Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Switzer Building to Add Public Plaza

The street scape along a couple blocks of C Street will soon be enhanced with public plazas and an increase of green space, if the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) approves the landscaping plans by the GSA for the Mary E. Switzer Building at its September meeting. Interior renovations are ongoing at the Switzer Building, which are scheduled to be complete by July 2011. Currently, the C Street frontage of the Switzer Building contains a 114-space surface parking lot and narrow sidewalks. The Cohen Building, which is similar in design to the Switzer Building and is located on the north side of C Street, also has a large surface parking lot along C Street.

There are three design alternatives under consideration for the Switzer Building, but all three alternatives will bring the following improvements: C Street, from 3rd Street to 4th Street, will be reduced to one lane in each direction, which will allow the sidewalks on both sides of the street to be widened; bulb-outs at the corners of 4th & C Street and 3rd & C Street; the installation of curb cuts and wheelchair ramps to comply with ADA regulations; a landscaped plaza on the north side of the building; street trees; a concession/coffee stand; public art to hide vent shafts; permanent perimeter security measures; install a back-up generator below-grade; provide Level IV security for the building; and use sustainable practices. Here are descriptions of the three design alternatives from the Environmental Assessment:

Alternative A
Under Alternative A, the entire existing surface parking lot on the north side of the building would be converted to landscaped plaza. The proposed design would combine both open lawn and fully planted landscaped panels. A coffee/concession stand accessible to the public would be installed at the east end of the plaza.

Alternative B
Alternative B proposes to convert the existing surface parking lot to a landscaped plaza. The landscaped plaza design would include open lawn panels opposite the two entrances with fully planted landscaped panels flanking
the lawns on the east and west ends. Surface parking for approximately 11 vehicles would be located at the center of the plaza and would be bordered on 4 sides by planting beds. The lot would be designed such that it could serve as an additional outdoor venue when not used for parking. A coffee/concession stand and small seating area would be installed at the east end of the plaza adjacent to the 3rd Street sidewalk.

Alternative C
Alternative C proposes to convert the existing surface parking lot to a landscaped plaza. The landscaped plaza design would include open lawn panels opposite the two entrances with fully planted landscaped panels flanking the lawns on the east and west ends. Surface parking for approximately 28 vehicles would be located at the center of the plaza and would be bordered on the north, east, and west sides by planting beds. The lot would be designed such that it could serve as an additional outdoor venue when not used for parking. A coffee/concession stand and small seating area would be installed at the east end of the plaza adjacent to the 3rd Street sidewalk.

These proposed improvements come on the heels of plans for Federal Building #8 next door, which is currently under renovation and will also incorporate elements of the Switzer Building landscaping plan. Other improvements in the SW Federal Center area include Eisenhower Square at 4th Street & Independence Avenue and the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial at 2nd Street and Washington Avenue.

The GSA prefers Alternative B and will make its case to the NCPC at the September 2nd meeting. Public comment is open on the proposal until August 9th.

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