Housing Complex

Foggy Bottom’s Preemptive Redesign

So much to be done!

So much to be done!

Foggy Bottom: Home of the State Department, the Watergate, and...what else, really? The institutional-feeling neighborhood, carved up by freeways and uninspired green space, has some of the largest undeveloped chunks of land in the city.

Now, courtesy of the Catholic University Urban Institute Studio, there's at least a vision for what it could become–Professor Iris Miller and her students, in collaboration with community members and city planners, have produced a fairly detailed redesign focusing on the area around 26th Street below K Street, Juarez Circle, Virginia Avenue, the Whitehurst Freeway, and Rock Creek Park. It's inspired by visits to great European capitals, and doesn't have a price tag or a time frame. But when the city gets around to thinking about how to revitalize the area, Miller's team hopes their vision will guide the process. In the mean time, they're touring the plan around to the different community entities, and will eventually present it to the Office of Planning as a blueprint for a Small Area Plan, which would be added to the District's Comprehensive Plan.

"Every developer in town is salivating over the prospect of developing townhouses," said Foggy Bottom Association president Asher Corson, at a recent meeting where Miller went over the designs. "I love this, because it's us taking control of our future."

Here are some of the main elements.

- A new entrance to the Foggy Bottom metro station at 27th Street.

- More trees and benches for Juarez Circle.

- For Heritage Park East, straddling the K Street bridge between 26th and 27th Streets: Lots and lots of trees, a couple new memorials, a dog park, gardens for rocks, water, contemplation, and a hedge maze.

- For Heritage Park West, bounded by 27th Street, Potomac Parkway, and Virginia Avenue: Lots of new seating, trees, winding walkways, parterre gardens, and a new square memorial with "cosmological references"

Twist the map around for it to make sense in your head.

Twist the map around for it to make sense in your head.

- In the bend of Rock Creek, a new cultural center to house artifacts from Native American peoples in the area and other historical displays.

- Two new pedestrian bridges over Rock Creek.

- Add a new, wide pedestrian and bike promenade to the Whitehurst freeway to take advantage of views and create a continuous loop across the Francis Scott Key Bridge across to Arlington and back across a new footbridge to Roosevelt Island.

- Reconstruct the old arched aqueduct near Georgetown's boathouse with an elevated mezzanine, terrace garden, and cafe, inspired by New York's High Line and Paris' Viaduc.

- Create an "arcade" atmosphere on K Street, with better conditions for cafes and shops.

A recreation loop created by new pedestrian and bike boulevards on the Whitehurst freeway and to Roosevelt Island.

A recreation loop created by new pedestrian and bike boulevards on the Whitehurst freeway and to Roosevelt Island.

- Pack a lot of new residential buildings into the area east of the Kennedy Center, near 25th Street along E Street.

- Build a new performing arts building southeast of the Kennedy Center.

A proposed activated viaduct with new mezzanine and cafe, Parisian-style.

A proposed activated viaduct with new mezzanine and cafe, Parisian-style.

This is how the Whitehurst promenade would work.

This is how the Whitehurst promenade would work.

Design for Heritage park. Note the "bosque."

Design for Heritage park. Note the "bosque."

A redesigned E Street promenade, with new residential buildings, and access to the river.

A redesigned E Street promenade, with new residential buildings, and access to the river.

  • Lou

    I hate to be one of those who immediately nitpick something so comprehensive, but I'm going to because it affects my commute. The top diagram where the ramp says "from I-66", you can currently proceed north onto K and thence turn right or left. It looks like they've taken that away. I doubt DDOT would let that happen.

    I do like that fact that they have resurrected the E Street tie-in to the Kennedy Center. That needs to happen.

  • Trip

    THANK YOU to the students and to Asher and the FBA for starting this discussion. As a resident of Foggy Bottom specifically at the intersection of 26th and K I am intimately familiar with the needs and problems facing this little patch of land.

    Unfortunately, this design represents everything to hate about what urban planners and landscape architects do. As an architect, I have every sympathy for design - and especially good design that represents what people will actually do, not lines on a piece of paper. A practitioner's critique, meant not to belittle the work but to move it forward, follows:

    First of all - orient your plans facing north. Duh. People will spend so much time trying to figure out what gives that they'll lose all of the interest they may have had in the design.

    Second: Elevated walkways = FAIL. Few people use them, even with benches and trees along the way. Maybe some runners and cyclists. Try improving the cityscape on the ground so people will want to be there. Something to do, something to eat, something to look at. Please read William Whyte and James Kunstler and Witold Rybzynski.

    Third: the windswept plaza along K Street has no reason for existing. A maze? Really? A bridge of empty space for homeless people to hang out? Who is going to pay for that?

    Fourth: CONNECT 26th STREET THROUGH K STREET. This is essential for improving the traffic flow. There's already a pedestrian connection (that people from out of town can't find) and a traffic light, so you can't claim that traffic flow would be affected, but people who live in the neighborhood need better access in to and egress routes from the neighborhood. Connecting 26th and K would do it.

    Fifth: As long as we're making bridges over the expressway, connect I Street to 27th Street. 26th and I Streets should have new townhouses alongside similar to the historic fabric. These should be emphatically historic in nature (but with modern amenities) and NOT apartment/condo buildings. And not "townhome developments" representing everything that's wrong with the suburbs, starting with vinyl siding.

    Sixth: The E Street - Kennedy Center Plaza is hardly an original idea. But it needs to happen. Maybe we could have some more townhouses instead of apartment buildings.

    Seventh: A street section of 26th and I Streets would be helpful to draw. I think it would really illustrate the point that the occupancy needs to increase as the amount of fabric increases.

    Eighth: The Metro connection at 27th and I is a great idea. It'll never happen if it pops out of the ground into the middle of a park. People need a reason to go there. The reasons people go places: Either they live there, work there, or eat there. Restaurants are successful in groups, when a district is a destination, leading to the last comment I have:

    Ninth: I love the idea of a waterfront cafe near the KC. It will DIE ON THE VINE if there isn't the density of activity to support the activity.

    Again, THANK YOU to the students and the FBA for starting the discussion. Now let's get real about it and move forward from here!

  • chris

    Trip 4:18:

    Like all of your ideas except the townhomes. Why not elegant Parisian-sytle apartment buildings instead? This is one of the last areas in NW for density development. The area needs to stop sprawling and build up its urban core.

    Plus, as you pointed out these parks/projects will die without density.

  • chris

    Trip 4:18.

    Like all your ideas. But, why not Parisian-style apartment buildings? This is one of the laest areas for high density in NW. The area needs to stop sprawling and build up its urban core.

    Plus, as you pointed out all of these parks, cafes will die without density. DC already has enough underutilized public spaces.

  • http://Savefoggybottom.com Asher Corson

    Thanks for your interest and the excellent feedback. This is the first step of the discussion and we need as much input as possible. It's not nit picky to share your opinion. This is important stuff for our community and we need to get it right.

  • Doug

    Interesting concepts. I love the idea of addl greenspace especially in the area between 26th and Rock Creek Pkwy. There is one piece of feedback (not contained in the proposal) to which I feel must respond - connecting '26th St thu K.' No way!! Several years ago the idea was floated, briefly, to 'reconnect' FB to the streetgrid by opening 25th and 26th across K to PA Ave and I Street across the expressway down to Rock Creek Pkwy. Great idea if we want thru traffic to skyrocket. With the heavy rushhour traffic on VA Ave, NH Ave, PA Ave, and 24th St, traffic would naturally migrate to any streets that offered a shortcut. This can already seen by outbound traffic racing down I St then left on 25th and merging into Juarez Circle (no stopsign here) to avoid the traffic backup on NH Ave. at the GWU Inn and stopsign at NW and H. In fact let's eliminate the merge from 25th into Juarez Circle altogether and force traffic to the stopsign at NH Ave and H eliminating the hazard to pedestrians at this location and any perception of a shortcut to the through commuters.

  • http://strassgefuhl.wordpress.com J.D. Hammond

    I'd like to see a Metro entrance on 27th Street, too, but how is this possible? I'd imagine that it would require the construction of an entirely new station.

  • douglasawillinger

    Put the express roads into a tunnel with such a continuation of I-66 via a tunnel beneath K Street.

    Give the city back to the people.