Cooling the starburst: Engineering underway for new plaza at Benning and Bladensburg
The intersection of H Street, Benning Road, Bladensburg Road, Maryland Avenue, Florida Avenue, and 15th Streets, NE will become more hospitable to pedestrians with new crosswalks and the addition of a plaza at the northeast corner. The Rosedale Citizens' Alliance obtained the latest sketches of the intersection, which implement the recommendations from the H Street-Benning Road Great Streets study. The change will reroute Maryland Avenue northeast of the plaza to intersect Bladensburg Road, rather than continuing directly into the main intersection. This opens up space for a new plaza, with trees, benches, and a mural or fountain.
Frozen Tropics covered the neighborhood debates over the plaza during the design four years ago (part 1, part 2). These debates closely resemble the discussions over 17th Street in Dupont Circle, where some criticized the placemaking suggestions of the project team and pushed for a basic design devoid of ornament to keep maintenance costs down and devoid of street furniture to dissuade homeless people.
Despite the much smaller scope of the Dupont project, DDOT ended up removing features and reducing the project to low-maintanence bare concrete, while they retained this plaza in the Great Streets project. If anything, H Street is more prone to many of the problems that Dupont residents feared, but H Street will get its public space while 17th Street will retain its empty expanses of sidewalk. After the H Street plaza opens, we'll know for sure if it improves the area as most think it will, but by then it will be too late for other areas like 17th.
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