What can be done with 4th & L?

At the February MVSNA meeting there was a brief discussion on the corner of 4th and L. This area of course is along the primary trouble spot for prostitution in our area. The district owns vacant land to the east of the intersection that could be used to transform this seedy pocket and create more eyes on the street.

How to best transform this city land is not a straight forward proposition. Long term DDOT goals are to reconnect L Street NW and 3rd Street NW over I-395 (rendering). Another long term possibility is the truncation of I-395 at Mass Ave which is being studied. I don’t personally anticipate much movement on either of these items in the next 8-10 years.

I do think that preserving an unobstructed L Street right of way so that these future DDOT plans are not undermined is extremely important. However this limits the development potential of the city’s L parcel.

Click to enlarge; Yellow=District parcel, Blue=Future L St segment, Red=Future 3rd St segment

Leaving the parcel vacant for 5-10 years should not be an option. A temporary use of the land seems to be what the doctor ordered. The two primary options would be a dog park or community garden. While I am not a dog owner I would lean towards a well lit enclosed dog park. The year round and around the clock use would be greater. I also wonder if the hookers wouldn’t just raid a community garden for food or vandalize it when no one is around.

Would the opportunity to unleash their beloved canines be a strong enough draw to pull dog owners from Mass Ave hi-rises or from north of N.Y. Ave to this currently seedy spot? Would area dog owners show enough commitment to go through the lengthy petition process? Would they have enough critical mass to create a dog owner coalition, similar to Shawdogs.org, to maintain the grounds? I hope the answers are YES as this may be our best option to clean up this stretch of Fourth street.

UPDATE [2/19/09 @ 11am] This older satellite image from Microsoft’s Local Live shows the homeless trailers that Si Kailian mentioned were at this location not too long ago.

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  1. 1

    CityVista Resident says

    I live in the L at City Vista, and I would love this area to be transformed into a dog park. When I first moved in I was concerned with the “activity” going on there…lately with the colder weather it seems to have stopped but I agree that lighting and an around-the-clock presence would go a long way to improving the area.

  2. 2

    si says

    The illustration is very helpful as it shows how L street would run right thru Bibleway’s parking lot. All I will say is that churches like their parking lots very much and that is a very big church.
    For a temporary use, I agree a dog park could be great. There arent enough residents adjacent to that parcel to support a community garden-its massive work. My dream would be a flea market ala NYC.

    But…if reopening L street is off the table, I’d love to see (multi-unit?)townhouses built there. Wouldnt block any views, and we’d have new eyes on the street.

    In the meantime, the lot should be securely fenced so the girls cant set up mattresses. And under no circumstances should the city put the homeless trailers back there.

  3. 3

    fourthandeye says

    @Si – You’re right the church would lose some of their parking lot if L Street was extended. However, I think all the new street parking they would have easy access to on L and 4th would indirectly offset this.

  4. 4

    Anonymous says

    I’m a nearby dog owner and have lived in the triangle for a while now. There is NO WAY I would walk over there in the early morning or evening hours when I need to walk my dog. As much as we need a local dog park, it is not a safe situation for a dog owner to hang out over there.

    But Si has a brilliant idea. A flea market a la NYC or even a la Eastern Market’s flea market would bring a lot of local activity. Let’s give that idea some legs.

  5. 5

    fourthandeye says

    It is a catch-22. It's not safe because no one goes there and no one wants to go there because it's perceived to be unsafe. How do we change that?

    I think the CID has talked with some existing flea markets. I don't believe the interest is quite there on the vendor side. I would think for a flea market to have a chance of coming to MVT the site would have to be the Steuart's parking lot west of City Vista. Flea Markets have better options than this 4th & L lot.

  6. 8

    Anonymous says

    I'm a resident of City Vista as well and I think that a park – dog or otherwise – would be wonderful!

    If the residents started taking an active interest and made a strong effort to improve the property – along with VERY good lighting at night and the benches that have the armrest in the center (to prevent sleeping on them, like the ones in Logan Circle), we could have some much needed green space in Mt. Vernon Triangle!

    We could see a big change if the recent request for more patrolling from PSA 101 come to fruition. A constant police presence from the MPD on this block to discourage illegal activity, combined with a new residents using it as a park all the time could easily change the block for the better. I've seen this work very well in other neighborhoods that were in transition over the years in DC (Logan Circle being the most recent.) The new residents simply started using the circle & the neighborhood. Dog walkers make a world of difference in sparking the change. The prostitues, homeless & drug addicts that were there for so long simply moved on as their discomfort arose due to more people using the circle for recreation. The more foot traffic & people that are out & about, the more we will end up discouraging unwanted activity. The only thing we need to succeed in this is a strong cooperation & contant patrolling of the area at night from PSA 101 The installation of lighting is also key.

    I'll be happy to plant! Can we look for donations? Logan Circle Community Association got a TON of plants donated for all of their sad flowerboxes about 8 years ago, now they're all beautifully grown in. We can do it too!

  7. 9

    si says

    One of the problems with fixing up a park and perhaps turing a city lot into a park, is they want to go thru this long complicated process of procuring a massive budget, doing up a whole design, budget next year for the following fiscal year…and then when people disagree about uses or whatever, nothing happens & money get reshuffled. I know that sounds pessimistic but how do we avoid all that mess? My first suggestion would be for the community to meet with neil albert's office to figure out what is possible and in what timeframe, then go from there. Thoughts? The increased level of interest in this lot is just joyous!

  8. 10

    fourthandeye says

    I’ve learned from MVT Bill that the government does not own the entirety of the gravel lot. DDOT has retained the L Street right of way (ROW). Their are two narrow lots on 4th Street south of the L Street ROW but north of the existing housing structure. Those two small lots are under private ownership. North of the L Street ROW is government owned. It’s unclear if government means DC Govt or the Federal Highway Adminstration (FHA).

  9. 11

    John Thompson says

    I think it would be wise to pursue the land N. of L St.

    What can we do to drum up support on this? Let’s meet with Neil Albert’s office! I’m all for a green space on this triangle. The triangular park reminds me of a park in Lisbon – which is one of my favorite, tree covered parks. Though it’s a small space, it could really be an oasis and a beautiful place to meet neighbors in Mt. Vernon Triangle. Could eventually be a wonderful place for a market!

  10. 12

    fourthandeye says

    I don’t know how something like live normally gets jumpstarted. However I would think a little more consensus among neighborhood advocates/residents on both the goals and vision should be reached before pulling in Neil Albert’s office.

    I’ll reinitiate this topic with a new posting in a few days.