by Marlene Berlin
The number of community questions about the sidewalk closure at the Park Van Ness site at 4455 Connecticut has been climbing along with the structure. Chief among them is: When will the sidewalk reopen?
Seeking answers to these questions, ANC 3F Commissioner Sally Gresham asked for a meeting with DDOT, the developer and the builder. This meeting took place on Wednesday, March 4th. Matthew Marcou, head of public space regulation at DDOT, invited Gresham, me, and members of the BF Saul and Clark Construction team to discuss the status of the sidewalk. George Branyan, coordinator of the DDOT’s pedestrian program, also joined this meeting and mentioned discussions he has had with All Walks DC, a city-wide pedestrian advocacy group, about the length of this sidewalk closure. He needed some answers, as well.
Gresham and I pushed for a clear public message about the sidewalk closure. This sidewalk has been closed since late November 2013, and the last clear public communication about its use occurred at a pre-construction meeting earlier that month, when Saul told the community the sidewalk would be closed for two years. Assuming construction remained on schedule, that would place the sidewalk’s reopening at the end of this year.
Some of the structure is now well above street level, but at the March 4th meeting, Clark Construction representatives explained that it wouldn’t be possible or practical yet to reopen the sidewalk. Matt Power displayed a photo of the sidewalk area and explained it was still four feet below the street. The substantial grade difference was clearly visible.
Jason Elliott, also with Clark, described the utility work that will be done throughout this year. The sidewalk area would constantly be dug up in one area or another. Also, the presence of a crane creates additional problems in freeing up the sidewalk area.
Marcou asked if the sidewalk could be reopened sooner than year-end, or only on weekends when it’s not an active work site. The meeting produced no clear alternatives.
At the end of the meeting, Marcou requested additional material from BF Saul. Armed with more specific information, he will meet with the full DDOT team about the options.
Saul and Marcou are also working with Commissioner Gresham on a date for a community meeting in April. She assures the community, “the ANC is constantly pushing for reasonable solutions, back-up explanations and diligence in the return of an accessible, safe sidewalk.”