Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Planners Select 5 Firms to Redesign President's Park - DC Architects Not Invited

Urban planners at the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) have announced the selection of 5 architectural firms to redesign the parks south of the White House. NCPC selected the firms from 23 that submitted qualifications; no design ideas have been submitted, but the planners for the area's federal lands have set a June 17th deadline for submitting plans and expect to announce a winning idea by July 7th.

The idea is to create "durable and more aesthetic security elements in the President's Park South area and replace the existing temporary and unsightly security elements," no grand plans for new monuments. The area includes the parks bordering the southern fence of the White House, including the Ellipse and E Street, which has been closed to vehicular traffic for the past decade. Possibilities include reopening E Street to traffic (in true Washington fashion pending completion of a transportation study), but final decisionmaking rests with the Secret Service, which is generally inclined to close streets down rather than open them.

Pedestrians can enter the area to get to the fence surrounding the south lawn of the White House, but have to navigate security obstacles. Bill Dowd, Director of Physical Planning for NCPC cites that impediment as a prime directive for a new plan. "One of the biggest things we want to fix...is that pedestrians can get up to the fence but because of security barriers its very confusing how to get there."

The 5 firms selected are:
Although several DC area firms competed for the rights, no local teams made the final list. The 5 winning design firms get bragging rights and a $20,000 honorarium, but not necessarily much else, as the design committee reserves the right to appropriate the designs without employing the architects. The process is being overseen by NCPC, National Park Service, and the Secret Service, but Dowd says that once the competition ends NPS and the Secret Service will take over responsibility for execution.

This being DC, the competition does not go hand in hand with funding, so no timeline has been set to make any of the recommended changes. Dowd hopes that creative ideas will spur the necessary funding, eventually to be provided by the Secret Service. "The ideas will allow us to cost out what the project will be." Says Dowd, "we looked for proposals that indicated...a creative approach that relfected an understanding of how important the historical entity was."

Beginning June 20, 2011, the public will be invited to view the designs submitted by the five project teams, both online and in person.

Washington DC real estate development news


Anonymous said...

It's confusing how to get to the fence? I guess I really do overestimate the intelligence of our tourists.

Anonymous said...

You can't enter on the sides, you have to go around, and since it seems like that's all roped off it feels prohibited. I can see how people might not want to tangle with security and just avoid it.

Open it up to traffic, for chrisakes. What a waste that you can't even drive by the White House anymore, E Street is half a mile from the south fence, and there are hills and trees in between. At some point the SS just has to realize that closing off the practical routes just discourages the average person, not the would-be terrorist.

Anonymous said...

E Street has to be reopened. Route it further south if need be. Really messed up the street grid by closing that.

Anonymous said...

thats a pretty solid short list. its no surprise that no local firms were represented here...and honestly, im grateful.

IMGoph on May 11, 2011, 11:16:00 PM said...

Agreed on reopening E Street. If the SS (and yes, I'm calling them the SS, and I know what other group used those initials) actually is worried about closing streets that have a view of the White House, they ought to shut Constitution Avenue, and 16th Street too. A terrorist could do just as much damage from Constitution as they could from E Street.

Open it up, fix 75% of downtown's traffic problems. Period.

Nick said...

$10 says the SS keeps it closed, and that in the future they shut down even more, and that in 15 years we look back on the current state of affairs and remember wistfully how 15th Street used to be open to traffic.

Anonymous said...

I will repost my previous comment.

E Street really needs to be reopened. Move it a little further south if need be. Bury it. Put it in a trench. Anything. But the street grid in this area is garbage with this link missing.

Mr. 14th & You on May 17, 2011, 3:49:00 PM said...

As someone who has long lamented the confusing and obtrusive mess of temporary fencing, jersey barriers and security posts along the south side of the White House, this is very good news. What's not so good is that it sounds as if they are years away from doing anything--but the mere fact that someone out there is paying attention to this is absolutely a step in the right direction.

Oh, and yes--PLEASE reopen E Street.

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