Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gallaudet 6th Street Development Means Big Changes

Rendering by Dangermond Keane Architecture (from GU's 6th Street project page)

There's a ton of recent local development news coming out and I wanted to particularly highlight what's happening with Gallaudet in the Florida Market (Florida Avenue and 6th Street).

Gallaudet is ready to move on their much discussed Florida Market development that is intended to serve as a gateway between the University and the larger neighborhood. They will apply DeafSpace principles to the project. This means a heavy emphasis on space and light, and how those can both be used to facilitate ASL communication as people move through the spaces. I would expect that we'll see wide hallways and a de-emphasis on sharp corners, as well as attention to surface choice. In past discussions Gallaudet representatives have stressed that this development is meant to be welcoming to both Deaf and hearing individuals.

Many years ago I served as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for ANC 5B (which encompassed Gallaudet at that time, it's now ANC 5D). I vividly recall one meeting in which a Gaullaudet representative spoke about how Deaf identity was changing as technology changed. At one point the Deaf community was somewhat cut off from the hearing community. The campus was insular in some ways. But they said that they were seeing more students than ever interested in living off campus and interacting in a more meaningful way with the businesses and neighbors on H Street, in Near Northeast, and in Trinidad. I see the same desires reflected by hearing residents and business owners. Many of my neighbors have either learned a little ASL (some a great deal more than a little), or are interested in learning some. On H Street many businesses have tried to reach out to the Deaf community and find ways to facilitate communication and comfort. The rise of services like Twitter has really served to help further break down some of the communication barriers. We're living in a very exciting time in this respect.

I see this development as a natural extension of that larger movement, and I think something really cool will come out of it. It's a new kind of architecture and planning that can help us all to become a stronger community. This new development will be mixed use, and will build on existing uses in the Florida Market (such as Union Market) to cultivate a creative and cultural district that we can all enjoy. It will be pedestrian friendly, encourage the use of bikes for transportation, and incorporate green elements. As part of the plan 6th street will become more narrow (a big plus for those who have seen how it can be hazardous to pedestrians). Total development area for this project is about seven acres. Developer JBG Cos. will partner with the University on the project.

The Washington Post has more details: Gallaudet plots “town-gown neighborhood” near Union Market (Washington Post, 10/13/14)

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