Housing Complex

D.C. Considers Closing Ford’s Theater Block to Cars

You know what downtown D.C. doesn't really have? A pedestrian mall. That could change, if a city proposal flies.

Specifically, the District Department of Transportation is shopping a pilot project that would close the block of 10th Street NW between E and F Street to vehicular traffic. It's a good spot to try, given that the street is already fairly narrow, and generally overrun with mobs of tourists around Ford's Theater anyway. Can you imagine that photo filled with a plaza and cafe tables?

"We're still doing outreach and working with the stakeholder groups to determine how to move forward," says DDOT spokesman John Lisle. "It's my understanding there is strong support in some quarters, but also a little opposition."

That's about all I know at the moment, but will update if I learn more. Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2C will consider the idea at its meeting next Wednesday.

  • Tom M.

    Ummm. Anyone who has been in DC for more than a couple of years will remember we DID have a section closed to traffic and limited to a pedestrian mall. In fact, it was in the SAME neighborhood -- in front of the National Portrait Gallery and the Spy Museum. Back then, it was a combat zone of a porno theater and abandoned store fronts! Lydia -- doing any research before you write? Or is this a blog and there are no standards....

  • Thayer-D

    Didn't we see this movie before? If we're looking for a cool public space surrounded by buildings and car free, just build it. Don't reduce mobility with another fake and arbitrary piazza.

  • Johnny

    Tom- It's too early in the morning for your attitude. I think this is just a blurb to let us know that this is being considered. And are you positing that this would fail because it did in the past? Because that was more than a couple years ago, it was more than a couple decades ago. You are talking about two very different D.C.'s. But if you are right and Hardrock Cafe is replaced by a pee stained porno store after this block is closed to cars i'll buy you lunch.
    I think this would be great for tourists but I wouldnt really be spending much time mingling with them there by fords theater and hardrock cafe. I would like to see a Pedestrian Mall for locals. 11th street? 18th street? MTP Street? Mstreet?

  • http://portajohn.wordpress.com portajohn

    There was supposed to be a second meeting on this topic last week on the 20th at the Downtown BID. It was inexplicably postponed to a date TBD. From what I heard there were many developers who were not too happy about this plan, and how it would cut off access to loading docks and parking garages. I never walked the area to see exactly what would be impacted.

    Pedestrian mall would be great, but I hear this one is DOA.

  • blkwrestl

    There was a pedestrian mall in front of MLK library in the early 80's. And yes it did fail. The city ripped it up and made it a street all over again. All this walking is good for the young ones, but when they hit 50/60 and above they will want their cars again.

  • Chris in Eckington

    Doug Jemal owns the former Waffe Shop accross the street from the Ford's theater and a good chunk of the rest of the block across from the Ford's Theater which he hopes to redevelop some day, so when Portajohn says "developers" were none too happy, I presume he means Jemal.

  • Steve

    I think DC is going in the right direction. I think the city is more than ready for a pedestrian mall, and I hope the city planners go for it. Eastern market is wonderful because the street is closed; imagine what it would be like on a Saturday or Sunday with traffic moving through there. I love this city, and anything to make it more enjoyable is a step in the right direction.

  • Tom M.

    Johnny -- You doing flack for Lydia now? If the City Paper and this Blog is to have credibility you would have to assume there would be some standard of research. More of a ready, aim, fire. Rather than fire, aim, ready....

  • Eric

    It'll have another pedestrian mall when City Center opens, too.

    Tom, lose the tude.

  • Rock Master Scott

    Tom M. - Calm down pal. This is a blurb telling us about a proposal and when the ANC will discuss it. Lydia didn't make any claims on the history of pedestrian malls in DC nor is the past existence of a pedestrian mall several blocks away in any way relevant to the viability of this proposal.

  • Mrs. D

    Doesn't - contraction of the simple present conjugation "does not." "Presently lacking something."

    I don't care what was here in the 70's or 80's, if it's no longer here and its previous existence has no bearing on things we are considering now.

    Also - I like how we've moved from "you kids will all run for the suburbs - and CARS - when you have kids" to "you kids will want your cars back when you're old." I call that a Dan Savage-style "we're winning."

  • Mike Madden

    @Tom M. --

    The post never said D.C. had never had a pedestrian mall; it said we don't have one downtown now. What does the failed pedestrian mall when the neighborhood was completely different have to do with a proposal to put one in now on a heavily touristy block?

  • Bryant

    @blkwrestl: What? People will want their cars when they're 50 and 60? Why? If they've been walking, biking, and taking Metro their entire lives up until then, why would they suddenly feel the need to have a car when they're approaching the age when they would be less capable of safely operating one? Besides, people who lead more active lives - including walking more instead of driving - will find their overall health is probably better longer, meaning they can *still* walk comfortably into their 60's, and probably beyond.

  • blkwrestl

    Say what you want history repeats itslef you will all be gone by 2020

  • er

    unless i'm mistaken about it's definition, there is a still a pedestrian mall on 8th south of k. very bland though.

  • Tom M.

    This is simply to provide a through way for bus loads of tourists. Note the freeway will not be closed to traffic. The bus is in the middle of the street. It will be inconvenient for LOCAL folks but keen for the great unwashed hordes from the hinterlands. The stream of buses are noisy, polluting, and will disgorge noisy, polluting people. Hence, who will want to "front" on this miasma? My $10k bet -- thanks for upping the ante Uncle Mitt?? The proposal offends people with money and powerful friends. It will never be heard from again...

  • Johnny

    Are you having a stroke Tom?

  • Mrs. D

    Uh, Tom...that's a picture, from today (or some other day in which the street exists as it does today). Not a rendering of what the plaza would look like.

  • M

    I think closing the street in a way similar to what they've done on parts of Broadway in New York would be kind of cool. However, it would cause all sorts of problems for the tour buses that clog that and the surrounding blocks during the spring and summer. I work in the Woodies Building and see the tour bus mess that exists daily with the block open. Obviously we shouldn't make decisions solely on the needs of tour buses but Ford's Theater, Madame Tussauds and the other tourist traps aren't going anywhere and neither will the tour buses and their passengers. Also, there's a parking garage entrance on that section of 10th; how would that work if the street is closed?

  • Cap City Records Panhandler

    I remember when that lot where the gift shop is at, NW corner of 10th & E, was just a grassy mini-field.

    If they close off the street -- what will they do with the tour buses that dump off and pick up all the tourists? Will the street just be open to the tourist traffic?

    I like this idea.

    And yeah... Tom, man, chillax. G Street used to be closed off in front of MLK Library. I don't think the writer needs to chronicle all these things. This is just an info post about what may be in the works.

  • Lance

    @Steve Eastern market is wonderful because the street is closed; imagine what it would be like on a Saturday or Sunday with traffic moving through there.

    Actually, that's how it used to be ... and it worked better than it does now. I think I've only been there once since they redid the place and closed off its main street. Why? Probably because now that it's harder to park, and has that 'closed off' feeling, there's just less of a reason to go. And I used to go at least 10 times a year before the fire there. We say we want 'complete streets' ... but then we advocate for closing off our streets to the largest segment of the population. Maybe we should start saying we want 'marginal streets' ... where only a slim margin of the population is welcome.

  • anon

    "Closing off our streets to the largest segment of the population." Since when are vehicles part of the population. The streets are not gated, access is not restricted, instead, congestion would be relieved for those navigating the attractions, which is why people visit 10th. Also, 10th is not a major artery of the city, right now it only goes from H to Pennsylvania, so not a major flow issue.

  • topryder1

    Please stop closing the streets and making it impossible to get through the city.

  • chiclet

    um... how about "THE Mall"? We have that pedestrian mall.

  • Dave

    'how about "THE Mall"? We have that pedestrian mall."

    That's not a pedestrian mall, that's a park. Look at Central Park, then look at what NYC has done to Broadway through Times Square for a point of comparison.

    And Tom, you're unnecessarily being an ass in this thread.

  • http://westnorth.com Payton

    "Closing off our streets to the largest segment of the population." I believe that 100% of people who travel are pedestrians at some point. Research done in other non-CBD neighborhood business districts around the country shows that a majority of people traveling to local shops in the city are not driving to them; not sure if any of the local BIDs have performed similar research here.

    Besides, Lance's comment sounds dangerously like Yogi Berra's "nobody goes there, it's too crowded." The removal of about two dozen parking spaces has had negligible impact on the actual parking situation.