Hillcrest is a middle class neighborhood in eastern Washington, D.C. near the Maryland border. There are tree-lined residential areas, with single family homes and apartments. For more photos from the Hillcrest Association web site.
But residents sorely lack a restaurant in the neighborhood where you can sit down with your family or friends for dinner; and safe, well-kept stores for shopping.
Instead what they have is an eyesore of a strip shopping center, where many (not surprisingly) feel unsafe shopping. Here's a photo of what's at the commercial area along Alabama Avenue right now (if you click on this link you can also download and then run a 360 degree panorama showing some of the current conditions on the site where the new Skyland development is proposed).
For five years now, residents have been pushing for a new Skyland development. Today's well-attended meeting of the Hillcrest Community Civic Association focused in part on the latest update.
A new development team has been put together. They presented the current plan: 340,000 square feet of retail; plus 440 residential units built above the retail.
As Gary Rappaport, head of the development team explained, major anchor retailers considering locating in urban areas are looking today for a certain amount of housing to be part of the project. Interesting to hear that retailers actually seek out mixed use projects.
I certainly hope this project makes it. My sense is that it has very broad community support. In speaking briefly with City Councilor Yvette Alexander, she sounded optimistic -- and stressed to me the importance of this project to Hillcrest. Residents at the meeting had tough, but good, questions of the developer -- not surprising given the five years already spent trying to get this kind of retail development in place.
One more thing. I'm sort of a meeting junkie back in Vermont, and I've attended a number of neighborhood association meetings in Burlington. There's much we can learn from the folks in Hillcrest.
Karen Lee Williams, president of the Civic Association ran a tight, well-organized meeting. Many, many topics were covered in the two hours, from emergency preparedness, to news about the new scrabble club, to many upcoming community events.
Most importantly, everyone spoke and was treated with respect.
And just watching the people, you could tell neighbors really cared about their neighbors. Hillcrest must be a pretty good place to live.
Update posted on 1/30/08:
For more on the Skyland project, and other developments in neglected Washington, D.C., neighborhoods, see "A Comeback Story Decades in the Making" (NY Times, Jan. 30, 2008).