Community Advisory Committee Riled DGS Dismissed Pavilion Proposal for Metro Plaza
by Larry Janezich
Community representatives on the Advisory Committee on the redesign of Eastern Market Metro Plaza are unhappy that DGS brushed aside the one recommendation they had made. The recommendation had grown out of a suggestion by Nicky Cymrot (Hill Center, CHCF) that DGS include a pavilion in the redesign of the Plaza, located to the SW of the metro canopy, for use as an entertainment venue. The idea gained momentum and received the endorsement of other members of the advisory committee.
But DGS chose not to include the recommendation in the final design presentation to the Commission on Fine Arts. ANC6B Commissioner Jerry Sroufe, in whose Single Member District the project lies, wanted to know why not.
Project Manager Cassidy Mullen replied that the Fine Arts Commission had not been receptive to the construction of new structures on the Plaza, objecting even to shade structures which the project architects had wanted to build near the playground. In addition, Mullen cited concern that the level of programming events for the pavilion (possibly no more than 12 – 13 events scheduled in warm weather months) would not justify it. DGS is leery of public criticism that taxpayer dollars were not being well spent.
Sroufe said that he could accept the Commission on Fine Arts’ rejection of the idea, but faulted DGS for not trying to present the view of the community. He said the whole idea was to make the plaza a place where people would go and without a pavilion there is no reason to go there other than to walk through. A pavilion, he said, is the one idea that would draw people here.
Neal Gregory (Friends of Southeast Library) said that SE Library needs space for programming and that there are many musical groups on the Hill that would take advantage of the stage; he thought it would be no problem scheduling 2 – 3 events a week.
Donna Scheeder (Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee) said a pavilion creates a sense of place as a center which we do not have.
Martin Smith (Barracks Row Main Street) said that unless you give people a reason to use the space, they won’t, and pointed out the advantage of having space underneath the pavilion to store maintenance equipment.
Cymrot was critical of the process, saying the advisory committee has never felt that it was in a conversation with DGS and wished the idea had come up earlier in the process. She suggested that at least the electrical and plumbing infrastructure should be included in the design so a pavilion could be installed at a later date.
Mullen allowed that given the strong feelings, DGS would take a second look at the proposal. He made no promises but said he would cost it out and discuss it with the Commission on Fine Arts, consider different options, and bring it up at the community meeting next week. A key question, he said, was how the venue could be realistically programmed – “We want to assure people will use it,” noting that space available would limit the number of people to 75 – 100.
A community meeting on the design for the Plaza is scheduled for next Wednesday, July 31, at 7:00pm in Hill Center. Mullen said a new survey to gather community input on the redesign would be up on the DGS website by Friday and would remain for about three weeks. With respect to a time line, DGS will break ground on the project in early December. The project should take about one year to complete, since funding has been secured – that will be just about the time that construction on the renovation of Southeast Library is scheduled to start.
A Public Space Committee hearing on the project is scheduled for August 22. (Details to follow.)