3300 to 3500 blocks of Connecticut Avenue, NW (between Macomb and Porter Streets)
Dear Mr. Dormsjo:
In its meeting of 16 March, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept submission for modifications to the streetscape and intersections of Connecticut Avenue between Macomb and Porter Streets, NW. The Commission expressed strong support for the project goals of improving the public space and pedestrian safety in this area but did not take an action, instead making the following recommendations for the development of the design.
The Commission members observed that the Cleveland Park retail corridor is a distinctive place along Connecticut Avenue; they commented that the project would benefit from a more rigorous definition of the intended design character in order to reinforce the sense of place for these blocks as a coherent and unified whole. They suggested that a successful design approach either could draw upon design precedents in the corridor’s strong architectural context, or it could establish a modern design expressive of its own time. They commented that too many overt references to the neighborhood’s history as a granite quarry may conflict with an architectural approach to the streetscape and with the actual existing built environment. They supported the concept of using granite paving to establish the character of the streetscape, such as granite setts for the service road, granite pavers in lieu of the proposed brick paving strip in the sidewalk, and perhaps even granite setts in the Connecticut Avenue roadbed. However, they cautioned against a literal and overwrought expression of the granite quarry imagery in elements such as bollards and benches.
The Commission members identified a crucial problem for the project to solve: the presence of the service road between Macomb and Ordway Streets, and the resultant imbalance of public space across the right-of-way in these blocks. They observed that the narrowest and least shaded sidewalk occurs at the areas of highest pedestrian traffic on the east side of the avenue, while the west side has much less pedestrian traffic and a much wider sidewalk with more trees. They said that the best design solution for the streetscape would eliminate the service road; if this is not possible, they recommended a regular sequence of larger planting beds projecting into the service road’s parking lane to allow for large street trees in the median. They expressed appreciation for the improvements proposed for the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Porter Street, and they recommended study of additional measures, such as more direct pedestrian crossings, elevated speed tables, and shorter-term parking spaces.
The Commission looks forward to further review of this important project. As always, the staff is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Leif A. Dormsjo, Director
D.C. Department of Transportation
55 M Street, SE, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20003
cc: Oliver Boehm, Volkert, Inc.