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Give Input on New Vision for Potomac Metro Plaza

The developers of three Capitol Hill projects are looking for the public’s input on a long-term vision for improvements to the Potomac Avenue Metro Station Plaza (700 14th St. SE). From 5:15 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, representatives from Insight Property Group, Ditto Residential and May Riegler will be outside the metro station entrance looking for feedback on three concepts to guide long-term 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 Development Group Partner Sarah Davidson said that the focus of the community benefits agreement is to improve the grounds of the Potomac Metro Station Plaza. She said that working on the plaza is a challenge because  multiple agencies have jurisdiction over the property, including WMATA and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT).

“Our combined efforts at the Potomac Avenue Metro Station are intended to help seed broader community engagement in how this currently underutilized space could be re-imagined and re-deployed into a true gathering place on the Hill,” said Davidson.

“Currently, we are proposing to focus the resources we have committed as part of our projects on making the southern side of the Metro entrance a more welcoming experience by upgrading landscaping, adding decorative fencing and benches and public art.”

One significant problem faced by the developers was how to maintain any future improvements moving forward.  The team reached out to the Capitol Hill BID, which has agreed to be the maintenance partners for the initial improvements that will be made by developers.

Work Intended as Phase I

Davidson said improvements to the south side of the plaza, from the top of the station escalators to Potomac Avenue itself, are viewed as Phase I of plaza improvements. They will be a first building block for future phases of improvement to the plaza. She said that further development would require larger commitments, both financially and in principal, from the District and its agencies.

“This work of ours is intended to dovetail into and be a catalyst for a future phase of redevelopment of the Plaza, which will likely require the commitment of and investment by the Council, DDOT, DGA and WMATA, fueled by the community’s interest in seeing this space fully transformed,” Davidson said.

Kiss-and-Ride as Key to Long Term

Chair of ANC 6B Planning and Zoning Committee and area Commissioner Cory Holman said he was both excited for short-term improvements and the possibility of a long term vision.

“In the short-term, the Phase 1 improvements presented here, along with the planned installation of a canopy over the entrance, will immediately improve the experience of using the metro plaza. Furthermore, the commitment from Capitol Hill BID to maintain the improvements is a very important part of this plan,” he said.

Holman said that he sees removing the kiss-and-ride as the key to large-scale improvements to the plaza. “I’m committed to pushing the Council, WMATA, DDOT, and DGS to explore purchasing the WMATA property and rethinking how the property and public right-of-way are used,” he said.

“We should design this public and quasi-public spaces to maximize transit usage and provide a safe and pleasant environment for all users. And that will never happen as long as the kiss-and-ride lane remains.”

Image showing proposed phasing for Potomac Metro Station, presented at the May 7 meeting of the ANC 6B Planning and Zoning Committee. Image: Courtesy C. HOlman/AMC 6B

On Wednesday, representatives of the developers will present three different concepts as a starting point to guide redesign. The first two options differ largely in the shape of landscaping on the north side of the station entrance, and slightly in use of space. A third option (at the top of this article) would close the kiss-and-ride, and the developers are interested in learning if that drop-off space is well-used.

Davidson emphasized that the designs are preliminary points of reference to guide discussion on the vision for the plaza moving forward. She said the three developers really want to transform the metro station over the long term, and want to be sure to consult with the community. But she emphasized that a major transformation would require getting the city and its agencies on board. The developers are hoping the community will help galvanize that action.

“What is great is this is a commitment by three developers who are invested in the long term on the Hill,” she said. “The more people we get excited about this, the better chance we have of marking significant improvements to the plaza.”

Representatives of the developers will have tables outside the Potomac Avenue Metro Station from 5:15 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 22. For more information on the developments and developers, 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).

Reach out with comments or questions on this proposed project to Commissioner Corey Holman (6B06) at 6B06@anc.dc.gov and via phone at 301-664-4132.

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