Georgetown Heritage (GH), the National Park Service (NPS) and the architecture and design firm James Corner Field Operations are beginning the public solicitation phase of an effort to make a mile-long stretch of the C&O Canal in Georgetown more modern, engaging and accessible. And on Wednesday night, the National Park Service and Georgetown Heritage hosted a public forum where a cross-section of neighborhood residents and city stakeholders offered commentary on what the future of the Canal should look like. At the meeting, James Corner presented his company’s analysis of and conceptual vision for the Canal thus far.
Corner, whose company is most well-known for the recent development of the High Line in Manhattan, explained that Field Operations submitted an analysis document to the NPS and GH a few weeks ago that delves into their observations of the Canal. The goals the company cited for the Canal project are to highlight and celebrate its historical significance, improve access, repair failing infrastructure, create a “strolling garden” feel, and enliven it through programming. Corner noted that one may have a series of experiences of the existing conditions along the Canal, and his firm inventories those experiences in its analysis, and then extrapolated them into character-defined zones.
Canal experience inventory
Those zones are identified as follows:
- the Aqueduct, which holds importance as a vista along the Canal;
- the Underpass, which holds importance as a gateway or transition point and is distinctive as an area bordered by two towpaths;
- the Gardens, between 34th and Potomac Streets, characterized by ledges of growing vegetation, two towpaths and more heavily residential surroundings;
- the Walls, which is a more industrial section with a single narrow towpath and little vegetation;
- the Grove, between Wisconsin Avenue and 31st Street, characterized by two bridges and a row of mature trees that hang above the towpath;
- the Locks between 31st and 29th Streets, which are currently being restored;
- the Rock Creek confluence, which offers the possibility to follow the Canal out to the Potomac River; and
- Mile Marker “0” at the mouth of the Potomac River.
Corner cited inspirations around the world like Ljubljanica in Slovenia, Berges de Seine in Paris and the Meguro River in Tokyo. He also warned that the High Line was not a useful comparison to this particular project, except in the sense that the design must work with the current condition of the site.
Many in attendance appreciated the snapshot characterization approach to development, citing the need to be site-specific and enhance the Canal’s current condition and its evolution over time. Audience members also cited the importance that any new design preserve green space and nature; improve access, lighting and safety; and evolve to a state that can nevertheless be maintained. There was a desire expressed to be able to make use of the water by sailing boats, whether they are available to rent or whether the NPS resumes historical boat tours along the Canal. Lastly, people would also like to see the sense of serenity and peace maintained — and would like to avoid the Canal becoming a destination to the point that it is over-crowded.
The current public commenting period for the Canal ends on July 7th, after which there will be additional, smaller feedback meetings. As for a design, a concept with phasing recommendations and pricing is expected to be unveiled next summer.
This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/floating_the_future_concepts_for_the_c_and_o_canal/12697.
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