City Off to Bad Start on Redesign of Eastern Market Metro Plaza – Community Meeting Thursday
by Larry Janezich
DGS and Moya Design Partners got a rude awakening on Monday morning at their meeting with community stakeholders on the redesign of Eastern Market Metro Plaza. The meeting with the Eastern Market Metro Park Advisory Team was scheduled to give the Advisory Team an advance look at and an opportunity for input on the redesign plan to be presented at the first of several community meetings at 7:00pm Thursday night at Hill Center.
According to one of several sources who asked to remain anonymous, the community Advisory Team came to the meeting expecting to discuss taking the plan developed by Architect Amy Weinstein & Oehme van Sweden (OvS) in 2013* and tweaked by DGS, through the entitlement process but found instead they were presented with the fourth version of a new and evolving design developed by Moya Design – a “whole new concept”** as one attendee put it. (See below for links to the two plans.)
Co-chair of the Advisory Team, Martin Smith, (Executive Director of Barracks Row Main Street), according to an attendee, expressed his concern the design team hired by DGS wasn’t merely tweaking the Weinstein plan, but had undertaken major revisions. Smith pressed the Moya team whether they had engaged with neighbors and businesses before coming up with a new concept – their answer was “no.”
Smith reportedly said that the community had spent two years developing the Weinstein/OvS Plan and pointed to the failure to engage businesses and residents as a major concern. Barracks Row MainStreet engaged Weinstein to create the redesign plan in 2013 and paid for her services with a $500,000 federal earmark obtained for that purpose years before.
Co-Chair Madeleine Ondendahl, (Executive Director of Eastern Market Main Street) told CHC that the plan as presented didn’t include key things from the Weinstein/OvS plan which are important to the community, including benefits to the business corridors. She said she would continue to work to modify the plan to be where we want it to be – a Town Center.
One of the major changes which disappointed the business community was elimination of the proposed relocation of the bus stops. The city doesn’t want to do it, citing the expense involved with moving utilities. The Advisory Team pushed back on this, securing a commitment to meet with the Department of Transportation on the issue. Another was the Moya plan’s proposal to allocate space on the south side of D Street for food trucks, which would not only compete with brick and mortar restaurants, but hide Hill’s Kitchen, FedEx and other D Street retail from the Metro exit.
Weinstein’s proposed entrance to and underground extension of the Southeast Library is gone by necessity since DC Library has deemed it unfeasible. But also gone is the bosque of trees on the main Metro Plaza. In addition, the Moya plan would halve the number of proposed trees in their redesign plan as well as eliminate trees from the median strip. An unwelcome addition in the Moya design was the proposed closure of the short extension of D Street in front of the Hine Project’s day care center.
The consensus of stakeholders is that the first phase of the re-design should be the children’s playground and greenspace on the triangle between 8th and 9th Streets and PA Avenue and D Street. The Moya design had re-arranged Weinstein’s components of the design for the park, relocating the playground closer to D Street, to the disadvantage of the residences on the north side of the park.
As the result of the concerns, Moya’s 4th version plan will not be presented to the community on Thursday night, rather a new iteration based on input from the Advisory Team will be presented.
Some attendees found “a lot of good things” in the Moya plan and left the meeting encouraged that the design team had listened to the concerns and better understood that the community would resist wholesale changes because of wide community support for the Weinstein/OvS plan and because so much time has already been devoted to that plan.
It was the feeling of some that the design team wanted the community’s input; DGS, not so much. One attendee felt the room was “universally disappointed” about the way DGS has handled the situation. Some stakeholders were put off by what they called a lack of sensitivity, e.g., the “very cavalier” way the plan was presented and the thinking the plan would “stick to the wall” without knowing much about the community and its involvement. Another participant said s/he felt “disrespected,” citing the Monday morning’s meeting being called on short notice and with little or no consultation. Another cited briefing papers carelessly left by the organizers which, when asked about, prompted a flustered organizer to retrieve them leaving the impression that they didn’t want the Advisory Team to know about them. One participant thought the organizers fell short by not being more inclusive in the Advisory Team’s membership, especially regarding representation from nearby residents and those who will actually use the park.
The disgruntlement extended beyond the members of the Advisory Team. When ANC6B Commissioner Jerry Sroufe – a member of the Advisory Team – reported to the full ANC6B about the meeting on Tuesday night, the commission was miffed that there had not been better communication between DGS and the ANC. Commissioner Kirsten Oldenburg said “It is unbelievable DGS hasn’t bothered to contact us on a project of central importance to the ANC. I had to find out about the community meeting on Thursday night third hand. Another thing we haven’t heard about from anybody is the temporary playground to be built with PUD community benefit funds from the Hine Project that appears to be underway.” That temporary playground – long in the works – will be incorporated into the re-design of the park.
Given the apparent short shrift shown the ANC by DGS, the role of the ANC in providing commission-specific input on the project is uncertain, despite the involvement of three city agencies – DOT, Historic Preservation, and the Zoning Commission – which are directly within the ANC’s province.
*See CHC post on the Weinstein plan here: https://capitolhillcorner.org/2013/12/12/plans-unveiled-for-redesign-of-eastern-market-metro-plaza/
**For the plan as presented to the Advisory Team on Monday, see here: https://dgs.dc.gov/page/eastern-market-metro-park-project