Saturday, May 18, 2013

A walk around L'enfant Plaza and urban renewal

Today I decided to play tourist and take a walking tour  with Washington Walks around L'enfant Plaza and environs. For those unfamiliar with Washington, D.C., the area is roughly south of The Mall and is probably most well-known as a Metro station where four lines(Blue, Orange, Yellow and Green) converge. Mostly though it is a concrete jungle comprised of federal office buildings that is empty most weekends due to the lack of any residential area-the closest being the SW Waterfront which is behind a major expressway.  We met our guide Carolyn, who is the owner of Washington Walks, outside the Metro station and for the next two hours walked around the area while Carolyn told us of the urban renewal idea put forth by the Federal Government called the Southwest Ecodistrict.

This would knock down some of the uglier concrete office buildings while trying to make the area more attractive and "green" both environmentally and esthetically.

While the greenery and more pedestrian-friendly plaza are welcomed, with the money mainly coming from the federal government, I fear that the plans won't be realized anytime soon. In addition, L'enfant Plaza was the model of urban renewal when it was modernized in the 1960s. Whose to say that in another 30 years, architects will look with favor on the proposed plans.

In addition to the plans above, there are also plans to put an Eisenhower Memorial across from the Air and Space Museum on the other side of Maryland Ave, where today there is currently a community garden, believe it or not. Again like all monument proposals, there are proponents and dissenters-one group being Eisenhower's own family. Finally, one of my favorite sites was the often-missed train station for Amtrak and Virginia Rail. Below is the steps leading up to the platform, where trainspotters gather during the week to look out for trains.

We ended up in the underground shopping mall underneath the L'enfant Plaza Hotel is in the process of being refurbished and remodeled by a private firm. With windows to the outside terrace, clean white lines and cool LCD pillars(see photo below), it is hoped that more people will come to see the underground mall as a place to stay, eat and shop during the week and not just use the metro next door.

All in all, it was an enlightening tour for both the tourists and the residents like me who took the walks. Washingtonwalks has neighborhood walks every Saturday during the summer and I highly recommend taking one to see parts of our nations capital that most residents don't see.

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