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The District’s Great Streets Initative aims to revitalize selected corridors in the city by focusing funding on streetscape improvements, economic development assistance, and public safety initiatives. The program was started back in 2005 and it’s probably too early to tell how successful it has been. But that program really focuses on streets that need revitalization– areas with little pedestrian activity, not a lot of walkable attractions, and pretty bleak streetscapes.
What about streets that are already great? Streets that are pleasant to walk down, with lots of shade and benches and a mix of uses to walk to– DC certainly has some pretty fantastic streets already. I set out to ask our authors about their favorite streets, and here’s the first half of their picks for the District’s greatest streets:
Tom: Pennsylvania Ave SE & 7th Street SE. From this corner, you can see so much of the city. Just north of here on 7th is Eastern Market, to the northwest along Pennsylvania are the Library of Congress (my favorite DC Landmark) and the Capitol. Large trees stand along the sidewalks, and in the medians, and while cars traverse the neighborhood, the sedate pace feels like that of a county seat, and not the nation’s capital. Seward Square has beautiful residential spaces just a block away, and the small businesses that dot Pennsylvania and 7th are some of my favorite. Montmartre is a great place to get lunch, and Peregrine Espresso is one of my favorite cups of coffee in the universe, and Spike Mendelsohn’s Good Stuff Eatery is just a couple blocks away. Shade and comfort, right in the middle of our busy city.
Katie: Newport Place, NW is only a block long. Stretching between 22nd and 21st street in West End, about three blocks off of Dupont Circle it’s hands down my favorite block in the city. You might walk down Newport and be unimpressed, there are no stores, no huge houses, not even really any impressive lawns. There are just simple, colorful row homes, and parked cars. But if that is all you saw, you’d be missing the beauty of it. It’s quiet, oh so quiet, save for the family, dog or bicycle, right in the middle of one of the best parts of the entire city. You walk north or east and you’re in Dupont, with Urbana, Firefly, James Hobans, the best farmer’s market in the city, our very most famous circle, and Kramerbooks. You walk west and you’ve hit Georgetown and Rock Creek Park. Walk south and you’re in Foggy Bottom and Farragut. Chances are, you’d be able to walk to work from Newport if you were lucky enough to live there. From Newport you have the Orange, Blue and Red Lines at your disposal. But on Newport, standing there, you feel calm, insulated from the hubub of the city. I love Newport because to me, it is quintessential DC – rowhomes, surrounded on all sides by fun and exciting things, but at the same time still classic, poised and and serene.
Shannon: P Street between 13th and 15th Street NW in Logan Circle is my definitely favorite street in the city. This street is filled with people any time of the day or night, with people sitting outside Whole Foods, grabbing a bite across the street at one of the restaurants with outdoor seating, seeing a performance at the Studio Theater, or passing through for yoga, hardware needs, or groceries. The street has a good mix of loft condos, retail, restaurants, and bars, meaning that there are always people walking around (particularly with dogs). It’s pretty amazing that a decade ago the area was still considered shady, because these days that street is one of DC’s best examples of vibrant, active retail places.
Max: 14th Street, between Rhode Island Ave and V Street NW, is home to some of DC’s best bars, restaurants, and art galleries. My favorite nights are spent attending gallery openings at Irvine Contemporary, Curator’s Office, G Fine Art, or the Hamiltonian Gallery. Afterwards I like to hang out with friends while we enjoy some delicious gumbo and BBQ glazed mahi mahi at Eatonville, an overpriced burger and sweet potato fries at Café Saint-Ex, or a tasty Manzo steak at Posto. If we haven’t reached our alcohol limit we’ll head over to Cork for a crowded glass of wine, to The Gibsonfor a polite “Etouffer un Perroquet”, or to the Black Cat for a pint or three of Stella. All of this within stumbling distance of home!
Rebecca: Tucked away in the heart of Shaw, you’ll find my favorite on Marion Street between Rhode Island & P Street NW. Brightly painted Victorian era town houses line the sides of the streets giving this short stretch a character that’s both traditional and quirky. This street keeps it real and simple; there’s no flash, no fancy cars, no pretentiousness, it’s cool done DC style.
Acacia: Walking south from Maryland Ave and H St., there is no sight more beautiful than the Eastward stretch of East Capitol St. SE from Lincoln Park. There’s the Capitol building in all its glory, visible through a framing of the trees which line the street. As the sun sets, there’s a certain time where the sun can be seen directly behind and filtering through the building’s dome that is a near glimpse of paradise. Running down that street allows for a Rocky-esque experience as you jog around the newly opened Capitol Visitors Center, its marble columns and fountains flanking the building. Not coincidentally, the Folger Shakespeare Library is located on East Capitol as well.
Carl: Maybe it’s a little too obvious and tourist-like, but my favorite street is Pennsylvania Ave., right in front of the White House. Where else in the city, or even in the country, can you witness a protest of one form or other literally any time you are there? Things are rarely uneventful or boring in front of the White House. Sometimes it is fun to just stand there and test your visual acuity by spotting secret service agents hiding in the shadows of the lawn or watching from the roof. The open street with no cars is also a great place for EOB staff to have lunchtime touch football games. Yes I have really seen that. In addition, from time to time the running of the bulls takes place there, from what I understand.
Stay tuned for the second half of our author’s picks! And let us know in the comments what your favorite street in the city is, and why.