Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Decking over I-395 (NBM presentation) should just be the beginning

D.C. Builds: Reconnecting the Grid
Date: Monday, October 29, 2012
Time: 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
National Building Museum
401 F Street NW, Washington, DC

After more than 20 years, plans are now moving ahead to deck over the
exposed portion of I-395 and reweave Washington, D.C.’s F and G Streets,
NW back into the urban fabric. Experts discuss the design, engineering,
and construction challenges that will ultimately include 2.2 million
square feet of LEED® Platinum office space designed by architect Kevin
Roche. Kevin Roche: Architecture as Environment will be open prior to the

Panelists include;

Sean C. Cahill, vice president of development, Property Group Partners
Harriet Tregoning, director, D.C. Office of Planning

$12 Member | $12 Student | $20 Non-member. Prepaid registration required.


(Note that using the word "beginning" in the title implies that the city doesn't already have some examples of decking over freeways and it does--the 200 block of K Street NW sits over part of I-395, I-395 goes under the Department of Labor and part of the National Mall, etc.)

I have been thinking for awhile that while it is great that the scar that is I-395 between Massachusetts Avenue NW and E Street is going to be decked, at the same time as a city we aren't thinking systematically about decking highways and roadways (as appropriate) in other places in the city.  (The forthcoming decking over of part of the Union Station Railyard between Union Station and K Street NE is another inspiration for thinking more expansively about this issue as it relates to similar spaces elsewhere in the city.)

Even the I-395 decking project referenced in the session above isn't taking the opportunity to fix the incomplete and underused decked park space located immediately south of the project, between D and E Streets NW.

Space over the freeway, D Street NW

Over the freeway park, between D and E Streets, 2nd St., and I-395

Community benefits (if any, I haven't paid attention to the zoning details of the project) in large part should have been directed to fixing and completing the deck treatment between D and E Streets NW.

But there is the I-695 (the Southeast-Southwest Freeway) opportunity in Southwest DC and the opportunity at circles where underpasses had been created such as in the streetcar era underpass at Dupont Circle and along North Capitol Street.
DC Traffic
Flickr photo of the Southeast-Southwest Freeway--because of the height of the adjoining buildings on the north side at this point, the freeway appears to be at grade--by Dan_DC.

Connecticut Avenue underpass between Dupont Circle (north side) and Q Street NW
Connecticut Avenue underpass between Dupont Circle (north side) and Q Street NW.

Connecticut Avenue underpass at Q Street NW looking towards R Street NW
Even part of the underpass between Q and R Streets NW is high enough to be decked.

These are opportunities first to knit communities back together and improve placemaking qualities, and in some cases--over the freeways--but also to surgically add development in an environment where borders and the height limit stunt the "build out inventory".

Inspired by Millennium Park in Chicago and other large park and open space projects ("Dallas Builds Urban Park Atop Freeway Deck" from Athletic Business) Dallas is creating a large park, the Klyde Warren Park, by decking over part of the Woodall Rodgers Freeway, although this article in TreeHugger, "Dallas Is Building a 5 Acre "Deck Park" Over a Freeway," does make a good point that Dallas has plenty of open and/or developable space that they don't need to spend $110 million creating park space over a freeway. DC doesn't have a virtually unlimited inventory of developable-convertable land, especially in the areas where the freeways and streetcar underpasses are located.

I am not saying to make all of these spaces parks, although there is no reason why the space at Dupont Circle couldn't be treated as combination plaza-restaurant cafe space as in many cities in Europe, although in the spaces above the freeways, plaza/open space needs to be incorporated.
Plaza Mayor, Madrid, with cafe seating
Plaza Mayor, Madrid, with cafe seating.  Image from RailEurope.

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At 7:17 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

There is a little gap on K st near Washington Circle on each side. Maybe 50x50.

I wouldn't used Plaza Mayor as an example; it is historic. However, Madrid has tons of examples of parking/decking and it is very viable.

At 8:27 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I just meant the cafe aspect. Imagine the part by Kramerbooks, but with seating and table service on a portion of the recaptured space.


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