• Olney

Strategies for revitalizing North 5th Street

The North 5th Street commercial district in Olney is continually in flux, its mix of niche retail and services evolving to reflect the shifting population of new immigrants and long-term residents that live in the community. Merchants along this eclectic commercial corridor offer glimpses (and tastes) of cultures from around the globe – the Caribbean, South and Central America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. But while the mixed use commercial corridor is unique in its multilingual landscape and its diversity of goods and cuisines, it suffers today from negative perceptions that prevent the local community from fully supporting its retail and restaurants.

The North Fifth Street Revitalization Project, a program of the Korean Community Development Services, hired Interface Studio to develop ideas for how to bring the diverse community together around a common vision for the future of 5th Street with the goal of strengthening this still busy commercial corridor and restoring its role as a gathering place for all people in Olney. This included addressing cultural barriers and limited awareness among potential visitors and customers due to the lack of a cohesive identity and marketing of the district.

Since the completion of the plan, North Fifth Street Revitalization Project has been busy implementing strategies, including launching a website, organizing a food tour and self-guided brochure, and actively embracing the "Global is Local" marketing campaign.

Olney is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the city. 

  • Olney
  • Race and Ethnicity in Olney
  • Foreign Born
  • Language

An unconventional approach to community engagement was needed.

Given the challenges of working in a multicultural and multilingual community, Interface Studio relied heavily on graphic communication to spread word of the process, elicit input, and develop a logo that would speak to everyone regardless of language or background. Interface Studio designed a process that invited concerned residents, merchants, customers, service providers, and community leaders to share their dreams and priorities for the commercial district. The highlight of the process was a two-day sidewalk open house that caught shoppers and residents in the course of their daily routine and invited them to weigh in on the future of 5th Street.

  • Pop-up meeting
  • Mobile survey tool
  • Branding the district
  • 5th and Roosevelt
  • Public art on the corridor
  • Proposed bump outs