From Tom Hay
Area residents, artists and business owners packed the Langston Room of Busboys and Poets Tuesday night for the first of three townhall discussions on branding and marketing the Arts District centered around the 14th and U Streets NW corridor.
Andrea Doughty, project leader and Carol Felix, lead branding coordinator, opened the public dialogue with an overview of the project. (See PDF map with proposed boundaries.)
Last year ANC 2F-Logan conducted a study to examine the zoning and economic development needs of the 14th, U and 7th Street NW corridors, collectively called the Uptown Arts District. Among the noteworthy findings of the study was the desire for more daytime foot traffic, to help struggling arts and retail establishments, and the need for a strong, visual brand at street level.
Neighborhood Investment Fund Grant
The only economic development program that the area qualifies for comes from the the District of Columbia’s Neighborhood Investment Fund (NIF), administered by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning & Economic Development.
This year, $200,000 in grant money from NIF was awarded and pooled by four non-profits, Cultural Tourism DC, the Logan Circle Community Association, the Constance Maffin Memorial Fund, and the MidCity Residents Association. Approximately $75,000 is budgeted for street graphics, light pole banners, billboards and street tattoos.
Aggressive Timeline: Finish by December
The project has an aggressive timeline. Based on input received at the August 31, and upcoming September 7 and 13 townhall meetings, marketing experts will present three preliminary brand concepts to stakeholders at an October meeting. In November, a series of arts related events will promote the district and the brand that emerges from the meetings.
The culmination of the effort will be a weekend of events on December 3-5.
A panel discussion followed, which included Andy Shallal, owner of Busboys and Poets, and the Rev. Sandra Butler-Truesdale, owner of the Emma Mae Gallery and a U Street music historian. Common themes of the panelist’s comments were a vision for racial sensitivity and authenticity in the branding.
MidCity Business and Mid City Artists
Later in the evening many questions from the audience came from business owners who feel they have promoted the Mid City name successfully for a number of years and don’t identify with a larger Arts District which reaches over to the Washington Convention Center. The cit y has a detailed PDF map of the arts district and it is referred to as the Uptown Arts District.
The proposed boundaries of the arts district are Florida Avenue on the north, 7th Street on the east, Massachusetts Avenue on the south and 16th Street on the west.
And of course, the big question is what to call this arts district. The two names most commonly used are Mid City and Uptown. Mid City is a newer name used by most local businesses who identify with the 14th and U corridor.
For example, there is the MidCity Business Association and Mid City Artists. The business association just hosted the successful 11th Annual Dog Days Sidewalk Sale in early August. The artists has nearly 40 members and conducts semi-annual tours of galleries located in the area.
On the other hand, the Uptown name is the DC Governments official name for the arts district, and has historical roots going back to the days of Duke Ellington.
Next Meeting is September 7
The townhall meetings continue with a September 7 meeting from 6 to 8 pm at the Warehouse Theater, 645 New York Avenue NW. You can find more information and updates at the Mid City Arts District blog.