A Modest Proposal to Enliven Central 14th Street
Few areas in town have undergone as many recent changes as the stretch of 14th Street NW near the Columbia Heights Metro station. Now city officials are turning their attention to the corridor to that area's north.
Office of Planning Director Harriet Tregoning just presented the Central 14th Street Corridor Small Area Action Plan to members of the D.C. Council at a hearing in the Wilson Building. The plan, let's be clear, is modest relative to the massive overhaul of the neighborhood's southern neighbor. But it does have community members excited.
Tregoning emphasized that the plan won't significantly affect the neighborhood's residential areas, but will instead ask more of the commercial strip along 14th Street. The neighborhood, she said, has begun to experience a resurgence after population decline through the 1980s. The plan, whose origins date to 2009, was initiated in response to community concerns about safety and attractiveness in the neighborhood. It has four main priorities: enliven retail; create attractive, walkable, safe streets; increase connectivity; and enhance green space.
The plan, as laid out by Tregoning, covers 14th Street NW from Spring Road to Longfellow Street and includes three nodes, each with its own goals:
Node 1: Spring Road to Shepherd Street—improve the streetscape; provide alternatives to the big-box retail to the south; potential to redevelop the C&K Tourist Home
Node 2: Webster Street to Decatur Street—establish a major retail presence; possibly attract a small- to medium-sized supermarket; if the bus garage at 14th and Decatur moves, opportunities to redevelop the space
Node 3: Jefferson Street to Longfellow Street—rather than compete with the soon-to-arrive Walmart to the north, create a unique arts space; turn part of Colorado Avenue into a pedestrian plaza
All four neighbors scheduled to testify at the hearing spoke in support of the plan. "I welcome the Small Area Action Plan," said neighbor Fredia Banks. "It has been a long time coming."
"The Office of Planning really got it," echoed local resident and business owner Audrey Nwanze. "They got what we were saying."
Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser expressed pleasant surprise to hear calls from the neighbors for greater urban density along the corridor. "Let me get this straight," she was forced to clarify. "You want more density?"
But she made clear what this plan doesn't mean: bustling nightlife along the corridor.
"This plan does not say that 14th Street should be H Street," Bowser said. "We like to visit H Street, but we don't necessarily want it on central 14th Street."
Photo by Darrow Montgomery