By Michelle Lancaster. You can follow her and let her know your news on Twitter @MichLancaster. Email her at michellel[AT]borderstan.com.
Beautification comes at a price for city residents; the flower boxes and trees are an improvement to acres of concrete, but the process from start to finish is anything but lovely. Adams Morgan businesses and residents have been enduring a seemingly endless improvement project that has led to traffic snarls, decreased business and a lot of headaches. P Street businesses remember the year plus where parking spaces for local restaurants were non-existent as construction was underway.
Well, U Street, you’re next. The city plans on beginning work on U Street between 9th and 14th Streets NW on Monday, June 11, and will go one block at a time, starting at 9th Street and moving westward. (For the full story, see Tom Hays’ Streetscape Project: U Street Rehabilitation To Begin June 11.)
Sidewalks will be widened, the streets will be repaved and storm drains replaced in addition to the landscaping components. The Washington Post reports you should expect less parking and anticipate making alternate arrangements for about a year. I wonder if anyone’s warned all the prospective buyers further down 14th Street.
From Tom Hay. Questions for Tom? Send him an email at Tom[AT]borderstan.com and follow him on Twitter@Tomonswann.
A large crowd turned out for the pre-construction meeting on the streetscape rehabilitationproject along U Street NW. At Wednesday night’s meeting it was announced that the project is scheduled to begin the week of June 11 and is expected to be complete in April 2013. The blocks to be upgraded include both the north and south side of U Street from 9th Street NW to 14th Street NW.
Councilmember Jim Graham (D-ward 1) was the opening speaker and quickly tried to temper the anxiety anyone in the room had by explaining that this project will not be nearly as disruptive at the current 18th Street Adams Morgan project — at least during this first phase. Graham then introduced many stakeholders, including contacts from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), Myla Moss of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1B and Brian Card of the U Street Neighborhood Association.
When Graham asked for a show of hands, residents slightly outnumbered business owners in attendance at the meeting.
Improvements and Disruptions Detailed
A representative from David Volkert & Associates Engineering walked attendees through the improvements and gave details on what to expect during construction. The improvements will include new curbs, gutters, sidewalks, bus pads, bike racks, storm drains, traffic signals, lighting and multispace parking meters. The $5 million project is mostly federally funded with about 16% coming from local funds.
Construction will begin at 9th and U Streets NW and move west toward 14th Street. Upgrades will take about three to four weeks per block, per side. During that time, parking will be interrupted: first as the curbs are replaced, then as pedestrians are routed into the parking lane as sidewalks are replaced. The sidewalk will be widened where conditions do not meet ADA standards. Planners hope to maintain two lanes of traffic in each direction. Steel plates and ramps will allow pedestrians to access affected businesses during the process. Bus stops may be moved temporarily when they are in the construction zone.
Business Owners Are Concerned
During the question and answer period, business owners expressed serious concerns about the impact on their operations. Councilmember Graham pointed out that owners will be able to apply for no-interest loans for assistance. A few commenters dismissed the benefit of the loan program and suggested other compensation such as tax relief. The project will impact a variety of independent stores, restaurants and bars. Among the impacted businesses are such U Street landmarks as Ben’s Chili Bowl, Lee’s Flower Shop, the Lincoln Theater and Nellie’s Sports Bar.
Phase Two and Beyond
The second phase of the project from 14th to 18th Street is scheduled to begin in late 2013. That segment is expected to be more intrusive as there will be deeper digging in the street for upgrades. The upgrades along 14th Street NW are on hold as extensive development currently underway would interfere with the project. The current target for the start of that project is now fiscal year 2015 or 2016.
The Borderstan neighborhoods have seen similar streetscape upgrades over the years. Recent ones include the blocks of P Street west of Dupont Circle, 17th Street NW from P to R Streets and several blocks of 18th Street NW in the middle of the Adams Morgan commercial strip. While the reviews of the improvements have generally been favorable; the disruption to the businesses especially during the P Street and now 18th Street NW projects have been well documented.
Some news about our neighbors just to the north… beyond that Florida Avenue boundary.
A streetcape project in well-trod areas of Adams Morgan — the Adams Morgan Streetscape Project — seemed like a great idea for all involved. And then work started and things fell apart, according to Huffington Post. Local businesses were promised, and are starting to receive, no-interest loan money they were promised to help out during the construction.
These types of projects can have a serious effect on sidewalk foot traffic, and making it difficult for customers to enter businesses. Unhappy owners now have a potential legal leader in Robert Clayton, who represents Crooked Beat Records. The Adams Morgan Streetscape Project runs from Florida Avenue to Columbia Road NW. Clayton told Huffington Post that the construction has resulted in “big drops in sales due to the streetscape construction and contends that customers can’t find parking.”
Clayton is holding a meeting to gather owners and advise some legal options as well as alternatives to the current loan structure. Other residents are ticked off at old growth trees that are slated to be chopped during the project. Rather than discussing lawsuits at present, these residents have instead created ‘Treeman’, as captured here by DCist. We’ll keep you posted on what happens next (perhaps the trees could be cut, pulped and recycled into paper for the legal filings — not an endorsement, just a thought?).
Other Streetscape Projects
There are 18 streetscapes project underway or in the planning process in DC. There is one in the works for the 14th Street corridor as well, but funding is at least two to three years in the future, according to Ward 2 Councilmemer Jack Evans’ office. (With the deplorable state of the sidewalks and tree boxes on the 14th Street corridor, that project cannot come soon enough.)
One recently completed project, the 17th Streetscape project in 2010 avoided the types of problems they are having in Adams Morgan, and local businesses were not affected in terms of access. Afterward, local businesses and organizations adopted the new tree boxes on the 17th Street corridor.
An earlier project on P Street NW, west of Dupont Circle, did cause serious problems for businesses because customers had difficulty reaching or entering their stores.
The 17th Street NW corridor will get its own festival this fall on Saturday, September 25. The commercial strip between P Street and Riggs Place will play host to musical performances, artist vendors, a pet zone, a kids zone and an auction tent from 2 to 6 pm.
The festival was planned as a way to celebrate the completion of DDOT’s 17th Streetscape project, which got underway last December. The Streetscape project has brought new sidewalks, lighting and tree boxes on both sides of 17th Street between Massachusetts Avenue and New Hampshire Avenue NW–after a lot of digging, dust, jackhammers and blocked off traffic lanes and sidewalks.
Sponsorships and Beneficiaries
The 17th Street Festival (also on Facebook) is being organized by the Historic Dupont Main Streets project, Ross Elementary School PTA and the Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA). Festival organizers are selling sponsorships to individuals, businesses and organizations. Items are also being solicited for a raffle.
Proceeds from the sale of festival sponsorships will be used to purchase flowers and plants for 17th Street’s of tree boxes, as well as flags for the new light posts. The light post flags will promote local groups, organizations and upcoming events.
Additional funds from sponsorships will go toward a fund for future 17th Street projects and festivals, as well as to the Ross Elementary School Parent Teacher Association (PTA). Anyone interested in making a raffle donation should contact Nina at [email protected]. Potential festival sponsors should contact Jennifer at [email protected]
Ross Elementary School Open
According to Lee Granados, chair of the Festival, “We want this event to highlight our overall community including businesses, independent entrepreneurs, artists and musicians and our local public school, Ross Elementary.”
Granados said that Ross will be open to the community during the festival on September 25. The PTA is encouraging area residents who are interested in DC schools to visit–especially if they have young children who would be eligible to attend Ross.
Call for Artists: Sept. 11 Deadline
Festival organizers hope to have as many as 50 local artists at the 17th Street Festival. Artists will be able to display and sell their artworks. You can get more information from the Call for Artists application, including contact information. The deadline to submit an application is Saturday, September 11 at 6 pm.
For more information about the 17th Street Festival, contact Lee Granados at [email protected]estival.org.
Work on the section of the 17th Streetscape project from P to Street NW should be completed by early June, according to ANC Commissioner Jack Jacobson (2B-04). The sections below P to Massachusetts and above S up to U Street are scheduled to be finished by December.
The new sidewalks on the 17th Street corridor are getting a touch of brick–instead of being fully bricked. The areas next to the curb are brick and there is a brick accent toward the center of the sidewalk. Work is underway to complete the sidewalks on the west side before warm weather, and outdoor dining, arrives. Get updates on the 17th Streetscape project at the project Web site.
Yesterday, for the fourth time, a water main ruptured at 17th and P Streets NW. Accounts say that Monday’s break was by far the largest; 17th between O and Q as well as P Street between 16th and 18th were closed for several hours.
The initial report is that a contractor working on the 17th Streetscape project hit a 20-inch water main. Greater Greater Washington has a good account of what happened yesterday along with a short video of the water gushing at 17th and P NW. Dcist has more info and photos.
GGW says the previous three water main breaks on 17th Street have been due to “a combination of the cold weather, pipes sitting exposed, and the old age of the pipes.” ANC 2B/Dupont is slated to discuss the problems at Wednesday’s meeting.
Work on the 17th Streetscape project started November 30 at Massachusetts Avenue NW.
Last Saturday ANC 2B/Dupont Circle held a rally and walk down 17th Street with city officials to review initial tree removal plans that were part of the 17th Streetscape project. Work began November 30.
The city’s initial plans called for the removal of almost all of the 35 trees between P and Riggs Streets NW on 17th. However, after the 17th Street walk, plans have been revised so that only about 10 trees will be removed from this stretch of the street.
Following is a detailed report on the Saturday walk and the city’s revised tree plans for 17th Street from Commissioner Jack Jacobson, ANC 2B-04.
The DC Department of Transportation (DDoT) is hosting a community meeting this evening on the 17th Streetscape project. Time is 6:30 to 8 p.m. at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 1772 Church Street NW.
Following is a quick Q&A with Commissioner Jack Jacobson, ANC 2B04; he is co-chair of the 17th Street working group, along with Paul Williams, executive director of Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets.
At the bottom of this posting are earlier stories related to plans for 17th Street. Also, Greater Greater Washington did a great write up on the project in October 2008.
- Hurry up to 14th and U Streets NW before 1 p.m. today–today is the final day of the 2009 season for the 14th and U Farmers Market.
- Read the transcript of an anonymous 911 call on the morning of October 4 when a man died at “Men’s Parties” at 1618-A 14th Street, courtesy of columnist Amanda Hess, “The Sexist”,at the Washington City Paper.
- If you are ready to adopt a companion, check out dcist’s “Pet Worth,” which launched in October; dcist is collaborating with the Washington Humane Society. It is a listing, with photos, of “Highly Adoptable Animals.”
- On Monday, November 23, attend the next 17th Streetscape Community Meeting at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 1772 Church Street NW. Time is 6:30 to 8 p.m. Jack Jacobson, ANC 2B-04, has more information; you can send him an email.
- Read WashCycle’s take on the 15th Street bike lane–and other possible future options for the street. One is Alternative 3, which would make 15th a two-way street for traffic, and my choice all along.