H Street Main Street, Washington, DC

2013 Great American Main Street Award

Washington, District of Columbia

Award Type: GAMSA

The Numbers, Over 11 Years

  • Main Street began: 2002
  • Population: 601, 723
  • Net new jobs: 1579
  • Net new businesses: 140
  • Building rehabs: 189
  • New buildings: 6
  • Housing units: 1332
  • Vacancy rate when Main Street started: 30%
  • Vacancy rate now: 2%

Read the official press release

Visit the website: www.hstreet.org

In Their Own Words

H Street Main Street is a Great American Main Street Award winner for our work in adapting the Main Street Four Point Approach® to work in an urban and predominately African-American neighborhood. We have proved that, with a few changes, the Approach can be quite successful. We use a less formal committee structure and rely more on constantly-changing work groups. Most volunteers identify more with projects than with the organizational structure.

Other adaptations include a strong central leader and extensive public support. Anwar Saleem was a founder of H Street Main Street and became the executive director in 2006. We are proud that he has been able to help other Main Street programs through the National Trust for Historic Preservation. We have relied strongly on support from the municipal government to launch this revitalization effort. Because so much of the demolition of historic H Street NE was publicly funded, we needed more help to overcome that legacy. The leadership and funding from the District of Columbia was instrumental in our success.

H Street NE is nationally recognized as a valuable historic place – one of the last intact “riot corridors.” Our program has managed a complex revitalization effort to save H Street NE as an authentic place and garnered much national media coverage for our work. The effort has succeeded and been faster than anyone expected. This revitalization effort is an important case study in how to use historic preservation to save African-American neighborhoods.

They're Not Done Yet

Q: What are your district’s strategic initiatives for the next five years?

A: Our work is far from over. Infill projects on the sites cleared during earlier revitalization efforts will be built over the next five years to replace a five-story public storage facility and a strip shopping center. We have established productive relationships with the developers of both projects to help them understand the importance of neighborhood-serving retail. This is a key complement of a self-sufficient neighborhood. Events such as our new Retail Summit and retail market information compiled this summer will connect entrepreneurs with developers. We also want to continue our support of African-American entrepreneurs so that our future is always rooted in our past. Locally-owned and unique stores will complete our vision of the community. We do not want to see H Street NE become an urban outpost of suburban national chains.

Finishing the street car line and continuing to advocate for minimal disruptions to the businesses in its path is also a priority. We hope that it will be completed in 2015 but this project has been complex. Improving the transit options for shoppers and residents is also a high priority. Walking to stores and services is a high priority. We want to turn all the pedestrians into transit riders by connecting their neighborhood to the Washington subway system. H Street Main Street has always advocated for increased density along H Street NE but not at the expense of our great architecture. We value historic preservation as an important economic development tool.