WBJ discusses Temporary Urbanism with Harriet Tregoning

In today’s Washington Business Journal staff reporter Jonathan O’Connell discusses “temporary urbanism” with Office of Planing Director Harriet Tregoning as a means to to bring dead construction zones and storefronts alive with active, temporary uses.

Examples of temporary urbanism around the city include the Washington Trapeze School and Kastles Tennis at the City Center site, the yearly Artomatic event and and outdoor event area coined the Bullpen outside Nationals Park.

O’Connell points out that developers are often luke warm to the idea of temporary uses as they are concerned that when the time for development does arrive the public will object to displacement of the temporary amenity.

I support the concept of temporary urbanism. When the stop gap for every stalled development is a parking lot it stifles livability. The district has made strides in this regard under Tregoning’s tenure but other cities show that much more is possible. Portland Oregon not only has pioneered the modern streetcar line but also prominently features temporary urbanism in the form of a vibrant downtown food cart scene. The perimeter of most downtown surface parking lots in Portland are lined with food carts (over 400!) that offer diverse and cheap dining options including Bosnian pitas, Venezuelan Arepas, Deep Fried Double Dogs, Poutine, Vegan options, and much, much more… This leads blocks with parking lots to become hubs of activity rather than barren wastelands.

A 555 Mass resident send in a tip that a successful venture in Austin called the South Austin Trailer Park and Eatery would be a great idea for temporary urbanism. It merges the foodcart concept of Portland with picnic tables and kid friendly attractions.

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  1. 1

    Jad Donohoe says

    Austin/Portland-style food cart areas are a great idea. To see how one looks in person, visit the really pretty good Ali Baba Falafel at 7155 Wisc. Ave., Bethesda (seriously, Bethesda).

    It’s exactly the kind of "messy urbanism" that we used to try to legislate out of existence in DC. NPS and DCRA have been the problem in doing anything interesting with DC streetfood (the one for locations, the other for regulations).

    But see:

    Fojol Brothers, Sweetgreen, and On-The-Fly (those green electric taco trucks) are pushing the envelope on this. And note that the founder of On-The-Fly, Gabe Klein, is now the new head of DDOT. So it seems like both OP and DDOT are already on board, with DCRA reluctantly following.

  2. 2

    FourthandEye says

    Thanks Jad. I was aware of On-The-Fly and Gabe's background. But Ali Baba Falafel is a new name for me. I've just Googled and found some reviews that really make me want to try it out.