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Yesterday, the news dropped that the Office of Planning is floating the idea of preserving one of the 11th Street bridge spans slated to be destroyed after the new ones are built, and renovating it into a pedestrian space for arts, culture, natural appreciation, and everything else good in the world. Because New York City’s High Line has created a shining example for elevated, linear urban parks, that’s what people started calling it. (It’s also what they’re calling the Tappan Zee bridge, which is the closest idea yet to what D.C.’s contemplating.)
But there’s a better historic precedent for what the Office of Planning has in mind. The director of the agency’s revitalization and design division, Patricia Zingsheim, came to Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B tonight for a quick overview of the aspirational plan, and explained that they absolutely need a private partner. “This is not envisioned as something the city would be funding,” Zingsheim said. “There would have to have a significant commercial component to it or it’s probably not going to happen.”
The only way to monetize this thing, unless you charged admission, would be to build stuff on it. That brings to mind something that was conceived and never birthed nearly 50 years ago: Southwest D.C. architect Cloethiel Woodard Smith‘s scheme for a bridge across the Washington Channel for pedestrians and shuttle buses that would have shops and restaurants, akin to the medieval Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy. It’s something that people have already started thinking about reintroducing into the urban fabric, as bridges near the end of their useful lives. And there’s a lot more space on this bridge for real estate development.
A couple other notes: One, they’re considering taking off the roadbed and rebuilding a structure that would sit on the pylons. Two: The planned streetcar route goes right by it on the west side of the river, and could have a stop right there. And three: The District actually has to move pretty quickly here. Contractor Skanska needs to know by May whether or not it’ll be constructing the bulb-out viewpoints that are part of the current plan.
Calling all visionary developers! Don’t you want a piece of this?
Top photo courtesy of the National Building Museum.