Needed: A Better Balance in Adams Morgan
By Terry Lynch
It was late on a weekend night in Adams Morgan. The bars and restaurants let out, and what happened? Who knows exactly?
Words were exchanged or tempers flared, but shots were fired for whatever reason [“Fatal Gunfight in NW Among Three Days of Killings, Woundings”]. It is the type of story heard about Adams Morgan way too often: violence claiming another life.
So what is to be done? More police? The D.C. police department has often put extra officers on the streets, particularly on weekend nights and during late-night shifts. Could the police be more visible or more active in patrolling all parts of the neighborhood — the side streets and back alleys? Probably, yes. It’s always a matter of how community-oriented the lieutenants and officers assigned to these details are. Could there be more effective oversight on how much patrons have to drink? Probably yes as well.
But these are not real and lasting solutions to the violent reputation that plagues Adams Morgan. What needs to happen to really turn the tide is to get back a balance of uses in Adams Morgan. There are simply too many late-night venues; the word is out that folks who patronize these spots have had too much too drink and are easy prey for criminals. A number of places now have their employees and patrons escorted to their cars to keep them safe.
Adams Morgan needs a building-by-building, block-by-block initiative to restore balance to the neighborhood. There are now dozens of vacancies in the area — buildings that have been neglected by their owners, or where businesses could not make it in this economy.
The city government, working with private entrepreneurs and civic associations, should help establish a healthy balance of uses for the neighborhood. Vacant storefronts could have art displays.
Nonprofits that sustain art galleries, or art studios, should be solicited to come in and keep spaces occupied. Retailers offering services that are needed by residents should be encouraged and given help to reestablish themselves in the area.
More commercial and daytime offices — be it for small businesses, nonprofits or associations — should be encouraged as well. Anything that is not an alcohol-driven for-profit entity should be invited to set up shop.
Expanded public services should also be considered. Ward 1 has only one library; Adams Morgan would be well served by having a library.
The Marie Reed Elementary School site could be modernized to include a major retail-commercial anchor, as well as recreation space. The site, poorly designed and configured back in the 1960s, could allow for a number of uses in addition to education and recreation, and it could provide a safer, brighter and more active and attractive area than it presents now — with too much vacant open space and dark nooks and crannies fronting otherwise active 18th Street.
What would really help turn around Adams Morgan is a vibrant mix of community, private and nonprofit uses to offset the atmosphere of night spots that has come to dominate the neighborhood — to the detriment of all.
The writer is executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations.
Posted by: mhidalgo | June 2, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse
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