Capitol Hill Town Square team presents options
Last night, the Capitol Hill Town Square project team presented three options for improving the plaza where Pennsylvania Avenue intersects 8th Street, at the Eastern Market Metro station. The plans ranged from minor landscaping improvements and traffic calming to modifying the route of Pennsylvania Avenue through the site.
The study began with residents and business groups who envisioned turning this plaza into a "town square" for the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Currently, busy Pennsylvania Avenue bisects the area into two very separate sections, and the disjointed feel divides the commercial corridors on 7th and Pennsylvania northwest of the site from Barracks Row on 8th to the south. Other squares from the original L'Enfant Plan, like Stanton Square, became true parks thanks to the roadways running around, rather than through, the site.
Current site layout.
Option 1: Current with improvements.
Option 2: Triptych.
Option 3: Central Park.
The first option keeps the current arrangement with two separate parks on opposite sides of Pennsylvania Avenue. New and better landscaping would add trees, consolidate the paved part and creating a circular plaza in the eastern park. "Stronger plantings" in the Pennsylvania Avenue median would dissuade midblock crossings from 8th Street north of the plaza to the Metro station, where many people cross today.
Along with the other two, this option includes some traffic calming. The transportation analysts from Gorove/Slade concluded that Pennsylvania could become three lanes on each side instead of the current four, calming traffic without diverting cars onto side streets. They also recommend removing the short segments of D Street between 8th and Pennsylvania on each side, creating larger pedestrian plazas in front of the Hine site and Barracks Row.
Option 2, the "Triptych," would build an oval in the center of the plaza, creating three parks. Pedestrians would have to cross fewer lanes at any one time, and this option (as well as the third) create more direct walking paths from the north to the Metro station, removing the temptation to dash across Pennsylvania midblock.
The third option, "Central Park," involves fully diverting Pennyslvania around the edge of the square to create a single, large park. 8th Street would be closed to cars, but still available to emergency vehicles.
To minimize noise impacts for the residents on D Street, Pennsylvania Avenue would not actually use the D Street right-of-way, but would run parallel. A planted barrier would separate the two and reduce noise impacts on the houses. Nevertheless, as one resident pointed out during the question period, according to the team's diagrams, such a barrier would probably reduce noise to the first floor of nearby houses but not as much to upper floors, which often contain bedrooms.
Pedestrian flow for the Triptych and Central Park options. Thanks to David C. for the photos.
Several people, including resident Kathy Henderson, called the Triptych the most "visually appealing" option, and I agree. As with a potential circle at North Capitol and Irving, a circle (here oval) borrows the design language of many other parts of DC (though Capitol Hill's vernacular does use squares more than circles). That options could create something with a greater sense of place than the current arrangement, while keeping cars far from nearby houses.
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