Last month I highlighted the Citypaper’s posting on the “Disneyfication” of Chinatown. Among the items the author described as superficial Disneyfication were converting the usually-blue wayfinding signs to ornamental red, installing Chinese inspired lampposts and benches, designing bike racks and crosswalks in the shape of stylized dragons, adding a “Chinese-themed” sculpture to Chinatown Park, the translation of street signs into Chinese characters, commissioning “Chinese-inspired” murals for blank commercial storefronts, and installing more decorative Zodiac pavers.
I’ve wanted to dedicate a post to respond to that argument. It is increasingly difficult for me to find time for longer posts but this is a good one to end the year 2011 on…
I disagree with a blanket statement that any Chinese theme to the streetspace improvements is automatically farcical or superficial Disneyfication. I’ve visited other cities with successful public spaces that integrate the heritage of the past into the redesigned streetscape of the future. Pittsburgh for instance has a massive old steel mill furnace repurposed as public art in a plaza. That is meaningful and interesting. In contrast think about 5th & K in the Mount Vernon Triangle. The site of City Vista once was home to a beautiful building that served as a central market and later a convention hall. How great would it have been if the public art integrated at 5th & K payed homage to that heritage of the site? Instead we installed abstract twisted metal sculptures named Lift Off and Inspiration that aren’t really embraced. I think an opportunity for truly great placemaking art was missed in favor off somewhat generic abstract art.
No to Chinese inspired design for Chinatown? Must we always resort to safe generic abstract art like Lift Off in MVT
I believe the Chinatown theme can be done successfully in moderation and with a tasteful eye. Tasteful may be too much to expect of from government (fingers crossed) but moderation is possible. First and foremost I think it is important to limit the boundaries of the Chinatown theme. I would recommend 5th to 7th east-west and I to H (including Chinatown Park) north to south. In my mind it shouldn’t spill into Gallery Place or office blocks that are completely devoid of historic fabric buildings. I’m in favor of having the red wayfinding signage. Installing Chinese inspired lampposts, benches, bike racks and crosswalks seems reasonable to me but I would strongly favor using mostly Chinese motif geometric patterns rather than overdoing the dragons. Zodiac pavers also would be a welcome – I feel DC doesn’t utilize special pavers nearly as much as they should for a place of it’s stature. Chinatown park would benefit from a red iron fence with a Chinese geometric pattern, new lamp posts, some nice pavers for the paths through the park and a statue or fountain of some kind. I’m not familiar with all the proposed elements in the Office of Planning recommendations but the one I heard about that I’m not in favor of would be putting the street signs in Chinese.
These enhancements could up the ante for Chinatown and elevate it to a different level. Of course Chinatown is doing well as-is so it’s debatable as to whether upgrades are necessities. If I had to prioritize only Chinatown Park is in desperate need of improvement.
Lydia DePillis of the Washington City Paper argues that much of the next wave of planned public realm enhancements to Chinatown is nothing more than superficial Disneyfication.
Among the items she singles out as superficial are converting the usually-blue wayfinding signs to ornamental red, installing Chinese inspired lampposts and benches, designing bike racks and crosswalks in the shape of stylized dragons, adding a “Chinese-themed” sculpture to Chinatown Park, the translation of street signs into Chinese characters, commissioning “Chinese-inspired” murals for blank commercial storefronts, and installing more decorative Zodiac pavers.
What are your thoughts? Do you support the improvements? Is it all too superficial? Or do you think some improvements make sense but the incorporation of dragons may be taking it farther than it needs to go?
Lydia DePillis of the Washington City Paper reports that John Bone, the Paramount project manager for the 425 Eye development, has decided to keep the tree at 4th and Eye after hearing about the community protest initiated by ANC commissioner Keith Silver.
From left to right: Walter Fauntroy, John Bone, Bill McLeod, Keith Silver
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The Washington City Paper’s Young & Hungry columnist Tim Carman shares news that Taylor Gourmet will begin offering new sandwiches next week. The new menu diversifies the roasted pork offerings that launched with the Pattison Ave in January.
- Washington Avenue: roasted pork and sharp provolone
- Girard Avenue: roasted pork, sauteed peppers and onions, and sharp provolone
- Market Street: roasted pork, roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, and arugula
I’m looking forward to the Market Street. Other than the Sharp Provolone I’ve found the roasted red peppers to be the best dressing on the cutlets at Taylor. They should be tasty with the roasted pork.
Jason Cherkis from the City Paper describes the life of a sex trader named Diane who drives her white Mercedes SUV to 6th & K Street NW to prostitute herself.
Diane has been a sex worker for about 10 years. Before the luxury condos, bright grocery store and trendy coffee shop moved in, the area used to be a real hang-out spot. 600 K Street wasn’t just a stroll. The block had a party atmosphere when she started coming around. Not every girl was a sex worker. But soon, she couldn’t help but notice the bills changing hands.
When Diane first started working, she used her earnings for clothes and accessories—what she calls “fashion.” Then she started using PCP. The money could more than cover her habit. She says the night of a Howard homecoming was her best—she made $2,500. But some nights are just a lot of standing around leaning suggestively against a Mercedes SUV.
Washington City Paper’s Housing Complex blog has mentioned the Mount Vernon Triangle twice in the last week.
Last week the mention was MVT’s ranking in $/sf for Q4 condo sales. This week’s HC posting offers a less flattering tilt coining our ‘hood Glut City.
I won’t really refute the author’s point that there is presently a substantial amount of vacancy in the Triangle’s new construction. However I think thats focusing overly on the negative. Madrigal Lofts has gone to settlement on well over 100 units in the last twelve months – how many other DC condos can say that? The inventory is moving. It’s still going to take awhile as so much of it arrived at the same time.
The Washington City Paper’s Housing Complex blog has a new posting entitled How Much Does a Square Foot Cost in Adams Morgan, Penn Quarter, Etc.? The blog author met with real estate research firm Delta Associates to evaluate 2008Q4 condo sales. In the posting Mount Vernon Triangle gets stacked up against the competition…
Washington City Paper rants against brunch options in the district. Complaints range from too expensive, mimosas are gross, to the writer despising that people get dressed up for what she believes should be a casual meal.
Since when did brunch become a stressor? Are we that Type A? I hope someone takes her to that new Jim Carey movie when it comes out. She might also want to try brunch at Busboys. I have and really enjoyed it. French Toast & Hot Chocolate. Mmmmm.
Jesse Kaye of BuildingDC.com has a new video blog posting discussing Madrigal Lofts. He briefly touches on the Mad Money promotion and the use of full page ads in the Washington City Paper.
However the crux of the post is that he questions The Mayhood Company’s use of radio advertising as an effective way to spend their client’s marketing dollars. His analysis is based around the assumption that the national average income of radio listeners is $65K/year. Jesse breaks down what loan products Countrywide would be presently willing to offer to an applicant making $65K/year and concludes it’s not enough for anything but the smallest unit at Madrigal Lofts.
It’s a very narrow perspective and seems more geared towards real estate industry insiders than information the general public would benefit from. It also does not delve into the prospective alternative advertising options with statistics or Jesse’s recommendations. What’s the average income of City Paper readers? Does any local medium have a deep penetration into high income local singles? Maybe the Washingtonian – anything else?
Has anyone heard the radio ads? Are they cheesy? Do they have the stereotypical announcer guy voice over? =)
The Washington City Paper is running a guide to D.C. Neighborhoods coined “Hoods and Services“. The article does not drill down to specific D.C. neighborhoods but rather clusters then in to tongue and cheek names ranging from Carryouterbanks to HUDson Valley to Turrets Syndrome.
The Mount Vernon Triangle falls into a hood labeled Land of the Lofts. Undoubtedly a play on words relating lofts to past sci-fi works. This pseudo-community includes Logan Circle, Shaw, Mount Vernon Square, and Chinatown/Penn Quarter and ranks second overall in the “power rankings” to C-SPANistan.
The content for Land of the Lofts includes an essay, Census 2000 Stats and scores/blurbs on Kid-Friendliness, Housing, Eats, Consumer Good, Nightlife/Culture and Intangibles.