Community Gives Comments on Potomac Plaza Concepts

'Co-ordinated Campaign' Required to Achieve Overhaul, Says Commissioner

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Three developers with projects in a two-block radius of Potomac Metro Station (700 14th St. SE) heard community feedback on three concepts on Wednesday. Areas of desired improvement are numbered on this photo, a detail from the presentation by the developers to ANC 6B. Detail: Schematic Design Presentation to ANC 6A. Courtesy: Insight Property Group/ANC 6B

On Wednesday, developers of three Capitol Hill projects sought community input on a vision for improvements to the Potomac Avenue Metro Station Plaza (700 14th St. SE). Representatives from Insight Property Group, Ditto Residential and May Riegler together with Corey Holman (6B06) of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B outside the metro station entrance looking for feedback on three concepts to guide planning for the site.

The developers are honoring community benefit agreements made with the community through Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B as part of residential projects located within a two-block radius of the Potomac Metro Station, including The Lockwood (1339 E St. SE), Watkins Alley (1309-1323 E St. SE) and The Blackbird (1401 Pennsylvania Ave. SE). All three are nearing completion, largely expected to be finished by fall of this year.

Insight Property Group Partner Sarah Davidson said that she was happy to report that there was a good turnout to provide feedback, and that people were engaged and excited about the concepts.

Existing conditions, with proposed improvements indicated. Image: Courtesy Insight Property Group/ANC 6B.

Three Phases

Improvements to the plaza are planned in three phases. The first phase will make improvements to the area south of the escalator entrances to Potomac Avenue. The plan calls for the replacing of chain link fencing with a type more suited to the historic district, replacing trash cans and adding landscaping and greenery. A second phase involving the replacement of dead trees along G Street SE, cleaning up the area and adding further plantings is likely to take place shortly afterward.

Phasing Diagram for the project. Phases 1 and 2 have been designed to incorporate into all concepts; phase 3 requires the completion of a vision for overhaul. Image: Courtesy Insight Property Group/ANC 6B

Holman said that community members were most excited to comment on the third phase of the plan, a vision for a more complete overall of the station. He said that plan likely requires the purchase of the property from WMATA and additional capital funds, perhaps in the millions of dollars.

However, Holman added that it appeared that WMATA was open to the idea of a sale because the property does not have a great deal of development potential. That’s because of a requirement to maintain access, the location of the Metro elevator near the center of the property and the 35-foot height limit on buildings in the area.

Three overall concepts were presented by the development team, all including improvements to fencing, trash receptacles, paving and lighting. The first concept would add a lawn play space, public art and garden areas as well as flowering trees. Concept two incorporates a great deal more trees and less open space, adding hedges near the bus shelters, a garden area and shade areas. Concept three would eliminate the kiss and ride and create egg-shaped landscaped areas including a butterfly garden, grass area, tree-trunk play feature and new canopy trees with benches.

Concept 1 includes a long lawn framed by flowering trees. It was favored in feedback, Holman said, likely due to open spaces and cross-plaza accessibility. Image: Courtesy Insight Property Group/ANC 6B
Concept 2 includes garden loops. Residents voiced concern with sight lines, said Holman. Image: Courtesy Insight Property Group/ANC 6B

Holman said that people gravitated towards Concept 1, largely because it has a great deal of public space as well as connections between east and west. He said both the desire for open space and connection makes sense. “We talk about making places to walk to, but 99% of people are just trying to get from point A to point B,” he said.

Community Comment 

Holman said that many of the concerns expressed by neighbors related to safety, especially about sight lines, lighting and cameras, likely because of the recent police incidents that have been reported there. Residents expressed a desire for a metro canopy, a project WMATA intends to implement, likely in 2020.

Holman said that there was general support for the removal of the Kiss and Ride, the driveway intended for dropping off metro riders, located along 14th Street SE. “Residents were generally supportive of the idea of removing concrete and asphalt, including the driveway,” he said.

However, the commissioner said that residents of 14th and G Street did express concern that the removal of the road would reduce access between their streets and Pennsylvania Avenue SE. 14th Street is a one-way road, and the kiss-and-ride driveway goes in the opposite direction, helping to form an access loop. Holman said that he believed the issue of access could be worked through moving forward.

Concept 3 for the overall vision includes the removal of the kiss and ride drive (now located along 14th Street, along the top of the diagram). Image: Courtesy Insight Property Group/ANC 6B

Join the Campaign

Phase I will be implemented this fall, likely in October or November 2019. A date for Phase Two has not yet been set, but Holman said it is very likely to be implemented.

The achievement of Phase Three, a complete overhaul of the plaza, is likely to take years and will require advocacy from the ANC, developers and the community. Holman said that the ANC would work with the developers and the community to create an initial concept plan that could then be presented to DC Councilmembers, such as Councilmember Charles Allen (D) or Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D), a nearby resident, as well as city agencies such as the Department of General Services (DGS) and the Department of Transportation (DDOT).

“We have to try to make a co-ordinated campaign to get them on board with the concept, and get funding for the project,” Holman said. “We can say, look at what we could do. I know it’s a big ask, but it could be a transformative idea for the area.”

“If we can get a plan and get people on board, I think we could really get this done.”

If you want to learn more about the Potomac Metro Plaza plans, make comments on concepts or phases, or get involved in a campaign to make it a reality, contact Commissioner Corey Holman (6B06) at 6B06@anc.dc.gov and via phone at 301-664-4132.

For more information on the developments and developers behind the first two phases of work on the plaza, visit Insight Property Group, developers of The Lockwood (1339 E St. SE); Ditto Residential, developers of Watkins Alley (1309-1323 E St. SE); and May Riegler, developers behind The Blackbird (1401 Pennsylvania Ave. SE).