Image from GSA (PDF).

The U.S. General Services Administration wants to upgrade and expand their current headquarters, on the block between 18th and 19th and E and F Streets, NW.

They are considering two options: one fortress-

like, and the other adding ground-

floor retail to engage the street. Lydia DePillis noticed the NCPC staff report for the project, which NCPC will review tomorrow.

The project will remove lead paint and asbestos, repair doors and windows, add ADA compliance, and add 120,000 square feet by filling part of the two large wells of the building. But the more interesting issue for everyone who doesn’t work at GSA is the way the building will interact with the street.

There are two options under consideration. The first surrounds most of the building with bollards, mainly not blocking the sidewalk except at the three entrances, along E and 18th Streets, where they would partially interfere with pedestrian circulation. The main E Street entrance would be at the top of some grand stairs, and the building’s face would be closed off except for the entrances, like most federal buildings in DC.

The second, on the other hand, lines the E Street facade with retail bays. The second floor cafeteria could also become accessible to the public through a separate stair and elevator from one of the storefronts. The entrance would be on the ground floor, and the only bollards would block the two driveways into the building.

GSA is proposing both options because they are still deciding whether they will “implement permanent perimeter security” at the building. Hopefully they can decide it’s not necessary. The proliferation of bollards in recent years has seriously degraded the walkability of Washington, for uncertain benefit. It’s terrific that GSA is open to a less fortress-like plan.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.