dark"--i.e., you don't want the office district to be a no-man's land on the weekends or at night. Luckily, the overall area is small enough that the districts should melt together quite well.

Mr. Q said...

Good post Shaw Rez...would love to see this executed...

Somewhat unrelated note - did you make it to the CCCA meeting last night and if so, any news? Vacant property discussion?? I was unable to leave work on time...

Shaw Rez said...

Agreed, Anon re: the avoiding the going-dark effect. Mixing in and proximity to housing should help keep an area safe and alive even at an area's non-peak times, but it's definitely an important consideration.

Mr. Q - I did go but had to duck out early to do dinner with a visinting out of town friend. I left while Shiloh was making its presentation. Hopefully the CCCA will post the minutes soon. It was a very informative meeting. The CCCA's research into the vacant properties in its boundaries and the vacant property tax status generally is really insightful and helpful. I bet their report will also be online soon. I'm happy to link both when posted.

Uncle Jessie said...

Yeah, great post. Shaw Main Streets should be paying you for your thinking on this stuff.

One thing you might consider overlaying, is the use of mass transit as a core around which growth and development takes place - in addition to the 9th and 7th street corridors. I don't understand why as a community we aren't doing more to make the Shaw/Howard and Convention Center metro stops a center of activity and growth.

If you look at successful growth in other urban communities, it happens up and down major corridors yes, but typically it is densest at mass transit hubs. Space is also most diverse in terms of usage types, and fully utilized there as well.

I don't think that Shaw can succeed in growing into an urban destination that is capable of sustaining the kind of economic activity and amenities most of us want, without focusing growth on top of and next to mass transit.

Shaw Rez said...

Uncle J - I totally agree re: the mass transit emphasis. I almost included an overlay in this post and will definitely include it in follow-up discussions.

Shaw is incredibly fortunate to be served by several metro stations -- again, many locales salivate over such transportation linkage. These stations are not nearly as utilized as they could be with denser development (especially the Shaw Howard station, referenced in last week's discussion of Lincoln Westmoreland II).

8thQ said...

It is interesting to see that every district has at least one major project ready to start. Each one on its own would be a major catalyst to the neighborhood, particularly O Street Market and Radio One. I truly feel if one of those were to get off the ground a lot of smaller developments/developers would be more comfortable in developing in our neighborhood. I have been here over 5 years and can't wait for these additional assets to our community.

MS said...

Are there any updates available on any of these projects? I haven't heard anything on RadioOne or O St Market is several months.