National Mall and West Potomac Park from 3rd to 23rd Streets, NW
Dear Mr. Acosta:
In its meeting of 17 May, the Commission of Fine Arts was pleased to hear an information presentation by the National Capital Planning Commission staff on the proposed update of the Streetscape Manual for the National Mall roads improvement program. The Commission expressed appreciation for the effort to revise the manual, and provided the following comments for its development.
In their discussion, the Commission members recognized that the manual, which has guided interagency cooperation since its creation in 1992, has become inadequate for many of the contemporary issues facing the National Mall and Washington, D.C. Therefore, they emphasized that the manual must be an adaptable document that can anticipate accommodation of technological and climatic change within the streetscape without being prescriptive. For example, they commented that new digital technologies and the form of associated infrastructure—such as antennas, signage, modifications to lighting, charging stations, or driverless vehicles—cannot be predicted before they are developed, and they cautioned that specific guidelines would soon be obsolete. They recommended instead that guiding concepts should be developed to embrace these changes, suggesting that an approach of adaptable or managed precision would help address such current issues as resilience and the effects of extreme weather on the infrastructure; this could include using performance-based criteria to evaluate new ecological technologies. While expressing support for mobile food and retail service along the roads of the monumental core, they suggested that a design competition for vendor carts and structures could improve their current makeshift appearance. Finally, they strongly recommended that a formal governance and oversight structure for enforcement of the plan is fundamental to ensuring the success of the program.
The Commission looks forward to review of the Streetscape Manual as a product of the planning effort for the protection and stewardship of this nationally significant urban landscape and its infrastructure. For the development of the next submission, please consult with the Commission staff which, as always, is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Marcel Acosta, Executive Director
National Capital Planning Commission
401 9th Street, NW, Suite 500-N
Washington, DC 20004
cc: Laurin Lineman, Federal Highway Administration
Jeff Marootian, D.C. Department of Transportation
Peter May, National Park Service