Finally, A Public Plaza in Columbia Heights

Finally, A Public Plaza in Columbia Heights

Today Mayor Fenty, Councilman Jim Graham, Transportation Director Gabe Klein, and their entourage opened the new public plaza in Columbia Heights.

When I moved to Columbia Heights in 2002 the area that is now the plaza was a de facto dump, a lot filled with gravel and strewn with trash. Every day I walked home it made me cringe and long for a park or some greenery and the location is finally functional for residents.

Columbia Heights, despite all of the problems with gentrification, has become one of the most pedestrian-heavy neighborhoods in the city and this plaza offers an excellent spot for people and bike watching. Most importantly, it is free of commerce where anyone can sit and talk with friends or meet new ones or sketch or read or paint or lounge without having to pay for the privilege of using public space.

I’m quite impressed by the metal tree-looking installations which are solar panels that will power the fountain and the lights at night.

It looks barren from this angle — there are so many parts of this square that are empty and not incorporated into the plaza. Why not some seating here? Some tables and chairs not connected to the businesses there would be excellent.

There’s a jaunty, uneven fountain in the center that is supposed to represent the myriad cultures that make up Columbia Heights. It’s a nice idea I suppose but the surface area of the fountain takes up too much space which could better be used for seating or performances. The gray step-looking things close to 14th street operate as the seating.

This bright grassy patch also seems to be seating. I tried it this morning: it works. Apologies for the worst photographs possible.

This is only the first of three phases of this project, so I’m excited to see what will follow. While not perfect, it is very refreshing that this project is finally complete, five years after the initial planning began. I hope that this plaza is filled with people all the time and that many more (maybe not quite like it) start to appear all over the city.


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