Tag Archives: shopping

Reno Park Studies

Reno Park Update 091207: Retail

Before getting to a relatively objective judgement of where neighborhoods are centered, it’s worth drawing out where the commercial spaces are. We know that street retail is a big draw for getting people onto the streets. Whether this is materialistic or not, shops and restaurants do get people out of their homes and onto the streets if they are oriented toward sidewalks. Even when there aren’t that many people on the sidewalks or in stores, the rhythm of the buildings and the people watching from within the buildings enliven and secure neighborhoods. With the big awning signs, stores often also engage drivers and people on the far side of a street, adding another layer to the community structure. So, take a look at that here, with enlivened sidewalks in red, and other enlivened spaces in a paler shade.

street retail

It’s also a defining characteristic of an area’s architecture and culture. Looking at this area, again, you can see nodes and corridors arising from the shapes, not consistent, and lacking in almost any east-west traffic. It also reminds you that the vast majority of the area is housing only, even many of the apartment buildings.

Local planning

Macomb Giant: Where to from here?

The Zoning Commission has approved the Macomb-Wisconsin Giant project, after a difficult and involved process that began in 1619 1998.  Jeff Davis posted on the Cleveland Park Listserv about it this morning:

Last night, the Zoning Commission voted unanimously (4 to 0) to approve the
Giant PUD Application. The zoning process was robust, transparent, and fair and it yielded a terrific overall result.

He’s right, the overall result is excellent urban planning and competent architecture that  adds considerably more and better density to a major thoroughfare, while also managing to unite a mottled context of various building types and styles. The architects, Street-Works, have produced excellent cityscapes work in Shirlington, Reston, and Bethesda. Based on their prior experience, it’s safe to predict that the project will be a success. More than that, I predict that the already thriving area will become a new locality, a broad place that people will perceive intuitively as distinct from Cleveland Park and Cathedral Heights. 

And that’s a good thing, because Wisconsin Avenue needs more of this healthy density. The example that this sets will be a lesson to Ward 3, demonstrating how a few stores and few more stories can create an enjoyable neighborhood center. Not only will the extreme non-failure of the site be ammunition for people who support smart growth, it will serve as a billboard for those who are not engaged in debates, that urbanism is possible in Northwest. But it will be some time before the buildings are built and the storefronts occupied, so until then, activists for urban neighborhoods will have to focus on two things.

  1. Getting there. One of the criticisms of  the new project stemmed from the limited mass transit options in the proposal, legitimate concerns that need to be addressed. WMATA needs to step up bus service and introduce an express line on Wisconsin, either to Georgetown or Woodley Park. Bus facilities such as bus bulbs need to be added to Wisconsin, even at the expense of roadway space. Likewise, DC ought to facilitate the placement of SmartBike facilities, bike racks, and carsharing spaces.
  2. Connecting the surrounding neighborhoods. People must be able to walk to the new development. The current plans emphasize pedestrian traffic, but DDOT needs to improve the streetscape around Macomb, to lure neighborhood residents off of side streets. Without buffering from Wisconsin or new signals along Wisconsin, pedestrians lose the calmness that makes walking so appealing. 

Those who fought hard to get the right kind of development should not give up the momentum they have now, and instead should fight for even better facilities. This includes opponents, who should still look to make the area as leafy as possible, and ensure that Giant sticks to its promises. Resident involvement is one of the most crucial parts of developing community, so although the fight over the Giant has been so acrimonious, it’s important to realize that it will happen, and anyone interested must remain involved in working to ensure good growth elsewhere in the neighborhood.