Monday, March 21, 2011, 3:34 PM Last Updated on Monday, March 21, 2011, 3:38 PM
For the past decade, Barracks Row Main Street has worked tirelessly to preserve and enhance Capitol Hill’s historic 8th Street, SE, commercial corridor and to revitalize its business community. The group’s focus is the five blocks of 8th Street that stretch south from Pennsylvania Ave S.E. to the terminus of 8th Street at the Washington Navy Yard along M Street, S.E. Barracks Row is located eight blocks east of the U.S. Capitol.
Barracks Row Main Street was chartered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street program in 1999. The Trust’s Main Street program is a coast-to-coast movement of over 1,200 State, regional, and local programs linked through preservation based strategies for revitalizing struggling commercial areas.
The charter for Barracks Row was granted by the National Trust to a group of Capitol Hill residents and business leaders who were concerned about the state of disrepair on 8th Street, SE, the oldest commercial corridor in the nation’s capitol. By 2003, a public - private partnership had been developed and funded along National Trust guidelines. Crumbling sidewalks were replaced with brick pavers. Dead trees were removed and disease resistant American Elms were planted in their place. Cobra-head, high intensity streetlights were replaced with historic, black-iron “Washington Globes.”
In 2006 Barracks Row Main Street won the prestigious “Best Main Street in America” award for excellence. Since then the three blocks of the corridor located north of the freeway have flourished with a new found identity as a restaurant and shopping destination.
Recent Barracks Row Main Street programs have focused on the two block area south of the I-295 freeway. This area, known as Lower 8thStreet, has not shared in the prosperity enjoyed by the three blocks north of the freeway. Madison Marquette, which owns the largest building in Lower 8th Street, the old car barn known as the “Blue Castle,” hopes to turn the site into a major retail center.
In December 2010 the National Community Church purchased several parcels along Virginia Ave at 8th St. The Church’s preliminary plans call for a mixed use development which includes a coffee house, and a performance space. Further private development plans include the opening of a beer garden in 2011 to attract the large number of Washington Nationals fans who frequent the area during baseball season.
Barracks Row Main Street is a designated DC Main Streets commercial district. Barracks Row Main Street is funded in part by the Department of Small and Local Business Development.