“From the street, [Brooklyn’s Municipal Building] looks like ‘dead space,’” writes the Brooklyn Paper. “‘People have just accepted that government buildings are only for government,’” says Joe Chan of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. Downtown DC is even worse, with back to back Federal buildings each of which presents iron fences and blank walls to the street while Federal employees toil away. It leaves downtown nearly deserted in the middle of a weekday.

Brooklyn is changing this. According to the article, the building’s ground floor could become retail. If Brooklyn can do it, why not the Federal government? If the EPA building, across Constitution Avenue from the Smithsonian Museum of American History, had even a little cafe fronting the street, the Mall could be such a more welcoming public space.

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.