Construction on Eastern Market Metro Plaza (EMMP) Park is expected to begin in February 2020, with work proceeding in two phases beginning with Parcel 1. The Department of General Services (DGS) confirmed the timeline for the renovation of the park at the Oct. 15th meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B.
At the meeting, commissioners voted to oppose the DGS application to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Public Space Committee (PSC) for construction permits.
Commissioners cited a lack of opportunity for public comment on the project, an issue raised again when the presentation of a traffic study by the DGS team during the same meeting. DGS said the study supports a reversal of the direction of traffic on the 700 and 800 blocks of D Street SE as well as the slip lanes in front of Trader Joe’s and Dunkin Donuts.
The PSC approved concept design for the project at their Oct. 24 meeting, noting in the minutes both that the committee has no authority over lane reversals and adding that the team must submit a final design.
Increasing Pedestrian Safety
The transportation study was conducted in March 2019 by civil engineering firm A. Morton Thomas (AMT), but was released to the ANC on Oct. 12 and to the public on Oct. 16. DGS Project Team Lead Cassidy Mullen said data from the traffic study provided direction on ways to increase safety in the park and for pedestrians walking to or across the different parcels.
The closure of the slip lanes would reduce the number of pedestrian crossings from the north side to the south side of the park. Pedestrian safety would also be increased through the reconfiguration of driving lanes and the construction proposed bump-outs at intersections of D Street with South Carolina Avenue SE, which would decrease crosswalk length by 70 percent.
“The purpose of this is to increase pedestrian safety, not to improve vehicular commute times,” Mullen said.
Attendees at the Oct. 15 meeting said it was not clear to them how the proposed changes would increase safety. They expressed concern about confusion due to the changes in the direction of traffic, argued that the closure of the slip lanes would create a build-up of traffic at other intersections, and about the impact on Metro Bus routes.
Addressing the traffic study’s data relating to the intersection at Seventh Street SE and Pennsylvania Avenue, residents questioned the relevancy of this data, which was collected in March 2019 during the period in which the 200 block of Seventh street, usually closed for the weekend outdoor market, had been open to traffic on Saturdays.
In opposing the application, ANC 6B sent a letter to DDOT asking the PSC to defer the Oct. 24th hearing to allow the ANC time to consider the transportation study. “We would appreciate it if the District agencies overseeing this project would stop putting up barriers, thereby reducing the Commission’s ability to carry out its responsibilities under DC Code,” they wrote.
Two Phases –and a Pavilion
If DGS secures permits, work on Phase I of EMMP, containing a playground, splash pad and nature room, is expected to begin in February 2020 and be concluded by June 2020. Phase 2 will begin in October 2020 and conclude in April 2021. The second phase includes work on Parcel 4, site of the Eastern Market Metro Station entrance, wayfinding, library plaza, and a bosque of trees.
Mullen said that proceeding with two phases of work will allow the community to enjoy the park in the summer months and also facilitates the addition of greenery, as plantings often do not succeed if planted in the summer.
In response to requests from the community, space for a pavilion 20- to 25- foot in diameter has been added to the plans for Parcel 4 of the project. Designs will be presented to the community before they are finalized. In order to get approval from the Federal Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), Mullen said the pavilion will have to be as transparent as possible so as not to impede the sightline to the Southeast Library or compete with the metro station canopy.
An Eye on the Trees
The design of Parcel 1 (the northeast quadrant of the park) will be slightly modified in response to comments from the DDOT’s Urban Forestry Division, Mullen added. The playground will shift slightly south and geometry of elements will be altered to avoid potential damage to the root zone of existing trees that could be caused by interference during construction. Mullen said an arborist will monitor the trees during construction.
Responding to a question posed by the ANC about park maintenance, Mullen said that although DGS had initially expected to enter into an arrangement for daily maintenance with the Capitol Hill BID, they had subsequently decided it would be a better use of agency funds to assign responsibility to the DGS Facilities Division together with the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR). Mullen said that DGS expects to issue a life-cycle budget soon, including year-to-year maintenance costs and a replacement schedule for park amenities such as playground equipment.
Mullen confirmed that Big George, the large evergreen planted in 2007 by the Capitol Hill Business Improvement District (BID) on the northeast quadrant in honor of founding BID President George Didden III will have to be replaced. Capitol Hill BID President Patty Brosmer said that the extensive summer dry spell hampered the efforts of arborists to save the tree. Mullen said that the tree will be replaced with a similar species when construction begins.
A community meeting, at which traffic planning is expected to be a focus, has not yet been finalized but is expected to take place in early November. Questions about the overall EMMP project may be submitted via email to [email protected]
Here is more information on the EMMP project, including past presentations, relevant documents, and meeting dates.
This article was to appear in the print issue of the November Hill Rag. There was a copy error, and the incorrect text was used in the body of the printed article. The Hill Rag regrets any inconvenience that was caused.