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    T R A N S P O R TAT I O N S T U DY

    C R E AT I N G A G AT E WAY I N TO WAS h I N GTO N , D C ’ S

                                                   OCTOBER 2009


    INTRODUCTION                       5

    STUDY AREA                         9




    VISUALIZATIONS                    30

    DESIGN GUIDELINES                 36

    PRECEDENTS                        40

    COST ESTIMATES                    49

    ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS                  56

    APPENDIX                          59


The three-way intersection of New York Avenue, Florida Avenue and First Street NE represents one of the
most significant gateways into the nation’s capital. It is also the major entry for the 35-block area known as
“NoMa”, a former industrial area that is rapidly redeveloping into one of the more exciting new mixed-use
communities in Washington, DC. Yet, the current gateway experience is more confusing than welcoming.
Driving over the New York Avenue Bridge, visitors confront a scene of visual chaos that includes a web of
major high-speed street intersections; fast food signs; narrow, barren sidewalks with multiple curb cuts;
poor lighting and traffic sign clutter. Rather than providing a welcoming opportunity, the NoMa Gateway
now offers travelers an unsafe, unattractive, and extremely confusing image of NoMa and Washington,
DC’s Center City.

Seven recent studies provide a vision for the New York/Florida Intersection within the larger downtown
planning context of Washington, DC. All offer action items that will improve the overall experience, safety,
and future development of this intersection as a gateway to the surrounding neighborhoods. They are
briefly described below, with emphasis on the relevance of each to the current study.

•	   DC Commission on the Arts and the Humanities Public Arts Master Plan

     As stated in the DC Commission for the Arts and Humanities Public Art Master Plan, the development
     of the Florida and New York Avenues Intersection as a major gateway is an important part of the city’s
     comprehensive plan. Pertaining to this key intersection, the Plan states:

     This is a major entry into the Monumental Core, identified as a gateway opportunity in the city’s
     comprehensive plan. Currently, the intersection is being redesigned and rebuilt with Economic Stimulus
     funding. The project offers an opportunity for creating a location for, and eventually commissioning, a
     gateway artwork. It also offers an opportunity for collaborating with the NoMa BID, which is preparing
     a pedestrian realm and landscape design plan for the area. (IPMA, NoMa BID)

•	   Center City Action Agenda -2008

     The Center City Action Agenda distinguishes seven locations, including the New York/Florida Avenue
     Gateway, as “Priority Places” for focused investment. This major northeast gateway to Center City,
     as an important transition point between the emerging NoMa neighborhood and the traditional
     neighborhoods of Eckington, Truxton Circle, and Florida Avenue Market, can be transformed to create
     safe connections across its width, to improve the access to both the New York Avenue Metrorail Station
     and the Washington Metropolitan Branch Trail, in order to create a dramatic entry point into NoMa and
     its surrounding neighborhoods. A dramatic gateway intersection design at this location is necessary to
     address pedestrian safety, traffic function, curbside management, and transit service function.

    •	   NoMa Vision Plan and Development Strategy – 2006

         This Office of Planning strategy, developed in collaboration with DDOT, provides a vision of a vibrant
         neighborhood, as well as a clear and targeted implementation plan for public and private actions to achieve
         it. It illustrates individual developments that form a coherent neighborhood, connected by a public system of
         adequate, pedestrian friendly streets with retail services and open spaces for residents and workers, as well
         as infrastructure that supports the dramatic growth expected in the area. It recommends well-coordinated
         investments and public realm improvements, undertaken as new development incrementally transforms the area.
         The following three recommendations are applicable to the redevelopment of the New York/Florida Avenues
         Gateway: (a) establish a symbolic entrance to both NoMa and the entire downtown historic area (as defined
         by the L’Enfant Plan) through the redesign of this intersection; (2) shape the ‘virtual circle’ of the intersection
         with surrounding architecture and landscape design features in order to create a major entry space and visual
         landmark; and (3) improve safety, connections, and accessibility to the New York Avenue Metrorail Station

    •	   New York Avenue/ Florida Avenue Charrette -2006

         The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), in partnership with the District Department of Transportation
         (DDOT), the General Services Administration (GSA), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF),
         initiated a charrette to study three potential long-term design alternatives for the intersection of New York
         and Florida Avenues. The District Department of Transportation developed the designs as part of its New York
         Avenue Corridor Study. Based on a review of the individual concepts, observations, and ideas expressed by the
         consultants during the charrette, NCPC and its partner agencies offer the following three recommendations for
         the New York /Florida Avenue intersection and the New York Avenue corridor: (1) discourage regional through-
         traffic from using New York Avenue and encourage the use of alternative routes; (2) t plan New York Avenue for
         District residents and workers instead of for suburban commuters and cut-through traffic; transform the New
         York /Florida Avenue intersection into an attractive local destination and a gateway into the core city.

    •	   New York Avenue Corridor Study -2006

         This study documents DDOT and OP’s recommendations for addressing the Corridor’s current and future
         transportation needs. The study defines a vision for the corridor that can accommodate multimodal transportation,
         including automobiles, public transit, railroad, bicycles and pedestrians, and create capacity for major commercial
         and residential development.

    •	   The District’s Pedestrian Master Plan -2009

         The Plan provides an overview of existing conditions, recommends new pedestrian projects and programs,
         establishes performance measures and sets forth a vision in which Washington, DC, can become a city where
         any trip can be taken on foot safely and comfortably, and where roadways equally serve pedestrians, bicyclists,
         transit users and motorists. The Plan also includes detailed recommendations for eight priority corridors, (including
         New York Avenue from 7th Street NW to Penn Street NE), containing the greatest number of pedestrians and/
         or the worst conditions for walking.

•	   The Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital -2004

     The DC Comprehensive Plan identifies eight areas in Central Washington as “policy focus areas,” including
     NoMa/Northwest One. For the NoMa District, the plan recommends that the area be able to:

     Accommodate a wide array of transportation options, with a particular emphasis on walking, bicycling, and
     improved transit connections. Improve the accessibility, functionality, and safety of the area’s street grid,
     introducing new streets as needed to improve circulation through the area. This should include the redesign of
     the New York/Florida Avenue intersection to improve pedestrian safety, enhance access to the New York Avenue
     metro station, and create a landscaped neighborhood gateway, possibly including a new national memorial.

In partial response to these issues, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has developed plans for the
reconstruction of this intersection. It has been DDOT’s intent, through this redesign, to significantly improve both
vehicular and pedestrian safety conditions in the NoMa Gateway area. The measures undertaken have included the
establishment of a new traffic pattern around the gateway triangle, the addition of new trees in several areas, the
upgrading of sidewalks to better comply with ADA requirements and NoMa streetscape standards, the installation
of new lights and traffic/directional signs, new pedestrian crosswalks, and special paving in select locations.

However, DDOT’s redesign for the area focuses primarily on traffic circulation. It was not intended to address a
range of other issues in the area that detract from its role as a primary gateway to the Center City and to a significant
and exciting mixed use neighborhood. The DDOT program does not, for example, address the experience of visitors
driving into the NoMa area and confronting the visual chaos of fast food restaurants and other strip commercial uses,
scattered and confusing signage, and a landscape almost totally bereft of positive features such as trees, plantings,
coordinated signage and public art. To address such issues, and to ensure that DDOT’s road reconstruction initiative
met the streetscape standards established by the District of Columbia’s Office of Planning, the NoMa Business
Improvement District (BID) applied for, and received, a Transportation/Land Use Connections (TLC) Grant from the
Washington Council of Government’s Technical Assistance project. Funded by this grant, the firm of Rhodeside &
Harwell was retained to work with the NoMa BID on the development of a Gateway Plan for the area.

This project was completed with extensive stakeholder input, including input from public and private property
owners and developers in the area, as well as representatives from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities,
DDOT, DCOP, NCPC, Councilman Well’s office, and others.

                                                                                              STUDY        AREA

Located just north of Capitol Hill and Union Station,         to fund a new Metrorail station at New York Avenue,
NoMa is named for its location North of Massachusetts         which opened in 2004. The NoMa BID was formed
Avenue. For over 150 years, most of the 35-block area         in March 2007 to support the revitalization of the
served as an industrial warehouse and distribution area       neighborhood.
for freight trains coming in and out of the District. But
as trucking displaced rail service as the main means of       The area of focus for the Technical Assistance Study is
delivering goods to cities, the area declined and many        contained within the following boundaries (figure 1 and
warehouse structures were abandoned. In the last              2):
decade, however, a renaissance has begun in NoMa. In
2000, the newly created XM Satellite Radio established        •	   Florida Avenue NE, from North Capitol Street NE to
its studio and headquarters in a renovated century-old             the Florida Avenue Underpass
printing warehouse near the intersection of New York
and Florida Avenues. At the same time, other public           •	   Eckington Place, up to one block north of Florida
and private organizations began leasing large blocks               Avenue
of office space close to Union Station, including CNN,
CareFirst, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,          •	   New York Avenue from North Capitol Street to the
U.S. Department of Education and various agencies                  New York Avenue Bridge
of the District of Columbia government. With private-
sector developers facing burgeoning demand for close-         •	   1st Street NE, between Florida Avenue and N Street
in office and residential space within the District, NoMa’s        NE
potential as an exciting mixed-use district became even
more apparent. Moreover, through the leadership of            •	   2nd Street NE, between Florida Avenue and N Street
Washington’s Congressional delegate, Eleanor Holmes                NE
Norton, a unique public/private partnership was formed


10   study area

                                              study area   11
                                                                              EXISTING CONDITIONS
                                                                              & A N A LY S I S

As NoMa redevelops, and as pedestrian and bicycle              •	   The presence of small grass areas in inappropriate
activities increase on NoMa’s streets, it will be critical          locations that are difficult to maintain and hard to
to ensure that significant improvements to safety,                  appreciate (e.g., as small grass triangles that serve
access and comfort are made at the New York/Florida                 no aesthetic or functional purpose)
Avenues and First Street intersections. Interviews with
current stakeholders working in the area indicate that         •	   The dominance of surface parking areas and vacant lots
it is currently both unsafe and unpleasant to walk the
streets in this area given issues of high traffic volume       •	   An imbalance of insufficiently wide sidewalks and
and congestion, an inadequate number of pedestrian                  roadways that are extremely wide – allowing fast-
crosswalks, narrow and uncomfortable sidewalks, and                 moving traffic to visually dominate the area, and
inadequate pedestrian-scale lighting and landscaping.               creating a place that lacks “human scale”

An analysis of existing conditions (figure 3) highlighted      More than 100,000 cars pass through the study area daily
the following problems with the public realm in the            and, according to the New York Avenue Corridor Study
NoMa Gateway district:                                         (2006), the intersection of New York/Florida Avenues
                                                               and First Street NE has been ranked as the 7th most
•	   The visual dominance of “suburban strip”                  dangerous intersection in the City (2001 Crash Data).
     commercial buildings and signs, resulting in extreme      Between 2002 and 2004, there were 144 accidents at the
     visually clutter and a singular lack of positive, urban   New York/Florida Avenues Intersection, and another 80
     identity                                                  accidents at 1st Street NE and New York Avenue (DDOT/
                                                               PSI Traffic Safety Improvement Study). Hence, a major
•	   The overall lack of trees and landscaping to visually     focus of the study must address safety issues – particularly
     unify the area, and provide shade and a traffic buffer    those involving pedestrian and bicycle safety concerns.
     for pedestrians
     In addition, as the area continues to develop, it will        •	   Locations for landscape treatments that can pull
     be necessary to improve pedestrian safety so that                  together the streetscape through a well-designed
     residents and workers can securely walk to the New                 and coherent use of colorful plant materials
     York Avenue Metro Station on the southeast corner                  (including both trees and other plantings):
     of this intersection. The area would also benefit from
     other enhancements, including wayfinding signs, street        •	   Opportunities for streetscape improvements,
     trees and other landscape and public art elements that             including sidewalk widening and repaving, the
     would transform a highway-like environment into a true             addition of street furniture and lighting, and areas
     urban boulevard with civic significance. The Office of             where curb cuts should be eliminated (figure 6)
     Planning’s (DCOP) NoMa Vision Plan and Development
     Strategy (2006) and the Center City Action Agenda,            •	   The identification of new pedestrian crosswalks
     issued by the Mayor in March 2008, both recommended
     such pedestrian and placemaking improvements for this         •	   The locations for public art opportunities that can
     important civic gateway. Not only would these actions              be highly visible from all key viewpoints
     improve the area for those living and working in the
     NoMa district, but it would also significantly enhance        Finally, a 3-D model was developed (figure 7) to
     the image of the nation’s capital for those entering          understand the impact of multiple vertical elements
     Washington along Route 50 from Maryland (figure 4).           (e.g., light poles, traffic poles and signs) in the area.

     A visual analysis of the area also identified opportunities   The model was built from the DDOT roadway
     for improvements (figure 5) that will enhance the overall     redevelopment plan, and indicated that DDOT was,
     function and appearance of the area. These included:          in fact, maximizing the use of existing poles for signs
                                                                   and lights rather than adding new poles to the already
                                                                   visually-cluttered scene. The results of this analysis are
                                                                   shown in this chapter. In spite of the fact that few, if any,
                                                                   new poles are being added, it is clear from the analysis
                                                                   that there are still too many poles and signs in the area.
                                                                   DDOT should be encouraged to reassess the need for all
                                                                   of the signs planned for the area in order to reduce the
                                                                   numbers of poles and signs throughout the area.


                                 existing conditions & analysis   15
     Building facade fronting the street   Parking lot fronting the street

     Insufficient sidewalk space           Vacant lots and sign clutter

     Suburban scale and character          Inadequate tree space

16       existing conditions & analysis
Florida Ave. and New York Ave. looking Southwest

New York Ave. Bridge looking Southwest

Florida Ave. looking down First Street

First Street and New York Ave. looking North

                                                   existing conditions & analysis   17
     VISUAL ChARACTER (figure 4)

18      existing conditions & analysis

                           existing conditions & analysis   19


     1. Overview- Florida Ave. looking Northwest

20       existing conditions & analysis
2. First Street looking North

3. Florida Ave. looking Southwest

4. New York Ave. looking Northwest

                                     existing conditions & analysis   21
                                                                                        A LT E R N AT I V E ‘A’
                                                                                        R E CO M M E N DAT I O N S

     The BID’s consultants reviewed DDOT’s current                      •	   Retention of existing brick paving on Florida
     designs to ensure that the streetscape standards for                    Avenue between North Capitol Street and Porter
     the NoMa area, earlier adopted by DDOT and DCOP,                        Street
     were included in the DDOT plans – including sidewalk
     paving, trees, lighting, pedestrian amenities and other            •	   For both Florida and New York Avenues, the
     specifications (figure 8). Based on this review, the                    replacement    of   poured-in-place    concrete
     primary recommendations made, and reviewed with                         medians and islands with brick paving (not sod)
     DDOT staff, included:
                                                                   •	   The   use of  planters to  add  color  to
     •	   Per NoMa Streetscape Standards:                               areas not suitable for in-ground planting

             •	   The replacement of granite curbs and granite     •	   The removal of unused curb cuts in the following
                  gutters with granite curbs and brick gutters          locations in order to maximize the pedestrian
                  along both Florida and New York Avenues               environment:

             •	   The replacement of granite curbs and granite               •	   The north side of the Wendy’s triangle on
                  gutters with granite curbs and brick gutters                    Florida Avenue
                  along both Florida and New York Avenue                     •	   The north side of New York Avenue

             •	   Consistency in the scoring patterns for ADA-     •	   The addition of a substantial number of street trees
                  accessible corner curb-cuts at all corners and        throughout the project area in order to conform
                  intersections (as shown in the Alternative “A”        to NoMa guidelines, create a streetscape that can
                  plan) to provide a coherent design pattern            more comfortably accommodate pedestrians, and
                  for these elements throughout the area.               enhance the overall appearance of the area through
                                                                        the consistent use of tree-lined sidewalks.
•	   Adherence to the tree planting guidelines developed        issue for those trying to cross First Street at this
     by the Casey Tree Foundation in order to maximize          location. In addition, the maintenance of four, rather
     the likelihood that the area’s new trees will survive      than five, lanes of traffic allows for more comfortable/
     and thrive (See examples on page 36).                      pedestrian-friendly sidewalk widths in keeping with
                                                                DDOT’s policy to provide adequate sidewalks for
•	   The upgrade of crosswalks from painted surfacing to        pedestrian use.
     special thermoplastic material artistically designed,
     possibly with a “NoMa”-themed imprint.

•	   The installation of brick sidewalks in the triangle
     currently occupied by Wendy’s restaurant.

•	   Finally, the study recommended that DDOT recon-
     sider its decision to add a 5th lane of traffic on First
     Street, between New York and Florida Avenues in
     order to better transition the traffic continuing south
     on First Street where only 4 lanes of traffic occur.
     There is some concern that the merger of five lanes
     of traffic down to four, within a one-block length,
     will slow traffic at the New York Avenue/First Street
     intersection, and will create an additional safety


24     alternative ‘a’ recommendations
ALTERNATIVE ‘A’ (figure 9)

                             alternative ‘a’ recommendations   25
                                                                                        A LT E R N AT I V E ‘ B ’
                                                                                        R E CO M M E N DAT I O N S

With the recommendations defined in Alternative “A”                     These planting areas would be in highly visible
(figure 9), the NoMa Gateway public realm will be made                  locations, including the areas alongside the ATF
both safer for drivers and pedestrians, and more coherent               building and McDonald’s restaurant at New York
as a public “place”. Nevertheless, given the unavoidable                Avenue and First Street, in front of the FedEx
clutter of the intersection itself in terms of traffic activity,        Building along Florida Avenue, and at key locations
existing signage, varied building conditions, fast food                 around the Wendy’s triangle. In addition, the latter
restaurants and other strip commercial uses, it was felt                location would also have flowering trees surrounding
that additional steps were needed to create the kind of                 the property.
noteworthy sense of arrival at a special place that was
envisioned by stakeholders at the outset of the design             •	   The addition of public art elements that could also
process. The challenge in defining these steps has been                 provide light and color, and would serve as landmark
to create a positive impact both “on the ground” within                 pieces, defining the NoMa and Washington,
the NoMa area and from afar, as one crosses the New                     DC gateway area. Such art elements would be
York Avenue bridge into Washington, DC and the NoMa                     incorporated throughout the area: in the specially-
District. Thus, in addition to the improvements defined                 designed thermoplastic crosswalks (discussed
by the DDOT intersection reconstruction project, the                    above) and at key locations such as possible
following public realm enhancement elements have                        decorative screens buffering the Wendy’s parking
been identified as Alternative “B” (figure 10):                         lot, and a major sculptural piece in the highly visible
                                                                        triangular median located at the juncture of New
•	   The use of a consistent color palette in the landscape             York and Florida Avenues.
     through the creation of signature planting areas at
     key locations throughout the area. These would be
     three-dimensional, sloped planting areas containing
     a mixture of flowering trees, shrubs, and perennial
     plants (which could include grasses, bulbs and
     ground covers).
     John Philip Sousa Bridge                                    Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge

     •	   The entrance to the area, traveling west from the        •	   A coordinated wayfinding signage system that
          New York Avenue Bridge, would be significantly                would be compatible with the signage system used
          enhanced through the use of special elements on               in other districts of Washington, DC. These signs
          and leading from the New York Avenue Bridge.                  would help guide visitors to key locations within
          These might include decorative railings, LED lights           the NoMa District and beyond. The signs should be
          along the railings, public art installations in the           easily read by motorists as well as pedestrians.
          median of the bridge from its crest to the New York/
          Florida Avenue intersection, as well as continuous       •	   A public art installation at the intersection of New
          rows of trees on both sides of the roadway leading            York and Florida Avenues. This triangle of land is
          from the bridge to this intersection. The public art          highly visible as people drive into the area across
          installations would need to be vertical elements              the New York Avenue Bridge, as well as from the
          of significant scale to give them the visibility and          NoMa area back to the bridge. Moreover, with
          prominence that the location demands. They could              appropriate lighting, this landmark public art
          also incorporate light, and possibly color, which             element will achieve a sense of grandeur and arrival
          would emphasize the significance of this area both            whether viewed in the daytime or at night, and will
          during the day and at night. The addition of such             create an immediate, dramatic and highly visible
          light towers would provide a major positive change            enhancement in the Gateway area that builds on
          for the NoMa area and would represent a significant           the planting, paving and signage improvements
          and beautiful gateway to the Center City.                     recommended above. Moreover, we believe that the
                                                                        optimal time to install this civic improvement will be
                                                                        during the reconstruction of the New York/Florida
                                                                        Avenue roadway and the New York Avenue Bridge,
                                                                        which are scheduled to begin this fall and continue
                                                                        for two years.

ALTERNATIVE ‘B’ (figure 10)

                              alternative ‘b’ recommendations   29

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