Ward 4 Heritage Guide Released by DC Historic Preservation Office

W4 Heritage Guide

Following on the release of Heritage Guides for Wards 5, 7, and 8, HPO’s new Ward 4 guide identifies historically and culturally important places in the uppermost part of northwest Washington, D.C.  The guide describes sites of cultural importance to Ward 4 residents and visitors and describes the preservation challenges unique to this ward.  Through the guide, HPO hopes to foster stewardship of the ward’s heritage by facilitating initiatives to promote, preserve, and reuse the ward’s significant historic resources. 

Ward 4 is home to the city’s oldest church and cemetery, several early roads and crossroad communities, and was the site of Washington’s only Civil War battle.  In the later 19th and early 20th centuries, Ward 4 provided housing in a number of beautifully laid out streetcar and, later, automobile suburbs.  Historically home to substantial African American and Jewish populations, the area features businesses, recreational opportunities, places of worship, schools, and other facilities historically associated with its diverse communities.

This Heritage Guide provides a framework for developing strategies to promote and protect the historic resources of Ward 4 and to ultimately enhance economic development, community stability, and quality of life for residents.

The Ward 4 Guide is available in electronic format only. It is accessible and available for downloading on Office of Planning website at:   http://planning.dc.gov/node/1057572

Reflections on Archaeology in the District of Columbia

by Charlie LeeDecker

On May, 6, 2015, Mr. Charlie LeeDecker received a District of Columbia Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation (HP) in the category of Archaeology for his body of work in the District. In 2014, Charlie retired from the Louis Berger Group’s Washington, D.C. office. He spent the last 30 plus years conducting archaeological investigations for development projects and as a consulting archaeologist for federal agencies. Mr. LeeDecker was a principle on several HP award-winning projects since the awards were established in 2003, including 2004 for Public Archaeology, 2008 for the NPS Rock Creek Park Survey, and again in 2014 for work at the US Coast Guard Headquarters at St. Elizabeths Hospital with GSA, DHS, and Stantec. He has worked on dozens of projects and in every ward of the District. The post is his reminiscences on a career that focused on the buried history of our nation’s capital.

Washington, D.C., is one of the world’s greatest cities, and it’s been a great privilege to pursue a career in archaeology here, working alongside a large community of talented, passionate, and creative historic preservation professionals. One of my long-time professional goals has been to gain greater visibility for city’s archaeological resources. When I look at an old building, a landscape or even a parking lot, I want to see beyond what is immediately visible, and learn how this particular place came to be what it is today, how it developed through history, and what can we learn from the values, struggles, and daily lives of the people who lived and worked here generations ago. The archaeological record is mostly hidden from view, especially in urban areas, and sometimes when we look below the surface we find amazing stories that entertain, enlighten, and enrich our understanding of how our city came to look like it does today.

The city’s natural waterways — the Anacostia River and Potomac River waterfront areas, even the valley of Rock Creek and the smaller tributaries that feed these waterways – were the first places settled by European colonizers, the sites of our earliest industries, and the favored locations for the camps and villages of Native Americans that lived here for thousands of years before the first European explored the Chesapeake. While these areas contain the richest record of cultural development, they area also the most challenging to investigate archaeologically. In these areas, the natural or historic landscape has been layered below occupied buildings, pavement, formal landscapes, and massive amounts of fill soils that are occasionally contaminated with industrial waste.

I’ve had the privilege of working for many years in the Washington Navy Yard and the Navy Yard Annex (now known as the Southeast Federal Center). First established in 1799, the Navy Yard has played an important role in our national security and the development of military technology, and the historical significance of the Navy Yard is recognized by multiple historic districts, including a National Historic Landmark designation. We know from archival sources that the Navy Yard might include an archaeological record of the site’s early industrial history, especially shipbuilding and ordnance development. But opportunities to conduct archaeological investigations in the Navy Yard are limited by factors such as a high water table and nearly ubiquitous occupied buildings and pavement.

The relocation of Naval Sea Systems (NAVSEA) Command to the Navy Yard required rehabilitation of many historic structures, along with demolition of some buildings and new construction. Impacts to the historic districts and buildings were evaluated prior to construction, but archaeological work was deferred until the construction phase. There are serious risks with this approach – risks that archaeological resources might be destroyed without adequate documentation, and risks that archaeological work might cause delays to the construction schedule. Managing these risks required an unusual level of partnership between the construction and archaeological teams, but ultimately, the risks were rewarded beyond anyone’s expectations.

Archaeological documentation in the interior of Building 104 at the Washington Navy Yard, during rehabilitation for the NAVSEA project

Archaeological documentation in the interior of Building 104 at the Washington Navy Yard, during rehabilitation for the NAVSEA project

Some of the best opportunities for archaeological work occurred during the rehabilitation of historic buildings, after the interiors were gutted and the floor slabs were removed. At Building 104 we were able to document remains of the Brass Gun Factory, including features associated with furnaces and a casting pit. At another site, we found massive furnace foundations associated with the New Ordnance Foundry, a structure built during the Civil War to cast large, smooth bore cannon cast that were formed in a distinctive “soda bottle” shape, known as the Dahlgren cannon. We also documented remains of the West Shiphouse, a structure built around 1825 that was used for repair of 19th-century naval vessels. Reaching seven stories in height and extending over an area of roughly 100×300 feet, this shiphouse was one of the most prominent structures along the lower Anacostia River, visible in many nineteenth-century views of the city.

Much of my work over the last 10 years has been in and around the parklands in the city’s monumental core area, including the National Mall, the Ellipse, West Potomac Park, and the Washington Monument grounds. Historically, these iconic landscapes were originally low-lying tidal flats and open water at the mouth of Tiber Creek, a tributary of the Potomac that disappeared long ago. For thousands of years, Native Americans camped along the banks of the Tiber, and after the City of Washington was established in 1790, the creek was transformed first into a canal, then a foul sewer that carried the city’s waste into the Potomac. Tiber Creek and its banks were filled during the nineteenth century. Some of the filling was a result of efforts to improve the land around the White House but most of the fills – millions of cubic yards – was deposited during efforts to maintain the river’s navigation channels and control flooding that ravaged the city.

Some of the most interesting finds were unearthed along 17th Street. One of these was a wharf built in 1807 at the foot of 17th Street where it extended into Tiber Creek. The 17th Street Wharf was a shipping point for the early city, its importance growing after 1833, when it became a hub connecting the Washington City Canal and the Washington Branch of the C&O Canal. The wharf disappeared in 1902 when 17th Street was extended after land reclamation had been completed on Potomac Flats.

Documentation of the original foundation of the Lockkeeper's House at 17th Street; the foundation wall is 11.5 feet below present grade and was preserved in place during a sewer line replacement project.

Documentation of the original foundation of the Lockkeeper’s House at 17th Street; the foundation wall is 11.5 feet below present grade and was preserved in place during a sewer line replacement project.

The Lock Keeper’s House that stands at the corner of 17th Street and Constitution Avenue gives a hint of how different today’s landscape is from that of the 19th century. The C&O Canal Extension followed the shoreline of the Potomac from Georgetown, ending at the 17th Street Wharf. At that point, a canal lock accommodated the changing elevation between Lock 1 in Georgetown and the tidal waters at 17th Street. When 17th Street was extended in 1902, the Lockkeeper’s House was moved about 50 feet, but its original foundation was left in place where it was exposed during the replacement of a sewer line. After exposure of the Lockkeeper’s House foundation, we should not have been surprised that the actual canal lock would be found a few feet away. Sure enough, as the tunnel for the sewer line proceeded beneath Constitution Avenue, there it was!

Perhaps the most spectacular find along 17th Street was the “Mother of All Sewers,” aka the Tiber Creek Sewer Outlet. As the city developed in the nineteenth century, the Washington City Canal became a major nuisance, essentially an open sewer that collected waste from much of the downtown area. In the 1870s the city began to cover the Washington City Canal, converting it to an underground sewer. Following the area’s natural topography and hydrology, the sewer outfall was located at the intersection of 17th Street and Constitution Avenue, where waste emptied directly into the Potomac. Like the 17th Street Wharf and the C&O Canal Extension, the sewer outfall was engulfed during the land reclamation process that led to the creation of West Potomac Park. Exposed during construction of the Potomac Park Levee, the sewer outlet was an immense structure, measuring some 40 feet across its headwall.

With these and the findings from many other studies, the understanding of archaeology in the District has been increasing. Some of my most satisfying projects have been those that presented the greatest challenges and that required strong partnerships among project proponents, review agencies, and construction teams. Without the commitment of all stakeholders, some of the city’s most interesting archaeological resources might have remained virtually unknown and forgotten. The amazing opportunities to document the historic foundries at the Navy Yard, the wharf beneath the pavement of 17th Street and the canal lock below Constitution Avenue would not have been possible under conventional archaeological survey methods and would not have happened without committed partnerships among all of the project stakeholders. Going forward, I hope that the preservation community will continue to challenge us to think creatively to search for new ways to bring the city’s archaeological heritage to light.

View of the headwall of the Tiber Creek Sewer outlet along 17th Street, NW.  Exposed during construction of the Potomac Park Levee, the Lockkeeper's House is in the background, at the corner of 17th Street and Constitution Avenue. Measuring 23.5 feet across and 13 feet in height, the outlet is large enough to accommodate two lanes of vehicular traffic.

View of the headwall of the Tiber Creek Sewer outlet along 17th Street, NW. Exposed during construction of the Potomac Park Levee, the Lockkeeper’s House is in the background, at the corner of 17th Street and Constitution Avenue. Measuring 23.5 feet across and 13 feet in height, the outlet is large enough to accommodate two lanes of vehicular traffic.

 

Proposed Penthouse Regulations Part 2

The recent posting for Zoning Commission Case 14-13 provided a summary of the proposed amendments, and alternatives, to the penthouse regulations in the District.  Since that posting, OP has compiled additional maps, showing the proposed alternatives for where habitable space would and would not be permitted.  Under the current zoning regulations, habitable space (living space, offices, enclosed recreation space, etc.) is generally not permitted within a penthouse, with the exception of limited recreation space on a residential building.  Instead, penthouses tend to be limited to mechanical equipment and elevator overrides, or stair access ways to the roof.  However, the Height Act was recently amended to permit habitable space within rooftop penthouses located above the Height Act building height limit, if the penthouse is one story and 20 feet in height or less.

Essentially, the Zoning Commission is considering two alternatives for the permissions for habitable space:

  • Alternative 1 – Permit habitable space within a penthouse only in zones allowing a building height of more than 40 feet, by right (i.e. do not permit habitable space in a penthouse in any zone in which the building height is limited to 40 feet or less).
  • Alternative 2 – Permit habitable space within a penthouse only in zones allowing a building height of more than 50 feet, by right (i.e. do not permit habitable space in a penthouse in any zone in which the building height is limited to 50 feet or less).

The maps show these two alternatives by mapping the zones limited to 40 feet and 50 feet, respectively.

The Zoning Commission also invited the public to comment on whether some specified uses, such as a nightclub, bar, lounge, restaurant, or others, should be permitted only by special exception within a penthouse, in some or all zones.

The Zoning Commission public hearing for these proposals will be held April 30, 2015.  For more information or if you have questions about this proposal, please contact the Office of Planning at 202-442-7600.  Thanks!

Rooftop Penthouses

First – what is a rooftop penthouse? In DC, it is a (usually) small rooftop structure sitting on top of the roof, containing things like mechanical equipment, elevator or stairwell over-runs, and sometimes a room supporting a rooftop deck – storage, washrooms, etc. Not every building has one, in fact, most one-family homes and rowhouses and many small commercial or apartment buildings do not. Where they do exist, you may not always notice them, since they are required to be set back from the edge of the building below, to minimize their visual impact.

Mechanical Penthouse 2

Penthouses are regulated by zoning, including their size, height, setbacks, and permitted uses. Generally, the current penthouse regulations:

  • Limit penthouses to a height of 18’-6” above the building roof;
  • Do not limit the number of stories within the penthouse;
  • Require the penthouse to be set back from the edge of the building roof below by a distance equal to the penthouse height (a 1:1 set back); and
  • Do not permit “habitable” space in the penthouse. Habitable space includes uses such as residential living space, office space, conference rooms, or rooftop commercial space like a rooftop bar or lounge.

penthouse - aerial

The federal Height Act of 1910 also regulates penthouses. It was amended in 2014 to allow any use, including habitable space, within a rooftop penthouse which is one story and 20 feet in height or less. The intent was to allow greater use flexibility for roof tops and penthouse space. The DC zoning regulations are more restrictive than the federal Height Act, and any new building or addition must conform to both the zoning and the Height Act. To bring the Height Act and the more restrictive zoning regulations more in line and to implement the intent of the Height Act changes, amendments to the penthouse regulations would be needed.

The Zoning Commission held a public hearing on November 6, 2014 on the original OP proposed amendments to the penthouse regulations. In response to the public comments received, the Commission instructed OP to prepare an amended set of penthouse zoning regulation alternatives, to be re-advertised for a new public hearing. The new alternatives include the following:

  • Permitted penthouse height: Allow a penthouse of 20 feet in height above the roof it sits on (an increase from the currently allowed 18’-6”) in some higher density zones, but limit height to 10 feet (a decrease from the currently allowed 18’-6”) in any zone in which the building height is limited to 50 feet or less by right. The Commission is also considering an amendment to not allow a penthouse at all on a single family dwelling or rowhouse.
  • Permitted number of stories, not currently regulated by zoning: Allow 2 stories in zones that would allow a penthouse of 20 feet in height, but one story where the permitted penthouse height is limited to 10 feet. In the alternative, allow one story of habitable space in any zone, but allow a second story for mechanical space in zones where a 20 foot tall penthouse is permitted.

penthouse - 50' building

  • Permitted uses in a penthouse: Allow habitable space (residential units, office space, commercial space) in a penthouse in higher density zones, but not allow habitable space in zones where the building is limited to either 40 or 50 feet in height, or on top of a single family home or rowhouse. The Zoning Commission will also discuss whether certain uses such as a restaurant or nightclub (if permitted in the zone) would be permitted in the penthouse only with Board of Zoning Adjustment review of a special exemption request, to assess potential impacts on neighboring properties.
  • Penthouse setbacks: Essentially retain the current requirements, but provide clarification in the language when the setback is required, and also require a new penthouse setback from an adjacent historic property.
  • Penthouse area: Alter or generally eliminate current restrictions on the area of the roof that could be covered with penthouse structure – penthouse size would mainly be limited by required setbacks.
  • Penthouse walls: Amend and clarify design-related requirements for penthouse structures.
  • Affordable housing: Apply existing affordable housing requirements to new penthouse residential and non-residential space, and apply them more broadly and potentially at a deeper level of affordability.
  • Parking: Consider whether new penthouse habitable space triggers additional parking requirements.

For more detail and additional analysis, including a comparison of the proposals to existing zoning regulations, please refer to:

These changes will be discussed at a Zoning Commission Public Hearing to be held the evening of April 30, 2015 – you can participate by providing written comments to the DC Office of Zoning in advance of the hearing, or you can submit written comments in advance. More information on how to do this is available on the DC Office of Zoning website. Please also feel free to contact the Office of Planning if you have additional questions or comments.

Archaeology on a Shoe-String in the District of Columbia: An Introduction to the DC Historic Preservation Office

The District of Columbia is a strange political entity and our unique status has unexpected effects on local archaeology. But that makes it a perfect place to focus on the upcoming 50th anniversary of the National Historical Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 and the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service (NPS) in 1916, to be commemorated at the #SHA2016 conference. Why? Because Washington is a “special” federal enclave rather than a state and many District affairs are subject to federal laws. The District has a State Historic Preservation Office, or SHPO, that was established by, and is annually funded as a result of the NHPA regulations. The federal government owns 21.6% of the land in the District, so one-fifth of our land mass is directly subject to Section 106 of the NHPA. And 17% of District land is managed by NPS, making them a major partner in many archaeological projects.

SHA2016-logo1

Washington, D.C. is also a residential city with numerous historic districts and its own preservation laws, and procedures. The SHPO also serves as the “local” Historic Preservation Office (DC HPO). The District has a rich cultural history that began long before it was chosen for the nation’s capital which includes both prehistoric and colonial resources. In recent years we’ve seen an explosion of development that has led to dozens of city-funded archaeological surveys in addition to the ones conducted for federal projects. The bulk of these local projects were on city park and school properties, which comprise some of our largest non-federal open spaces. Among the sites identified are significant prehistoric camps and quarries, Civil War-era military and contraband camps, antebellum estates and tenant farms, former cemeteries, and urban row houses and alley dwellings. Archaeology offers a unique perspective – and sometimes the only material evidence — on events that were often ignored or overlooked in documentary sources. As the city’s Archaeology Team, we operate at both the federal and city levels, consulting with agencies on project concepts to ensure locations that merit survey are identified early on in the planning process, reviewing survey work plans, and commenting on draft technical reports. We are also responsible for maintaining and managing the archaeological collections, all paper and digital records, the site files, our Geographic Information System (GIS), and the archaeological survey report library. Any outreach, and education we get to conduct is pure “gravy!” Our efforts are somewhatconstrained because Chardé Reid, the assistant archaeologist, is a limited-term contract. Despite the challenges, we have forged a public outreach program on a shoestring! We have developed strategic partnerships with a variety of groups, and rely on the contributions of our graduate student interns and volunteers. Stipends are sometimes available for our interns, but the real payoff for them is the experience in a SHPO, and mentoring as they enter the job market.

Archaeology has quite a bit of community support in the District and Washingtonians turn out at our events, tune in to radio shows, and email us all the time! Mitchell Park is a great example of this. The park is located on the site of a large farm-house built by Anthony Holmead in 1795, and is a National Register-listed property. When a neighborhood group, Friends of Mitchell Park, raised funds to renovate and improve the park, they also funded an archaeological investigation of the Holmead House site. Community members now serve as site guardians and vigilantly protect the resource, which remains buried beneath their feet. Community support for archaeology may be tied to other concerns, as when groups attempt to use site preservation as a tactic to impede development even before any investigations occur. This is a tricky line for us to walk, since we promote an archaeological preservation ethic, but we also need to be sensitive to public benefits of development. We can’t short-circuit the review process to appease one constituent, because there are many competing needs and perspectives.

We do as much public outreach as possible given all our other responsibilities and limited staff. As the city grows and our demographics change, it becomes increasingly important for residents (especially young people) to understand the city’s history, diversity, and unique neighborhoods. We talk to schools, clubs, community history and heritage groups, and at neighborhood libraries, and we bring along displays and artifacts from our collections. Student interns are a big part of these outreach events and often plan and program them. We have gained the most ground by partnering with local non-profits, such as Archaeology in the Community. They have the capacity to organize annual events like Archaeology Day (in October) and Day of Archaeology (in July). Even NPS has gotten involved at the local level by starting a summer Urban Archaeology Corps program comprising District high school through college-age youth, who learn about local history, archaeology, and NPS careers. While few UAC participants plan to study archaeology, their feedback indicates they like learning about their neighborhood history and regret not getting more of it in school.

The lens of archaeology is our tool for providing alternative perspectives on the District’s long and diverse history. We have the ability to look at groups often overlooked by more traditional history. The lens, while powerful, requires that some remnants of the past remain in the ground. Therefore, continued protection and management of archaeological resources are needed. But our efforts also need support from an educated and empowered public, who embrace and advocate for archaeology because they believe it enriches historical narratives. Identification and preservation of archaeological resources is best done by concerted efforts of preservation partners at every level, including Federal, District, and neighborhood entities. We look forward to engaging more groups as we increase our outreach capacity and visibility through our limited – but successful — “shoestring” efforts.

Chardé Reid, Assistant City Archaeologist, DC Historic Preservation Office

Lois Berkowitz, volunteer at the DC Historic Preservation Office

Ruth Trocolli, City Archaeologist, DC Historic Preservation Office

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Recommended Links

http://planning.dc.gov/historicpreservation

http://planning.dc.gov/page/archaeology-district-columbia

http://planning.dc.gov/publication/2016-district-columbia-historic-preservation-plan

http://tiny.cc/ArchyTour

http://www.nps.gov/rap/

http://www.nps.gov/rap/archeology/spotlight_ROCR.htmhttp://www.mitchellparkdc.org/history.html

http://www.archaeologyincommunity.com/

http://groundworkdc.org/programs/urban-archeology-corps/

http://ncptt.nps.gov/blog/nps-archeology-program-urban-archeology-corps/

http://www.maacmidatlanticarchaeology.org/

Over the river and through the woods

over the river
by Tim Dennee

On those crisp clear days following a snowstorm, the hills east of the Anacostia River have always drawn scores of children to their slopes for winter recreation. In the pre-snowplow era, steep roads, almost impassable to other vehicles, were paths of least resistance and maximum fun.

Still partly wooded, Naylor and Good Hope Roads as they dropped from Good Hope Hill were famous sledding or “coasting” routes before the end of the nineteenth century. Home-made and commercially made sleds—tall curved-steel-runnered sit-down cutters, long and short clippers often ridden belly down, and multi-person “trucks” or bobsleds—all plied the powder together. In the heart of Anacostia, sledding parties would commandeer Morris Road, Maple View Place, the eastern end of W Street, and 15th Street below Frederick Douglass’s Cedar Hill.

“Coasting Out of Doors,” an 1857 magazine engraving of a Winslow Homer drawing.

“Coasting Out of Doors,” an 1857 magazine engraving of a Winslow Homer drawing.

Early sleds couldn’t be steered or braked except by dragging the feet. The combination of speed with a variety of stationary and moving obstructions—pedestrians, curbs, utility poles, other sleds—made for plenty of accidents, most happily not serious. But being thrown from his clipper head-first down Maple View Place in December 1890 left little Claude Allen wishing his two front teeth back for Christmas. The number of crashes plummeted when the police forbade further coasting on Good Hope Hill and Asylum Hill in 1895.

Asylum Hill was the popular name for the long slope from the main gate of Saint Elizabeths Hospital to the doorstep of Anacostia, along the road now known as Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. It was the main drag through the aptly named Hillsdale and one of that neighborhood’s sweetest sledding spots. It was the collision of two sleds here that was responsible for police closing the street to coasting. But Hillsdale children had alternative runs along the entire Stickfoot Branch valley through which Sheridan Road snaked. In the 1930s, Louise and Henry Sayles sailed down the slope behind their parents’ home on Sheridan near MLK, where generations of kids had joyfully preceded them.

Looking downhill at a snowless Nichols Avenue in Hillsdale, 1903.  Library of Congress.

Looking downhill at a snowless Nichols Avenue in Hillsdale, 1903. Library of Congress.

At least one late-nineteenth-century Hillsdale sled has survived its wear and tear and the passage of years. Until a few months ago, in an attic on Stanton Road—among jars, kerosene lamps, a saddle, luggage and hats dating from the 1890s to the 1930s—sat a dusty 1880s-vintage clipper, likely built in New England. A quick clean-up revealed the stenciled image of a thrush on its faded red paint, and the name of the original owner, Frank Williams, hand-lettered on the underside. Of nearly all-wood construction, just a handful of nails secure the runners, and four screws fasten the single-plank deck. Two steel rods bent around the pine runners provided the biting edge. A frayed hemp rope, mended with cotton cord, remains to tug the sled uphill once more, and it served too as a handle for its riders while shooshing down.

sleds

The sled was a second-hand toy, as the Stanton Road house and its attic treasures had belonged to the family of Annie D. and Edward E. Taliaferro (pronounced “Toliver”), who built the frame building about 1887 and resided there until the 1930s. The Taliaferros were Virginians and had probably grown up enslaved. In the mid 1880s they moved from Loudoun County with their five children, born between 1872 and 1883. The kids were the right ages to have enjoyed a sled of this vintage. It was likely put away for good when the youngest, Olivia, outgrew it in the late 1890s, explaining why this “Rosebud” was tucked into their attic’s farthest corner for some distant day.

Guess DC’s 2014 Population!

On Tuesday December 23rd the US Census Bureau is expected to release current and revised population estimates for states across the country; the District of Columbia is also included. Care to put your thinking cap on and take a guess as to what the District’s 2014 population number will be? Sign up and take the Office of Planning’s (OP) survey. The person who is able to come the closest (+/-) will receive a prize (a hard copy of the 2013 Indices: A Statistical Index of District of Columbia Government Services report).

Please complete the survey and provide your name, email and which ward you live in. We will announce the winner after the Census officially releases the District’s 2014 population estimate. Due to the scarcity of the 2013 Indices report (it’s a collector’s item!), we request that no one enter who has direct prior knowledge of the 2014 population estimate. The last day to enter your guess is Monday December 22nd at 5:00pm.

As a reference point, the US Census’ original 2013 estimate was 646,449 (see graph below — click to enlarge).

dc population 2000-2013
Source: US Census Bureau.

DC Office of Planning Projects Recognized As Outstanding Plans in DC Region

The DC Office of Planning (OP) announced today that the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Planning Association (NCAC-APA) selected three OP plans and projects among the winners of the 2014 Chapter Planning Awards. The awards recognize initiatives, public education efforts and individuals for leadership in planning in the DC region over the last two years.  NCAC-APA is a professional association dedicated to the promotion of sound planning and land use practices. Its members include city, town and county planners, related professions, elected officials and citizen planners in Washington, DC and Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland.

“The District of Columbia prides itself on being a leader among our peer jurisdictions by utilizing creative approaches to address our residents’ needs and by developing innovative solutions,” said Mayor Vincent C. Gray. “The NCAC-APA’s awards to our Office of Planning are a welcome recognition of our work.”

The three OP award-winning projects under the category of “Outstanding Plans and Projects” are:

  • Play DC – Parks and Recreation Master Plan, in partnership with the DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR)—winner of the Award for an Outstanding Regional or Comprehensive Plan: The Play DC Plan is the District’s first-ever comprehensive master plan for the city’s parks and recreation system.  The plan evaluated parks and recreation needs citywide and sets a roadmap for investments over the next 10 to 15 years.  It lays out major policy moves that will drive tangible improvements in local neighborhoods and sets quantitative targets to measure results.
  • Mid City East Initiative, in partnership with the District Department of Transportation (DDOT)—winner of the Harold Foster Award for Distinction in Community Outreach and Engagement: The Mid City East study area is predominantly in Wards 5 and 6 with a portion in Ward 1 and is traversed by five major corridors: North Capitol Street, New York Avenue, Rhode Island Avenue, New Jersey Avenue, and Florida Avenue.  It includes the neighborhoods of Bloomingdale, Bates/Truxton Circle, Eckington, Hanover, LeDroit Park, and Sursum Corda, as well as portions of Edgewood and Stronghold.  The Mid City East Initiative comprises two components: the Mid City East Livability Study by DDOT and OP’s Mid City East Small Area Plan. The Small Area plan provides a vision to improve quality of life and enhance neighborhood amenities and character while supporting a community of culturally, economically, and generationally diverse residents and outlines strategies that will develop more mixed-use and walkable neighborhoods.  DDOT’s Livability Study is an in-depth companion study on transportation and the public realm to guide neighborhood-scale mobility improvements. Both studies are the product of OP’s and DDOT’s intense joint collaboration with approximately 2,200 community stakeholders as well as other District agencies.
  • DC Vibrant Retail Streets Toolkit Initiative—winner of the Current Topic Award for Innovative Smart Growth Initiative: The DC Vibrant Retail Streets Toolkit is an innovative approach towards retail analysis that enables neighborhoods and cities to assess their starting point on an eight-step ‘retail vibrancy scale’ and offers customized solutions for helping retail areas improve and progress on the scale. OP piloted the implementation of the Toolkit in 11 diverse neighborhoods across the District, focusing on improved management of emerging retail corridors, local capacity-building, and the fostering of retail streets that are safe, active, and walkable. The Toolkit has allowed OP to have a very different conversation with retail stakeholders that is grounded in a shared understanding about retail realities, championed by neighborhoods, and geared towards realistic implementation.

“I am very excited that OP’s exceptional work is being recognized among the region’s top notch planning initiatives,” said Ellen McCarthy, Acting Director of the DC Office of Planning. “OP strives to think out-of the box to address important issues, and to use creative approaches to public engagement.  Our work with DDOT on the Mid City East Initiative used everything from online crowd-sourcing to holding ‘office hours’ in the community to get the broadest cross-section of public opinion possible.”

NCAC-APA will present the 2014 Chapter Planning Awards on November 20th in Silver Spring.

For more information about OP’s award-winning projects, please visit the DC Office of Planning’s website at www.planning.dc.gov.