Greater Greater Washington

Posts in category Public Spaces

Lousiana Avenue could get a protected bikeway

What's next for protected bikeways in DC? A few sections are in the works, including a connection from NoMA to Pennsylvania Avenue, a north-south bikeway downtown, and several other small connections as well as the next piece of the Metropolitan Branch Trail.


Area around Louisiana Avenue from the DC Bicycle Map.

At a recent meeting of the Bicycle Advisory Council, representatives of the District Department of Transportation announced that DDOT is working with the Architect of the Capitol and the ANC to extend the soon-to-be-completed protected bikeway on First Street NE from Union Station to the bikeway on Pennsylvania Avenue NW via Louisiana Avenue NE/NW.

The First Street NE extension to Union Station is almost done. Resurfacing will begin soon (if it's not already underway). After that, DDOT will install concrete blocks similar to those farther north.

When done, First Street will become a one-way street with a two-way protected bikeway where today motor vehicles are allowed to drive two directions for part of the road's length. The bikeway on this block will be two feet wider (10 feet) than on the sections farther north, as DDOT now views 10 feet as the minimum for such facilities. There will be a loading zone on the opposite side of the street.

DDOT has been meeting with the Architect of the Capitol, local Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, and Councilmember Charles Allen's staff to discuss extending the bikeway further south, along Louisiana Avenue, where it would connect to Pennsylvania Avenue via either First or Third streets.

Discussions are preliminary and no alternatives have been defined yet, but the response has been mostly positive. One potential roadblock is that the design will likely require removing parking along Louisiana. Parking is under the purview of the Senate's Sergeant at Arms, not the AOC, and they are concerned about the loss of parking. But if all goes well, work could begin next year.


Senate parking on Louisiana Avenue. Image from Google Maps.

A north-south bikeway through downtown

The East End Bikeway would be a mile-long north-south bikeway on the east side of downtown. Studies are continuing for this project. DDOT planners have collected data on traffic volume, parking, transit use, land use etc. They have also been reaching out to stakeholders, especially churches, to address concerns early.

They'd like to have a public meeting on it soon, perhaps September, and present alternatives. There will be choices about designs and about which street(s) to use.


Area around downtown from the DC Bicycle Map.

4th and 8th have been ruled out, but they may get bike lanes. On other streets, the options are a one-way protected bikeway on each side of the street; a bi-directional bikeway on one side; or a pair of one-way bikeways on adjacent streets such as 5th and 6th.

They hope to have the 30% design completed by the end of the year, with installation to start next spring.

What else?

DDOT has only installed about two miles of bike lanes so far this year. Bike planners have been busy filling small gaps. Those are nearly as much work as longer lanes, but with less mileage. Still, DDOT planners think they're critical pieces which will pay off.

They've installed a couple of small bike lane sections on 2nd and 3rd streets NE near Rhode Island Avenue; bike lanes and sharrows on 49th street NE; a pair of one-way bike lanes on Galveston and Forrester Streets SE; and one-block sections on 4th and 6th NE near Stanton Park. They plan to do the same thing on 11th and 13th near Lincoln Park too.

19th Street NE/SE on Capitol Hill got a bike lane and sharrows. This project was originally going to be a complete rebuild of the street, but became restriping only.


Area around the northern Met Branch Trail from the DC Bicycle Map.

Design and community outreach is underway on the north section of the Metropolitan Branch Trail. DDOT planners are meeting with community groups, taking soil borings near the trash transfer station and the Metro tunnel, and working on the 30% design, which they hope to complete this year. The stickier sections are where the trail crosses Riggs Road and the area near the Brookland Metro entrance. They hope to start construction in 2017.

Finally, DDOT and DPW are creating a snow clearing plan for bridges for next winter. Last year no one was responsible for the 14th Street Bridge so it wasn't cleared. They are trying to prioritize bridge sidewalks for clearing and then DPW and DDOT are dividing up responsibilities, so that every bridge will eventually get service.

A version of this post was originally posted on TheWashCycle.

Vacant for nearly a year, the White Flint Mall is falling apart. Take a video tour of the inside.

The White Flint Mall used to be one of the region's luxurious shopping centers, but all but a single store closed last year. This drone video explores the mall's now-decaying remains.

The video is by Mike Purks. It gives viewers a full tour, from the mall's overgrown outside and empty parking lots to its dust-covered elevator shafts and crumbling roofs.

Malls are closing all across the country, with consumers preferring to shop online and spend their leisure time in walkable, mixed-use areas rather than inside of enclosed retail environments. Though a Lord & Taylor store is still open there, the White Flint Mall is a symbol of how this is happening in our region.

The mall is slated for an ambitious redevelopment in the coming years, and it could serve as a blueprint for similar buildings facing the same changes.

Ice cream: your doctor may hate it, but your city loves it

Sunday is National Ice Cream Day, which is great for fans of cold desserts. But it's even better for urban places, because ice cream is a great tool for placemaking.


Moorenko's Ice Cream in Silver Spring. All photos by the author unless noted.

One of the best ways to create a busy, active sidewalk or plaza is by putting food there. Especially ice cream (or gelato, frozen custard, frozen yogurt, and so on). Why? People of all ages can enjoy it, and it's generally cheap enough that most people can afford to eat it.

Most importantly, ice cream melts. You have to consume your ice cream soon after buying it, meaning that people tend to linger outside of ice cream shops.

Of course, ice cream doesn't automatically make a place great. But it definitely helps. Here are a few tips from great ice cream stores and great places around the DC area and beyond.


Getting some frozen yogurt at FrozenYo.

Provide outdoor seating.

"Make your own" frozen yogurt places are a dime a dozen these days. But you'll always see people hanging out in front of FrozenYo in Columbia Heights. It's because there are lots of places to sit outside with your frozen yogurt, from tables and chairs to ledges and even a grassy lawn.

Have big windows.

Like any good storefront, ice cream shops benefit from big windows, which break down the barrier between inside and out. People inside still feel a connection to the street, while people on the street can see what's going on inside. And if there's ice cream inside, people are likely to come in.


Paleteria Fernandez in Port Chester, New York. I really want to go here now. Photo by June Marle on Flickr.

Dolcezza Gelato, which has locations in Logan Circle, Bethesda, and elsewhere does an especially great job of this. Their spin-off location in Fairfax's Mosaic District, Mom & Pop, is basically a glass box in a plaza, which makes for great people-watching whether you're inside or out.

Have a walk-up window.

I scooped my way through college working at Gifford's Ice Cream, the now-defunct local chain that began in Silver Spring in 1938. Customers could either come in through the door or at a walk-up window on the sidewalk. As Dan Malouff notes, walk-up windows give people walking by something to look at while putting more "eyes on the street," which deters crime. They're also great for people with dogs or strollers or anything that might be difficult to carry inside.

Keep it local.

Local shops like Gifford's, Dolcezza, or Moorenko's seem to be one of the few places a teenager can still get a summer job, which is a big deal for placemaking. Knowing the kids behind the counter gives their friends, parents, relatives, neighbors, teachers, and so on more reasons to visit, which builds community ties.

These rules work in suburban settings, too.

Creating street life can be challenging in suburban places where most people get around by car. But ice cream stands seem to be the exception.


Goodberry's in North Carolina. (Ask for the Carolina Concrete.

Goodberry's is a chain of frozen custard stands in Raleigh (and in Canberra, Australia) whose locations consist of walk-up windows in big parking lots. But there's also a little plaza closer to the street with some picnic tables. Even from a car, you can see the activity happening here, which draws people in.

Closer to home, Jimmie Cone in Damascus has a similar setup. As a result, fans call it "the closest you could get to having a local pub setting" in an otherwise dry town.

Together, these things can help to make a great place where people want to gather and have a good time. Ice cream isn't a necessity, but to mix food metaphors, you might call it the cherry on top. What's your favorite ice cream and placemaking experience?

Two downtown parking spots just became a new public park

What if we used the space we currently devote to parked cars for something else? DC's first seasonal parklet, a mini park that takes the place of street parking spaces, opened on Tuesday.


The parKIT at its ribbon cutting ceremony. All photos by the author.

Called parKIT, the parklet is at 2020 K Street NW. While DC has had many temporary parklets to celebrate Park(ing) Day, the ParKIT will be semi-permanent, staying around until October.


ParKIT is a joint venture between DDOT, the District Department of the Environment, architecture firm Gensler, and the Golden Triangle BID. Its yellow triangles are a nod to the BID.


At the ribbon cutting, DDOE Director Tommy Wells commended all those involved for their willingness to consider a different use for space traditionally reserved for parking—removing parking spaces is undoubtedly the most controversial part of creating parklets. If parKIT is successful, it might become easier to create other parklets around the region.

The Golden Triangle BID will hold events at the parKIT every Tuesday from noon until 2:00 pm, with the theme of "making the city."

This statue salutes just how thrilling riding a bike can be

Last year, a new statue went up in the City of Fairfax that captures the essence of why people love to bike.


"The Cyclist" by Larry Morris. Photo by the author.

The statue is at the corner of University Drive and Armstrong Street, by Fairfax City Hall. Part of a public arts initiative and designed by Larry Morris, it debuted around the time of the region's annual Bike to Work Day.

The sharp angles on the bike and rider, along with the rider's scary whipping in the wind, depict the ideal bike ride as a speedy and fun. The statue itself looks like chrome, which is both often associated with fast vehicles and helps emphasize how important visibility is for safety.


A real bike next to the statue. Photo by the author.

Here on Greater Greater Washington, we often note that supporting bike transit is smart policy; riding a bike is environmentally friendly, and it can relieve traffic congestion. What we don't always mention is just how much fun riding a bike is—after all, cyclists rank among the happiest commuters. Artwork like this can help communicate that message.

When DC's fish market comes ashore, it will re-create a historic food destination

The Maine Avenue Fish Market on the Southwest Waterfront, the oldest open-air seafood marketplace in America, was exiled offshore in 1960. There are now plans underway to expand it back onto land and expand its offerings beyond just seafood.


The renovated oyster shed in the foreground, along with a proposed distillery, and under-construction office building. Rendering by Hoffman-Madison Waterfront/McGraw Bagnoli Architects.

Today, the barges the market sits on hugs two piers that jut into the Washington Channel. Market vendors alternately look up or down upon their customers, depending on the tides. The piers will remain essentially untouched, but today's ragtag parking lot will be replaced with a "shared space" Market Square, stretching east to the newly installed stoplight at Maine Avenue.

Five small buildings and temporary kiosks on the square will house a variety of local food businesses. Closest to the piers, a pair of World War I-era structures built to shuck oysters will be become an oyster bar and dining patio. These new businesses could open as soon as spring 2017.


Perusing the fish market in 2006. Photo by Elvert Xavier Barnes Photography.

A pair of three-story buildings on its eastern side, near a 10-story office building with several restaurants, will house a rum distillery, a restaurant with wine bar, and a deli. Two additional single-story pavilions could house vendors selling sandwiches, coffee, bread, and flowers.

An additional pier, now under construction just east of the market, could provide room for four additional waterborne retailers. Market services like fish cleaning would move into a new building under the highway bridge. A quarter-acre of outdoor dining space will ensure that everyone can get a seat.

McGraw Bagnoli Architects, whose prior work includes the interior of Right Proper brewpub, designed the new structures.

Oyster shucking shed at the fish market
The oyster shed today. Photo by Payton Chung.

"By and large, we love the way it is," developer Monty Hoffman told the Washington Business Journal's Michael Neibauer. "We're embracing it and we plan to add more on the land side," as part of "repositioning it for the next generation."

Hoffman-Madison Waterfront holds a long-term lease on the market as part of its larger redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront. Next door is The Wharf, where nine blocks of mixed-use development are now under construction.

HMW filed the plans with the federal Commission on Fine Arts, which reviews developments along the waterfront and other scenic locations. The CFA applauded the plans for "maintaining the vitality and eclectic character of the beloved Maine Avenue Fish Market."

They also noted the fine line that the development faces in combining a messy, 200-year-old social institution, 100-year-old buildings, and shiny new buildings, and "cautioned against trying to recreate this random, energetic character in the architecture of the new buildings, which will inevitably result in a falseness made obvious by the authenticity of the existing context."

Yet expanding the fish market onto shore also honors its history. The site was once home to Eastern Market-style municipal market halls for fish and for produce. When those were demolished in 1960 along with the rest of the Southwest neighborhood, some of the fish vendors decamped to their boats, leasing dock space directly from the District—but, under federal law, selling only seafood. With this plan, the Maine Avenue market can come full circle and once again serve Washingtonians a complete meal.

Silver Spring is a more complete place thanks to its new library

Downtown Silver Spring's library opened just over a week ago, and it's more than just a building full of books. The new library is full of things that are there to help the community, like meeting spaces and a coffee shop and, in the future, a transit stop.


Residents at the new library's grand opening. Images by the author unless otherwise noted.

Downtowns and town centers are reemerging as increasingly important parts of their communities, and libraries are a big part of that. Parents, for example, can bring their kids during the day before hosting a book club meeting later that evening, and community leaders can use the space to host their meetings.


Meeting space at the library.

Libraries are also not strictly quiet places like they once were. Vibrancy and social connections are a big part of the library experience. You can meet friends, or have kids' play dates—here, you'd do that in the new "Early Literacy Center" on the 5th floor. If you do want the traditional solitude, you can go to a designated "quiet" room, where you can join students quietly typing on their laptops or visitors reading the newspaper.

The library's design puts community first

Why has Silver Spring's library become such a community focal point for residents? After the closure of Border's Books and the rather large Mayorga coffee shop, downtown Silver Spring was left few community gathering areas. Back in 2008, when it came time for the community to give input on the library, people knew they wanted an urban, community-friendly structure.

Among the items included a bulky pedestrian bridge that would connect the library to Silver Spring's main parking garage. Although the bridge concept was cancelled, the library's final plan actually included even more add-ons and amenities. For example, when residents learned that the new plan would include a coffee shop within the building, they raised over $53k to support the opening of a "second location" of the popular local Kefa Café, right inside the library's main entrance.


Kefa Cafe at the library.

In addition to a coffee bar, the library also features other unusual features such as the "Genius Bar" like reception desk, where patrons can check out an E-Reader or a laptop as well as get traditional research expertise from librarians.

Finally, the soon-to-open "Bonifant - Library Residences" will feature 149 mixed-income condos focusing on seniors that will also include 10,000 square feet of additional retail space directly next to the library.


Bonifant Library Residences image from Montgomery County.

This isn't the first time Silver Spring residents have come together to shape their community. Back in 1992, when Mall of America wanted to build the "American Dream" mega-mall in downtown Silver Spring, the residents rose up to fight the behemoth structure. What they wanted instead was community-focused development that truly represented the neighborhood. Today, the Silver Spring Library represents a legacy of this kind of community engagement and is a model for downtown libraries all over the nation.


A rendering of the Purple Line in front of the Silver Spring library. Image from Montgomery County.

The library will have its own Purple Line stop

The new Silver Spring Library has a host of features that aren't traditional for libraries.

For starters, a Purple Line stop is going to run through it, setting it up to become one of the first in the nation to include a built-in train station that will connect it to major regional transportation lines.


Purple Line route map from the Maryland Transportation Authority.

In the future, library patrons will be able to take the Purple Line directly to University of Maryland's campus for further research or take a quick ride to the Silver Spring Transit Center to connect to Metro lines.

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