Ward 5 in Northeast D.C. has long been home to vacant warehouses and empty lots, but a new city task force has been directed to develop a strategic plan for these industrial areas.
The 13-member task force was formed by Mayor Vincent Gray and will be led by Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie.
It's an interesting partnership between Gray and McDuffie given the councilmember's frequent opposition to the District government's use of industrial land to park buses and DPW vehicles near residential neighborhoods.
At the event launching this task force, there was a delicate balancing act. Celebratory, but cautious.
Gray and McDuffie announced their Industrial Land Transformation Task Force at Union Market, pointing to it as a model for development in Ward 5 and already a shopping destination.
The task force will identify similar areas for future retail growth, especially along busy corridors like Florida and New York Avenues.
D.C. Planning Director Harriet Tregoning says industrial land is inherently less expensive and more adaptable.
"I think it's the real difference in the price of real estate and the price of rents," Tregoning says. "And the excitement of being in an area that's rapidly changing and on the rise."
It's unclear what the task force might recommend regarding the Ivy City neighborhood, where residents are fighting the government plan to stage charter buses around the dilapidated Crummell School.
"There's a lot of area that has to be looked at," Gray says. "Ivy City will be looked at in the course of that. I don't want to preempt any conclusions that they may reach after their study."
But McDuffie says he's hopeful this task force can change how the D.C government thinks about industrial land.
Industrial land accounts for less than five percent of the District's land area, but McDuffie says 70 percent of it is located in Ward 5. And he's optimistic that the task force could make a difference, diversifying the District economy, providing jobs, and bringing much-needed amenities to Ward 5 residents.