In 2008, the District government, led by the Office of Planning, engaged in a consultative process with area businesses and residents that culminated in the publication of the Kennedy Street Revitalization Plan. By 2014, very little of the plan had been achieved. A Main Street program was shuddered after just a few months. A major streetscape improvement project was budgeted, but never designed or contracted. Few city incentives were extended to the street.
That’s why a group of residents and business owners came together to figure out how to make progress on a plan that the whole community had bought into years ago. Since then, we’ve achieved a lot through advocacy, outreach, and direct volunteerism to make Kennedy Street a better place for everyone:
- Pushed the DC government to relaunch the long-dormant streetscape improvement project, with a 30% funding increase for the project to over $10 million
Extended Great Street business improvement grant eligibility to cover the whole street
Bus shelters at two busy stops installed at Kennedy and 5th Streets NW
City purchase of vacant lot and affordable housing
- Organized and crowd-funded the four, ever bigger Kennedy Sidewalk Festivals
Brought in local small business owners to meet and tour vacant and unlisted retail properties
Expanded hours and uses for the Hattie Homes Senior Center
Our volunteers started the initiative that brought us the Kennedy and 14th Street Farmer’s Market
Our enterprising volunteers developed Envisioning Kennedy Street NW, which brought together community members to define how they want the street to look and feel, appreciations for the street’s history and long-time residents, and what they think is most important to bring to the street next
We participated in the Office of Planning’s Vibrant Streets project, led by commercial consultancy Streetsense, to develop fresh retail readiness data and recommendations for managing the street’s comeback
Obviously, we don’t claim credit for the good things that happen on Kennedy Street, but we like to think that we helped get the word out to new businesses, and make existing businesses more successful. Here’s what’s come up since 2014:
- ANXO Cidery and Tasting Room opened a neighborhood restaurant and bar in the long-vacant warehouse behind 711 Kennedy Street NW. Proprietor Sam Fitz joined the board of our joint Main Street project with 14th Street, and moved to the neighborhood. The property will host the Cider fermentation facility for ANXO’s regional distribution, and the bar will focus on serving the diverse local market. They’re already looking at expanding to a curbside restaurant and an upstairs events space.
- The Library Tavern opened in mid-2017, offering a neighborhood-serving menu of dinner and brunch just off the corner of 3rd and Kennedy Street NW. The owner, who incorporated recipes from his native Iran in the menu, converted the vacant building which had been damaged by fire for both the restaurant and six rental apartments upstairs.
- Tropimart, a small grocery serving Latin American and niche products as well as fresh produce, meats, and fish, opened at 607 Kennedy Street NW in 2016. The popped-up building added four apartments on upper floors. The ownership will also give you a ride home if you spend more than you can carry!
- Moreland’s Tavern opened at the corner of Kennedy, Colorado, and 14th in the Fall of 2017. The 2-floor bar has an open seating plan, local brews, trivia, sports upstairs and gastropub fare. Plus, the primary owner lives a block off of Kennedy Street. We love owners that get us up here!
- SoupUp! soup bar is coming to 709 Kennedy Street from their pop-up venue at Union Kitchen. We can’t wait for it!
- The proprietors of the neighborhood staple Tony’s Place will expand into the neighboring empty storefront, expanding from a breakfast and lunch counter to a three-meal diner.
- A new eatery at 701 Kennedy Street – watch here for details!
Kennedy Street was built 100 years ago, when people didn’t have the means to travel far for basic goods and neighborhood-serving retail needed to be much more comprehensive. Grocery and department stores, then suburban malls and Amazon.com have been cutting into the hometown main street retail market for decades. Even office spaces are taking a hit in the telecommuting and gig economy era. If Kennedy will ever convert these vacant buildings to good use, we will need a lot more residents in the area to be potential customers. This is why we encourage incremental density increases to residential buildings.
Kennedy Street’s improvements and KSDA’s results highlighted, in some cases several times, by the Washington Post
, Washington Informer
, City Paper
, Washington Sun
, Greater Greater Washington
, Elevation Media
, Prince of Petworth
, Curbed DC
, DCist and Washington Times
We now have over 200 members on our listserv, and over 1,800 followers of our Facebook
account, and on Instagram
. We have allies on the DC Council and across the DC government, as well as in local businesses, investors, property owners, reporters, politicians, and non-profit organizations.