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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Thinking About: Shaw Neighborhood Markers


I think it would be cool to have neighborhood markers placed at strategic locations around Shaw announcing one's entrance into our historic neighborhood. I have seen such markers in other historic districts around the country, and think they serve an important role in reinforcing a neighborhood's identity and in exuding pride in the same. I envision bold, permanent structures--made of brick or granite--placed preferably--but not necessarily--in landscaped medians (which could be added as traffic calming measures). On the image above you can see a few mock-ups of what I have in mind. I have also indicated a few intersections that may serve as good spots for such markers--such as Rhode Island at 11th and by the Convention Center--on the map above (uploaded originally by Mari here).

On a somewhat related subject, I love seeing the "Shaw Historic District" discs on utility poles throughout the area, and would love to see more. I think they give visitors a positive view of our neighborhood.

24 comments:

rr 446 said...

funny idea, why not build a wall too?

Shaw Rez said...

So I take it that's one vote against this idea?

Mari said...

Not all of Shaw is historic. Some of it is just old. I think it would require the hard work of trying to figure out what actually unites us as a neighborhood.
In my opinion, by what I've observed and the odd bit of research, this neighborhood was forged in the 20th century, then really brought together by the urban planning hits and misses and all that resulted afterwards leaving it ripe for development by governments, non-govt orgs, companies and private citizens.
That which is part of our character includes stuff that rarely make it into the glossy brochures. I'm specifically thinking about public/affordable housing that dominate huge chunks of land. They are not inherently bad, and are a testament to that "Great Society" idea. Okay this comment is getting long. I should just post on my own frigging blog.

Cary said...

I like the idea, and was actually thinking the same thing the other day for Mt. Vernon Square as I passed by a gate that Ledroit Park put up around U and 2nd or 3rd marking the entrance to their neighborhood. So put down one vote pro. I'm not sure they would need to reflect the boundaries of the official historic districts. I wonder if funding is available through streetscaping funds or grants for 7th/9th Streets or through DDOT funds for improvements around the Mt. Vernon "Triangle" area. Of course, getting consensus on design(s)/locations might be a challenge.

jmc39 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jmc39 said...

At Florida and 6th NW there is a "LeDroit Park 1873?" arch which is the same as/similar to what Cary mentioned.

Shaw Main Streets is a great resource for the historic markers in the neighborhood - I think Alex Padro had a hand in some of the markers.

Shaw Rez said...

Mari - I guess, despite my phrasing and mock-ups, I didn't really intend the markers to indicate the historic district bounderies per se; rather, I see them as celebrating one's entrance into the Shaw neighborhood as a whole (regardless of when/how/why it became a neighborhood). I guess the historic district can be cued by the discs on utility poles alone (and I still think more of those discs around the historic areas would be desirable).

Cary - I think it's worth looking into whether this type of project can be funded as part of the Great Streets or other streetcape improvements initiatives of DOT. I've seen these type projects funded privately through local garden clubs and the like, which may cut out some of the red tape (I don't know if any such groups exist in Shaw/Mt. Vernon).

Anonymous said...

It's a very interesting idea. I think, on reflection, that I would vote "no", only because I like how the neighborhood flows into others, like Logan and Mt. Vernon Square and downtown. I think that sense of greater community might be a bit lost with large markers delineating boundaries. I agree about the street markers - they are more subtle, and pretty cool. Anyway, the discussion and suggestion reminds me how much I appreciate such great neighbors who are always looking for ways to improve the neighborhood. Cheers!!

Shaw Rez said...

Anon @ 12:25 - You raise a very good point. I definitely wouldn't want anything that would disrupt the flow between neighborhoods; indeed I think anything we can do to enhance that flow is crucial (I have several posts forthcoming on this subject, fyi).

I don't think this idea necessarily would disrupt the flow, though. For example, at 11th and Rhode Island, I think a nice, low, stone or brick wall in the median stating "Shaw Historic Neighborhood" wouldn't be barrier-like, as it wouldn't interfere with pedestrians or cars. I think if it beautifies this thoroughfare into central Shaw, it may even enhance flow into the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Cool - beautification is always welcomed! :) BTW, i wonder if there's any way we can organize more frequent clean-up/social events in the neighborhood on a more frequent basis...would anyone be up for this kind of activity? maybe like a morning cleanup followed by lunch at Old Dom. or some such idea??

Anonymous said...

ps - sorry for the excessive use of the word "frequent" in my last post! oops ...getting carried away with the topic of neighborhood beautification!

Chris said...

I like the idea, but what hope is there of actually getting it done when our ANC won't even allow banners to hang on our street lights, like every other neighborhood has?

Shaw Rez said...

Anon - I think frequent cleanups are a great idea.

Unfortunately it sounds like the SMS Keep Shaw Beautiful cleanup wasn't really well attended (admittedly yours truly couldn't make it...), but I'm sure that's not indicative of neighborhood interest. I imagine getting a committed beautification group would help mobilize people on an ongoing basis.

Anonymous said...

What's up with those SMS banners anyways? I'm unclear...will SMS get to hang them up?

volvolution1 said...

I think Shaw has far more important things to spend money on than markers. And I would rather see something like a dog park go in (that truly builds community) than some tombstones...

Shaw Rez said...

volvolution1 - Certainly well noted point that this isn't a high priority idea in the scheme of things. But I think that neighborhood markers would enhance the neighborhood identity/brand--which is a valid need--and accordingly aren't totally out of the rhealm of reason.

I think neighborhood renewal results from a variety of factors and players. Adding community building ammenities (like a dog park, for which I'm a big proponent), decreasing crime, improving schools, beautifying the streetscape, etc., do not occur in a vacuum, but are inter-related.

volvolution1 said...

What is Shaw's identity/brand? To me that must precede installation of the markers.

Shaw Rez said...

volvolution1 - I agree that we need to figure out what the neighborhood identity/brand is and what it should be, but I think these proposed markers are so basic that a study of the neighborhood brand/identity would not be a necessary predicate.

These proposed markers are simply geographic identifiers and neighborhood architectural accents. I don't view them as social or marketing statements, but simply identification and beautification elements. Marketing changes, but I envision these as lasting for ages unchanged; that’s why I don’t think we need to pin down the brand/identity first.

In contrast, the banners on street poles, ads in magazines, etc.—the things that shape people’s impressions on an emotional level--should be preceded by studies of what our brand is and should be.

si said...

what could possibly take the place of the smelly whore cafe?

vous pouvais avoir un peu de fouine avec vos crepes!

ok that was dirty and im not even sure i spelled it all right :)

Shaw Rez said...

Re: the SMS banners, I don't think they can be hung in an ANC without that ANC's approval. As Doris unilaterally cancelled two ANC2c meetings and was incapable of maintaining order enough to take a vote in the last meeting (at least that's my understanding of what happened; I have a feeling it would have been voted down anyway due to the puppet master Leroy Thorpe), SMS hasn't gotten ANC2c's support. Accordingly, banners will not be going up in ANC2c for now.

monkeyrotica said...

How abouy Welcome to Shaw banners hung up high across major intersections? Or at the very least, either end of U Street.

bogfrog said...

Does Shaw need to articulate its "identity/brand" or build some cohesion, trust, and mutual respect?

Shaw Rez said...

Who knew this idea would meet such philosophical responses?! I was just thinking of these markers as an enhancement to the neighborhood that would add a little visual/mental appeal!

Bogfrog - I totally agree that we need cohesion, trust, and mutual respect. Without such, many neighborhood enhancements--like the presently proposed SMS banners--will pass us by because of unfounded community polarization. Leroy Thorpe's legacy of hatred and division lives on unfortunately; hopefully our community can start to heal now that he's been voted off the ANC, and hopefully folks like Jack Evans and Mayor Fenty will no longer give him the appearance of credibility or authority to which he presently clings.

Mr Ray said...

Shaw is a race-tinged name with amorphous boundaries that no longer conform to current geospatial and political realities. I agree with Mari. There exist among us a number of old properties that survived the arson and looting of 1968, but buildings associated with either important historical personalities and events or have significant architectural merit are few. I painted Bienvenue à Shaw Slum Historique as a protest to the imposed historical designation.