DC neighbors fight to transform Connecticut Ave. service lane into Cleveland Park promenade

WTOP's Neal Augenstein reports neighbors in D.C.'s Cleveland Park have been fighting to turn a Connecticut Avenue service lane into something else. (Part 1)
The former Cleveland Park service lane has been transformed into a promenade. The bollards were removed this week. (Courtesy D.C. Department of Transportation)

If you’ve ever been to D.C.’s Uptown Theater, you’ve probably seen — or tried to park in — that service lane, located across Connecticut Avenue. Now, neighbors in Cleveland Park are celebrating the transformation of what was a convoluted, infrastructure relic into a community promenade.

“In previous decades, you would pull off Connecticut Avenue, to potentially park in front of those stores, there were 14 parking spots,” said Area Neighborhood Commissioner Tammy Gordon, describing the service lane along northbound Connecticut Avenue, between Macomb and Ordway Streets in Northwest.

“During the height of rush hour, it was 40-something cars trying to fight over 14 spaces,” Gordon said.

In addition to cars vying for parking spots, the service lane’s configuration posed safety risks for pedestrians along Cleveland Park’s main street.

“You had Connecticut Avenue, with commuters going up and down it,” combined with drivers “trying to whip into this tight service lane, to fight over 14 parking spots that may or may not be available, at any given time,” Gordon said.

“The sidewalks weren’t protected, and were very tight — you couldn’t get two strollers by — it was cars fighting for spots, right next to people.”

The District of Columbia Department of Transportation has been working on The Cleveland Park Streetscape and Drainage Improvement Project, to improve pedestrian safety, and to upgrade curb ramps to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the District loosened restrictions — expanding sidewalk capabilities to facilitate more outdoor dining — and temporarily closed the Cleveland Park service lane to traffic.

“Since 2020, it’s been packed restaurant patios, and we’ve had farmers markets and art pop-ups,” said Gordon. She, and neighbors, decided to try make the change permanent.

“We essentially made the case that we wanted to keep that as a more pedestrian-friendly area, and keep that closed to cars,” Gordon said.

After neighborhood outreach, ANC votes and petitions to the city, in June 2023, D.C. Department of Transportation Director Everett Lott sent a letter to the neighborhood: “I’m delighted to report that DDOT took the neighborhood recommendation to keep the Cleveland Park service lane closed to cars and open to pedestrians, restaurant patios and our farmers market pop ups.”

Construction took more than a year: “The service lane is now all one level, so there’s not a road going into it, or out of it. It’s like a big patio,” said Gordon. “It’s dotted with landscaping that has gone in, some more will be coming in spring. There’s some seating arrangements, and more to come.”

But what about those 14 spots, in an already-difficult-to-park neighborhood?

“Part of success in living in a city means you don’t have parking everywhere. And, nobody in Cleveland Park wanted to build a parking garage,” said Gordon. “Losing 14 spots and gaining a community space where we can dine, enjoy, have farmers markets, art activations and community events far outweighs having 14 parking spots.”

Gordon said, “I just want to remind folks that Sam’s Park & Shop does have a full parking lot,” at Ordway Street. “And if you just buy a pack of gum from Target, you can get free parking for one hour.”

The community plans to hold a “Grand Opening on the Cleveland Park Promenade,” on April 6.

“We’ve got kids and dogs being strolled along Connecticut Avenue, and it’s really become this pride of the community,” said Gordon. “People really wanted to fight for it and see if we could make it something different than what it was, previously.”

cleveland park service lane
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE: The service lane along Connecticut Avenue in Northwest, between Macomb and Ordway streets was a Cleveland Park structure for decades, with drivers vying for 14 parking spots. (Courtesy D.C. Department of Transportation)

 

WTOP's Neal Augenstein reports how neighbors in D.C.'s Cleveland Park fought to transform a Connecticut Avenue service lane into something different. (Part 2)

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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