City Spaces, Wishful Thinking


March 25, 2012, Washington, DC: Wouldn't a bike lane through the trees look amazing here? Do you think that house would look even more charming painted yellow? What would improve that plaza over there? Picnic tables? Landscaping? A flower stand? There are lots of us out there, people always imagining something new. It's a habit that likely explains my propensity for rearranging furniture, and home renovation television, and reality shows based on dramatic transformations from Before to After, and going for long walks through the neighborhood. Whether thinking about the outdoor spaces around me or dreaming up a kitchen renovation, I'm constantly brainstorming creative conversions in the physical environments I inhabit. Here are a few I've been considering lately:

The median on Pennsylvania Ave SE. I hadn't given this space much thought until the blossoms emerged last week. Until then, this was a place we frequently traversed without a second glance crossing 7th St. SE, a run-down and overgrown median where the ground is uneven and the grass grows in sporadic patches. But then the trees flowered and I saw that median as an underutilized public space full of possibility. Now I picture a bike lane full of cruisers under the arc in the trees, and benches through the grass, and old fashioned street lights illuminating a path there beneath the blossoms.

The site of the temporary market at Eastern Market... When fire destroyed Eastern Market in 2007, a temporary structure housed the neighborhood hub until the historic old building was ready to reopen. Just recently, that temporary structure came down, a blank slate in a vibrant neighborhood. The redevelopment of the entire site, including the shuttered school and the parking lot next door, is a source of complexity and contention, but imagine if things were simpler. An extension of the market that morphs into a beer hall like the one at Federal Hill's Cross Street Market? An outdoor amphitheater? A community garden?

The plaza at Eastern Market Metro... Picnic tables throughout the plaza. Pristine landscaping. Maybe even a fountain like the one that recently transformed the space beneath the Whitehurst Freeway in Georgetown into a warm and friendly neighborhood park. At this natural point of convergence above the Metro, we could sell coffee and bagels in a little hut like that one run by the coffee and gelato vendor in Chicago. Or set up a flower stand. Or make this the best place in all of Washington for food trucks to pull up and serve a crowd.

City roofs... Not a walk goes by where I don't imagine the transformation of roof space throughout the city. Think outdoor kitchens up there above the trees and breezy living spaces beneath the fresh air and rooftop bars above our storefronts. A few new roof decks are in the works on Barracks Row like this one pictured above. It's got me imagining even more possibilities.

Wishful thinking, all of it, I know. But it's so much fun to envision transformation.

Are there any public spaces in your neighborhood that you imagine transforming? What would you put there?