Until 2010 almost no public groups/meetings in Germantown were talking seriously and consistently about zoning, or trying to inform residents of proposed changes. Here is one piece of many about the major fight in G'town against a developer which brought lots of different groups together in 2011: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/component/flexicontent/item/26417-lets-keep-the-chelten-plaza-negotiations-in-perspective. While we didn't 'win' the war, we cost the developer well over a million dollars, and at the same time grew more cohesive as a community. I have a particular comitment to trying to improve the Chelten Corridor as so many passersby back then implored us to do so.
As one of two main business streets, people want to see this corridor thriving and more of a destination. As a central corridor, it's struggling decayed appearance...doesn't speak well to our otherwise beautiful and historic architecture and community.
The Planning Commision has produced a plan for improving it based on two community meetings. (My favorite idea from those meetings was to aim for an art deco feel. It could unite the historic buildings with the artsy elements of G'town (http://www.pinterest.com/robyntevah/public-bench-and-planter-designs/ ). I have posted my responses to the Planning Commisions presentation on Chelten, which includes many thoughts on the corridor. (See bottom of page)
Germantown United now has funding for a corridor manager; The GSSD has been making great progress cleaning the streets; Aine Doley and TreeGermantown have planted new trees. But much more needs to be done. (Parking Day can be fun, but otherwise it's not a place many people come together (if they're not waiting) to sit and socialize. We really need a center/hub where diverse groups of people fromm across Germantown want to gather. Feel free to comment on the forum page, or send me an article if you want it posted.)
Along with Yahne Ndgo Baker, I was the major organizer on the street level opposed to Burn's plans for Chelten Plaza and getting people to the hearing. As well as going door to door on both sides of Chelten, I spent a lot of hours on the pavement talking to whoever walked by about what they wanted to see on Chelten. (All the extensive legal work was obviously done by Yvonne and other lawyers.) I chaired the Committee Concerned with Chelten, which while technically a WCGN committee, was from the beginning totally open to, and included a balance of people from other neighborhoods. While we formed because we didn't think GCC was keeping the community sufficiently involved or informed, I kept in touch with members of the design committee, such as Chris Mandel. We had a good discussion on a rubric for assessing the progress of design negotiations with the developer. I also sent Irv Ackelsburg my suggestions for a CBA. In the end, he too wrote a critical letter about what GCC could have achieved and didn't with largely similar concerns.
I do my best to differentiate what is my opinion, versus what I heard from others, because the kind of organizing I do aims includes all local stakeholders and my job in getting to people together is not to push my own agenda. Newsworks ran many articles about meetings I set up and ran, but at my request my name was often not in them as I wanted to model a less egocentric, less top-down style of organizing than I had seen sometimes in Germantown. Community organizing to me is about empowering people.
Germantown is the best community I've ever lived in, so that's where I spend almost all my energy. It's very exciting to live here at this juncture. While some were originally hostile at the suggestion that proper planning for re-vitalization needed to also consider the potential pitfalls of gentrification, there is now mostly positive discussion, and GU organized a forum in 2014 which I provided some resource flyers for.