The following is an edited contribution by John W. Euill, III. John is a 34 year-old resident of the Cool Spring neighborhood in Adelphi. He takes classes at UMUC and frequents Rt. 1 everyday. Thanks, John.
I’m excited to hear about developments such as East Campus coming to the area. I feel they are long overdue. I think the area’s college town feel will be enhanced while also making it a destination for the region. I do have one concern, that there will be no consideration for the live arts. What gives many urban destinations their appeal and draw are their ability to support the live arts. For example, Georgetown, U Street, Silver Spring (future site of Birchmere), and Alexandria.
We have an arts district within walking distance, a high school with an arts component (Northwestern), and a college campus where a good portion of its population appreciates the arts. I feel it would be a big misfortune to have an arts district a mile down the road and not have any venues where local and international artists can perform. What good is it to have an arts district nearby if all of the artists residing in it have to leave town to perform?
We have a good start with the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on the UMD campus. But is there consideration for a jazz club or a small music hall somewhere off campus? Perhaps even a comedy club would break up the residential/retail mix. Most people have shops to go to in their own neighborhoods – mostly all of the national retail chains. What most people don’t have are places to go to hear a good local band or a national headliner, or to see their favorite comedian live. Who says that stuff needs to be in downtown DC only?
Having a Cheesecake Factory here may be great. But people can go to other areas for that. It won’t draw them here. On the other hand, if they see in the paper that their favorite jazz artist or comedian is performing in College Park, guess what? That brings them here. Then they eat and shop here before or after the performance. They bring their friends here the next time. Then they shop and eat here. East Campus becomes a draw for people outside of the area and it gets recognized in the media. People will come if there’s enough incentive.
Georgetown has its Blues Alley. U Street has its many venues for live music and even a theater house. Alexandria (and soon Silver Spring) has The Birchmere. What will we have? Just places to shop and eat? I’m sure studies have shown that you attract a certain demographic if there are live arts in the area. Could there be a study provided that shows statistics on how live arts venues affects an area? Many great universities have a nice assortment of live arts nearby: UC Berkley, U of Chicago, NYU, Georgetown, Howard, etc. We have the opportunity to be named among them not only for academics, but an exciting place to live and visit. Let’s not waste that chance.