Interim Director for OP Appointed

Rosalynn Hughey photo 1Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor Hoskins has appointed Rosalynn Hughey as interim Director of the D.C. Office of Planning (OP) effective February 24, 2014. Harriet Tregoning is resigning as Director effective February 21, 2014 to join the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Prior to her appointment Hughey served as OP’s Deputy Director of Citywide and Neighborhood Planning.  Hughey joined the Office of Planning in 2000 and has over 25 years’ experience in urban planning.

The Best Three Blocks in DC: Columbia Road, NW

By Art Rodgers

Cropped version_A Rodgers_Best 3 blocks mapWhen it comes to hyperbole, “it’s got it all” might be the most overused, but with regards to describing what makes Columbia Road, NW from 19th to 18th Streets a successful urban street, it’s dead on.  Ok, so it doesn’t have a zip line into Rock Creek Park, but with the slope and the trees it could be fabulous.

There are three core elements to the best three blocks in DC and they start with Kalorama Park, which has huge shade trees, two playgrounds, a community garden, a basketball court and a beautiful westward facing slope for catching the sunsets.  It is the community’s center and without it, these three blocks would be far more ordinary.

Next it’s got people living in anywhere from six to eight story buildings, to row houses, to even a few single-family detached homes.  Through tools like rent control, limited-equity coops, and a few nearby subsidized buildings, all kinds of people live in the neighborhood including fixed-income retirees, a few low-income families and of course the ubiquitous young professionals.  That said, I wouldn’t disagree that some more affordable housing, so lower income families could be in boundary and send their kids to one of the District’s best public school at Oyster, would be a good idea.

A Rodgers 3 blocks blog post_Kalorama Park & surrounding apt bldgs at sunset

Kalorama Park and surrounding apartment buildings at sunset (Photo: Art Rodgers)

The final core element is handy daily shopping including two local grocers, three competitive dry cleaners, a liquor store, a gallery/frame shop and an athletic shoe store. Not far away there is a hardware store, an electronics store, a post office, and several import stores.  The stores keep the sidewalks active with people running errands, picking up a carton of milk or other sundries or going out for a tasty frozen treat on a hot summer night. Did I mention the range of restaurants from fabulously affordable Mediterranean and Peruvian Chicken to Brazilian, French and Sushi and how they are adapting to the growing population of toddlers? No? Well I have now.

Note: The delicous new restaurant Mintwood Place almost made it into this graphic, but its too new to be a neighborhood institution, however a recent siting of President Obama builds a really strong case!

Note: The delicous new restaurant Mintwood Place almost made it into this graphic, but its too new to be a neighborhood institution, however a recent siting of President Obama builds a really strong case! (Graphic: Art Rodgers)

I must admit the rest of what makes the best three blocks in DC are an accident of location.  It’s bracketed by Rock Creek to the west, Walter Pierce Park to the north, 18th Street’s entertainment strip and Marie Reed’s comfortably dog eared, but shaded and cool kiddy pool to the east.  Beyond the three blocks in the immediate neighborhood are two more supermarkets, and farther are the adjacent destinations of Woodley Park (Red Line Metro) across the fabulous Duke Ellington Bridge, Columbia Heights (Green Line Metro) connected by the DC Circulator and Dupont Circle (Red Line Metro) with all that they offer.

Others may wish to point out how the assets of their neighborhood make them such wonderful places to live, and that’s actually the point.  Let’s identify what are the elements of urban areas we love and make sure that all the neighborhoods of DC are provided the same opportunity for relatively sane (but never boring), if not high quality urban living.

 

Taming the Big Box

By Stephen Cochran

Pentagon City, VA (Credit: Street Google)

We’ve all been here.  It’s one of those places where we hand over $1 billion shopping dollars each year to Maryland or Virginia.  If even half of that money could be spent in DC, our 6% tax rate would generate $30 million in revenue.  That’s enough to supply 300 new affordable housing units, or pay for the education of 1600 District children, every single year.

The city has been working for decades to reverse this loss of dollars, and we’re starting to see results.  Larger retailers are moving into the District to supplement our local stores.  Some are bringing new designs that fit in with, and bring new life to, our traditional neighborhood centers. Others, unfortunately, continue to bulldoze trees, fill in wetlands, or construct stone-walled mesas so they can just replicate their suburban stores.

Planners need to provide models of how major retailers can come into the city without compromising good design and active street life.

Los Angeles, CA (Credit: Stephen Cochran)

This storefront I saw on Broadway in downtown L.A. shows how to do it:  name recognition, openness to the street, pedestrian and bicycles friendliness, and a broad selection of brand goods at every-day low prices.

Having a vital shopping street need not take a zoning overlay, or city subsidies; just some creative entrepreneurs, sensitivity to scale … and a lot of red paint.

Welcome to OP’s Blog!

By Tanya Washington-Stern

Welcome to OPinions, the blog of the DC Office of Planning! We envision this blog as a space for OP staff to dialogue with you about the urban environment and related topics such as urban design, historic preservation, transportation, health and other areas that intersect with planning. We want to talk about innovative, thought-provoking or just plain cool trends and developments in the urban planning world.  The geography of our dialogue is not just Washington, DC and its region, but also the United States and the rest of the world.  This blog is our room to look beyond our official day-to-day work and talk about what we as individual planners find interesting.

If you want to learn more about the DC Office of Planning and our neighborhood and citywide plans, reports and initiatives, please visit our official website, www.planning.dc.gov. We are also on Twitter and Facebook.

We hope you will join us in these conversations!