A new parking garage just opened for customers of the Maine Avenue Fish Market, and with it comes a little taste of the “shared space” streets that will thread through the soon-to-open District Wharf development in Southwest.
In a shared space, also known as a woonerf, no curbs separate pedestrians, bikes, and cars. Instead, all modes move slowly on the same plane — similar to how traffic moves on old alleys in DC, like Blagden Alley or Cady's Alley.
On October 12, when the Anthem music club and several restaurants open, the Wharf's nine blocks will be one of the largest expanses of shared space in the country. Until then, construction fences block off public access to all but a few feet leading to the parking garage’s vehicle and pedestrian entrances — but already you can get a taste of some of the different places within the Wharf.
One of the garage entrances is located on Sutton Square, one of two small streets that turn off Maine Avenue between 7th and 9th streets SW. The three different kinds of paving seen here loosely define two zones on the street.
The large blocks at the right edge, right next to the buildings, have a smoother surface that's more like a sidewalk. The stripe provides a textural contrast that helps to define the edge of this space, particularly for blind pedestrians. The rougher, fan-patterned blocks at the center cue drivers to move slowly down the middle of the space.
The next street over is named Pearl Street — named after an infamous schooner that set sail from a nearby wharf in 1848, carrying scores of enslaved people attempting to reach freedom. There are no parking garage entrances on Pearl Street, so in the evenings it can be closed off with bollards (note the metal plates) to accommodate crowds of pedestrians going to the neighboring music venues and restaurants.
Wharf Street overlooks the river and its marinas. It has three zones within its 60 foot width: a waterfront pedestrian promenade on the river's edge, a shared space in the middle (where the trucks are parked), and a streetside zone for restaurants and retailers at the buildings' edge.
The 7th Street Park has an expanse of smooth pavers surrounding a green oval. It will function as a primary location for pick-ups and drop-offs, particularly for the two hotels in the building at right.
You'll be able to check the Wharf out for yourself when it opens in six weeks. In the meantime, it's still an active construction site, so stay behind the fences.