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Update on the U Street Safety Initiative (Formerly U Street Nightlife Taskforce)

Update 7/14 – Thank you to the over 300 people who filled out the initiative survey! The survey will be closing at 9am on Friday, July 15th. If you haven’t yet filled it out, you can find it here

Earlier this month I announced the formation of a U Street Nightlife Task Force. This Initiative is bringing neighbors, businesses, organizational and government partners together to create a roadmap for improved safety and vitality on this culturally important corridor.

We have been working in earnest to stand up this effort, and I want to share more details as the process continues to take shape. This post is meant to provide transparency about our thought process to ensure that this Initiative sets U Street up for the greatest success.

New Name

First off, we have decided to rename the effort the U Street Safety Initiative to distinguish it from the Nightlife Task Force run by MPD. This renaming also reflects my commitment to go beyond having a series of meetings and to embark on a much more in-depth stakeholder engagement and community research process. There will be an advisory committee made up of residents, businesses, organizational partners and government agencies to guide the initiative, as well as multiple ways for all stakeholders to make their voices heard and to be part of the process of developing interventions. These are detailed below under Next Steps.

Leadership

I’m very pleased to announce I’ve brought on Natalie Avery of the Javera Group as the lead facilitator for the U Street Safety Initiative. A DC native and former Executive Director of the DC BID Council, Natalie brings two decades of experience working at the intersection of place, community, and economy. As the director of the MidCity Business Association in the mid 2000s, Natalie has deep familiarity with U Street. Her extensive resume includes a nighttime economy assessment and management plan for the Golden Triangle.

“Natalie facilitated a working group to help us grapple with nightlife safety issues in the Golden Triangle. She brought together businesses, residents, police and government stakeholders from a variety of perspectives to identify needs and gaps and to establish common ground. Everyone involved felt respected and heard. The relationships established through the process Natalie ran enabled us to continue collaborating on a range of issues in ways both effective and constructive. Natalie understands the complexities involved in this kind of work. She brings years of experience and compassion to the work of building places that are both safe and vibrant.” – Leona Agouridis, Golden Triangle BID

She will be facilitating the roundtables and guiding the Initiative with support from me and my staff. Critical to the success of the initiative will be ensuring there are many opportunities for a range of stakeholders to provide input and share concerns through a variety of channels.

Next Steps

Our first order of business will be to gather as much information as possible from a variety of stakeholders to inform this process. I have been in conversation with many of you about issues on U Street.

  • We have created this survey to assist in gathering a broader range of voices. I hope you’ll take the time to fill out the survey and share it with neighbors.
  • There will be a virtual roundtable for residents on Saturday July 9, 2022. If you would like to be part of that conversation, please sign up here. 
  • On  Wednesday, July 13⋅from 2:00 – 3:30pm, we will hold a virtual roundtable for businesses. Please sign up here. 

In addition to the roundtables above we have limited slots available for interviews with our facilitator, Natalie Avery. If you are interested in sharing your thoughts and insights and cannot make one of the roundtables please sign up here and Natalie will get back to you to set up an interview.

Initiative Scope/Geography

While we will not be limited to a specific focus area, it’s been generally agreed upon that “U Street” means more than just U Street NW. In addition to encompassing the entirety of the U Street corridor, I want to engage residents on surrounding blocks (roughly W Street to S Street), as well as the commercial corridors on 14th Street, Florida Avenue, and 9th Street.

More details on the Initiative’s work plan and roadmap are below.

Initiative Structure

Composed of residents, businesses, community organizations, and government agencies, the initiative will work collaboratively to create an action plan that will include recommended investments, programs, and sustained opportunities for stakeholder involvement.

There are a lot of engaged residents and businesses on and around U Street, and I want to make sure all those voices are heard. To that end, the broader mission of the initiative will include a number of different input formats:

  • There will be an advisory committee of members, tasked with representing and liaising with their respective constituent groups. They will also work to compile the final action plan. This group by necessity will need to remain small and finite in order to be an effective deliberative body.
  • There will be roundtables with each core constituency – Residents, Businesses, Community Organizations, and Government Partners. These will serve to inform the needs assessment and overall direction of the Initiative, as well as beginning to establish a universe of recommended actions. Sign up for the first series of roundtables here: Resident roundtable sign up, Business roundtable sign up.
  • One-on-one interviews and small group meetings will help establish a richer understanding of some intricate problems, whether that’s issues with government or coordination, or interpersonal conflicts. We have already begun conducting these. If you would like to sign up for a one on one interview, indicate your interest here.
  • An online survey will help round out public input and include the voices of those who may not have been able to get involved by traditional means.
  • Data analysis and mapping will similarly help inform our efforts by shining a light on perspectives that may not be reflected by other public input.

Over a three-month period, Initiative members will develop a deeper understanding of the factors impacting safety and vitality on U Street. Through this process, they will develop an action plan to tackle safety priorities and to cultivate a U Street ecosystem that is vibrant and livable.

Action Plan

The action plan will be released in Fall 2022, and include recommended investments, programming, and legislation to improve safety and the public environment. The plan will also include opportunities for sustained stakeholder involvement through standing committees and working groups, and existing institutions.

We have some excellent resources and supports already dedicated to U Street, that we can build on with the work of this Initiative.We also have several active neighborhood associations in the area, who are already working to lift up critical issues in the corridor.

I established the U Street Main Street in 2019 to help retain and attract small businesses, and established the clean team in 2017 to keep our commercial corridor clean and safe. Last year I also added funding for the clean team to work on adjacent residential blocks to help address litter. Additionally, the Ward 1 Redistricting Task Force’s recommendations for ANCs, adopted by Council earlier this year, create a new ANC 1B more focused on U Street, and one that encompasses the entire corridor. Once the work of the Initiative has concluded, we will need the support of these institutions to help carry out its recommendations.

Timeline

(exact dates subject to change)

  • Weeks of June 22-July 5 Preliminary interviews, research gathering and planning
  • July 9 10AM -11:30AM Resident Roundtable
  • July 13, 2PM – 3:30PM Business Roundtable
  • July 15 Advisory Committee Meeting 1 TIME TBA Initiative meeting and Walk through
  • July 18 – July 29 – Continued outreach and documentation of findings
  • July 29 – Advisory Committee Meeting 2
  • August 1-September 15
    • Plan development and continued outreach
  • September 15
    • Review draft
  • September 29
    • Finalize draft

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