Eastern Market/Hill Town Square Plan
Eastern Market Town Square Planning: A Project We Can Support
by Dick Wolf
Even with a contentious September 9 neighborhood meeting to solicit neighbors comments regarding planning for the Town Square Project in which some expressed objections to continued planning on the grounds that the process was exclusionary and possible design solutions imposed unacceptable traffic burdens, it is necessary to continue the effort. As a member of the Town Square Steering Committee, CHRS remains committed to understanding both the opportunities and the limitations of various proposed improvements to the plaza in the hope of creating a Town Square for Capitol Hill.
For nearly 40 years the Capitol Hill Restoration Society has been committed by both action and investment to improving Eastern Market Plaza and its environment. From the saving of the Market in the mid-1960s, to Market repairs in the early 1970s, to the investment of Society funds to support the first plaza planning effort, we sought to gain recognition of the Eastern Market area as the central business district for the Hill — as the Comprehensive Plan for the city states — as well as establish the plaza as both a significant public space for the Hill and a focal point that perceptually links the two most important business areas of the Hill — Eastern Market and Barracks Row Main Street.
The history of this area demonstrates that in the thinking of the public agencies that plan and invest in civic projects for the city, Capitol Hill as a distinctive entity and important neighborhood did not exist. Community action was needed to save Eastern Market. Community action changed the Metro stop name from “Marine Barracks” to “Eastern Market”. The design of the plaza was dictated by WAMTA with Metro brown brick, focusing on making the area only a major transportation interface. No consideration was given to making the space friendly and inviting or supportive of the unique character of both the adjacent residential and business areas.
While the Metro plaza has lain fallow for many years, deteriorating into an increasingly industrial strength transportation hub, the surrounding business and residential areas have undergone a dramatic resurgence of investment and revitalization. Eastern Market has gained both city-wide and national recognition not just as an artifact of history but as a living example of old fashioned successful small businesses serving community shopping needs and as a gathering place for a diverse set of residents and visitors. This is why the American Planning Association recently recognized the area as one of the ten best neighborhoods in America. Barracks Row, again through community action, became a model “main street” program with a vital small business community; recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
What is missing is the reconstruction of the Eastern Market Plaza into a place of beauty and a center of civic activity. Consequently, in 2002, CHRS and CHAMPS, through special gifts, funded the first planning study of this area by the noted landscape architecture firm of Oeheme van Sweden located on Capitol Hill. That study was widely noticed to the Hill community and Federal and local officials, evolving into a concept plan for a Capitol Hill town square. Because of funding constraints and limitations imposed by the Park Service, who then owned the property, the planning effort stopped with the concept plan. However, it attracted the attention of Congressional representatives who provided an appropriation to Barracks Row/Main Street to continue the study. At the same time the property was made part of a land transfer from the Federal government to the District of Columbia.
With these new opportunities, the planning effort was reconstituted with a broader team headed by noted architect Amy Weinstein with consultants from Oeheme van Sweden and transportation and tree experts. The newly available funds allow the team to conduct a much deeper set of studies, especially in the area of transportation, which dominates plaza usage and could continue to grow in ways not presently understood. Until these studies are performed and analyzed no ultimate plans can be made. But nothing should be foreclosed in the way of information gathering and designing around that information and even rearranging or limiting certain uses of the square.
As always, CHRS will support efforts to integrate business, residential, and aesthetic planning of the highest order so that the Hill will continue to prosper and further our mission of creating a “model urban community”. In that process we will continue to advocate for transparency and community discussion based on the best facts and information. History has shown that this way can be difficult but ultimately successful. We believe that following these policies will lead to a brilliant solution for a new Capitol Hill town square.
Washington -- Barracks Row Main Street (BRMS), the Capitol Hill organization primarily known for the successful rejuvenation of Barracks Row (8th Street, SE), is now taking the initiative to develop plans for redesigning the Eastern Market metro plaza into what is to be called the “Capitol Hill Town Square”. The goal of the Capitol Hill Town Square project is to transform the existing metro plaza into a place of civic pride and gathering – a town square and community park. “The project hopes to create a beautifully landscaped and sustainable green space connecting Eastern Market and Barracks Row businesses as well as provide a gateway to the new southeast waterfront community and beyond” said John Gordon, Vice President of National Capital Bank and Treasurer of BRMS.
To ensure extensive and deep community involvement in the planning process of the redesigned Capitol Hill park and town square, BRMS has asked the Capitol Hill community organizations and nearby residents to participate in a task force that will serve as the primary community group to interact with the Weinstein design team and appropriate government officials who will be involved in the decision process regarding design and use of the square. “Among other things, the task force will identify important issues that the community believes need to be addressed in the project, provide guidance to the design team and assure compatibility with the Capitol Hill Historic District and the interest of the larger community” said Dick Wolf, a member of the task force and President of the Capitol Hill Restoration Society.
The task force is chaired by Tip Tipton, Chairman and CEO of The Tipton Group, Inc., a consulting firm located adjacent to the plaza. The task force is composed of representatives of Barracks Row/Main Street (BRMS); Market Row Street Merchants Association; Advisory Neighborhood Commission Capitol Hill SE (ANC 6B); Capitol Hill Business Improvement District (BID); Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC); Capitol Hill Association of Merchants & Professionals (CHAMPS) EDC; Capitol Hill Restoration Society (CHRS); and D Street and adjacent residents and businesses.
The Barracks Row organization has funded the initial planning activities and has retained the architectural and planning services of Amy Weinstein and her firm, Weinstein Studio. The firm is noted for their work on Capitol Hill and particularly the award-winning Townhomes of Capitol Hill (formerly the Ellen Wilson Public Housing complex). Weinstein Studio and the other members of the design team which include Oehme van Sweden & Associates, Inc.; Gorove/Slade Associates, Inc.; DMS, International, Inc.; James Urban, FSLA; and Koncept Media, will undertake an in-depth analysis of the plaza area and will study alternative courses for the use of the plaza that are consistent with the historical importance of the area and the community’s current needs.
The first public presentation and opportunity for community input will be held in conjunction with Councilmember Tommy Wells’ 2nd Community Meeting on future use of the Hine site. The meeting is scheduled at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at Tyler Elementary School, 1001 G Street, SE. Amy Weinstein and the design team will be at the meeting and will describe the work that has already been done and will seek input, advice and suggestions from those present. “A redesigned town square could be important to providing open and green space relative to the Hine site” said Amy Weinstein.
www.capitolhilltownsquare.org for more information
by Dick Wolf
As we move into summer, the planning effort on the Eastern Market Town Square, formerly known as the Eastern Market Metro Plaza Project, is moving into full gear. In another month there will be a full blown web site to illustrate various concepts from the planning team and a means for citizens to register their views. This will be a more elaborate version of the site put up in the previous Metro Plaza effort. In addition there will be full opportunity for the community to view plans and talk with the planners in a public meeting. CHRS will keep members posted on events through our web site and the News.
As the plans are being formulated they will be coordinated, to the extent possible, with the streetscape plans for the Eastern Market area along Seventh Street, SE, and with whatever might be the plans for the Hine site. The planning for the Town Square project, we hope, will be a template for planning up and down Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, from Second Street, SE, to Barney Circle.
The Town Square Plan prepared by Oehme, van Sweden & Associates envisions the West Plaza as an open Town Square that features a covered pavilion and arbor, a fountain, and an oasis-like ribbon of canopy trees. The East Plaza becomes a “Garden in the City” with a potential memorial sculpture and recreational spaces. The two Plazas are tied together by the use of special paving, planting, and seating.
The proposed design anticipates: raised planters for seating under canopy trees, a covered pavilion and arbor visually referring to Eastern Market and providing shelter for periodic markets on the Plaza, specialty vendors and musicians, a fountain to add visual and auditory interest, directional kiosks, movable furniture, brick and concrete paving, segmented benches for alternative seating, an iron fence in the center of Pennsylvania Avenue to discourage pedestrians from crossing in mid-block, a relocated bus shelter and re-timing of traffic lights to encourage use of the crosswalks.
by Dick Wolf
During the past several months, two events have unfolded which not only shape each other but also could change the appearance of Southeast Capitol Hill in dramatic ways.
First, the DC Office of Planning (OP) has finished a “planning study” for Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, from Second Street to the Maryland state line. According to Ward Six planner Jeff Davis, the study shows a need for development on the Hill side of the Avenue. Possible development sites include the Hine School property (once the students have been moved to another location); the site across from the JPI condo development at Fourteenth and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE; and the McDonalds and the used car lot on either side of Barney Circle. There is talk within OP about using Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) for these locations. Using PUDs would allow developers greater flexibility in site planning and building design. The Zoning Commission hears and decides requests for these special multi-purpose projects.
Second, OP now recognizes the need for a Pennsylvania Avenue “public realm” or public space study—which CHRS has urged for years. This public space study already has a jump start with the concept plan for Eastern Market Metro Plaza which is underway, and now ready for more detailed planning. The concept plan envisions taking the barren plaza and redesigning it so that it is a welcoming entry way to Barracks Row and Eastern Market.
The concept plan has received the impetus of the completion of transfer of jurisdiction over the four parcels making up the plaza from the Park Service to the DC government. Fee ownership of the plaza, however, like the median strip along the entire Avenue, remains with the Park Service. This may mean coordinating planning with the Park Service and the National Capitol Planning Commission. There are complex negotiations still remaining between the Federal and local governments and between Hill entities and the DC government. CHRS will participate when the negotiations begin, which is expected to be soon.
All this forecasts something good happening at Eastern Market Metro Plaza. Washington does not have a plaza where the community, commerce, culture—and transportation—intersect. It could have. And it could be the catalyst for a streetscape study for all of the Hill side of Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, and the integration of a streetscape plan throughout important parts of the Hill. Imagine finally giving this great Avenue—our main street—the kind of attention it has deserved from the day it was built.
Please join me for our second community meeting and conversation about the future of the Hine Jr. High site. At our first meeting, over 200 neighbors attended to share their ideas and priorities in creating a shared vision for the future use of this site. You can read a summary report of this first meeting by visiting my website: http://www.tommywells.org/content/view/404/30/.
A significant number of residents highlighted both a need to create useable green and open space, as well as integrate any future redevelopment with our Historic Eastern Market and adjacent Metro station. For our 2nd community meeting, I’ve arranged for a presentation and discussion on Eastern Market Metro Plaza redevelopment plans, followed by a discussion to help us refine the list of community amenities and priorities you generated at our earlier meeting.
Because of Hine’s closure and the building being vacated, our meeting will be held at nearby Tyler Elementary (more details below). And as before, we will be joined by representatives from the District’s Office of Planning, Deputy Mayor for Education, and Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.
2nd Community Meeting: The Future of Hine Junior
Tuesday, July 22, 2008, 7:00 - 8:30 pm
Tyler Elementary School Auditorium, 1001 G Street, SE
I appreciate your continued input in shaping how we move forward. If you have any questions about this meeting, please feel free to give me a call at 202-724-8072.
Tommy Wells, Councilmember, Ward 6
by Gary Peterson
The community meeting on the future use of Hine Junior High School, hosted by Councilmember Tommy Wells, took place on April 30, 2008. Although no official count was made, there were over 100 people present. Neil Albert, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, attended the meeting. Wells made a brief statement about the closing of Hine and asked for ideas for what to do with the site. The audience was then divided into small working groups to propose ideas for the use of the site. Each group was then asked to report on its recommendations.
Several points of consensus were clear from the reports:
Accompanying this story is a draft plan that achieves some of
the ideas. This does not reflect all of the ideas, nor is it a final
decision or recommendation. There will soon be another community
meeting to discuss the next actions regarding the site.
School Closure Announced
by Gary Peterson
CHRS has joined ANC6B in attempting to insure that the future use of the Hine School site is compatible with the neighborhood and that those responsible for making that decision take into account the concerns of the community.
On February 1, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Chancellor Michelle Rhee announced the final school closure recommendations. In Ward 6, three schools are on the final list of recommended closures; Hine Junior High School is the only Capitol Hill school slated to be closed. On the same day, Councilmember Tommy Wells announced his support for the school closures and asked community organizations to make recommendations as to the future use of the Hine site. ANC6B quickly passed a resolution stating that any future use of the site should match the scale and character of the surrounding neighborhood and include community amenities.
At the February 19 board meeting, the CHRS Board passed the following resolution:
“CHRS supports the closing and then demolition of Hine School and development of the site in coordination with the Town Center development of the Eastern Market Metro Plaza. Making Eastern Market Metro the town square connecting Seventh and Eighth Streets will link the Natatorium and the Eastern Market on the North with the Navy Yard on the South. Any development of the Hine site must be consistent with the character of the Capitol Hill Historic District and must respect existing heights, density and uses. Any development proposal should:
© Copyright 2001-2009, Capitol Hill Restoration Society (CHRS). All rights reserved. Last updated January 8, 2009. Website hosted by DC Access.