City Cast

Here's What Penn Ave. Could Look Like

Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Posted on August 3
Three early concepts for Pennsylvania Avenue NW. From left to right, Urban Capital, Linear Green, Civic Stage.

Three early concepts for Pennsylvania Avenue NW. From left to right, Urban Capital, Linear Green, Civic Stage. (ZGF Architects/National Capital Planning Commission)

Finally, local and federal leaders (and myself) can agree on something. Pennsylvania Avenue needs a redo. They’ve agreed to overhaul the thoroughfare, and it could fundamentally change how we use downtown.

The plan is to replace the 1.2-mile strip connecting the Capitol and the White House with a pedestrian-friendly boulevard reminiscent of Paris’ Champs-Élysées. The mock-ups depict fewer or no car lanes, more green spaces, pop-up markets and cafes, art displays, and event spaces.

The National Capital Planning Commission released three concepts for public review last year and is using the feedback to narrow down the options. Two consultant teams join the project this fall: one to make a final master design and another to implement it

Mock-up of Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.

Mock-up of Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. (ZGF Architects/National Capital Planning Commission)

Right now, the iconic avenue has light traffic and few businesses, but it’s frequently shut down for protests, events, and funeral processions. The new designs would permanently enshrine space for these community events rather than cars.

Mayor Murial Bowser says the redesign is central to the city’s downtown recovery plan. “To truly unlock the full potential of Downtown DC, we must reimagine a new future for Pennsylvania Avenue,” Bowser told the Washington Post.

It will be another two years before the plans are even finalized and longer still until one is implemented. However, the city is also planning some shorter-term enhancements like better sidewalk connectivity and more bike and transit space in the interim.

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