Image by OMA-Robota.

The space around DC's convention center, which takes up several blocks between 7th and 9th Streets NW, is pretty barren. But Events DC, which owns the site, recently unveiled plans to liven up the gargantuan facility.

The Walter E. Washington Convention Center is located between DC's Shaw neighborhood its commercial core in downtown. Hosting hundreds of events a year, the center draws thousands of visitors to the District. In recent years, a lot of new businesses and residential spaces have opened up in Shaw, and the parking lots that made up the site of the former Washington Convention Center have been filled in with the development at CityCenter DC, eliminating some of the city's last parking craters.

All that new activity around the convention center has exposed some of its drawbacks, namely that there's not very much retail space in the immediate vicinity and there are blank walls that go on for entire blocks, so it's not the most pleasant place to walk around. 

The convention center today. Not the most pleasant place to walk around. Image by Google Maps.

Events DC now has plans to change that. According to the Washington Business Journal, there will soon be six new retail spaces at the street level, all coming in the form of walk-up storefronts. There will also be a rooftop terrace for conventioneers.

A rendering of what the space will look like. Image by OMA-Robota.

The new retail will mean pedestrians will have new things to look at (which makes for good urban design) on both sides of the street rather than empty spaces and blank walls. Where the building looms over M Street, there will be better lighting.

Image by OMA-Robota.

The convention center has its own Metro entrance, and plans there include steel and glass overhangs that will add more natural light and space compared to the concrete structure there today.

These changes will help stitch Shaw and downtown together, joining a vibrant urban neighborhood with a bustling commercial corridor. 

Canaan Merchant was born and raised in Powhatan, Virginia and attended George Mason University where he studied English. He became interested in urban design and transportation issues when listening to a presentation by Jeff Speck while attending GMU. He lives in Burke.