In the autumn of 2022, the DowntownDC BID partnered with Toole Design Group and initiated the Pedestrian Safety and Experience Study, a project with the goal of assessing and improving the overall safety and experience conditions for pedestrians in downtown and creating temporary interventions to demonstrate how a safe and vibrant pedestrian space beyond the sidewalk can be designed and supported. After months of community engagement and thoughtful design, we identified key pilot interventions to support a safe and vibrant pedestrian experience.
In the first phase of the pedestrian study, the BID collected qualitative data through a public survey that received more than 600 responses as well as two public meetings with the DowntownDC community. (You can find videos of the meetings further down on this page.) With this data, the BID selected two sites that could benefit from key design interventions:
- 7th Street between F and G streets, to increase vibrancy, calm traffic, and contribute to recommendations in the BID’s Gallery Place–Chinatown Corridor Study, released in March 2023.
- The streets around Chinatown Park, noted as a place of frequent vehicular accidents, to help calm traffic, celebrate the neighborhood’s cultural significance, and offer residentially oriented programming opportunities.
The interventions include multiple curbside extensions and immersive art within them to increase the visibility and safety of pedestrians by slowing down vehicle traffic. These design solutions were achieved through the District Department of Transportation’s Arts in the Right-of-Way (AROW) program.
Once the sites were selected, the BID hosted four public meetings to solicit feedback on preliminary designs, as well as a public art charrette to receive ideas and feedback for the art installations. The street art at both sites was developed over the course of several months in collaboration with art collective Chalk Riot and active neighborhood stakeholders:
- The 1882 Foundation, which is focused on the history and culture of the Chinese and Asian Americans in D.C. and across the nation.
- The historic Sixth & I Synagogue.
- The Wah Luck House, an affordable residential building on 6th Street for the Chinese community.
- The Chinatown Steering Committee.
- The Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery.
The installation of the street art was managed by Chalk Riot and Pipkin Creative on these dates: September 25–29 for the Chinatown Park site, and October 9–13 for the 7th Street site.
Chinatown Park site plan by Chalk Riot and Pipkin Creative
7th street site plan by Chalk Riot and Pipkin Creative
Bloomberg Philanthropies Grant
This project was greatly enhanced by a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Asphalt Art Initiative, which helps cities use art and community engagement to improve street safety and revitalize public space. This funding — received through the DowntownDC Foundation, the BID’s 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization — enabled the significant expansion and improvement of both project sites, creating a more vibrant public realm.
About the Artists
- CHALK R!OT is an all-women mural production house specializing in artwork on the ground. When not fulfilling corporate commissions or collaborating with nonprofits or civic entities, they advocate for the strategic use of sidewalk chalk as a tool for positive social change. They’re fun-loving, sparkle-wearing, color-obsessed artists that believe sidewalks, roads and walls are the world’s greatest canvases! We’ve created in a dozen states and five countries, but proud to call DC home.
- Pipkin Creative: Their mission is to cultivate vibrant, inclusive, and equitable communities through creative placemaking initiatives that celebrate art, music, and culture. To date, Pipkin Creative has produced and managed 13 surface mural installations for the District Department of Transportation from 2020 through 2022.
The BID hosted six public meetings for the DowntownDC community to solicit feedback on preliminary designs. The BID also hosted an art charrette- Invited community members provided feedback and ideas for the upcoming art installation. The goal of the charrette was to foster a sense of ownership and inclusivity by involving residents in the decision-making process. The charrette provide an overview of the proposed art installation and presented different design concepts for consideration. The interactive session gave community members the opportunity to share their thoughts, preferences, and suggestions regarding the art design for both sites.
Initial Survey & Public Meetings
Thank you to everyone who participated in our survey. Your responses, gathered through an online form and 10 pop-up events, helped prepare the study.
In a March 1 virtual meeting, DowntownDC and Toole Design discussed:
- Survey findings
- Preliminary ideas
- Target locations
- Existing conditions
Our first community meeting was held virtually on November 16, 2022, and served as a starting point toward the accomplishment of this study. Watch the full presentation and meeting here.