Posted tagged ‘planning’

Reconsidering the Partial Closing of Otis Place

June 7, 2011

Last August I posed the question on whether or not closing a portion of Otis Place to connect the school and recreation center properties was a good idea or not. Since it was unclear at the time if the school was destined to be modernized or closed, I dreamed large and not only closed the entire block but cut in a new road at the rear of the recreation center’s property.

Now that things are more settled I think its time to think about this again. During the last year a decision has been made to keep the school open and renovate the building. We are also poised to begin renovations of the rec center’s athletic field. Because space at the rec center is at a premium and residents have expressed the desire to support tennis, basketball, soccer, and football, we either need to find additional space or decide what we are willing to live without. One possible way to enhance the neighborhood’s need to balance recreation, green space, and general quality of life would be to close the portion of Otis Place between both campuses.

Realistically, what would a partial street closure look like and how would it impact traffic? Below is a map that makes sense to me along with notes on what would need to change.

Map indicating how closing the section of Otis Place between the school and rec center could impact traffic

The only part of Otis that truly lends itself to closing easily is the section between Warder Street and the alley behind 6th Street, NW. Yet, to close this section the following changes would need to be made.

  1. Newton Place between Warder Street and 6th Street would need to change from a one-way eastbound street to a one-way westbound street.
  2. It would make sense if 6th Street, NW, were changed to a one-way northbound street.
  3. The stoplight at Otis and Warder would no longer make sense and should be relocated to the intersection of Princeton Place and Warder (or perhaps just a stop sign could be placed at this intersection and the traffic signal eliminated entirely).

This wouldn’t impact drivers too much since both Princeton Place and Park Road (the streets directly north and south of the affected area) support two-way traffic and have traffic signals at their intersections with Georgia Avenue.

Closing this section of Otis Place is not a new idea. Records at the DCPS school archives indicate that it has been raise at least two prior times. The first attempt to close Otis and unite the adjacent playground with the school property was proposed in 1928, but was opposed by the Georgia Avenue Business men.  It was raised again in 1962 when the Board of Education requested the closure to make the school and recreation lands available for joint use. This met with opposition from the Pleasant Plains Civic Association ultimately causing the request to be withdrawn from consideration.

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Could the School and Rec Center Properties be United to Enhance the Conditions at Both?

August 10, 2010

The section of Otis Place between the school and recreation center

The Park View Recreation Center is a facility that tends to fall short of community expectations across the board. This is not to say that there haven’t been improvements over the last few years.

This past season, the Rec Center has received a pool table, ping pong table, art supplies, and new computers. This has been in response to community activism, including a very involved youth population in conjunction with the Youth Power Network that uses the facilities, working through DPR and Councilmember Graham.

Outside of the building, there is a new mural and the pool received an overhaul at the beginning of the season. There is also$1.2M dedicated to the site that was obtained for the purpose of a new playing field and resurfaced basketball court.

Yet, I can’t help but feel that these are all band aids. Rather that commit lesser amounts of money to address a basketball court or upgrade a swimming pool, DPR and the city need to look at this property with the goal of coming up with a master plan of what an ideal community center on this property should look like. From that point, working backward, dedicated funds could then be applied to implement that plan without spending good money after bad.

One idea that I’ve shared on occasion is the closing of Otis Place between the school and playground. Closing a street is not a simple thing and would not be without its critics. Being a one-way street, to assist with traffic flow it would also make sense to extend 6th Street behind the Rec Center and connect with Princeton Place. This would give residents the ability to still get to Otis Place without having to drive on Georgia Avenue. A general idea of what this would look like is in the image below.

Concept plan showing the extension of 6th and closing of Otis between the Rec Center and school

I found it interesting that this is not a new idea. The closing of Otis and uniting the property with the adjacent playground was first proposed in 1928, but was opposed by the Georgia Avenue Business men.  It was raised again in 1962.

In May of 1962 the Board of Education requested that the District Commissioners take action to close the portion of Otis Place adjacent to the recreation center making the land available for joint use. This proposal was met with disapproval from the Pleasant Plains Civic Association in September. This disapproval was followed on October 17, 1962, by Carl L. Shipley, Republican chairman for the District, suggesting that serious consideration be given to acquiring the homes behind the school along 6th Street and adding that property to the school for playground use to prevent the closing of Otis. This resulted in the Board of Education withdrawing its request entirely.

Beyond people’s natural resistance to change, is there a practical reason not to extend 6th and close one block of Otis? The extended street would take very little property away from the playground, whereas uniting the property with the school would greatly enhance the usable greenspace for the community.

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