WaPo: Carnegie Building could become D.C. visitors center

Jonathan O’Connell of the Washington Post’s Capital Business column reports that the Carnegie Library building on Mount Vernon Square may become a Vistor’s Center.

The Washington Convention and Sports Authority, which oversees the city’s convention and tourism business, is negotiating an arrangement with the city and the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., to open a visitors center across Mount Vernon Place NW from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

On the surface this sounds like an upgrade as it would bring more life to the square than the status quo. However this is less ambitious than the priority recommendations the Office of Planning devised during the initial phase of the Mount Vernon Square District project. Those priority recommendations included a restaurant with outdoor seating and flexible event space.

My question would be – is this the first baby step towards realizing the Office of Planning’s vision? Or will the Visitor Center and Historical Society stake claim to all the buildings space and preclude a more ambitious transformation of the square long term? I really hope it’s not the latter because a visitor center for buses to drop tourists off at is not going to engage residents. Amenities to attract residents are a critical component if the square to reach it’s full potential.

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Comments

  1. 1

    says

    I think this building would make an awesome DC-based “tavern on the green” restaurant. High-end, destination restaurant. Carve a circular drive out for drop-off from cabs and limos along the back side (Convention Center side).

  2. 2

    John Thompson says

    A big F A I L goes to the person who thought of using this for the DC Visitor’s Center. This is a neighborhood & needs to benefit the residents, the people that live here day in & day out. With a hoppin’ local vibe in the square, it will inevetably attract tourists (like Dupont Circle does), which it terrific – BUT – this grand building & park deserve MUCH more than this weak concept. All MV Square needs is a cluster**** of tour busses. Ick. You think traffic’s bad now, imagine it with the streetcar and tour busses. I’m all for the streetcar, though. :) Hello? has anyone on this project been to Bryant Park in NYC lately? There’s your target – aim for it & stop wasting DC’s great neighborhood spaces.

  3. 3

    says

    I don’t know, John, I kinda like the visitor center idea.

    The convention center and cc upcoming hotel bring a major tourist/visitor presence to this area already. Catering to that built in audience makes sense and doesn’t have to be to the exclusion of area residents and workers.

    I think a visitor center would be great for getting more foot traffic in the area, which would hopefully help support existing and bring additional retail to the area.

    I agree masses of idling tour busses wouldn’t be ideal (was the old Visitor Center in the Reagan Building known for drawing a bunch of these buses?). Perhaps this could be lessened somehow.

  4. 4

    JM says

    What exactly does “Visitor Center” entail? Is this just a place with a few artifacts and alot of brochures for tourists who aren’t net savvy enough to research before their trip? I hope it is much more robust than that.

    One of the quotes in the WaPo article mentions another visitor center near U Street is on pace to attached 20,000 visitors in a year. That may be good for some random building in midcity. But that’s not even the amount of human traffic a typical restaurant generates in Penn Quarter. I think we need to aim the target much higher for this spectacular old building. The goal should be more like 250,000+ visitors per year.

  5. 5

    Bruce says

    I envision a “visitor’s center” as being a relatively small space with a few volunteers armed with maps and an impressive knowledge of local restaurants and tourist attractions, possibly with some kind of scale model of the neighborhood under a glass case.

    It’s hard to imagine a visitor’s center filling the entire Carnegie building, so hopefully we’ll still get a restaurant or other local attraction in addition to the visitor’s center.

  6. 6

    says

    I kind of imagine this being a pretty major visitor center compared to the U Street one because it’ll capture a lot of the convention traffic (more so when the hotel’s complete), in addition to being where most area tourists are encouraged to check in for info on touring the city as a whole. But yeah, maps, tour info, and the like.

    I guess I’m still processing my trip to the Gaylord and thinking about how our the visitor experience our convention center offers. We really need to up our game around MVS in comparasion, and I think that can be complimentary to our desires as nearby residents.

    But I’m def on board with the idea of additional uses in the building itself (a restaurant with outdoor cafe seating would rock), programming for the square, upgrades etc.

    Also, 8th Street in TechWorld and the street level retail of tech world needs to up its ante big time.

  7. 7

    says

    the Washington Welcome Center at 10th and E St NW is mostly about selling souvenirs and tourist bus drop off/pick up. not a whole lot of community action going on there. I hope this is not what is in mind.

    I think this building needs a community use component too. put in a playground for kids. dedicate part of the space inside for community meetings or parties at no/low cost. something along those lines that makes it a place that attracts residents and neighbors.

  8. 8

    says

    most major european & canadian cites (that ive been to) have a handy tourism office where you can go, get info/brochures & interect with an actual person that will help you even book a hotel room. You can always fond it via signage in the central downtown area.

    not sure this building would be the best use for this, maybe in combination with other things as a tourism office doesnt really need to be that big if thats what they are talking about. we do need one.

    i love the restaurant idea, that would be amazing. but they have to do something about the horror movie rat colony.