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Reverse snow angels? (Washington Project for the Arts)

It’s been about a year since OneDC took over Parcel 42, the barren plot at the northeast corner of 7th and Rhode Island Avenue NW. Despite plans for an apartment tower down the street, and CityMarket at O and Progression Place a few blocks away all opening or getting going since then, the once-planned all-affordable housing complex is at the bottom of the city’s pile of projects to push forward. Meanwhile, the land has sat fenced off and useless since the last bits of protest debris were cleared out.

Now, there’s a proposal to at least put something halfway pretty there. At tonight’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2C meeting, the Washington Project for the Arts will present their idea to plunk seven concrete angels by the noted artist Dan Steinhilber on the site for three months, reminiscent of the various columnar objects that graced the 300 block of H Street NE last year.

There’s nothing wrong with that, exactly. But it’s frustrating on two levels. One: Right next to a Metro station and a beautiful new library, that is tremendously valuable land. Ideally, it would become housing affordable to those who might otherwise be priced out of Shaw. But if the city doesn’t have the subsidy money to make that happen, they should sell the land to a developer who’ll build whatever they think will sell. Granted, that wouldn’t be a cakewalk, given the difficulty developers have been having at Kelsey Gardens and the Wonder Bread factory. But at this point, market rate housing is better than no housing at all.

Two: As long as the city seems unable to get Parcel 42 going, there have got to be better public uses for the site than a few concrete blobs. Any kind of programming—-a farmers market, a basketball court, movie screenings—-would be better than keeping it fenced off, even if that lovely white wall got graffiti on it. The lack of ambition is quite discouraging.