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‘Shining Star’ Is H Street’s New Director

The popularity and cleanliness of H Street Northeast is sure to improve, the new leader of a group hoping to revitalize the area said last week.

“Most people who live on the street don’t even know what it’s about,’’ said Tomika Hughey, the new executive director of H Street Main Street, a group working to both retain current businesses along the corridor and recruit new businesses. “Residents have waited 30 years for something to happen and it’s time.”

Hughey, who holds a master’s degree in planning from Florida State University and a bachelor’s degree in finance from Howard University, was named executive director last Monday. She was chosen from a pool of more than 20 applicants from around the country.

“She has a lot of energy and really stands out,” said Anwar Saleem, chairman of the group’s commercial district revitalization effort. He added that Hughey was a “shining star” during the interview process when she was asked to interact with several business owners along the corridor.

H Street Main Street is one of five recipients of the city’s Main Streets program, which is a partnership between the District of Columbia and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The H Street group will receive $80,000 during the first year of the program. The project focuses on H Street between Second and 15th streets Northeast.

The Main Street approach focuses on promotions, economic restructuring, design and building organizational capacity.

Hughey, who was raised in Los Angeles, was selected last year as an “emerging preservation leader” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. While there, she learned about different initiatives to revitalize neighborhoods.

She said H Street needs to be a vehicle for both merchants and residents to prosper.

“I want to help the businesses that are currently there and bring new businesses there,” Hughey said, adding that she will be assisting the H Street Main Street Promotions Committee to develop a current business directory that includes a map of everything on H Street.

Hughey also said the group will work with the Metropolitan Police to ensure the corridor is a clean and safe place for families to live and work.

Hughey recently was the coordinator for the re-election campaign of D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams (D). An area resident, she also serves on the H Street Revitalization Study Steering Committee, which is coordinated by the D.C. Office of Planning.

“She can really contribute to this community,” Saleem said. “People have to believe who they are talking to, and she already has a great rapport with the people who live here.”

Before riots in the late 1960s, the H Street corridor was a bustling street and home to the District’s first Sears department store, as well as several entertainment venues and retail shops.

“I want to capitalize on the cultural history of the H Street corridor,” said Hughey, adding that 30 years ago, the area was the No. 2 shopping district in the D.C. area. “The area has just not been promoted at all.”

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