If it has been a while since you walked or drove past the 1200 to 1400 blocks of H Street NE, you may find yourself doing a double take. The new vitality and energy on these once blighted blocks is remarkable.
It is a testament to the impact of the recently renovated Atlas Theatre – the nonprofit performing arts center at 1333 H Street NE that helped pave the way for private investment by entrepreneurs and seasoned business owners alike.
Patrick Stewart, Executive Director of the Atlas, says that “nearly every day staff from the Atlas are approached by a H Street resident or business owner and told that due to the Atlas renovation, noticeable improvement has already occurred. Residents feel safer, life is returning to the street, business has improved and an overall quality of life is returning.”
Patrick also notes however, that despite this progress it has been difficult to change people’s perception. “One of the most significant challenges we face is combating the negative perception of the Near Northeast community- fear of crime, lack of cleanliness, and transportation issues present the bulk of this challenge.”
In response, several business owners joined with the Atlas to create a Clean and Safe program- similar to the Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in the downtown areas, on a smaller scale. Today, there are seven participating businesses, including the Atlas, all of which are located along the 1200 to 1400 blocks of H Street NE.
The goal of this program is to confront these perceptions head-on by incorporating: (1) street cleaning several times a day along the corridor (2) concierge and security service at the Atlas and (3) a free shuttle bus service from Union Station to the Atlas on evening weekends.
Through these efforts, they hope to attract patrons from all over the city. LISC, through its partnership with State Farm, is supporting the Atlas Clean and Safe Program with a $25,000 grant. “State Farm is committed to meeting the needs of communities. Organizations such as LISC are essential to helping us identify the specific needs of a community like the Near Northeast neighborhood. We are pleased to partner with LISC in support of projects such as the Atlas Performing Arts Center to help make communities safer and stronger.” Mike Fernandez, Vice President, State Farm