Stephanie Atkinson speaking with other FoRIA members.
Last night, Friends of Rhode Island Avenue (FoRIA), a community group concerned with revitalizing the northeast stretch of Rhode Island Avenue, met for a strategic planning meeting. The goal? “We want the avenue to look more like Cleveland Park and less like a haven for storefront churches and autoparts,” FoRIA president Stephanie Liotta Atkinson told UrbanTurf.
The meeting took place at Art Enables at 2204 Rhode Island Avenue NE (map), a studio and gallery on a strip of the avenue that runs through the Woodridge neighborhood. Right now, the stretch is depressed and dark, with a number of vacant storefronts and little in the way of street traffic. FoRIA is hoping to help turn it into a Main Street.
The meeting was organized into small groups that focused on four areas: business development, the streetscape, events and community service. There were a diverse group of attendees — black and white, old and young, long-time and brand-new residents — and the atmosphere was cautiously optimistic and willing.
While a number ideas put forth at the meeting were conventional and practical (reach out to owners of vacant storefronts to help them bring in tenants, organize groups to clean up the avenue), a few emerged that UrbanTurf thought were quite creative:
- Take a ‘Rhode Trip.’ FoRIA members would choose a business they like somewhere in DC, like a bakery or restaurant, and go there en masse, flash-mob style, to convince them to open up on Rhode Island Avenue. Matching t-shirts were mentioned.
- Create a map of vacant properties with square footage, to better determine which businesses might realistically fit in empty spaces.
- Have a festival with food trucks, artists, music and other amusements to generate a sense of community.
- Start advocating for bicycle lanes, buried power lines, and better lighting.
The meeting adjourned with several of these plans in motion.
“We have to be the squeaky wheel,” said one attendee. “If you make a lot of noise and you’re organized, things will happen.”
This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/rhode_island_avenue_has_organized_friends/4977
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