Greater Greater Washington

Dueling proposals for Eastern Market plaza include a miniature Capitol Hill

Barracks Row Main Street recently presented two design alternatives for a new plaza at the Eastern Market Metro station. Both concepts go a long way to uniting the plaza, which is currently broken up into six pieces, while making it greener, cleaner, easier to traverse, and more inviting.


Concept A, one of two possible plaza designs. All images from Barracks Row Main Street.

Last month, architect Amy Weinstein of Esocoff & Associates and landscape architect Lisa Delplace of Oehme van Sweden revealed the two concepts at a public meeting. Both designs bring life to the unkempt, desolate green space that's there today by adding fountains, play areas for children and adults, and public art. Barracks Row Main Street is accepting public comments on the two designs through the end of this week.

Proposals include a mini-Capitol Hill, shady forest

Each design addresses each of the plaza's six pieces, which are divided by Pennsylvania Avenue and 8th Street SE, and include the two median strips on Penn.

Parcel 1 is the northeast corner of the plaza and one of the two largest parcels. Both concepts turn it into a pair of "play" areas, one fenced in for children, and another open area for adults, which are separated by a diagonal path between Pennsylvania and South Carolina avenues.


The children's play areas in Concept A.

In Concept A, the children's area would be larger and have two themed "playscapes," including a miniature Capitol Hill with the Capitol building, and a tiny Anacostia Watershed with rubber berms for climbing and rolling and a river with playable pumps and water wheels. In Concept B, there would be a smaller children's area themed after the Navy Yard, without any miniature buildings.

On the adjacent lawn, people can sun, do yoga, read, and socialize. This area would be larger in Concept B and have hedges along the north and west sides to create more separation from the street and homes.


Concept A includes a "shade tree bosque" by the Metro station entrance.

Parcel 4 is the other large parcel in the southwest corner, where the Metro entrance is located. Both concepts include another lawn, as well as an interactive fountain, an "infohub," a busking area, and a redesigned Capital Bikeshare station and parking area. In Concept A, the space becomes a "shade tree bosque" with trees, tables, and chairs in a bed of gravel.


Section of a proposed Southeast Neighborhood Library extension in Concept B.

Meanwhile, Concept B proposes an extension of the Southeast Neighborhood Library in a pavilion in the plaza, which would connect to the rest of the library in a tunnel under 7th Street SE.


An overview of Concept B.

Parcels 2 & 5 are the medians. While community members are interested in turning them into usable park space or adding bike lanes, DDOT asked the design team not to consider these options until the agency does its own corridor-wide study of the area.

Instead, the design team proposed new landscaping with barriers to discourage jaywalking. Concept A would add fenced-in bioswales that collect and filter stormwater, while Concept B adds raised, planted medians, like those on Connecticut Avenue.

Parcels 3 & 6 are the small islands on the northwest and southeast corners of the plaza. In both concepts, they would become bioswales surrounded by a continuous bench.

Community concerns

The design team took time to discuss additional issues important to the community. They talked about preserving existing trees, which many residents wanted, as well as which other trees might be appropriate for planting there. The designers also talked about ways to solve the plaza's rat problem, such as solar-powered trash cans, trees that repel rats, and eliminating standing water.

The designers also looked at ways to increase pedestrian safety with refuge islands and curb extensions. To improve traffic flow, they considered removing D Street on the south side, east of 8th, and reversing the direction of D Street on the north and south sides of the plazas. Finally, they proposed some moving bus stops, taxi stands, and car sharing spaces.

No one will love every one of these ideas, and there are some desirable amenities that neither design includes, like a dog park. But there are some really interesting ideas in these plans, and either concept would go far in making the plaza more of a park, rather than a place you just walk through to get somewhere else.

David Cranor is an operations engineer. A former Peace Corps Volunteer and former Texan (where he wrote for the Daily Texan), he's lived in the DC area since 1997. David is a cycling advocate who serves on the Bicycle Advisory Committee for DC.  

Comments

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where is the bikeshare station?

by charlie on Jan 30, 2014 10:17 am • linkreport

I love the mini-capitol hill.

by drumz on Jan 30, 2014 10:22 am • linkreport

Has there been a tree assessment to see whether the existing trees are healthy, native, and worth saving?

by Michael Perkins on Jan 30, 2014 10:26 am • linkreport

The "children" proposal will look like a shanty town in no time.

by Sonny Liger on Jan 30, 2014 10:37 am • linkreport

where is the bikeshare station?

Between the Metro station and 7th Street.

by David C on Jan 30, 2014 10:49 am • linkreport

Both look great, though I'm not a fan of the library extension being placed in the South Caroline Avenue viewshed.

by 7r3y3r on Jan 30, 2014 10:50 am • linkreport

Kids these days get such awesome play equipment.

by Payton Chung on Jan 30, 2014 11:02 am • linkreport

Just about anything would help. It's sad how completely run down that area is. Personally I think not reclaiming those stubs of D on either side would be a mistake. You could create some fabulous pedestrian spaces with very little loss of car mobility

by BTA on Jan 30, 2014 11:16 am • linkreport

I couldn't love this more, especially the playground elements. Reminds me of the pocket parks that NYC does so well.

by alpinepaq on Jan 30, 2014 11:17 am • linkreport

Michael, I think they do. They identify 8 healthy Sephora trees and the Memorial tree (which they would keep even though it isn't native) worth keeping.

by David C on Jan 30, 2014 11:32 am • linkreport

The "children" proposal will look like a shanty town in no time.

"Hey Billy, do you want to go to the park and play Occupy? I'll be the Bonus Army, and you can be the Community for Creative Non-Violence."

by Kolohe on Jan 30, 2014 11:38 am • linkreport

I like the proposals with the water fountains. The water features at both the Yards Park and Canal Park have been a huge success with children.

by 202_cyclist on Jan 30, 2014 1:53 pm • linkreport

Make it into a true square like Lincoln Park. With all traffic going counter-clockwise around it.

by DaveG on Jan 30, 2014 2:25 pm • linkreport

Why does the Miniature Capitol Hill have all those single family homes?

by Capitol Hill SE on Jan 30, 2014 3:15 pm • linkreport

And hopefully the miniture Capitol doesn't have a miniture John Boehner in it.

by 202_cyclist on Jan 30, 2014 3:41 pm • linkreport

Actually the two proposed design concepts are not "dueling proposals." Rather, interested citizens are invited to "mix-and-match" the elements from each proposal that they like and would be pleased to have combined to compose the final design.

by Pat on Jan 30, 2014 3:42 pm • linkreport

I don't mind putting the building in the SC Avenue view shed: L'Enfant wanted the avenues to run between landmarks, specifically buildings at the center of each square.

I think the idea of making that pavilion of glass to make it "less visible" is wrongheaded. Even just for a hypothetical design.

by Neil Flanagan on Jan 30, 2014 4:33 pm • linkreport

Could someone define "Eastern Market Plaza?" Currently broken up in to 6 pieces? I thought there was one piece at the metro station.

by Steve on Jan 31, 2014 7:15 am • linkreport

It seems like a great idea to capture this fallow land and activate it with the public. The designs look good, especially having a mini capitol building you might be able to klimb over and crawl through, although the potamkin village houses kind of throw off the mystic of it's scale. But this seems like another notch towards returning the city to people and away from cars.

The idea of having the southern portion more hardscaped seems interesting also in that there's the outflow of the 8th street commercial energy that could possibly activate the space more. I'd plant some more trees on the kids playground though. That would be hell in the summer without a tree canopy.

by Thayer-D on Jan 31, 2014 7:17 am • linkreport

I think adding a large two story building in front of the library destroys the feeling of openness (and safety) and with any appreciable size would make the rest of the plaza cramped (given that metro is already right there). I also don't think libraries need to be expanded until they figure out what their mission is. There are are already a half dozen places for kids within a two block radius and adults don't really use libraries, especially if they're not research libraries.

Also, I think it's unfortunate, but you can't really add any amenities as their is a homeless shelter/clinic right next to the Dunkin Donuts which is an epicenter for overnight stays. Given that the population of DC supports allowing the homeless to sleep in public parks at night, during the day, drunk or high, the money invested would be largely wasted. No parents are going to allow their kids to play somewhere that smells like piss and is full of cigarette butts and broken bottles.

And despite the liveliness of the area, it's still incredibly prone to violent robbery walking home from the metro on the sidestreets.

by jak on Jan 31, 2014 9:33 am • linkreport

I'm defining Easter Market Plaza as the whole of the 6 parcels.

@Thayer-D. If you look at the top picture of concept A, there are many trees in the play area. In the zoom in on it, they removed the trees to make it easier to see. I should have made that clear.

@jak, kids use the current library quite a bit and people let their kids play in the guerrilla playground now, so I don't know why you think people won't let them play there after it has been improved. The problems you bring up - crime, littering, public urination - aren't really in the scope of this project. But if your point is that we can't have nice things until we solve these problems, then I guess we can just shut down the Parks and Rec department.

by David C on Jan 31, 2014 10:01 am • linkreport

Wonderful, creative ideas. Nevertheless, don't overdo the tree cover. In downtown, Farragut Square has limited tree cover and is open and inviting. As a result, many thousands of people sit on the lawn, eat, meet in groups, read a book, attend outdoor summer events (yoga, concerts, etc) and soak up the sunlight. Franklin Square, by contrast, has much greater tree cover and is dark, cold and unviting. Not surprisingly, it gets very little use.

by J. Bruce on Jan 31, 2014 11:07 am • linkreport

"Instead, the design team proposed new landscaping with barriers to discourage jaywalking. Concept A would add fenced-in bioswales that collect and filter stormwater, while Concept B adds raised, planted medians, like those on Connecticut Avenue."

Great, let's continue to ignore major pedestrian desire lines in our redesigns of public spaces, so that after the redesign the area is less functional and useful to peds than it was before. And I realize crossing Pennsylvania Ave mid-block involves "jaywalking" today and it thus "illegal" but I'm not sure that trying to design away jaywalking is the appropriate answer.

Today you can cross Penn Ave in 120 feet if you walk perpendicularly across Penn from the metro entrance/bus stops to the mini-plaza, right where D St lets out onto the north side of Penn. Sure, it's "jaywalking". But a lot of people really want to do it! So many, in fact, that grass doesn't grow on a wide swath of the median because of the constant foot traffic.

And it's a pretty easy crossing, too! It's only 40-feet to cross each set of travel lanes, and in the middle you get a luxuriously wide, 40-foot median where you can rest/wait until you the second crossing. Sight lines for both drivers and pedestrians are excellent as well, with no visual obstructions or elevation changes anywhere in the vicinity.

If you design out this "jaywalking", your 120-foot crossing becomes 400 feet to get between the same points (if you walk down to 8th St, cross, then walk back up to the bus stops).

I'm not sure we're "improving" the design of a public space if we make one of the most desired movements through that space take 3.5 times longer to do than before its "improvement."

by Bryan on Jan 31, 2014 12:41 pm • linkreport

Eh while I'm usually a pretty strong advocate for pedestrian friendly design, I'm not sure discouraging jaywalking here is really a major inconvenience. You've got 3 crossings in about 500'. Sure someone might have to go slightly further out of there way, but just because you are a pedestrian doesnt mean you should just cut through traffic because it would save a minute of walking. There is a reasonable balance to be made. Admittedly I cross mid block all the time, but I do it when there is 600' between intersections and there are no vehicles coming. I always see people crossing 14th st midblock in traffic when there is a crosswalk 100' away. That's not safe. And yeah I have seen people hit by cars doing that.

by BTA on Jan 31, 2014 12:49 pm • linkreport

I also wish they had included a mid-block crossing here (with a crosswalk). Make sure to add your comments to this effect at the website.

by David C on Jan 31, 2014 12:52 pm • linkreport

@BTA - Sure, but it's also true that just because you're a driver doesn't mean you should just cut through where people want to walk because it would save a minute of driving. We just happen to design 95%+ of our spaces in favor of driver preferences.

Also I generally agree with you about 14th St - it's a much harder and more complex crossing! It's much longer - 70 feet with no median vs. 40 feet with a super-wide median. And you have two-way traffic + bike lanes + parking lanes. Just much more complex than the crossing of Pennsylvania Avenue in this specific location.

@David C - thanks, I will include a note at the website.

by Bryan on Jan 31, 2014 1:04 pm • linkreport

Yeah true a midblock crossing would be the best solution.

by BTA on Jan 31, 2014 1:26 pm • linkreport

My understanding is the design proposed a mid-block crossing, but DDOT resisted the idea due to the closely spaced signalized intersections at 7th/Pennsylvania and 8th/Pennsylvania. To be fair, queuing from cars stopped at the mid-block crossing could very well back up into the intersection at 7th and 8th Streets.

by George Burdell on Jan 31, 2014 1:56 pm • linkreport

The elephant in the room is Pa. Avenue's nature will not change. The neighbors to the north of the D Street killed the original proposal to calm the traffic, so a traffic sewer it will remain. It severely limits the upside from this investment. The plans look nice though.

by Read Scott Martin on Jan 31, 2014 8:51 pm • linkreport

RE D Street segment north of Pa. Ave. avenue: I believe one of the proposed options is to turn this one-block segment of D Street into one-way going east. This seems a good idea to me, and a D St. resident who attended a public meeting on the E Mkt Plaza redesign options also thought so.

by Pat on Feb 1, 2014 9:36 am • linkreport

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