Friday, July 07, 2006

DC's Only Bohemian Neighborhood?

...well, at least according to an advertisement in this week's City Paper. The ad, which refers to the Atlas District (the arts & entertainment strip that runs from the 1200 block of H Street to the Starburst Intersection at 15th) for the Red & the Black, the Palace of Wonders, & the Argonaut. The ad also mentions the complementary shuttle service (you call when you need a ride), which is pretty useful for getting your friends who don't live in the neighborhood home at the end of the night. But I suspect that someone is not entirely pleased with the ad because it seems when you look at it that all roads lead to one place & that place is the Argonaut. Visitors to Palace of Wonders & the Red & the Black should head to 1210 & 1212 H Street Respectively, not 1433 H Street (the Argonaut's address).


Richard Layman said...

You beat me to blogging about this. Something you didn't comment on, something that bugs the s*** out of me, is the labeling of those three blocks (yes, I caught the address error, but did you notice the Red & Black ad on the adjoining page, with the correct address) ... the Atlas District.

Just like I never refer to the National Airport as the Ronald Reagan National Airport, I will never refer to those three blocks as the "Atlas District," and I think the arts-based revitalization down there is the greatest thing since decayed and boarded up buildings...

I think that the Atlas Performing Arts Center is great, and so is the H Street Playhouse, and so is R&B, and so are the Englert-based places, etc.

But Atlas District? Maybe H Street East Edge or something. I still like my idea of Northside for the area (north and east of the U.S. Capitol, north of Capitol Hill, north and east of Union Station), which I came up with in the spring of 2002.

For identity development resources, check out this article: Becoming West Edge: Branding Gives a Nameless Neighborhood an Identity which is an open access article from the National Main Street Center.

Anonymous said...

I love you--so hear me out on why we are referring to H street as the Atlas District.
My cousin is deaf and a one-time student at Galludet. Whenever I asked her to meet me on H--she always thought I told her to go to 8th street. And not only was she confused. People in my neighborhood (Cleveland Park) have no idea where my new places are. And I don't think "near Union Station" is good enough of a description. Also, to many people around town, H street means Chinatown. This is an attempt to make it known to the uninitiated where we are. Maybe Atlas will stick. Maybe it won't. We are open to any and all suggestions on how to get people to seek us out. The market, all of H Street and so many places around the neighborhood are great--they really should be visited by more people from other parts of town
As always, Richard your opinions are great and valued. Help us come up with something better. Any suggestions are welcomed--and maybe "Northside" will stick Thanks for all your great thoughts and comments through the years-

Joe Englert

Anonymous said...

I like Atlas District. Simple and easily identifiable since the Atlas Theatre is nearby. Besides, the Atlas will soon become the largest draw for that area once it opens up.

Anonymous said...

More than anything, I just want SOMETHING to stick, but I do like Atlas District. I might occasionally prefer "Atlas Arts District" to give it useful context for just one extra syllable.

The 8th/H confusion is indeed a problem, especially when talking to people on the hill.
Northside doesn't do it for me, since more than 70 percent of the city is North of the capitol, and I don't know how one infers that you mean "east of Union Station" by saying "Northside."

Anonymous said...

capitol hill north? NO-CAP?

starburst arts district? (for the h/benning/maryland/bladensburg intersection)

northeast arts district? (what other arts district could we be confused with in NE?)

just some ideas.

RL, if some DC neighborhoods are named after local parks, why not name a district after a different type of landmark, here being a playhouse? Is it because the Atlas is privately owned?

Is there some historical nickname for the H Street corridor? Perhaps a historical corridor name could be revived.

- Alan

Anonymous said...

i have another one...

renaissance arts district

has appeal to multiple demographics, i think (fans of both the european renaissance and the harlem renaissance can dig it). how multi-culti is that?


- Alan

Anonymous said...

Since this has turned into a discussion thread on area name preferences, here are my thoughts:

General area N of H Street:
Capitol Hill North
--I think this area should be linked with Capitol Hill, because of so many shared issues--and H Street runs through it. Also, it is easily identifiable and is consistent with Capitol Hill East
--I definately do NOT like "So-Flo"--this name has been floated in the past and is just awful (IMO)

Arts District:
I kind of like Atlas District or Atlas Arts District. Very descriptive, and like the anonymous Alan, why not--there is Stanton Park, etc.

Although I agree with Richard on some things, area nicknames do need to be fairly descriptive and can't be such a mouthfull like "H Street East Edge"--otherwise, people will not know what area is being referred to, or will not use the name.



Anonymous said...

I've been calling it "Cap Valley" lately and I kinda like it. H st is the valley area between Capitol Hill and why not.

"Cap Valley"

Anonymous said...

btw, different Alan, in case anyone was wondering... :)

Richard Layman said...

I am not against private enterprise. And Joe, you know I love you too--you're a rare guy (with way more good ideas than I have myself, and I used to think I had plenty).

Atlas just doesn't do it for me. E.g., think about other examples: in Pittsburgh Penn Avenue Arts District and 16:62 Design Zone, East Carson Street Main Street also called South Side; in Baltimore the neighborhood and arts district is called Highlandtown, not Creative Alliance at the Patterson (the theater was once the Patterson), and while I don't like this one so much, there is the Station North Arts District around Penn Station (they should have just called in Penn Station arts district), in Columbus, OH, you have the Short North arts district, in PG County, the "Gateway Arts District," or you have neighborhood monikers such as the Gaslamp District in San Diego.

I have never been pleased with "Near Northeast" because it doesn't mean anything. And I hate SoFlo, because it takes its identity from something that has little relevance to the neighborhood that is South of Florida, Florida Avenue--sorry Elise--is pretty irrelevant to the daily life of people who live south of it. So it's just not a significant or authentic identifier.

Fortunately, I don't seem to hear this one much anymore.

Atlas District, for whatever reason, does nothing for me, not one thing. And I love Jane Lang as much as I love Joe Englert, although I probably love the Robeys a tad more than either of you...

Plus, I love theaters, and I love art deco (in fact, I just had a hand in the successful designation of another Zink-designed theater in Brookland a couple months ago)

It just seems manufactured to me.

Saying that, I have to say the same thing about "East Edge." Northside seems more legit to me.

But, as we have seen with the uproar over "Little Ethiopia," neighborhood name changing is contentious and takes time. (I discussed this in the blog entry One reason why I think the Gentrification word is over- and mis-used

Anyway, only one word is really necessary after that. Joe, CONGRATULATIONS!

inked said...

I don't have strong feelings one way or the other about about the Atlas District (but it is kind of a cool name). If we're going to use it, could we get some kind of rendering of the big guy with the globe?
I hate the SoFlo thing. I don't understand how Northside is any better than Near Northeast (actually I kind of think it's worse). Just please stop refering to Trinidad (and some people do, though they are mostly realtors) as Capitol Hill North. Trinidad is a much cooler name. Also, did you know that the area right around the intersection of Montello/Florida/12th/K Street is actually (historically) called Five Points? I think that one's a keeper as well.

Anonymous said...

Atlas District is easy to say and there is an easily identifiable physical landmark in the Atlas marquee. The name also refers to the area as being an arts district. And the Atlas renovation is a big reason for the neighborhood's redevelopment.

Richard Layman said...

Actually the Strategic Development Plan is arguably more important.

Jane would say that had that plan not moved forward and been finished, demonstrating the city's commitment to improvement in the neighborhood, that she couldn't have garnered the kinds of financial commitments that she was able to wangle.

Frankly, if the Robeys hadn't stepped forward with the "Atlas Theater Project" in 2000 -- they were blown off by the H Street CDC, and they went on to create their own project, the H Street Playhouse, it's very likely nothing would have happened.

The Robeys created the opening that forced the Atlas out of mothballing, and put it in play.

The Robeys would admit that they probably couldn't have pulled off the fundraising required for the Atlas, but they deserve recognition for getting people "off the pot" so-to-speak.

I like Northside better than Near Northeast, at least it is a geographically-based identifier using things that are identifiable to play off of, but I admit that it's not as sexy as "Short North Arts District"... or calling a development at 3rd and L Street NE "The New Yorker."

Sean Hennessey said...

i like the "atlas district". to me it sticks.

references to the cardinal directions seem to focus on what the neighborhood is in relation to, rather than about the area itself.

plus its kinda dull, like station north in baltimore.

starburst would be cool though.

Anonymous said...

The Atlas District rules

Anonymous said...

not liking the capitol hill connotation-leave that for the realators, but i like the "valley" suggestion.
how about Atlas Alley. Or Atlas Arts Alley. with the atlas, the argonaut, there are a lot of A's going on.

Anonymous said...

All these ideas are fine, but the Atlas District is probably the best, and it was has 'leggs', so I think it should stick.

Anonymous said...

How 'bout The AutoZone, at least until the streetcar arrives?

Anonymous said...

I kinda like Cap Valley or the Atlas Arts Valley.

Although not as pronounced as Rock Creek, you definitely notice the hills up from H St on a bike.

In recent years, a trip to H St from the surrounding neighborhoods could seem like a long uphill climb because of crime and other quality of life issues. A trip to H St seems longer and more arduous than a similar trip to Pennsylvania Ave SE or Barracks Row, even covering the same distance and time.

Let's reverse the mental geography and go down to the valley!

Anonymous said...

If the "Atlas" nickname is shrugged, everyone is welcome to my own personal synaptic misfire: "The Hache".

"Hache" (pronounced ah-che, with stress on the first syllable) is the Spanish name for the letter "H". Try it out loud.

I think this keeps popping into my head because of that Dodgeball movie joke about ESPN 8, "The Ocho".

Oddly enough, the Spanish phrase "llamale hache" (literally, "call it H") translates as "Call it what you like, it's all the same."

Anonymous said...

It seems like some cities re-name their bohemian areas after what was the main prior activity (e.g., Manhattan's Meatpacking District, New Orleans' Warehouse District).

Given the number of beauty parlors and barber shops on H St--as well as my favorite banner for "Human Hair Sale"--we might dub H St "The Wig District".

Anonymous said...

The Atlas District and Capital Valley are both great names. The former could refer to the arts district whereas the latter could be the entire neighborhood. But let's try to avoid the problem they have in Chinatown/Gallery Place/Penn Quarter -- many names for the same neighborhood.

Regarding the previous commenter, the main product for sale on H was drugs, not wigs. So maybe we could call it Smacktown. (That's not a very PC joke, so forgive me if you're offended.)

Anonymous said...

Although I like the Atlas Arts District; Atlas District and Capital Valley, I too am concerned about having many names for the same location.

What areas would be included in the proposed Atlas District/Atlas Arts District? If it's only the 1200-1500 blocks of H street then I'm opposed.

How about: The Corridor; Northside Corridor; Capitol/H Corridor or even Atlas Arts Corridor. For some reason -- I'd like the entire H Street represented.

Anonymous said...

how about Crackton from the Simpson's

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone I am a realtor and we refer to H street from 2nd to 14th as the H street corridor. I think there is no point in splitting up the street by refering to 1200-1400 as one name and the rest another. Even if you look at the governments plans they refer to the entire H street stretch as the H street corridor. I understand there is H street in chinatown but that is Northwest and people refer to it as China Town. It has been China town for many years. I dont understand why people are suggesting the name "near northeast" because we are in northeast not near it. Just like U street is known as U street and not the Lincoln district because of the lincoln theather, why not just keep it as it has always been H street NE or the H street corridor.

Anonymous said...

i have to second crackton.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the District's plan cuts the street up so that the first few blocks are the "urban living" area, the next is the "retail," and finally, the 1200, 1300 and 1400 blocks are the "arts and entertainment" area.

Anonymous said...

The Capital Valley Corridor, the Atlas Arts District, the Five Points Art District, Northside Wigland all seem fine to me though I'm not so crazy about Smacktown...I'll have to see it on stationary first.

Anonymous said...

anything is better than 'soflo'and 'noma' and all those other ones that try to sound newyorkey and cool but fail miserably. I too rather like Atlas, though Starburst is fun. Starburst-Atlas?? though those ar both heavily weighted toward the east end of H. H-Town ;)?

richard, you are full of great ideas- but Northside is just not doing it for me.

Anonymous said...

I've seen several opinions that I actually like.

Capitol Valley has a nice ring because H St NE really does form a valley from Capitol Hill.

I like Atlas District simply because it has a nice ring to it. But I understand the concerns with this name regarding labeling too specific an area.

Starburst is just plain cool. It's my favorite of the ones expressed so far. Problem is, I can't logically state why this name doesn't present the same issue as Atlas, namely, labeling too specific of an area. But for some reason, it just doesn't. I'd vote for it.

Names like North Side, Near Northeast, SoFlo, or other such, as someone put it, [allegedly]newyorkey names, don't do it for me.

But what about Bohemia? There's an article atop our messages which refers to the "Bohemian" culture developing along H Street NE. Why not call it Bohemia?

Unknown said...

DC seems to be dying of overly descriptive neighborhood names.

The Metro naming conventions that try to make it look like there's a Metro near you (!) aren't helping. (U Street has the longest Metro station name on the planet, I bet.) I would prefer new stations in the actual neighborhoods.

Having lived in other cities, there's nothing really wrong with names within names. So having Atlas inside The Hache (love that) actually helps to be more precise about where something is.

Long names are generally a horrid idea. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport just trips off the tongue.

"Atlas Arts District" sounds like a marketing gimmick, not a neighborhood. Besides, what happens when all the artists move to Anacostia? The Atlas District isn't bad.

"The H Street Corridor" sounds like something you want to leave as soon as possible.

Capitol Gulch or Union East sound like real places, with a suggestion that it's not exactly where you'd park your grandmother. Anything with "wig" would get lots of press.

With all due respect to the various posters...

Saying "H Street" does conjure up visions of Chinatown, not H Street NE. H & 8th makes it worse.

"Near Northeast," which I'm not fond of, doesn't mean "near" in the close-to sense, but in the closer in (as opposed to farther out) sense. Sounds boring in any event.

Anyway, I love the embryo that is the neighborhood. Give it a great name!