On February 12th, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B voted unanimously to create a Working Group on Barracks Row (WGBR). Spearheaded by Chair Chander Jayaraman (6B08), the working group will report monthly to the ANC.
WGBR will be co-chaired by Brian Ready (6B03). Much of Barrack’s Row lies in Ready’s Single Member District (SMD), but Jayaraman said that Ready is also particularly well suited to the position as he has a background in promotion and events planning. His co-chair will be a representative from the business community, and WGBR will be driven by the business community on Barracks Row, said Jayaraman.
The ANC charged WGBR with four directives:
- Develop strategies to market Barracks Row across the city as a go to destination;
- Think creatively and generate ideas for events and promotions to attract customers to Barracks Row;
- Organize and facilitate a meeting with property owners about ways to ensure the long-term sustainability of Barracks Row through fair lease agreements;
- Generate ideas for attracting more businesses to Barracks Row to fill empty storefronts.
The impetus to form the working group comes from the recognition that Barracks Row is competing with the rising commercial districts at The Wharf, H Street, the Waterfront at Yard Park, as well as from feedback from businesses that Barracks Row Main Street (BRMS) is not actively promoting Barracks Row. Jayaraman said that he had met with many of the business owners, who indicated the will and desire to form such a group.
The largest restaurant group on Barracks Row is probably The Hill Restaurant Group, with five restaurants Eighth Street SE, including Ophelia’s Fish House, Lola’s, Finn McCools, Orchid and Tio Javier, appeared to support the formation of the working group. Managing Partner Tom Johnson said that he had independently been trying to get a group of business owners together to market Eighth Street. He said that there was both reason for hope and for concern among restaurants on the Row: while District Soul Food had recently opened to great success, it followed the closure of the Garrison.
“Eighth Street and Barracks Row is a beautiful place and I think it has a lot of potential or else I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “But I think that everybody’s sort of given up on it.” Johnson said he was particularly interested in addressing the street presence on the sidewalk between Starbucks and 7-11, beautification of the street and facades, and promotion of the area.
A Collaborative Environment
BRMS Executive Director Martin Smith said that he had spoken at length with Jayaraman and Ready about their effort both before and after the meeting, as well as with business owners interested in such a cooperative effort. Calling WGBR a ‘great idea,’ Smith said BRMS was excited to work with the group.
“We’re always thrilled to have more people work on Barracks Row and to hear more ideas about how to make it better,” said Smith, adding that the main street organization was open to conversations with groups as well as individual businesses about ways to help facilitating marketing and business growth and welcoming them to reach out to BRMS.
“We want to try to foster a collaborative environment on the street.”
New WGBR Co-Chair Ready said that while getting the group together and making plans might take some time, he was confident the group would make a positive impact. “I’m excited to be a part of Barracks Row as it continues to move forward and evolve in a positive manner,” he said.
Johnson said that he welcomed an advisory board and would gladly pitch in to help, suggesting that larger businesses like the Hill Group could contribute financially while smaller businesses could contribute in other ways. “We want to add to the neighborhood, add to Eighth Street, add to the community, and we want to do that and make sure we don’t step on anybody’s toes.”
Ready said that the Commission’s Executive Assistant would contact area businesses to make arrangements for the first meeting where businesses would elect the WGBR co-chair, ideally to take place prior to the March 12th meeting of ANC 6B.
This story has been updated to include comments from BRMS ED Martin Smith.