Dysfunction Junction chronicles the most forlorn, baffling, and wonderful crossroads of our fair city. The column is written by Ben Ball, a transportation nerd in his spare time. He lives in LeDroit Park. Ben previously wrote about Colesville Road/16th St/Portal Road.
This intersection isn’t that bad…yet. Just wait a few years, though. Those triangular lots (the ones that got Jim Graham into all that trouble) will soon be developed into mixed-use buildings. A block south, Progression Place is almost done. A few blocks north, the still mythical (but fully subsidized) Howard Town Center would add further density. Once all this happens, there are going to be a whole lot more people in this area. And if there’s anything that this series has shown, it’s that DC has a hard time adjusting existing infrastructure to a sudden influx of development.
The future here looks bright. The present? Not so much. First of all, there’s that CVS that Howard University owns (let the debate resume). I’m sure the CVS parking lot made sense when it was built, but now it’s very much out of place in an increasingly transit-oriented area. The fact that it often features more ne’er-do-wells than cars seems to indicate that redevelopment would make sense. (Assessed value: $3.8 million, which seems awfully low for such a large and prominent lot.)
There’s a very noisy music war going on at this intersection. On the southeast corner, Central Communications blasts go-go and beat-centric jams. Not to be outdone, the nearby Gospel Spreading Bible Bookstore likes to pump out inspirational tunes. I always feel bad for the poor flower shop people, who are caught in the cacophonous crossfire.
For a very long time, the Douglas Development-owned building on the northeast corner sat vacant. Strangely enough, the tenant they eventually found is exactly what this intersection already had – a pharmacy. With Howard University Hospital just up the street I guess there’s plenty of demand, but it still seems strange. I find it incredibly adorable that they plastered a huge picture of the owner (in a bow tie!) on the windows of this place, but those window coverings have the unfortunate visual effect of making the place look either boarded up or closed.
This area is set for a restaurant boom in the coming year, with Mediterranean tapas, a Thai place, a bar or three, and a brewpub all on the horizon – and that doesn’t even count all the Progression Place restaurants. Meanwhile, the demise of Italy Pizza and the Capoeira Spot means that even more change is probably in store. With all of this happening at once, those sidewalks are starting to look really skinny, and the traffic which courses through this area is only going to get more congested. They are building it, and we will come. Now is the time for DC to take a long hard look at getting this intersection ready for prime time.