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The Eastern Market Metro Plaza doesn’t feel like part of a square. From above, it appears to be one (or, you know, a rectangle). But on the street, it looks like a jagged, mostly paved-over triangle of land with some trees and shrubbery, where people meet up after work before heading over to Hawk and Dove or some place on 8th Street.
The plaza sits directly between Barracks Row and Eastern Market—-and soon enough, some fancy new development on the Hine Junior High School site.
For more than a year, Barracks Row Main Street has been coordinating an effort to re-design the square to fluidly join the two areas on both sides of Pennsylvania Ave.
“The point is to make both 8th Street and Eastern Market—-7th street, the shopping area—-easier to connect to each other, so that people coming to the restaurants on 8th Street can very easily make it a part of their evening just to stroll up 7th Street,” says Sharon Bosworth with Barracks Row Main Street. “Right now, you struggle on one side or the other.You definitely have that great divide.”
Sounds innocuous enough, right?
Not to some people:
“SHOCK SHOCK SHOCK News from Barracks Row Main Street,” read a neighborhood listserv e-mail regarding an upcoming meeting on the plan.The first line: “UNBELIEVABLY, TOWN SQUARE IS REARING ITS UGLY HEAD AGAIN.”
(This particular note appeared on the Eastern Market Metro Community Association EMMCA yahoogroup.)
Here’s what the “ugly head” entails, according to Bosworth, who would obviously not describe it that way. For more than a year, architect Amy Weinstein and local landscaping firm Oehme, van Sweden & Associates have been devising new design schemes for the plaza possibly narrowing or re-routing part of Pennsylvania Ave. there to provide more space on one side. The design team presented 12 plans last year and have been working with a task force of neighbors and local business owners to eliminate some proposals and perfect what remains.
On July 1, the team will present these options to the community to decide whether to devise a “true redevelopment proposal” that would eventually need government approval. Depending on how things go at the gathering, the task force will either recommend yea or nay on moving forward to the Barracks Row Main Street board.
“They’re looking for consensus,” Bosworth said about the task force—-though she couldn’t define what consensus meant exactly. A vote? A general happy feeling with smiles and applause and excited chatter from the community?
Thomas Riehle, one of the EMMCA founders, says the community has already reached consensus…several times. Their feelings are unchanging: Don’t re-route Penn Ave. Spruce up the triangles. Call it a day.
Riehle lives on D Street S.E., the northern side. He says past proposals have shown Penn. Ave moving north, right beyond his front door. Throughout last summer and fall, the Barracks Row task force kept inviting community members to look at various iterations of this plan.
“There was just overwhelming, unanimous opposition to reconfiguring Penn Ave.,” he says.
The meeting will be held at 7 pm on July 1 at St. Peter’s Church Parish Hall, located at 313 2nd St. SE- enter on C Street.