RELEASE: Transforming a Virtual Circle to Reconnect Neighborhoods - Regional development and planning experts provide input on the redesign of a primary intersection in northeast D.C.
August 13, 2019
A new Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) report sponsored by the NoMa Business Improvement District (NoMa BID) and the NoMa Parks Foundation and released by ULI Washington documents existing challenges and recommendations for the future of the Virtual Circle in northeast Washington, D.C., where New York Avenue NE, Florida Avenue NE, and First Street NE meet.
The TAP’s goal was to make recommendations for open space, safety, and improvements at the Virtual Circle based on “Concept 6,” one of six options the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) created in a 2013 study of possible circle improvements. The District of Columbia’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget includes $35 million for changes to this space, which sits one block east of North Capitol Street.
In all, the Virtual Circle contains five intersections including the following streets: New York Avenue NE, Florida Avenue NE, First Street NE, Eckington Place NE, and O Street NE. New York Avenue, also known as U.S. Route 50, carries over 50,000 vehicles per day; Florida Avenue carries over 20,000 vehicles per day; and both Eckington Place NE and First Street NE carry about 10,000 vehicles per day. The circle is a difficult space for vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians to navigate with only 13 pedestrian crosswalks and no bicycle facilities.
Over the course of two days, a team of ten ULI members worked to understand the Virtual Circle’s existing challenges. The results of this TAP are intended to assist the D.C. government and neighborhood stakeholders in the following ways:
Enhance open spaces delineated in DDOT’s Concept 6 plan.
Improve safety and the experience for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers, and green space users.
Improve economic vitality in the study area and surrounding neighborhoods.
Improve existing conditions in the surrounding neighborhoods in terms of access to local businesses, educational institutions, human services organizations, and affordable housing.
The TAP enumerated seven framing principles and values to guide the design process:
Connectivity to and through
Three open spaces, but seen as whole
High-impact efforts in the short-term, but think long-term
As NoMa continues to grow, resources will grow
Design for all
Balancing things that move with things that hold still
Panelists grouped their analyses and recommendations under four categories: framing principles, neighborhood context and economic development, safety and connectivity, and open space design. The TAP noted that many successful hubs serve as a place of exchange (commercial, informational, and social) and that improved north-south linkages between the growing NoMa and Eckington communities are important objectives. The TAP offered the term “Exchange” as an example of potential branding for the space, particularly considering the “x” formed by New York and Florida avenues. Panleists also proposed next-steps and short-term priorities toward the progress of the design process. Finally, the TAP stressed the importance of changing the perception of the Virtual Circle among various user groups, noting that the time to act is now. DDOT Director Jeff Marootian endorsed the panel’s thinking with regard to taking actions in the near future.
The ULI members who made up the TAP included:
Patrick L Phillips, Former Global Chief Executive Officer, ULI — Panel Chair
Dan Hardy, Renaissance Planning Group
Dawn Volz, Dewberry
Jon Eisen, The Eisen Group
Kaushambi Shah, Urban Designer
Paola Moya, Moya Design Partners
Rob Mandle, Crystal City Business Improvement District
Sukirti Ghosh, Rhodeside & Harwell
Suzie Battista, Fairfax County Department of Planning & Development
Tanya Stern, Montgomery County Planning Department
To view this release as well as associated photos as a webpage, click here.
About the Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) Program
The objective of ULI Washington’s Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) program is to provide expert, multidisciplinary advice on land use and real estate issues facing public agencies and nonprofit organizations in the Metropolitan Washington Region. Drawing from its extensive membership base, ULI Washington conducts one and one-half day panels offering objective and responsible advice to local decision-makers on a wide variety of land use and real estate issues, ranging from site-specific projects to public policy questions. The TAP program is intentionally flexible to provide a customized approach to specific land use and real estate issues. Learn more at washington.uli.org/TAPs.
About ULI Washington
ULI Washington is a district council of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), a nonprofit education and research organization supported by its members. ULI’s mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. ULI Washington carries out the ULI mission locally by sharing best practices, building consensus, and advancing solutions through educational programs and community outreach initiatives. For more information, visit www.washington.uli.org.