My friend John pointed me towards a grassroots campaign advocating 17th Street NW between Massachusetts and New Hampshire Avenue be converted into a pedestrian-only street. While I am not generally an advocate of such streets and think there’s a whole host of measures that can be taken short of completely closing streets to traffic (medians, wider sidewalks, bulb-outs, etc), they seem to work in some intensely pedestrian places. Successful pedestrian streets I’ve seen in the U.S. have a high density of businesses and contain cross streets open to autos for easy access, two things certainly present at 17th Street. Whether or not the proposal is politically feasible, it is certainly worth discussing. Unsurprisingly, the promenade has been covered by the newly launched DC sidewalk blog.
The proposal reminds me of some ideas put together for a magazine called DCenter, edited by architect Julian Hunt. Sadly, we must rely on Marc Fisher’s summary since Julian has chosen not to publish the contents online. According to Fisher, the articles include a proposal by Hunt to cover over the ramps to the Dupont Circle underpass to create public space for the famer’s market and other uses, and another by Catholic University professor Iris Miller, who advocates re-using the Whitehurst Freeway as pedestrian promenade, perhaps not unlike plans for New York City’s High Line. DCenter is available through Amazon, at the National Building Museum Book Shop, and the Franz Bader Bookstore at 1911 I Street NW.