Thursday, July 15, 2010

Georgia Ave resident survey results released

The Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force has released the results of the survey that it distributed to residents, businesses, and others who have interest in developement along the Georgia Avenue corridor in the spring of 2010 (the survey focuses on Lower Georgia Ave) .

Reading through the survey results, I gathered that the majority of the respondents have similar feelings (which probably isn't surprising for long-time residents of the area): that Georgia Avenue has huge potential but at the moment is not nearly reaching it. Woefully underutilized commercial spaces, lack of cleanliness, lack of safety, and pedestrian and bike unfriendliness are some of the issues mentioned in the comments section. More businesses are highly desired, with grocery stores and sit-down restaurants topping people's wish lists. Cultural amenities are also desired, but for the most part sparsely available. Respondents stated that what makes them want to go to Georgia Ave is "proximity", but due to the aforementioned shortcomings, residents mostly travel to other parts of the city to meet many retail, cultural, and general quality-of-life needs.

One comment that interested me was the one that states that Georgia Ave is "the Fulton Street of DC", which made me think of the recent "Urbanism comes in many shapes and colors" discussion on Greater Greater Washington. Although Fulton Street's pedestrian mall area appears blighted, it's actually a very financially successful corridor. And yet:

There are other aspects of Fulton Mall that everyone agrees are problematic. For example, there are no benches, and many of the upper floors of the buildings are entirely vacant. Historic buildings have garish facades covering up their beautiful detailing. However, the street has many small, independent shops, good ground floor permeability, some street trees, and excellent transit.

(Sound familiar?)

We need to avoid the tendency to assume that good urbanism only looks like whatever we like. Good urbanism is about creating places that many people want to go, where they are safe, where there are activities, and where they don't have to travel long distances or be forced to use automobiles to satisfy life's everyday needs.

Daniel Nairn, author of Street Value: Shopping, Planning, and Politics at Fulton Mall, suggests that "the perpetual calls to 'revitalize' Fulton may be more situated in particular cultural values than anchored to actual numbers...the real motivation behind the various revitalization schemes has not been to create a more successful retail environment, but rather to create a public amenity attractive to the new affluent white residents moving in to the brownstones and condos around it."

I think these are important points, and I hope they are kept in mind as Georgia Avenue's future is planned.

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