Maine Avenue, SW, between 6th and 7th Streets
Dear Mr. Kenner:
In its meeting of 20 July, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept proposal submitted by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development for public space elements of the Southwest Waterfront development, known as the District Wharf. These components are associated with Phase 2 of the development and include concept designs for the Marina Way streetscape and the M Street Landing and Terrace parks, as well as extensions of the Phase 1 designs for the Maine Avenue streetscape and the wharf promenade. The Commission approved the concept submission with the following comments.
The Commission members expressed support for each component of the proposal, commending the overall simplicity of the designs. They welcomed the contrast between the consistent linear treatment along the development’s edges—Maine Avenue and the wharf promenade—and the varied, distinctive designs of the park spaces. To create an overall sense of unity for pedestrians, who will generally experience the various open spaces as one continuous environment, they suggested that the particular open spaces could be further informed by a common palette of materials. They recommended careful study of the zones where the projects’ paving fields adjoin to ensure suitable transitions, requiring the designers of the different spaces to further coordinate the planting and material palettes.
For the individual projects, the Commission members expressed support for the proposed curbless streetscape treatment of Marina Way, while requesting further study of the number and placement of bollards to ensure a satisfactory balance between an open character and pedestrian safety. They commented favorably on the design for the M Street Landing park, praising its fountain plaza as an effective transition space between the intensive development to the northwest and the grassy Waterfront Park to the southeast. Observing the potential conflict between this park’s attractiveness to families and its adjacency to busy Maine Avenue, they suggested studying the configuration of the petal-shaped berms and benches around the central fountain to better enclose the park and make it safer for young children. Regarding the Terrace park, they suggested that the design should be more strongly influenced by the adjacent buildings and open spaces. They questioned the selection and placement of cherry trees proposed to be planted behind the stepped seating adjacent to the bioretention garden; they recommended selecting a larger tree species to provide more shade and to convey a more suitable scale in relation to the waterfront and the adjacent building proposed for Parcel 10. Likewise, they said that creating a denser area of shade trees and plantings around the central lawn and bioretention garden could achieve the intended framing of an outdoor room; they suggested that the stepped seating not be rectilinear but rather jut out into the landscape, like the prow of a ship. They also remarked that the plantings lining the curving pathways have a fragmented yet strangely regimented quality, and they instead suggested a wilder palette of plantings within a single expressive gesture.
The Commission’s consideration of the District Wharf in this meeting included review of four buildings in Phase 2, submitted as private-sector proposals in accordance with the Shipstead-Luce Act. For your reference, enclosed is the letter describing the review of these projects, including numerous comments on the desirability of coordinating the design of the buildings and open spaces of this extensive development.
The Commission looks forward to further review of the public spaces associated with the second phase of the District Wharf project, and encourages continued coordination between the landscape and building designers, especially for the Terrace park and its surrounding parcels. In preparation for the next submission, please consult with the staff which, as always, is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Brian T. Kenner
Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 317
Washington, DC 20004
Encl.: CFA letter of 27 July 2017 on Shipstead-Luce Act submissions at the District Wharf
cc: Shawn Seaman, Hoffman-Madison Waterfront
Hilary Bertsch, EEK/Perkins Eastman
Mary Wolf, Wolf | Josey Landscape Architects
Nate Trevethan, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates