Downtown Public Realm Plan
Downtown Public Realm Plan
Downtown has long been the economic heart of the District – a center of bustling activity and vibrant public spaces filled with people at all hours of the daytime. However, the Covid-19 public health emergency upended how we live and work and brought about significant economic changes to downtowns across the country. Today, we are at an inflection point with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to re-imagine Downtown’s public parks and streetscapes into vibrant and inclusive community spaces for a range of users. Through a renewed focus on people-centric urban design, we seek to reinvigorate support for retail services and business development, as well as inspire a transformation into a Living Downtown fit for new residents, families and workers alike.
Working closely with local leaders, Business Improvement Districts, government agencies, and public stakeholders, we seek to craft a bold new vision for the future of our Downtown’s public spaces by promoting equitable, inclusive, and sustainable activities and designs. Improved streetscapes and better access to pedestrian amenity space and parks can also facilitate the shift to additional residential units in the downtown core by prioritizing both future residents and existing office workers. Together we can shift the paradigm of an office-centric downtown into a collection of inclusive mixed-use neighborhoods where we mingle with neighbors, allow children to play and grow, and have a front row seat to the vibrant cultural heritage of our city as we return to a thriving Downtown.
Thank you to all who participated in our survey, interviews, walkshops, and public life snapshot. The final report will be posted to the Office of Planning's website February 2024. Click here to read it: https://planning.dc.gov/DowntownPublicRealm
A Note from Mayor Bowser:
No matter where you live in the District, or if you are just visiting, you have likely made memories in Downtownʼs iconic parks and streets – be it on Pennsylvania Avenue, in Franklin Park, or at Black Lives Matter Plaza. Good public spaces reflect the Districtʼs culture and history and knit together Downtownʼs world-class museums, theaters, restaurants, hotels, and offices.
To make Downtown DC a great place to live, play, work, and visit, we are harnessing one of our greatest assets – public space. The Downtown Public Realm Plan identifies catalytic projects to reinvigorate our streets, sidewalks, plazas and parks. These projects will elevate District arts, culture, entrepreneurs, and businesses and create engaging experiences that will draw people Downtown. Imagine going to a festival, market, or outdoor concert just steps from the Chinatown Arch or taking in a lush green boulevard as you travel from Washington Circle to City Center. Picture feeling at home as your family plays on 8th Street NW or enjoying public art as you dine on Connecticut Avenue with the White House as the backdrop.
The Downtown Public Realm Plan complements related efforts to spur Downtown DCʼs Comeback including the Downtown Action Plan and Gallery Place/Chinatown Task Force which are focused on opportunities to: attract businesses of all sizes; grow our tourism; and adding 15,000 new residents to Downtownʼs neighborhoods by 2028. It will take all of us – government, businesses, and residents – working together to achieve our collective vision for Downtown.
Creating one-of-a-kind experiences in Downtown DC
Based on feedback received through public engagement, a survey, and stakeholder interviews, the Office of Planning has developed the following vision for the Downtown Public Realm:
- The magnetic pull of Downtown should be readily apparent the moment You arrive — no matter who you are or how you get here.
- Downtown should include lush and leafy oases — places to immerse in nature and find calm, all in the heart of the nationʼs capital.
- The ingenuity and vibrancy of DC entrepreneurs should be on full display, from the street to the sidewalk to the storefront.
- Walking through Downtown should be an up-close experience with the Districtʼs and the countryʼs diverse histories and cultures.
- Downtownʼs public spaces should be the most engaging canvas, stage, and gallery for arts and creativity in the region.
- Downtown should provide active public space, brimming with invitations for all ages and
abilities to play and recreate.
The Downtown Public Realm Plan, part of the Mayor's Comeback Strategy, is an effort to re-envision the public streets, sidewalks, alleys, and parks of the downtown core to better support a people-centric, vibrant, and inclusive neighborhood in Downtown DC. As we anticipate up to 15,000 new residents and expanded job and retail opportunities by 2028, we are looking to draft a series of recommendations to improve the public spaces in a way that reflects the values and needs of District residents and better connects Downtown to the broader city so that all may feel welcome.
What is a Public Life Study?
Public life is about the everyday activities that people naturally take part in when they spend time with each other outside their homes, workplaces, and cars. Public life studies analyze observed human behavior in shared spaces to inform policy, regulations, and public space design.
Click here for more information on previous Office of Planning-led public life initiatives.
Existing Conditions Report
- Data Collection and Research
Public Life Study
- Walking Tours
- Public Life Snapshot and Assessment
- Data Compilation
Vision Framework - Draft
- Draft Recommendations and Ongoing Stakeholder Engagement
- Conceptual Projects for Implementation
Final Report and Recommendations
- Four catalytic projects for revitalizing the public realm
- Recommended 'First Moves' and pilots for quick investment
- Paired with the Downtown Action Plan to take advantage of economic development strategies
- Cost Assessment
- Appendices: Engagement Themes, Eye Level City Walkshop Findings, Implementation Plan and Global Case Studies, Public Life Snapshot Findings