by Sarah J.F. Braley | May 16, 2017

Last week, Events DC, the convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia, revealed initial concepts for exterior streetscape plans at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The concepts focus on the perimeter of the 2.3 million-square-foot facility to connect it to the surrounding Shaw neighborhood. The project is led by design firm OMA, working with architects from international firm BBB, landscape architects at OLIN and team members from Dharam Consulting. New lighting, signage, canopies and furniture will help transform the center's facade along 9th, N and 7th streets. 
 
"The exterior streetscape plans are part of Events DC's long-term strategy to create authentic experiences both inside and outside the convention center, and to reinforce our commitment to local businesses in the Shaw community," said Max Brown, CEO of consultants Group 360, chairman of the board of directors for Events DC. "We want to provide our residents and visitors with a seamless experience, as well as differentiate ourselves from other markets across the globe." 
 
The plans include nine exterior kiosks along 9th Street for flexible and customizable retail concepts, and three new retail bays along 7th Street that include designs to provide shade and seating. A redesign of the Metro entrance also is in the project, bringing in new light fixtures and a canopy to cover additional seating areas, as well as planters and exterior digital signage opportunities. The streetscape plans incorporate proposals for public art, including elements such as murals, vertical plant installations and light displays. 
 
"As Washington, D.C., continues to grow and attract even more events, visitors and residents to the city, it is Events DC's goal to help enrich and enhance these experiences for all to benefit and enjoy, as well as stay ahead of innovative industry trends," said Gregory A. O'Dell, president and CEO of Events DC. "Reactivating the Walter E. Washington Convention Center's exterior has the power to further invigorate the Shaw neighborhood and act as a prime example of the power of thriving neighborhoods driving the betterment and growth of a city."
 
According to Jason Long, OMA's "partner-in-charge," the convention center takes up three city blocks and its sidewalks alone cover nearly three acres. "Our plan improves multiple elements of the building's interface with the city, from paving to lighting to landscape, creating a welcoming arrival experience for the convention center and contributing to the city's urban fabric at large," he said. "Along the building's perimeter we've inserted a series of 'activated frames' -- lush planters with integrated seating and programmed kiosks and balconies within the buidling's facade -- to provide a new layer of activation around and even on top of the convention center."
 

A 4,000-square-foot rooftop terrace facing N Street, immediately above exterior retail tenants, is in the plans. This flexible space will be used by retail and restaurant patrons, as well as for additional event programming.
 
To move forward, Events DC officials said they will continue to refine the concepts through the next phases of design based on community and stakeholder feedback, while the project team will work on acquiring the necessary regulatory approvals. Construction should start in spring 2018, with elements of the project opening in phases from 2018 to 2021.

Read about more enhancements at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in "Convention Centers on the Cutting Edge."