“Ornamental Trees” For Columbia Heights Plaza?

photo(3), originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

A reader sent in the above photo saying:

“Everything was going so well with the fountain. Until today…They talked about them being “ornamental trees” in the plans but these are just vile.”

We got a birdseye view of the Plaza last Monday. Does anyone know if these are indeed “ornamental trees”? If so, thumbs up or down?

43 Comment

  • The illustration I saw (can’t remember where) had sun blocks that looked a bit like solar panels. Those would be the supports for the sun blocks. It also had trees, real trees with real leaves.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Ah, that makes a lot more sense.

  • I’ll hold off on judging until this whole thing is done. Heck, the packing material isn’t even off these ‘things’ yet. Those renderings/illustrations aren’t always that similar to how things actually end up – usually a combination of wishful thinking and a tiny bit ‘creativity’ on the part of the artist.

  • The phrase “ornamental tree” on a landscape plan usually refers to a flowering tree like a Crape Myrtle or cherry – real trees. These are most likely _not_ the ornamental trees to which the plans refer.

  • I believe they are lights. The lights looked weird to me in the original plan and so far they continue to look weird and unattractive. Sort of like the mosaic pattern on the fountain itself. The designers of this space forgot the KISS principle. The strange flourishes are not going to age well at all. The concentric stone and brick pattern is really nice, as will be the grassy ampitheater seating, the water functionality, and the trees when they are put in. Had they kept the lighting and mosaic a little classier / less show-offy, this space would have been perfect as is. I think the over-the-top aspects of the design are only going to detract from the rest of the plaza, which is very attractive. These lights so far look horrible to me.

  • I recall large metal and glass pink flower sculptures in the artist’s rendering. I was hoping that they had decided against those. Hideous.

  • No hobo benches? WTF?

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/3881487241/

    Here’s a pic of a model from the planning days.
    As others said above, I will reserve judgement until the thing is completed.

  • Funny thing is, I had a book in a college Environmental Ethics course calle “People, Penguins, and Plastic Trees.” To think I used to muse about how stupid the title was!

  • Maybe the fake trees are only temporary until the real trees are big enough to provide real shade?

    Also, tile work (which I agree is too busy) will fade with time, so that won’t look so bad in a few years either.

  • i dont like the color brick people use these days. makes this look like it should be outside a kmart in ballston or something. but i guess this pavillion goes nicely with the new buildings that also look like they belong in ballston. thank goodness for the tivoli and that other building or I would get all disoriented coming out of the metro and think I fell asleep and ended up in the burbs,.

  • Wait? Columbia Heights isn’t the new Montgomery County? Investment-Fail. I don’t mind the Ballston look if it’s done in moderation. If the neighborhood becomes the new Crystal City, I’ll die from an overload of pretentiousness.

  • Are they solar powered lights? If so, COOL!!

  • I think I love it!

  • sun blocks make sense but fake trees? Oh man……At these moments, I always think about what 14th street was like before all this construction – nasty, rubble strewn lots, boarded up buildings, dark, abandoned streets, etc. I always said then that anything is better than what we have now. So I’m sticking to that.

    BTW, the bricks on the plaza are already stained, particularly in front of Pollo Campero. That yellow is not going to work. It looks fine for about 10 seconds.

    But again….better than what used to be there…..

  • “The sculptural

  • Has anyone else heard the rumor that Radiohead will be playing a free concert on the plaza for the dedication?

  • Thanks for clearing that up, cookietime. I am most looking forward to the new trees. As well as the new trees going in (I assume) in the openings left on the new 14th Street sidewalk. LOTS of concrete in the area and we need as much greenery as possible.

    Photos of the fountain in action:


  • Does anyone know (I didn’t find anything about it on the planning site) if the fountain water will be disinfected? The design absolutely invites kids (and others) to play in it, which means swallowing some potentially nasty stuff.

  • Way to early to tell.

    @victoria, I walked by when they were testing the fountain the other day. They had a large hatch open in the plaza that revealed a large white tank of water. I’m not an expert, but it looked like there was some sort of filtering and/or chlorinating apparatus. Anyone know any details about this?

  • I was wondering the same thing – but more along the lines of if they were going to chemically treat the water to prevent folks from playing/bathing/urinating/drinking it, much like some condos with publicly accessible outdoor ‘water features’ have done in the area.

  • I’m no engineer, oh wait, I am.

    They’re likely filtering and/or treating water not to prevent people from bathing in the water but rather because people will be bathing in the water. The treatment will filter out and/or inactivate (i.e., kill) impurities and viruses, bacteria, and parasites.

  • The planning website does say that the fountain is specifically designed as a splash park feature for kids to cool off on a hot day, but it says nothing about the filtering/treating and monitoring system. I’d like to know more than what’s “likely” going to happen to prevent a recirculated stew of cryptosporidium. A lifeguard at a pool tests the water frequently, cleans the filters etc. I just think it shouldn’t be that hard to find out the plans here.

  • It’s exposed to the elements, to birds, and to urban run-off. There is likely to be contamination (including crypto) whether people partake or not.

    As long as no one drinks the water, they should be fine.

    Don’t drink the water.

  • So we naming it Stanley Ann Dunham Park?

  • By the time the fountain is completed, it will be turned-off for the winter, like most other fountains in the city. Launch-timing-FAIL

  • Often these types of fountains contain chemical additives which are designed to be deterrents to the homeless and children bathing in them. These chemicals are ultimately harmless, but will give the water a very bitter taste, and will induce vomiting. So if you allow your little one to play in the interactive water features, please do not be alarmed if vomiting occurs immediately after ingesting the water. It is perfectly harmless.

  • On average, the typical complaint or concern that’s voiced whenever this plaza is a topic is a pain in the ass. It’s a new plaza. It will have a new fountain. It’s not finished yet. Not much to bitch about there.

    Most will be happier with the finished product than with what was there two years ago. What’s everyone complaining about? Would I have made some different design decisions — yes. Do I groan and bitch every time I think about the plaza — no. Cheer up, people.

  • Yeah, I’m with Nick. I’ve really enjoyed watching this thing come together. I hope for lots and lots of trees, with proper attention given to their health. Other than that, how can you go wrong? Even the weird faux tree/flower things might be kind of interesting. Different.

  • @Shy- We only name things after Adrian Fenty these days. Sorry.
    Radiohead will, in fact, be at the dedication. Aug. 12, 2014. Mark your calendars.

  • anonamous 12:30 LOL

  • Everyone on this site is negative. I wonder if blogs just attract negative nancies or people really are that depressed about life

  • Will the fountain give me a worse case of the craps than I have now? Doubtful.

  • Regarding the original question, you can see the tree rings right there in the photo. They are the brick circles with patches of dirt inside them. They match the location of the ornamental trees shown in the model.

  • Nick is right on. I’m interested in knowing if these complainers do the same in most other areas of their lives. Chime in glass half empty posters. Would you have preferred the Mount Pleasant similar space with NONE of these community amenities?

    This is a brand new park that is surrounded by eateries, a water ice store, a fountain for kids and adults to play on hot days, trees and artwork, future home of a farmers market, etc. to serve as a uniting congretating space that has not existed in CH.

  • Question…why can the park have real trees?

    When did real trees go out of style? Please.
    DC government brags about being a green city, so put the trees back into the park.

  • Gene, you’re killing me.

    Anyone know whether they’ll hold a dedication ceremony once the plaza is finished, or will they wait until the rest of the 14th street-scape is complete? Either way, I’m looking forward to it.

  • Nick,

    We’ll likely never know since the website (http://www.columbiaheights-streetscape.com) has only been updated once since March, 2009.

  • You whiners should move up Georgia where we get absolutely zero city-backed or funded development. Its like we don’t exist up there in Bowser-ville.

  • DC health code treats these kind of interactive fountains as swimming pools and requires chlorination. (see section 6416.2 paragraph b of http://hrla.doh.dc.gov/hrla/frames.asp?doc=/hrla/lib/hrla/food/swimmingpools__final_rulemaking.pdf)

    @Craig, I’ve never heard of treating fountains specifically to make people throw up. Seems the liability involved in intentionally poisoning the public would make this more of an urban legend. The more likely scenario is that the normal chlorination, anti-algae/anti-mosquito, or other such treatments would make people vomit if they drank it. The value to public health and safety is not to prevent people from jumping in the water, but to prevent people from getting sick if they do. Also, consider this – how does treating the water prevent you from bathing if there is no way to know if the water has been treated until AFTER you’ve bathed?

  • I have to agree with Larchie. I have never heard of intentionally treating water with human repellant. I think whoever posted that has received some bad information.

  • I can’t believe there will be “sculptural flowers” in that space. Was really excited about the construction there until …now. It looks like it’s straight out of Disneyland Tokyo.

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