Starburst Plaza Meeting I
I'm going to post this in parts because it is just too long. This is part I. The following refers to the meeting held last Thursday night.
I'm hoping we all know what I mean when I say the Starburst intersection. But just in case this is not the case, I'll explain. The Starburst intersection is that messy meeting of streets where H Street, Florida, Benning, Maryland, 15th & Bladensburg all come together. On the corners you've got Hechinger Mall, Delta Towers (a retirement home), a liquor store, the Argonaut (the soon to open tavern by Joe Englert), that space next to the Ha Hu Grocery & the Pentacle (an apartment complex with a sizable elderly population). An earlier version of this post refered to the Pentacle as a retirement home. This is not the case. I just was doing a little cutting and pasting & mistakenly stuck the Delta Towers discription next to the Pentacle. DDOT, in partnership with the Project for Public Spaces, is creating a plaza by slightly altering the flow of traffic (click here for a map & all the details). They held two meetings a little over a month ago to solicit community input on the project. At the first evening meeting (two meetings = one daytime & one evening) the overall vibe was very positive & people seemed excited by the possibilities offered by the plaza. This time was different. This time, the vibe of the crowd was different. It was my impression that many of the people at this meeting had not attended the first meeting. I arrived about 10 minutes late & they were just beginning the powerpoint presentations about the plaza plans. The planners provided two different, but similar sets of plans (derived from community input at the first meetings) for the plaza. The first scenario, the Active Oasis, featured some flexible spaces that might be used performances and physical activities as well as a an area for board games. The second option offered offered up veered more towards quiet activities & relaxation. It would lose the spaces for physical activities & be less geared towards performances retain the board games & provide areas for reading or just chilling out. Both scenarios featured: art bollards (the attractive alternatives to Jersey barriers) to protect patrons in the event of an errant auto; raised planting beds (to offer beauty, a psychological barrier from the street, and a noise barrier from the traffic; art installation (both temporary & permanent); a wall or floor fountain (possibly a wall mural); a stand with a bus & area map; high branching trees (to reduce noise & provide shade w/out obscuring the view from outside the plaza); a special bus shelter providing protection from the elements; steps & a ramp (with the incline reduced) leading from the plaza to Hechinger Mall (the steps might be amphitheater steps to provide seating during performances). Public safety factors that played a role in developing these plans included (but were not limited to):
-benches (special benches could be used to deter sleeping)
-traffic light timing
-fewer streets to cross
-barriers for out of control cars
I really liked the first plan because I think that having a high level of activity is the surest way to reduce crime. I also think that more people will be crossing the plaza in the next several years after people move into the soon to be constructed Arboretum Place condos (old Sears site).
Go to part II.