Can Mount Vernon Triangle Replicate Capitol Riverfront’s Successes?
The Mount Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District has a new director. Claire Schaefer Oleksiak, who's served as deputy executive director of the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District for the past six years, takes over for Bill McLeod, who started as executive director of Historic Dupont Circle Main Street on July 1.
It's a fitting move. In building up a new neighborhood essentially from the ground, Capitol Riverfront has focused on creating great public spaces, and in the process has put itself on the map for people across the District as a destination for parks, restaurants, and events. Mount Vernon Triangle is another basically new neighborhood; where Capitol Riverfront was built largely on old Navy Yard land and the redevelopment of a crumbling public housing complex, Mount Vernon Triangle is full of cranes putting new apartment and office buildings where surface parking lots once dominated. But Mount Vernon Triangle has been a step behind on creating neighborhood-defining public spaces, and it's close to blowing its final chances at putting in parks before there's no space left.
Oleksiak sees public spaces as one of her three central missions for Mount Vernon Triangle. "What does a public space look like?" she asks. "Where do people gather, where do they play, where do they meet? I’m excited to take on that challenge."
Oleksiak believes parks in Capitol Riverfront are "what made the community what it is," and she's confident there's still time to bring them to Mount Vernon Triangle. "I don’t think it’s too late. NoMa just proved that. They’ve been advocating for five years now for park space, and it’s finally happening. It’s going to take hard work, but there’s going to be options."
So what about the other two missions? One is any BID/CID's central role, keeping the neighborhood safe and clean. The other is "telling the story and strengthening the vision" of the neighborhood. Right now, I'd wager that most Washingtonians couldn't tell you exactly where Mount Vernon Triangle is. Oleksiak hopes to define the neighborhood with events that draw both Mount Vernon Triangle residents and people from around the city, and possibly partnerships with nearby events like the Capital Fringe Festival.
And what of the neighborhood's name, defined by the three avenues (Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey) that border it rather than any local characteristics? "Right now I think we’re going to be sticking with the name," Oleksiak says, "but who knows?"
Photo from the Mount Vernon Triangle press release