Monday, July 21, 2014

Hampden-Woodberry: The Gold Standard of Walkability

I actually had no intention or idea I would be writing this article. I figured I would start this series by addressing areas I thought walkability or lack there of, would be the start. However, I took a walk around the area yesterday near the Light Rail Stop and up 41st St. all the way to the Rotunda and back. Well actually some that was journey was with the help of the Hampden Shuttle Bug. I couldn't help but realize how incredibly the walkable the Community is and how beautiful the area is as well. Hampden-Woodberry, I christen thee the Gold Standard of Walkability.
The history of Hampden-Woodberry is all around us. Most of the new development that has come to the pipeline recently actually hasn't been new at all. It has been the restoration of the Mills that were once the major Employers of the Mill Villages that would become Hampden-Woodberry. It wasn't until recently that the Mills were thought of as assets to the Neighborhood, in fact it was quite the contrary. The Mills were old blighted and boarded up.
36th St. or the Avenue was and still is the piece de resistance of Hampden. Woodberry seemed to be worlds away as it was not only west of Falls Road but also west of the JFX. It should be mentioned that before the JFXs construction, Hampden and Woodberry were seamlessly together. As the Avenue began breathing new life into Hampden, it seemed that the Light Rail Stop was worlds away. After all, it was in Woodberry which at the time was in the middle of nowhere and the Avenue was in Hampden. Of course the Light Rail Stop is just a few blocks away from the Avenue but given the "no man's land" status of the Light Rail Stop and that it was near the vacant mills, very few utilized it.
The Real reason the Light Rail Stop wasn't used by Hampdenites, was because it just wasn't that walkable. Given the fact that many new Residents in Hampden don't have cars and/or prefer walking, there had to be a way to connect the Light Rail Stop to the Avenue. It was then that the Shuttle Bug was conceived. The Shuttle Bug improved Hampden's walkability by immeasurable proportions. The Shuttle Bug runs through Hampden and Woodberry with stops on the main roads and intersections Hampdenites better access to the Light Rail Station, something that was lacking before hand. This also breathed new life into Hampden west of Falls Road still closer to the Light Rail Station. This made the walk under the JFX to get to the Light Rail Station and Woodberry a little less scary. 
As vacant row homes in Hampden began to be occupied again, the demand for housing, retail, and office space remained. There isn't much room for new construction so developers had to look at other options. They began to look at the possibility of rehabbing the old Mills that had provided employment the area for generations prior. The interest generated by rehabbing the Poole & Hunt Complex (renamed Clipper Mill) as mixed use sparked not only new construction on the site, but it allowed developers to pursue rehabbing other Mills in the area.
As the 2000s turned into the 2010s, Union Mill, Meadow Mill, Mount Vernon Mill 1&4, and Clipper Mill (the real one) were slated for reuse as mixed use development projects. This provided the much needed link between the Avenue and the Woodberry Light Rail Stop. This coupled with the Shuttle Bug gave Hampden its own Light Rail Stop. Although the distance between the Avenue and the Light Rail Stop hadn't changed, the only thing that had changed was its walkability. The rehabbing of the Mills created a welcoming environment full of life and lots of foot traffic all around the Light Rail Stop which encouraged more Residents to use the Light Rail Stop whether they walked there or took the Shuttle Bus. The Walkability is what ultimately reunited Hampden-Woodberry even with the JFX. 
When looking in the future to make more Neighborhoods or Neighborhood clusters walkable, look no further than Hampden-Woodberry, the Gold Standard.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Meadow Mill was reutilized well before Clipper Mill ever was. It's been offices, etc since 1992, when it was reutilized.