How Many Hoovers Does It Take to Deaden D.C.’s Downtown?
If you're a building in D.C. and your name's Hoover, chances are you're not doing much to enliven the experience of passers-by. Now, one Hoover at a time, the federal government is looking to change that.
Last month, the General Services Administration held a meeting with developers to encourage their ideas for converting the J. Edgar Hoover Building, the imposing FBI headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, into a more engaging mixed-use space, potentially in exchange for a new headquarters in the D.C. area. "I've heard it described as the last undeveloped space on Pennsylvania Avenue," Bill Dowd, the GSA's acting regional commissioner of the Public Buildings Service for the capital region, said of the FBI building at the meeting.
But just south of Pennsylvania Avenue, there's another Hoover Building that's also taking up valuable real estate without offering anything to pedestrians. The Herbert C. Hoover Building, which houses the U.S. Department of Commerce and was completed in 1932, takes up the entire block bounded by 14th and 15th streets and Pennsylvania and Constitution avenues NW. From the outside, the high walls of the inward-facing building are broken up only by secure vehicle entrances.
Now, the Washington Business Journal reports, the GSA is contemplating a security overhaul that could make the building more welcoming. On Thursday, the National Capital Planning Commission will consider a GSA proposal to install, in addition to security systems, two reflecting pools on 14th Street, new seating with benches, and a pair of Capital Bikeshare stations.
It's a small step toward a more engaging street experience in the city's downtown core, and also toward historic justice: It seems inappropriate for a street life-deadening building to be named after the man who had people camping out in Hoovervilles.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons