Across the street from City Vista you might have noticed a “opening soon” sign for a new business named Buddha Tree. Difficult to get a close look because the K Street construction has made the sidewalk off limits. But what is visible on the sign from afar suggests the new venture will be a salon.
The building (468 K Street NW?) set to host Buddha Tree recently underwent renovation. Let’s hope this Buddha inspired business fairs better than the last one.
Dr Gridlock is reporting that the streetscape improvement project for K Street will begin within a month. This project will encompass new paving, sidewalks, streetlights, and plantings similar to the improvements implemented by DDOT to 4th Street in 2010. The Capital Bikeshare station at 5th & K will continue to be accessible even if it maybe moved slightly once or twice during the 15 months of construction. No streetcar tracks will be laid as part of this project.
The long-anticipated reconstruction of K Street between 7th Street and 3rd Street will begin this fall. The streetscape project will encompass new paving, sidewalks, streetlights, and plantings. The project is expected to cost $9 million and take 18 months to complete. DDOT will brief the community on the project on October 4th starting 6:00 p.m. at the MVTCID office, located at 901 4th Street, NW
Screen print from cover sheet of 90 pg DDOT doc
A 90 page document on the technical details is available on the MVTCID’s website.
I find when I drive on the 400 Block of K street my car sounds like it has a flat tire. The asphalt doesn’t look to the eye like it is in awful shape yet I hear thud-thud-thud at regular intervals when driving the block. Anyone else have the same experiences?
400 Block of K Street looking East
DDOT Director Gabe Klein held a chat today [transcript]. Chat is not the medium for highly substantive answers but it is great that our new director values and makes time for dialog with the community.
The Mount Vernon Triangle was a topic of several questions from participants (neither was me):
[Comment From Guest
]: Thank you for taking questions and reaching out to the community. Will the ARRA money designated to improve K Street
between NJ Ave. and 7th Street NW also include laying track for the proposed streetcar
? If not, should it?
[Gabe Klein, DDOT]: We are still waiting to hear if our application will be approved. It is a very competitive field for this money. The streetcar was not part of the application.
[Comment From Tom]: Will DDOT implement the Mt. Vernon Triangle Transportation Plan to reconfigure the H Street / 3rd Street / Massachusetts Ave., intersection? It is a dangerous intersection for pedestrians. It would be helpful to, at least, remove the large billboard-sized signs that lead drivers to believe it is a freeway rather than a neighborhood.
[Gabe Klein, DDOT]: Yes, we will be improving this intersection. We are reassessing the signs as well. (urban alternatives).
DDOT spokesperson John Lisle sent out an announcement yesterday that the agency will unveil it’s proposed streetcar system plan a series of public meetings scheduled in every ward. The meetings kick off next Thursday October 22nd with the Ward 6 meeting (our ward) at J.O. Wilson Elementary (660 K Street NE) from 7 pm – 8:30 pm.
Portland Streetcar image from flickr user KGradinger
During the tenure of Mayor Anthony Williams two disconnected streetcar alignments, one on H Street NE, and the other in Anacostia were planned and the trams were ordered from the Czech Republic based Inekon. The order was fulfilled by Inekon years ago but the trams remain in the Czech Republic as progress on the project stalled. Finally in 2009 with the appointment of new DDOT director Gabe Klein tracks have begun to be installed on Benning Road NE and in Anacostia along Firth Sterling.
In early August, at a public forum held in the Atlas Theatre on H Street NE, Klein pledged to place streetcars back on the front burner stating the sluggish progress on the project was unacceptable. These public meetings in each ward will give District residents an opportunity to hear about the current progress and view updated plans for future streetcar lines across the District.
What does this mean for the Mount Vernon Triangle? One goal DDOT has is to connect the H Street NE/Benning Road streetcar line to the K Street Transitway which will run from Mount Vernon Square to Georgetown. I pondered two potential alignments for that connection back in April. I have a reputable source that says we should expect when the system is unveiled the MVT segment will use New Jersey Ave and K Street then connect to the H Street NE segment behind Union Station on the Hopscotch Bridge.
That NJ/K alignment makes a solid sense as both streets have wide right of ways and streetscape money already earmarked in the coming years. I don’t have any information on timing or station locations but perhaps some of the details we crave will be shared at these public meetings.
UPDATED [10/15/2009 11:10AM]: Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy wells tells the Washington Business Journal the H Street NE/Benning streetcar line is his primary project.
For a primer on streetcars, visit my past profile of Seattle’s Streetcar
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.
The Washington Business Journal shares elements of DDOT director Gabe Klein’s vision for a streetcar network with Jonathan O’Connell’s piece: D.C. wants to revive streetcar plan.
Anthony Williams, the mayoral predecessor to Fenty, originally laid plans to build two pilot streetcar lines in H Street NE and Anacostia. Three streetcars had been purchased but have sat idle in the Czech Republic as the projects stalled. Klein wants to not only jumpstart those lines but build a network. How will it be different this time?
Although the Williams administration planned to build a streetcar network without federal dollars, as Portland, Ore. did with its model system, Klein said meetings with Ray LaHood, U.S. Department of Transportation secretary, have convinced him that the federal government will be a partner.
LaHood “is extremely supportive. I think he’s pretty excited about the possibility of it running right in front of the Department of Transportation headquarters,” which is on M Street SE, Klein said. He said the city plans to seek funding through the federal New Starts program, in which the Federal Transit Administration partially finances locally planned and operated transit. Klein said the program was being transformed under LaHood into an attractive option.
As we anticipated from our April discussion on a K Street streetcar, Klein would like to build a streetcar network that would include a route through downtown. The Downtown BID and other stakeholders have been pushing for the K Street line.
UPDATE [8/7/2009 12:10PM]: Greater Greater Washington recapped the DDOT public forum on streetcars that was held last night at the Atlas Theatre.
DDOT’s facebook page has a photo album of the ongoing track installation on Benning Road NE. If K Street will be part of the streetcar network our track installation should ideally occur the same time as the streetscape improvements so that residents and business only impacted by construction only once.
Which do you find more worthy of preservation? The top image is of “Meads Row” on the 1300 block of H Street NE which the Historic Preservation Review Board recently voted down a motion to preserve. The second image displays some properties under consideration on the 600 Block of K Street NW within the Triangle.
Personally I consider the Meads Row cluster of buildings is more appealing from an architectural and aesthetic perspective.
Image Credit: DCMud
In today’s Washington Post Dana Hedgpeth presents an account of the grim outlook for the office market in the D.C. area. She reports that, in a slump likely to continue into next year, vacancy rates are increasing, rents are in decline and few new buildings have started construction.
As of yesterday, the vacancy rate for the District and the close-in suburbs was up to 12.5 percent from 11.1 percent at the end of the second quarter last year, according to CoStar Group, a real estate research firm. Rents were down to $33.47 a square foot from $34.55. Few new buildings have broken ground, as credit markets remain extremely tight.
“Unless they’re already in the ground, they’re not starting,” said Steven A. Levin, managing director at Spaulding & Slye. “Any development project needing a loan over $25 million requires multiple lenders, and the guarantees are onerous. The amount of money you can borrow is also reduced.”
Rendering of proposed Mt Vernon Place offices on 400 block of K Street
This does not bode well for planned office projects for K Street within the Triangle such as Mount Vernon Place, Square 483 from Steuart Investment and Douglas Development’s plans for Squares 450 & 451.
Hat tip: Twitter Feed from JDland