What's in a name?

What's in a name?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

War 4 Economic Development, A detailed plan for revitalizatoin.

Ward 4 Economic Development
The line that divides Ward 4 and the vast need for economic development is the lack of a clear understanding of the variation in needs. Ward 4 is notably a very diverse community.  With houses ranging in value from the mid two hundred thousands to well over a million dollars.  It is clear that a good portion of residents shop outside the ward for much of their needs. 
Georgia Avenue is Ward 4's greatest commercial corridor. The 3.5 mile stretch in Ward 4 offers the greatest opportunity for economic revitalization in the heart of the Ward. Developing shopping and dining opportunities are also key for Kennedy Street, Upshur Street and 14th Street, along with 4th Street in Takoma and Riggs Road in Riggs Park. Many wonderful small businesses have invested in these corridors and we look forward to welcoming even more businesses to the Ward so that our residents can live, shop, dine, work and play right here- in Ward 4!
Residential real estate in zip code 20015 of Ward 4 features a property value average of $800,000.00. Some homes ranging well above the one million dollar mark. Where 20011 averages  $325,900.00. Housing in nearby zip code 20012 is slightly higher at $458,200.00 as compared in May 2011.  I used a comparison published by Zillow, Home Value Index. 
Over the past three years the median price for a home in 20011 fell on average 4.6% and homes in 20015 sustained their prices or had a slight increase in price. Benefiting those home owner in 20015 with greater security in their investment and a higher return on their dollar if they sold.
So at any given time residents of zip code 20015 would conceivably have a higher disposable income than those in other zip codes of close proximity.  Not to draw attention here to theseparation of class or income. But clearly based only on real estate values,  there could likely be a wide spread of available funds for use in and around their homes.
These households separated by Georgia Avenue, if you will,  one of the main streets in the District of Columbia and a major corridor 
Economic development must begin with a consensus of understanding what goods and services the combined neighborhoods need and would support.  This is done by effectually looking at where these dollars are being spend currently.  Guessing from what I see,  not a lot of these dollars is staying in the ward.  Moreover based on assumption,  most of the revenue of the near by homes and residents is being spent in other wards, or across the border into Silver Spring, or other areas of Maryland.
Ward 4 leadership doesn't have a gripe on the needs of the community and thus can not lead us in economic development.  One must understand business,  and our current leadership has no such experience.  Thus,  to date there is no viable plan that outlines the need for change,  or how best to address the mechanics of change.
Clearly we have our share of liquor stores,  hair supply stores, and mom and pop establishments that are mainly owned and operated by owners that do no reside in the District of Columbia.  Although convenient they hardly meet our needs and most would agree that the variety is simply not broad enough.  There are a number of gas stations that offer snack's and soda and some are inclusive of auto repair.  Kennedy Street, NW is more or less equal to or perhaps even less broad with the exception of a printer,  and another couple of different businesses.  Much of the existing store fronts are in need of revitalization,  improvement,  better lighting,  and enhanced appearance in order to be pleasing to the eye and to draw a steady loyal customer. 
Upper 14th Street, has some promising businesses, but the mix is lacking a useful variety of stores and services to draw people to go there and spend more time.  A great place for breakfast on Sunday's become troublesome to park already so with an improvement in popularity there will literally be no place if you drive.  The Bus Barn is both imposing andburdensome and places restrictions on the neighborhood that probably cost every business owner neighborhood business and thus profitability.  Plans to replace the bus barn with town houses, retail and other close in entities would drastically reshape the upper 14th street corridor and make avail more retail goods and services. 
This idea quickly opens up Pandora's box as to where to move the bus barn. The fighting in Ward 4 has just begun and opponents of moving the bus barn to the Walter Reed site is not being well received by residents of Brightwood and surrounding neighborhoods.  At any stage, the bus barn relocation can promise an imposing, unsightly complex with major additions of traffic generated by hundreds of buses arriving and departing around the clock.  Who wants this near their home? Neither the residents of upper 14th street area or those positioned near the Walter Reed site. With a real lack of leadership in Ward 4 currently, there is no real plan to pull all the agencies together and contemplate the relocating of such a facility. 
The soon to be new found oasis in Ward 4 will clearly be the current site occupied by Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  It will soon be history with the move and consolidation of services now in Bethesda at the Bethesda Naval Medical Hospital.  Many businesses along the Georgia Avenue coordinator are saying good-bye to long time customers and friends.  Where will theyreplace these customers?  The small amount of restaurants that surround the area most immediate to Walter Reed have enjoyed a few employees
Here is what I deem important for the city and particularly Ward 4 to begin to consider.  Implementing a progressive plan to immediately begin to work with current business owners, and property owners that lease their store fronts to businesses to improve the general appearances of their stores,  and store fronts.  Making them more inviting,  and portraying theirbusinesses as an accomplished part of the neighborhood and appreciative for the loyalty of each and every resident that frequents them.  This should be done block by block and store by store to insure continuity. Parking meter should be reduced in price to be more inviting to all of us to stop and shop,  stop and eat.  Business should ask customers daily,  what product or service did you need that you did not find in our store?  Then make the changes to the goods and services they offer to better accommodate the demand. We should include Kennedy Street, and Upper 14th Street as well.  Not to forget Upshur Street.  Parking is often difficult and that may discourage some from stopping.  
Any economic development plan must include each of these areas and a composite of or an overlay of the entire ward. We simply can not wait until Walter Reed is started.  Every struggling business along the Georgia Avenue corridor must be engaged now in order to keep them open and prosperous.  Waiting will no doubt cost some business owners their businesses and create additional open / vacant spaces. 1 Planning for Walter Reed must include nationally known companies, of median priced goods and services and an array of which must be open to assure that more current and future residents and visitors can find a place they can both enjoy and afford to eat and shop.
Timing is very important here with the current businesses being the most vulnerable.  A new district of stores and restaurants could virtually wipe out many of our existing businesses. Walmart will clearly have it's effect on some mom and pop stores in the general vicinity,  but not likely too many more than a few block in proximity.  Healthy competition is good from the perspective of a progressive business owner that is in tune and in touch with the needs and desires of their current clients.  Those that most often don't survive are those that don't listen and are not flexible. 
If elected, the first thing I would do is to bring in an outside resource to hold institutionalized meetings with an invitation going to every business owner in the area of Ward 4. The objective would be a professional demonstration on how to succeed in business,  and how to be a community player.  This consultant would then work one on one with each merchant interested to evaluate the business,  the business trends,  and areas of improvements.  Thus, equipping every participant with the basic facts that they need to know from an outside neutral source on how to adjust their business to better growth and profitability. The resource will be prepared with valuable information for both individual businesses and how best to become for of a player in the district of area that they are currently in.  This would not government managed,  or regulated.  But government provided.  I would bring in an outside source to demonstrate to business owners how to bring their business 21 century savvy,  and how to best serve the neighborhood they reside in.  I have managed and owned a business that participated in this strategy and it was a great resource as it detailed important facts to each owner,  but also worked in unison to bring business into the same level of understanding on how the community perceives them. Everyone I know that participated both enjoyed the comments and worked to attain the level of improvements that were out lined for them specifically. 
Additionally, there is a necessity for a 2Business Improvement District with the proper management and a clear objective this can lead to major improvements in the shortest amount of time. Not to mention the best possible results. With a total approach to the burden of renewal, and revitalization rather than a piecemeal approach.
A piecemeal approach offers little more than district against district,  and neighborhood against neighborhood.  If a thorough planning is implemented with business owners participating then the results will be a more comprehensible approach to the final outcome. Thus, a higher level of taxes generated, better profitability for the businesses,  and residents that overwhelmingly like what they have gotten as new additions to their neighborhood. 
I am told that the current elected leadership in Ward 4 does not support a Business Improvement District. Although a part of her campaign in 2007 and discussed in 2008, there has  never been any solid movement toward establishing such a district. Muriel Bowser on Business Improvement District for Ward 4 3 Bowser media advisory dated May 14, 2008.
This lack of leadership and keeping of a promise clearly marks a definitive reason as to why Ward 4 has had very little economic development during the tenure of Councilmember Bowser.
The voice for Ward 4 has been weak,  and silent far too long.  We need a seat at the table of planning, budgeting and a voice loud and clear that represents the residents in these vitalissues. We need a voice everyday,  not one that speaks up when the time seems good,  or that issues press releases that then fail to keep the promise. We need leadership. A non-compromising position that will bring dollars to impact the planning and organization of the ward so that you and I can see a difference. 
When we look around other parts of the city,  Ward 6 has made remarkable improvements in their now famous H Street, NE area,  It's Great Streets project 4 is by all accounts a huge success.  Although not yet finished, it is clearly bringing in revenue, tax dollars and much excitement both in the neighborhood and from outside visitors.  Vastly important is the popularity of the residents that now feel as if they have a place within their neighborhood to dine, meet friends for cocktails and not have to travel out. 
In November 2009 a quickly prepared release was issued outlining a short time frame for Ward 4 Businesses to apply for Store Front Improvement Money  5 was issued.  With a deadline for the first round.  Statement promises a second round of funding and availability but I don't see any clear path to demonstrate that such funds were ever made available or posted for businesses owners to know now to apply.  Who knew about this proposal?  Did any businesses in fact apply for this funding to improve their storefronts?  My latest walk up Georgia Avenue,  Kennedy Street, and parts of upper 14th Street would suggest that if any did it was indeed a small amount.  The general facade's and over all  appearances of most businesses in Ward 4 to this day suffer from peeling paint, bad signage, poor lighting, and poorly marked entrances. All of these elements mark concrete reasons why many of us don't shop at some of these businesses. When businesses suffer from such things and Ward 4 businesses are no different, then we all suffer. How was this availability of funds made known to the current businesses in Ward 4 ?   Was was there ever a second stage of funding made available?
Determining the needs of potential shoppers:
To determine the needs of those in close proximity to your business one must undertake a series of open minded examinations of their business.  Starting with their profit and loss statement. If the statement demonstrates a mediocre bottom line,  then more drastic measures should be taken to improve the relationship between the customer and the store owner. This is the same rather it be a convenience store, restaurant, or fast food eatery.  Taking into consideration, food cost, operating cost, salaries, upkeep, maintainability, and expansion. Are you offering enough of the goods and services at a price that your place of business offers to accommodate the residents that live near by can and will afford? Are you carrying the products they are asking for? All of these things matter.  After all,  people coming through your doors should be spending money.  If not, a thorough study should demonstrate how the product line, or change in venue of what is offered can effectually change your profitability. 
A solid, well managed Business Development Organization 6 with a proven leader in both start up, and existing business experience can be the key to assisting existing business owners and new potential new owners as well. 
Often is can be a determination that some businesses should change their products or services to remain viable.  Duplication of such products or services can lend a hand in businesses going out of business or simply not doing the highest amount of business needed to maintain the rent and other expenses and be profitable. Changing the type of goods or services can then levitate the community to a broader spectrum of each possibility.  Keeping businesses alive,  and making residents happier,  thus encouraging them to shop local and spend their money locally.  Additionally, drawing a substantial number of daily visitors from outside the immediate area to eat, drink, meet, and shop is a key element to the over all success of any business district. 

A basic plan would look something like this:

  • Overview and cost/analysis, troubleshooting.

  • Concept, planning and development of retail and restaurant businesses.

  • Budget development, project management, implementation.

  • Zoning overlays.

  • Coordinating communications among business owners, residents, and government administrators and agencies.

  • Marketing including events and special promotions.

  • Negotiating with and providing studies for government and quasi-government agencies.

  • Working with individual business owners.

Ward 4 lacks a comprehensive plan, that is both well managed and aggressive enough to get funding, garner city wide attention and move the ward forward in a way that we would all benefit.  This due in part to the current leadership not fully understanding the standards of such a overlay or master plan.  We may have segments involved in various levels of discussion and some areas involved in trying to improve their specific locations. But there is no over all plan in place that is both agreed upon, documented and moving forward. Thus, funding is not in place, ideas are being lost, and residents are frustrated with the idle manner in which ward 4 sits silent. Of late we have seen dollars spend on the H Street, NE revitalization, the downtown bid,  and other areas,  but ward 4 continues to suffer. 
Where is the plan?  Who is moving Ward 4 Economics forward? 
The piecemeal approach to Ward 4's Economic Development is costing each of us hundreds of dollars a year.  How you ask. Every time we have to get in our car and drive to buy something or to get a service performed in another part of the city, or even outside the city,  we are spending money that we could be spending here. We lose, our revenue from taxes lose, and the cycle continues.  With some talks being conducted, but little actions being taken it a continued circle of money going outside the ward, causing residents, both time and money. 
Any revitalization plan must be coherent to the needs of the community, and the potential to draw outsiders.  But to do so there must be leadership in place that opens up the dialog, and starts the process moving forward.  Some of these items are in place or in discussion but clearly there is no coordination of such items that will efficiently move the needs forward for a solid revitalization plan conducive for the betterment of the residents and productive of the potential revenue that will likely be gained from taxes. 
Finally,   substantial track of land must be found to house the badly needed Bus Barn for WMATA.  The current site of 14th Street between Buchanan and Decatur is simply not acceptable.  Having said this neither do I believe that consideration of building a new facility underground at the new Walter Reed site is feasible either.  This sort of facility must be moved to a site that is more distant from where we reside.  I have reason to agree with a recent idea that Blue Plains was a suitable area,  and some consideration must also be given to a study that would include a parcel of land adjacent to the Soldiers Home off of North Capital Street,  As may be aware there is a large tract of land that is subject to planning of townhouses, and other use. 
A study must be started immediately to allow a more proficient perspective to the feasibility of best possibly locations that would both serve the community for safety and non hazardous fumes and a configuration for WMATA that would allow a prompt delivery of services to the ridership.
Any viable economic development plan for Ward 4 must include a well conceived and researched plan for revitalizing current and existing businesses and the addition of new businesses.  Moreover, there must a mechanism in place to deter duplication of goods and services with a close proximity. A fair and reasonable approach to this is allowing the individual ANC's to collectively have greater weight in the selection of types of businesses that are granted approval to their SMD's.  Although the plan must be fair,  it is vitally important as well to encompass  more than just personal opinions, over who gets the green light.  It must be compassionate to the public needs and the resources at hand.  
Georgia Avenue alone offers a tremendous potential that as a ward and a city we have not yet known the bounds.  Parking can not be a deterrent to people gaining easy access.  There should be a model program much like Annapolis has done where small parking structures are built not on the main thoroughfares but with access off an alley for structures that offer public parking at a reasonable rate. This works in other cities and must be a part of any plan that comes to the ward.  Simply put there are just simply those that will not come if they can't drive and park.  I would likely suggest that there eventually be no parking on Georgia Avenue but small garages located in strategic locations so that parking and walking about was encouraged and welcomed. 
Opening up the corridor would help in and of itself bring more people to stop here.  If you have ever stood on Georgia Avenue during rush hour,  few people stop to shop or to dine.  Most just make for the boarder of Maryland to get back to their neighborhoods where they spend their money.  This could be changed.  If we introduce programs for these commuters to stop for a glass of wine and dinner I think many people would begin to spend their money here.  Currently there are no incentives for them to do so.  Congested traffic with little or no alternative assures that most just keep on going.
A well conceived plan with planned parking and more open approach to the lanes with bike lanes and possible future street cars would implement a friendly system that would be more inviting to far more people than we already have.  Inviting to residents,  commuters,  visitors and tourists.  As well as building on the potential for those residents of Silver Spring to come into the city, stop on the corridor, dine here and shop here.  Raising tax revenue from more than just those of us that want to be able to shop where we live.
With the information that 2009 funds allocated for Georgia Avenue Great Streets being spend on H Street, NE revitalization it is more and more clear that we have not been heard down town. Lacking for more than any of us admit is the absence of a plan that details not block by block assessment of the needs and the potential but a clear plan that outlines the over all needs of our community.  Speaking only to the possibilities of economic development,  planning and mindful knowledgeable oversight is priceless when a city is pouring dollars in so many different areas.  H Street NE is well on it's way of becoming another great place to eat, and drink,  and probably shop some day soon.  Long established and popular Georgetown is experiencing somewhat of an identity crises right now with a turn over of shops, yet it continues to be a tourist destination for those that have not been there.  Development in and around the new Nationals Park clearly is on the top of consideration with major dollars going there,  and with the recent election there is now a clear and defined path, that continues to grow for District money and resources to be spent east of the River.  Having said this Ward 4 must get a plan in place and begin to secure both investor dollars,  and future tax dollars from future budgets to get our neighborhood moving forward.   
To do so, there must be an engaged, seasoned person in place with the retail and business knowledge and background in their profile of experiences to move the agenda forward. There must be compromises and exchanges of ideas with one clear objective.  Moving the entire ward forward.  Not pitting neighborhood against neighborhood.  A plan must be devised, implemented and funding spread over the project's life to assure development and the economic benefits of such shared by all that want to be a part of it.  There is no better time to begin this process than now and no better time to bring the community together with a thorough fact finding, open minded agenda than today.
I hope this has enlightened your thoughts about Ward 4 Economic Development and the potential of which is at stake. Given all the District government attention that has now shifted to various parts of the city,  there has been very little notable direction given to a real plan.  A plan that we can see materialize in the not so distant future. Having said this I also hope you now realize more than ever the need to elect someone that can and will be a voice for all of us in Ward 4, engaged fighter for Ward 4 and our needs.  If our needs are not heard, then they will not be met. 
I am that voice,  and I have the experiences to strengthen the economic possibilities of Ward 4 like no other candidate has.  I know that it is going to be tough,  but anything worth having is worth fighting for.  I ask that you put your support behind me.  Help me to get elected so that I can take my energy, my ideas and my high level engagement on these serious issues down town and speak and be heard, so that we all can all benefit.
History has proven that our currently elected leadership is lacking the clear objective of listening to you and to me.  Thus we have a need,  a great need to change that leadership,  and I am that change.

1 http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/jul/27/walter-reed-all-about-care-and-compassion/
2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_improvement_district
3 http://www.dccouncil.washington.dc.us/Bowser/NewsLetter/5-13-08 FY09 budget.pdf
4 http://hstreetgreatstreet.blogspot.com/2009/12/great-streets-construction-update.html
5 http://newsroom.dc.gov/show.aspx/agency/olbd/section/2/release/18682
6 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_development

Keith Jarrell
Ward 4 City Council 2012
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