Smart Growth Stories: City Councilmember Tommy Wells on creating great neighborhoods in Washington DC

Washington, DC’s neighborhoods have seen a huge resurgence in recent years, and nowhere in the city is this more visible than DC’s Ward 6.

Stretching from just north of Union Station south across Capitol Hill and down to the Anacostia River, Ward 6 has seen incredible neighborhood growth over the past decade. Neighborhoods like H Street Northeast – with indie music venues, hipster bars and avant garde restaurants – on the north side of Capitol Hill, and Barracks Row – with art galleries and fine dining – on the south side have been steadily gathering new residents and new businesses. Both are in Ward 6.

DC City Councilmember Tommy Wells represents Ward 6, and he has made neighborhoods the focus of his work.

“Great neighborhoods are not necessarily what we thought they were,” Wells says. “We used to think we divided ourselves in sections…you put schools over here, housing over here, stores over here. And what we found was that in order to get anywhere and to do anything, you had to get in your car…And the more that we lived in our cars and in this sort of a sectional, stove-piped community, the more we didn’t see each other.”

Wells gave a name to the type of lifestyle for which he advocates: “Five-minute living.” Being able to walk, bike or take public transit to one’s destination as opposed to driving further away offers innumerable benefits to the community, Wells says. It makes for healthier lifestyles, keeps money in the local economy and supports the growth of strong traditional neighborhoods.

In Ward 6, Wells has spent much of his time emphasizing the need to break down barriers to change and to better connect sections of the city.

“Smart growth has a lot to do with minimizing our impact on the environment, improving our quality of life and continuing to live in really a more responsible way as stewards of the planet we live on,” he says.

Download a full transcript of “Smart Growth Stories: City Councilmember Tommy Wells on creating great neighborhoods in Washington DC” (PDF)

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