For the time being, Clarendon is the place to be. It’s an urban village with plenty of restaurants, retail and rendezvous – and one organization aims to keep it that way.
The Clarendon Alliance, which works to promote businesses in “Arlington’s original downtown commercial district,” recently hired a new executive director who knows a thing or two about sustaining commercial fortitude. Matt Hussmann joined the alliance as its executive director over the summer, and is settling into the role.
“I’ve been doing downtown and commercial district revitalization work basically my whole career,” he said.
Hussmann comes to the position with experience in public space management for downtown Washington.
“We chose Matt because of his experience with the type of groups and communities that he’s worked in,” said Tom Petty, president of the Clarendon Alliance board. “He’s experienced in running business districts and commercial retail districts. He comes to the job as a professional in that field.”
Before coming to Clarendon, Hussmann acted as the director of a partnership society in British Columbia. But, after hearing about the opening at the alliance, the former Arlington resident seized the opportunity to return in the Washington metro area.
“We’ve always loved the D.C. area, so my wife and I decided to move back,” he said.
Clarendon is “a great district. There’s all the potential in the world,” he said.
So far, as executive director, Hussmann has been tasked with creating a strategic three- to five-year plan, as well as helping to coordinate Clarendon Day. He’s also been reviewing the alliance’s membership policies and goals, Petty said.
After he gets his feet wet, the alliance, its members and those on the board, will look to Hussmann as someone who can “bring us to the next level,” board member Dale Roberts said.
“(Clarendon) is the place to be right now, but in five years… Just maintaining what we currently have isn’t going to do it,” he said.
“We can no longer think of ourselves as the little neighborhood anymore. Clarendon is that urban village, if you will, that everyone’s been working toward. Now we have to maintain that and keep things moving.”
Hussmann already seems up for that challenge.
“In my business, I’ve learned it’s not the sort of business where you can say, ‘OK, I’m done,’ ” Hussmann said. “If you’re not making improvements, you’re sliding back. We’ve got to keep our foot on the gas.”
As a starting point, Hussmann said it would be important to “communicate locally and regionally about everything we’ve got here.”
“Clarendon has really turned into a regional destination, and we have to market broadly,” he said.
In the weeks he’s been on the job, one of Hussmann’s immediate projects has been planning the annual Clarendon Day, which is held in the fall.
“Pulling together that event will be one of my immediate challenges,” he said. “It was a great event in the past and it’s going to be great again this year.”
Roberts said some alliance members were worried Hussmann didn’t have enough of a “connection” to Clarendon, but added he doesn’t think that will be a problem.
“That’s something you develop, and the board is made up of people who represent Clarendon,” Roberts said.
Roberts himself is a business owner in town, having operated the for 16 years.
Hussmann also will tackle growing the alliance’s membership.
“He definitely has his work cut out for him,” Roberts said.
“The enthusiasm he has is great.”