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“Proposed Streetscaping Plans to Activate the Perimeter of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center”

by Prince Of Petworth May 15, 2017 at 3:30 pm 26 Comments

convention center renderings OMA
All renderings courtesy Events DC by by Design Architect OMA

From a press release:

“Events DC, the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia, presented initial concepts for exterior streetscape plans at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to the community on Thursday evening. The concepts will reactivate the exterior perimeter of the 2.3 million square foot Convention Center and better connect the building to the surrounding Shaw neighborhood. The Project Team is led by Design Architect OMA, working together with BBB (Executive Architect), OLIN (Landscape Architect) and Dharam (Cost Consultant).

Ed. Note: Is GCDC (Grilled Cheese) coming to the Convention Center?!?!

The streetscape plans will transform the façade of the Convention Center through lighting, signage, canopies and furniture, as well as activate and enrich the sidewalks and enhance the exterior streetscape along 9th, N and 7th Street. Not only will the proposed plans provide added value to Convention Center clients and their attendees, but the project will create a greater sense of place for the revitalized Shaw community.


“The exterior streetscape plans are part of Events DC’s long-term strategy to create authentic experiences both inside and outside the Convention Center and reinforce our commitment to local businesses in the Shaw community,” said Max Brown, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Events DC. “We want to provide our residents and visitors with a seamless experience, as well as differentiate ourselves from other markets across the globe.”

To provide additional neighborhood-serving amenities and continued value-add for clients, the plans include the installation of nine exterior kiosks located along 9th street, with flexible and customizable retail concepts, and three new retail bays along 7th Street to provide shade and seating for the future tenants. Other improvements include a redesign of the metro entrance with incorporated light fixtures and a canopy to cover additional seating areas, planters and exterior digital signage opportunities. To showcase the District’s creative community, the streetscape plans incorporate proposals for public art, including elements such as murals, vertical plant installations and light displays.


“As Washington, DC continues to grow and attract even more events, visitors and residents to the city, it is Events DC’s goal to help enrich and enhance these experiences for all to benefit and enjoy, as well as stay ahead of innovative industry trends,” said Gregory A. O’Dell, president and chief executive officer of Events DC. “Reactivating the Walter E. Washington Convention Center’s exterior has the power to further invigorate the Shaw neighborhood and act as a prime example of the power of thriving neighborhoods driving the betterment and growth of a city.”

Jason Long, OMA’s Partner-in-Charge, commented, “DC’s Convention Center occupies three city blocks in the heart of the nation’s capital—its sidewalks alone cover nearly three acres. Our plan improves multiple elements of the building’s interface with the city, from paving to lighting to landscape, creating a welcoming arrival experience for the convention center and contributing to the city’s urban fabric at large. Along the building’s perimeter we’ve inserted a series of ‘activated frames’—lush planters with integrated seating at the ground and programmed kiosks and balconies within the buidling’s facade—to provide a new layer of activation around and even on top of the Convention Center.”

In addition to the enhancement of the streetscape along N Street at the ground-floor level, the concept also includes the addition of a 4,000-square foot rooftop terrace facing N Street, immediately above exterior retail tenants. This flexible space can be used by retail and restaurant patrons as an additional location for dining, as well as for additional event programming.

The strategy to reactivate the exterior of the Convention Center demonstrates Events DC’s dedication to the surrounding Shaw neighborhood: new destinations and amenities aim to attract more unique and diverse events and entertainment options for both residents and visitors. Building on the recent expansion of mixed retail tenants on N Street, the streetscape plans will complement the Convention Center offerings, to further brand the revitalized Shaw neighborhood as a convention and entertainment district located in the heart of DC.

“The design is inspired by the rich musical heritage of the nearby Shaw Neighborhood,” said Hallie Boyce, Design Partner at OLIN. “The paving is patterned to evoke soundwaves which give rhythm and a better, more pedestrian scale to the sidewalks and plazas adjacent to the building. Richly colored street furnishings provide flexible seating and places for planting that add vibrancy and seasonal interest.”

As a next step, Events DC will continue to maintain an open dialogue with the community, and will continue to refine the concepts through the next phases of design based on community and stakeholder feedback received. In parallel, the project team will take steps to acquire necessary regulatory approvals in an effort to move forward with the first phase of the streetscape plans. Construction is estimated to start in the spring of 2018 with a phased delivery from 2018 – 2021.

  • “- reactivate the exterior perimeter. . . ” Seriously?????

    • i get it

      have you been down that street lately??? I know EXACTLY what they mean by that. sure, “breath a little life into the outside of the building,” or “re-do the outside so it’s less like a prison” might get to the point faster, but I totally understand what they meant. It’s been such a dead zone for years. You probably know that, but I read that and was like “yaas!! please. do that.” I drive down these streets a few times a week, and am also one of the neighbors who’d benefit from improvements. GO!

      • welp

        Yeah, this is going to be a great project.

      • JohnH

        Not sure if too many prisons offer floor to ceiling windows. There’s people who actually live in the tiny-window buildings across 7th. Let’s not get over the top.

    • Rich

      Could be worse the usual “concepts” and “curated” could have been part of the press release.

  • Welcome_Apple

    Yes!! About time! Let’s fix up this giant hunk of congregate and welcome Apple to Carnegie Library as well. Hopefully the 9th street curse is over.

    • JohnH

      Bad business models going under does not make a curse. There’s been plenty of success on 9th. You have to keep in mind that area is not very dense. Not to mention the convention center is 3 blocks of no residents (and most convention goers are not eating out there). It’s getting denser though and additional hotels will help too.

  • andy

    An important reminder that activating Walter Washington’s perimeter remains a crime in six states and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).

  • Truxton Thomas

    This is needed! The convention center perimeter needs some life and color. It’s always been so cold and desolate, even with the increasing business presence.

  • ClevelandDave

    Create authentic experiences? As opposed to inauthentic ones?

    While I agree the Convention Center exterior is not the most friendly and welcoming (it isn’t brutalist either) these renderings already look dated.

    It might be nice if they had a community competition among a number of proposals, engaging the residents, real estate interests and businesses that front and are neighbors of the convention center- and frankly have to live with this and look at it everyday. Keep in mind you have historical facades fronting on N and L and 9th that don’t at all blend with these garish purples and oranges and strangeness.

    Again, something can and should be done… the roofdeck is cool… but there needs to be more blending with the surroundings and thought put into this.

    • maxwell smart

      Yeah…no. Design by committee will result in either something bland and devoid of any interest or character or more likely, nothing happening at all. Not only that, it really undermines the skills and expertise of the design professionals hired to develop these concepts. This isn’t a community center or a private residence – it’s a commercial area and the property owner can choose to develop this as they see fit.

      • Duponter

        This. Also the residents are too busy shooting up the other cooperatives in the area to participate.

      • Anon

        “Design by committee” is responsible for a whole lot of lackluster architecture all around D.C. No thanks.

        • timmyp

          And for naming the Wizards. Man any name would have been cooler than the Wizards. Oh sorry wrong discussion.

      • E

        You seem overly pessimistic about involving the community in creating their own reality. Indeed, if community involvement is not done properly, or if done only with lip-service, it will not turn out good. But I would encourage you to look at the work the 11th Street Bridge Park folks are doing. They have rewritten the text book on large scale change management applied to public works and the creation of new civic spaces.

        • maxwell smart

          You seem overly pessimistic about involving the community in creating their own reality – in DC… absolutely. Far too many people with too much time want nothing to change in this city.

  • JohnH

    Lol at people taking pictures of lights in the “tunnel”

  • Still unsure about how trees will grow in a sloped soil situation like that. But it looks cool.

    • L on Q

      I’m guessing the reality of tree box/seating combo will look different. Renderings take some liberties. Probably a much deeper situation for the tree? Olin knows what they’re doing when it comes to trees/plantings so I’m sure this would be successful.

  • jim_ed

    Setting aside the marketeer speak, OMA and Olin are two top flight design firms. Olin did Canal Park, and together they won the bid for for the 11th st Bridge. This should be a really good finished product.

    • Agreed.

    • L on Q

      I wish more people realized the impact Landscape Architects can have on a space. Olin is the best!

  • Duponter

    Some of this reminds me of City Center and that can’t be a bad thing. The courtyard areas at City Center are lively and I enjoy walking through them.

  • Lisa

    W.O.W. Good for Events DC./Convention Center to become part of the neighborhood.

  • Reality

    Love this!!!


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