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Public Spaces

Breakfast links: More pedestrians there, more cars here

Midtown Manhattan's Broadway to go pedestrian-only: Times Square and Herald Square are some of the nation's most crowded outdoor spaces. Diagonal Broadway jams up traffic on Sixth and Seventh Avenues, by taking away traffic signal time from the avenues. Yesterday, New York announced an innovative solution: close Broadway to traffic in these areas. Pedestrians may finally have enough room, and it'll actually reduce car delays. (Tips: Greater Greater Dad, Robert H.-D., Andrew K., and others.)

Future pedestrianized Broadway in NYC. Image from Streetsblog.

Go blogs! Yesterday's Broadway announcement is also a huge win for Streetsblog, the New York City Streets Renaissance Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, and other advocates who have persuaded the NYC government to completely transform its approach to transportation. A Wednesday segment about the future of news on NPR's Marketplace mentioned the rapid rise of small, online-only news operations focused on city government, local politics, and development.

T4A launches platform: The national Transportation For America coalition officially launched their platform on Capitol Hill today. It calls for this fall's transportation bill (TEA) to fund a 21st-century network that allocates transportation dollars based on objectives, like lowering carbon emissions and ensuring economic access, rather than set amounts for highways and (much smaller amounts) for transit.

PG neighbors debate highway widening, light rail: Residents of Temple Hills, Clinton and Brandywide debated widening Route 5 south of the Beltway. Some residents are eager for the widening, while others don't want the sprawl it will bring to southern Prince George's and counties to the south; some are pleased about the county's proposed light rail corridor, while others worry about the development that could result. (Gazette)

Reject a bungalow, get a skinny box: A developer built a 12-foot-wide modernist house on a lot in Arlington after neighbors rejected a zoning variance to put two bungalows in the place of one.

Up in Montgomery-land: The new Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville will be much worse for walkers (JUTP) ... The debate over Falkland Chase continues (Gazette) ... JUTP's Dan Reed and some friends encountered a Rockville leasing agent who said they "don't look like [they] could afford to live here" (Diamondback Online)

And: The Historic Preservation Review Board approved the revised design for the Whitman-Walker redevelopment project at 14th and S (CSNA) ... Metro has started layoffs (Examiner) ... the Senate passed the voting rights bill, with an amendment repealing DC's gun laws, but which will probably come out in conference. (Post, City Paper) ... The Virginia House rejected a bill to give residents the right to dry clothes on clotheslines.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Big hurrah for the NYC plan. They were closing Park Ave on weekends too--I wonder if they're still doing that?

Here in DC I used to lament the closing of Pennsylvania Ave, and I still think it was done for the wrong reasons, but when I walk out there I don't think it is a uniformly horrible idea.

by Omari on Feb 27, 2009 9:35 am • linkreport

I like the skinny house . . . too bad that's what he ended up having to do.

Anyone know why two bungalows needed a variance, but he couldn't do one bungalow?

by ah on Feb 27, 2009 10:13 am • linkreport

I like that skinny house. It's a little tall, but I suspect that it will become a real landmark in a matter of years.

by цarьchitect on Feb 27, 2009 11:15 am • linkreport

Im all in favor of small and interesting looking homes & buildings- especially ones that economize on space- but what is it w/ these early 21st century builders and their oversized cartoon style cornices? Why haven't they re-invented anything other than the flat roof top? Are they trying to emulate Frank Llyod Wrong w/ this kind of bull$hit? I'd be less sickened if the thing didnt look like every other new phony "loft condo" development in Adams Morgan/ Columbia Heights with their moronic and ugly roof decks . Give me domes, spires, pyramids, turretts- anything is better than a comical over bearing roof cornice that draws attention to itself.

by w on Feb 27, 2009 1:52 pm • linkreport

I think he built one "bungalow" (though a little large to be called that by traditional standards) AND one narrow house on the lot.

This is actually becoming a political issue in other NoVa jurisdictions (I know of at least one case in Fairfax County being litigated right now), where neighborhoods laid out before the 1950s often had very narrow "lots" defined, but where most houses cover two or three "lots". They were often platted in an intentionally modular way, so that buyers could arrange a parcel of whatever size they wanted by buying adjacent "lots", though most likely with more than one used. Some may have been two, three, or four "lots" wide.

It's fact-specific question in each case whether, today, a landowner can knock down the existing multi-"lot" house and build multiple houses, one to a modular "lot". In most cases, if the lot was platted before the first zoning ordinance went into effect, the owner's likely grandfathered into being able to be build upon them as individual lots. But in most NoVa jurisdictions, new buildings, even though the *lots* are grandfathered, still have to follow present-day side setback regulations. The result is that, in many cases, while a small mini "lot" is officially buildable upon, in practice it may not be, because of setback issues.

The guy here was lucky, in that 12-15 feet of envelope width is about as narrow as you can get for a house and still make it practical.

by Joey on Feb 27, 2009 2:23 pm • linkreport

For those curious, here is the Redfin listing and the Google Streetview for the narrow N Barton Streeet property. The house is just a foundation in the Google Street View - but if you pan around it will give you a sense of the immediate neighborhood.

by Paul S on Feb 27, 2009 3:25 pm • linkreport

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