This week, GM is going through the fantastic recommendations from the BID’s Georgetown 2028 report. Yesterday he discussed some of the more significant transportation pieces of the report. Today he discusses the other major section of the report: public space.
The public space working group started from the simple notion that regardless of how one arrives at Georgetown, we’re all pedestrians once we get here. And as also mentioned yesterday, one of the underlying strategies of the report is to develop a “waterfront district” by bringing more commercial life K St. and the streets between K and M. And the public space recommendations address that head on by looking for ways to improve the streetscapes in the commercial sections of Georgetown.
The concepts put forward by the public space working group didn’t have the concreteness of the transportation working group recommendations. So some of these ideas are really just that: ideas. But they’re exciting nonetheless.
One of the weaknesses identified by the report is the lack of a “gateway” at the entrances to Georgetown. There’s nothing really announcing that you’re here when you arrive. GM can’t tell you how many times he’s been stopped on the streets of Georgetown and asked by a tourist where Georgetown is.
The ideas pitched by the working group include more prominent signage at the main entrances to the commercial district. That could mean simply a freestanding sign, or a more radical approach like this on K St.:
(Again, this is just more of proposed concept, not a specifically proposed design)
While GM would love to see permanently widened sidewalks on M and Wisconsin, that simply doesn’t have the support yet. But the report proposes the next best thing: temporary widenings. We saw this successfully done at the French Market last spring.
GM personally hopes this can provide proof of concept that the sidewalk should be widened at least every weekend, but even just occasional widenings would be a good start.
Another idea embraced by the report is parklets. This is another idea that has already been successfully experimented with in Georgetown. The idea is to take one or two parking spots off the main drag and use it for pedestrian purposes like this spot in front of Baked and Wired:
Photo by M.V. Jantzen.
Again, this could be the camel’s nose under the tent to lead to more permanent expansion of pedestrian space. This is particularly true for streets like Thomas Jefferson, which rarely are congested.
Another idea embraced by the report is the improvement of alleyways. Throughout Georgetown–especially lower Georgetown–there are underutilized alleys and off-street passageways. The report recommends doing more to activate those spaces.
Some of the specific tools that could be used include adding public seating, installation art, or even small playspaces.
C & O Canal
The most ambitious and potentially important recommendations from the public space group involve the C & O Canal.
The canal is in bad shape. The walls are slowly collapsing. The boat is just waiting for the Park service to finally demolish it. The visitor center is barely used. It’s not a sustainable situation.
The report recommends a host of improvements for the canal. Some are prosaic, like shoring up the towpath and restoring it to its original width. Also the report suggests adding more seating and shade along the canal.
More ambitiously the report calls for the building of a new canal boat and the restoration and improvement of the visitors center. It also suggests exploring the idea of installing artwork and other fixed points of interest along the canal. It also suggests more lighting, both for safety and added nighttime interest.