Pennsylvania Avenue in the Future: Qualities Preferred by the
Over 500 people responded to an October 1995 survey, which asked
people to identify those qualities they would prefer to see
incorporated into a final design for Pennsylvania Avenue at the
White House. The responses supported the following quaiities:
Nearly 77% favored a traditional area.
More than 91% preferred a noncommercial atmosphere, while 4%
indicated that they would like to have some drinks, food, and
tasteful souvenirs available.
The other preferred qualities were a peaceful and
contemplative area (76%); a public space (91%); a quiet area
(79%); an area that encourages stopping, talking, qnd viewing
(80%); an educational area (71%); and an expansive and open urea
A formal area (51%) was preferred to an informal area (35%);
and a space that would be a separate urban oasis (52%) was
somewhat more preferred than one integrated with the city (38%).
People were nearly divided in thinking the area should have
either a stately design (46%) or a simple design (33%), as
opposed to a grand design (10%). When asked about a potential
focus, respondents felt it should have a national focus (47.0%)
or a presidential focus (38%), but only about 4% felt it should
be a memorial to a person.
While not everyone responded to each group of qualities, some
qualities elicited a stronger response than others, and often
had related written comments.
Approaches Common to All Alternatives
Designs and detailing would the traditional, timeless,
simple, and stately, using durable, high-quality materials
in a consistent and coordinatcd fashion. Paving materials,
signs, lighting, and site furnishings would all meet the
design guidelines for President's Park.
Vistas through Lafayette Park would be improved by
selectively pruning trees. A driveby view of their North side
of the White House would be provided along H Street,
which is a simililar distance to the north facade of the White
House as E Street is from the south facade.
A consistent lighting plan would be developed to establish the
importance of the area, emphasize focal points, identify
buildings or site elements, and enhance safety.
A welcoming atmosphere would best be provided by creating
public entryways outside a security perimeter. Public access
would be improved by removing the existing concrete bollards on
the North side of the White House, along with the gates at East
Executive Park. Gatehouses, bollards, and vehicle barriers on
Pennsylvania Avenue would all be movable to maintain a 60' width
for inaugural parades.
Park areas would be made safer by pruning vegetation, in
addition to providing more lighting. Elements to ensure safty
would be reassuringly simple, at an appropriate scale, and
designed to be compatible with historic elements on the site.
When needed, temporary security measures (such as perimeter
fencing) would be accommodated in a flexible, but dignified,
manner and would be coordinated with permanent design elements.
Staff permit parking would be removed from Jackson Place, as
proposed by alternatives being considered for the comprehensive
design plan for the White Wouse (the ongoing master planning
effort). Access to buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue, Jackson
Place, and Madison Place would be improved. Deliveries, service
and maintenance acccss would be improved.
Businesses would be encouraged to support the staffs activity
and destination potential.
Opportunities for Today and Tomorrow
With a redesign of Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House, it is
possible to take advantage of the following opportunities:
Public Use: Create the desired experience that has been
identified during the public input process. There is an
opportunity to reestablish the public commons from Jefferson's
time. Better vehicle entryways to the White House can be
designed, while removing traffic that has separated citizens
from the People's House. Also, impacts of noise, air pollution,
and sidewalk crowding in front of the White House can be reduced,
and better opportunities to view the White House can be
provided. H Street can be enhanced as a major entrance to
President's Park. Additional educational opportunities and
activities can be provided.
Relationship to the City: Make the President's Park
neighborhood the focal point for revitalizing this area of
Washington, D.C., and incorporated into the design ways to meet
the needs of both the city and park neighbors. Physical access
can be improved while opening up views into and away from the
site. The appearance of the area can be upgraded, and a design
character for the President's Park neighborhood can be
established. Directional information and orientation can be
Historic Preservation: Respect and celebrate the past while
recognizing that this site will continue to change in the future.
Support and encouragement can be offered to the owners of
surrounding historic buildings and sites to make needed repairs
and improvements in ways that will protect the area's historical
Safety: Provide a safer, more secure environment, along with
welcoming entryways, for both pedestrians and vehicles.
Desired Conditions for Pennsylvania Avenue
Any design for Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House should help
achieve the following desired conditions for public use,
executive office functions, the District of Columbia, historic
preservation, and safety.
An area that is welcoming, identifiable, fully accessible, and
Visitor orientation and directional information.
Pedestrian access from the subway, buses, and taxis.
Vehicular access for deliveries, service and maintenance,
emergencies and fire.
The ability to accommodate First Amendment activities and
relatede infrastructure in clearly defined areas.
Educational and recreational activities.
A welcoming appearance at pedestrian entryways and vehicle
The ability to accommodate inaugural parades and the associated
Access - multiple vehicular access routes, pedestrian access,
media access, deliveries, service and maintenance, emergencies
The ability to accommodate functions at Blair House - diplomatic
access, staging, and parking; bus staging, pickup and dropoff;
deliveries and service access.
District of Columbia:
A mutually beneficial business climate for the city and the
President's Park neighborhood.
Clearly identifiable directional and orientation signs.
Improved deliveries and parking.
A recognizable neighborhood character for President's Park.
Longer daily neighborhood activity.
Eligibility maintained for all properties listed on or eligible
for the National Register of Historic Places.
*Eligibility maintained fro all potential or designated national
Design solutions that are sensitive to the historic resources.
Improved visibility and lighting.
Safe, even walking surfaces.
Unobtrusive security measures.
The ability to accommodate protective and functional needs of
the U.S. Secret Service.
The ability to accommodate law enforcement needs of the U.S.
Park Police and local law enforcement jurisdictions.
Flexible, temporary barriers for presidential/diplomatic needs.
Clearly defined activity zones for motorcades and diplomatic
The Public Involvement Process
In October 1995 the National Park Service invited the public to
become involved int he redesign for Pennsylvania Avenue. Open
houses were held at the White House visitor center in Washington,
D.C.; a newsletter was mailed out to over 5,000 people and made
avilable on Internet; design suggestions were sought from
professionals and students in architecture, landscape
architecture, design, planning, preservation, and history; and
various publications asked their readers to respond.
Over 700 individuals sent in ideas, responded to the newsletter
survey, or videotaped their comments at the open houses. These
ideas and comments were compiled and shared with prominent
planning and design professionals from around the nation during a
design workshop held December 11-15, 1995, in Washington, D.C.
The ideas were also displayed publicly. The design workshop
generated guiding principles and a portfolio of graphic sketches.
From the numerous imaginative and varied ideas contributed by the
public, it became clear how much citizens value this important
The preferred alternative was chosen in consultation with an
Executive Committee consisting of representatives from each of
the governmental entities having responsibilities inthe project
area or oversight for proposed actions in this area.
Implementing any high-quality design for Pennsylvania Avenue
between 15th and 17th Streets must consider the special
requirements of this site. The original funding for Washington,
D.C., was shared by all the states, and the city was
intentionally designed on a grand scale to represent the ideals
ofthe new nation. Ideas have been suggested on how to creatively
use private and public partnerships to fund this project and to
maintain it for future generations.
The following projected costs are one means of comparing the
Preferred Alternative - $45 million - $50 million
Alternative A - over $20 million
Alternative B - $35 million - $40 million
Alternative C - $45 million - $50 million
Alternative D - over $80 million
Optional repaving of perimeter City streets to better unify the
site would cost an addional $48 million.
The selected alternative could be implemented in phases so that
costs could be spread over several years. For example, one of
the first actions could be to replace the temporary concrete
barriers with bollards of the same design throughout President's