Dear Mr. Lott:
In its public meeting of 21 January conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept design for proposed streetscape improvements along Connecticut Avenue, NW, between Dupont Circle and California Street. The Commission approved the concept for the northern portion of the project, from California Street to Q Street; for the southern portion of the project from Q Street to Dupont Circle, which includes a new plaza atop the open vehicular underpass, the Commission took no action and requested a further concept submission that responds to the following comments.
The Commission members expressed support for the creation of a pedestrian plaza to animate the block of Connecticut Avenue immediately north of Dupont Circle, but they raised numerous concerns about the proposed design. Commenting that the relationship of this block to Dupont Circle is critical to conceptualizing the design, they requested that the plan drawings include the open space, landscape, and fountain of Dupont Circle for reference. They encouraged the continuous placement of street trees without interruption at the pedestrian crosswalk; for the honey locust trees proposed in planters located within the plaza, they suggested that these be as regular as possible to reinforce the visual connection to the open space of Dupont Circle, possibly with additional trees at the north and south ends of the plaza. They acknowledged the advantages of the planters’ oval shape in providing increased soil capacity within this narrow corridor; while expressing some support for the playfulness of the proposed configuration of various sizes and alignments, they also requested that the next submission include an alternative design with a more regular configuration of planters. Acknowledging the intent to protect pedestrians from vehicles, they recommended using natural stone instead of precast concrete for the curbside boulders, or using a more regular and substantial design element; they urged the development of a design that will not require the future addition of unsightly supplemental barriers.
In their support for the overall streetscape project, the Commission members observed that bicycle and bus lanes in Washington are often painted in bright colors that can be jarring within the urban context. They encouraged the D.C. Department of Transportation’s citywide reconsideration of the standard design treatment of bicycle and transit infrastructure, and they requested further information about how this design standard will be applied to this project and throughout the city.
The Commission looks forward to an additional concept submission for the southern segment of this project that responds to these comments. Please coordinate the next submission with the staff which, as always, is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Everett Lott, Interim Director
D.C. Department of Transportation
55 M Street, SE, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20003
cc: Mike Gifford, RK&K