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When riding by the plaza on the northeast corner of 18th and Columbia over the weekend, I noticed a woman sitting on the ground. She wasn’t resting, she was just checking something on her computer—but there was literally no place to sit.
This corner has a long history. In late 2008, it was transformed from a traffic island with an isolated kiosk into the broad, baking expanse that it is today. There were plans to enliven the space with public art; my colleague Jonathan Fischer wrote a few months ago about how protests from the neighborhood put a stop to the proposed sculpture, missing out on a $250,000 grant in the process. But perhaps the most regrettable loss was the “art benches” that were part of the design. Now, what should be a community gathering space is an unfriendly desert, not even needed for the farmers market that sets up across the street every Saturday.
While the rest of 18th Street in Adams Morgan will be getting a facelift starting in 2012, the plaza isn’t part of it. The missed opportunity is particularly glaring when considering the phenomenal success of the activated Columbia Heights Plaza, which has become invaluable as the summer heats up.
It’s got to be one of the biggest and most easily averted planning mistakes of the last few years.