In July 2018, and after considerable effort by Van Ness Main Street, the DC Council allocated $1.5 million dollars in the FY 2019 budget for the design and public engagement phase of a Van Ness streetscape improvement project.
It was a long time in coming. The DC Office of Planning and DDOT have proposed streetscape work in three separate studies dating back to 2011. And in August 2018, DDOT set out a timeline that included starting the bid process for a designer in October of that year. Under that timeline, we would have been close to getting the first shovel-ready construction drawings in October of this year.
Instead, the project has appeared to languish. But recently there has been some movement forward. On May 28th, DDOT put out a “request for qualifications” (RFQ) to three firms – HNTB District of Columbia, PC, RK&K LLP and Wallace Montgomery & Associates – for “design improvements” in the Van Ness commercial district, which is Connecticut Avenue between Van Ness and Albemarle Streets. The project also includes Van Ness Street between Connecticut Avenue and Reno Road, and Windom Place on both sides of Connecticut.
The project will not include the area in front of the UDC Student Center and Park Van Ness because those sidewalk areas were rebuilt only five and six years ago.
The goals for the project, as described in the RFQ, include identifying opportunities to improve public space, installing green infrastructure where appropriate, increasing green spaces, making improvements to support sustainable modes of transportation, and widen sidewalks that currently aren’t wide enough. The RFQ also states that there are opportunities to add green space where some existing sidewalks are “excessively wide in places.”
The consultant will also lead a public engagement process which will include three meetings, the second of which will include a charrette. Then, armed with community feedback and Office of Planning reports on the Van Ness commercial area, the consultant will be responsible for developing a concept plan, environmental impact analysis and 30% design plans.
RFQ responses were due in June, and Ted Van Houten, the DDOT planner overseeing this project, told Forest Hills Connection in a September 11th email that he was reviewingproposals from RK&K and Wallace Montgomery. He expected to select the most qualified firm within the next week or two, then begin negotiating with that firm over the budget. The “Notice to Proceed” could be signed in October or November depending on how long the budget negotiations take.