Walkington, D.C.

I was in Washington D.C. for work last week. I was fortunate to have missed the myriad flight cancellations due to ferocious winds on the East Coast the day before. The flight was uneventful, if not full. The first thing I noticed upon arriving at my hotel in Georgetown was the lovely little row houses that lined the block, as well as the 4-story apartment building across the street. I don’t recall seeing a boutique hotel tucked so nicely into what appeared to be a primarily residential neighborhood before. It was love at first-mixed-use-sight. (This article is not about gentrification, it is about walkability.)

Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

In the half mile walk from the hotel to George Washington University, where our meetings were held, were several restaurants, a Whole Foods, a plethora of Starbucks, and a Metro stop. I couldn’t have really asked for more. (Cherry blossoms would have been too much to ask in early March.) The only time I had to take wheeled trasportation was to and from the airport and when my less-than-enthusiastic-about-walking co-worker was with me. The streets were generally clean other than the occasional spittle (why? why, people??) and cigarette butt (again, why?). Maybe it was just that the nor’easter had blown all the trash into the Potomac. Or maybe they have a Public Works Department that sweeps? Which reminds me, I took a walk down by the marina and they had a lovely outdoor space that was impressively populated on what was a sunny but chilly day. It was Sunday so maybe the relaxed feel was part of the weekend vibe in D.C. It gave this Minnesota girl a bit of spring fever.

Had I had more time I would have walked to some of our nation’s great monuments, tributes, and historical locations as there were plenty within a two-mile radius of where I stayed. As it was, I only had couple hours of free time so I did what every middle-aged woman does when she has an hour to kill – I walked to Wisconsin Avenue and went shopping. Oh, I also accidentally walked past the White House while using Google maps looking for a post-meeting happy hour spot. Google maps was NOT great for walking – I don’t know if it was that we were walking too slow or too fast or D.C. runs some sort of GPS interference, but we had to double back on our route a couple times due to barricades around certain streets (which Google maps did not show). An actual MAP would have been easier. Crazy, I know.

I was observing all this walkability on the heels of having read Alas, the Minnesota State Capitol is the Anti-Madison, the article on our own capitol city’s grounds and surrounding street infrastructure. What a stark difference! It would be great is St. Paul could figure out how to develop that area into a mixed-use, pedestrian friendly area like the Georgetown. Who knows, I might even shop there.

7 thoughts on “Walkington, D.C.

  1. Monte Castleman

    I have no doubts the Georgetown area is nice, but it’s even farther from the U.S. Capitol building than say Lowertown is from the Minnesota Capitol. Like Minnesota, the U.S. Capitol is surrounded by a sea of grass and then a bunch of boxy, introverted buildings. It’s true there’s the stuff around Union Station (where I had to walk to find something to eat when I was at the capitol), at 5 blocks away is closer than Lowertown is from the Minnesota Capitol, but that’s not the area the article talks about.

  2. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

    I think walking in DC is wonderful. I love the squares, the building heights, the active streets. Like Saint Paul, the Federal office areas right around the Capitol are pretty inhospitable and inhumane, but otherwise the district is great for walking. Once you leave, however, and get out into the suburbs, things go downhill very fast.

  3. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

    This neighborhood is more accurately named Foggy Bottom, Georgetown proper is right across Rock Creek juuuust to the left of the map. Foggy Bottom is filled with major government institutions: State Department, Interior Department, OPM, IMF, World Bank, FDIC, Eisenhower Executive Offices, Federal Reserve, White House… The US Capitol building isn’t the only building Federal government work happens. Comparing distances to the US Capitol isn’t helpful because D.C. has such a huge concentration of Federal work right around Downtown D.C., it seems Minnesota could do a better job pulling state departments back from the suburbs and around the MN Capitol grounds.

    Georgetown across Rock Creek is a very worthwhile example for possible urban living that isn’t “stack and pack”. D.C. has a problem that there aren’t enough Georgetowns, DuPont Circles, Logan Circles. Georgetown houses reach San Francisco levels for affordability.

    A lot of Federal government employees have been concentrated in D.C. and many of them work very close Downtown D.C., partly because they have useful transit, but also because D.C. didn’t slice up and run interstate highways through its downtown so driving is a pretty awful thing to deal with making long commute irrational because they take so much time. People have so much time in a day and many pay more to not commute greater than 30 minutes each way.

    In Minnesota we maybe could do a better job keeping more state government executive jobs nearer the Capitol grounds instead of spreading them around the suburbs. There is a lot to be said to concentrating related work where people can share ideas where it is easier to meet in person. Employees in different departments meeting for lunch, for instance, to talk about how their responsibilities could complement.

    I’m not sure enough elected people in MN government care enough about the quality of the surrounding neighborhood in St. Paul. Then the moment MN government surrounds the Capitol grounds with state government employees the city would howl that they could have just filled up empty offices across the highway trench.

  4. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    That Whole Foods didn’t used to be there! And I can’t remember what was even though I lived on the next block during law school (Google streetview only goes back to the whole in the ground during construction). Huh. Probably still would not have shopped there as a student, though.

    I assume you walked to the Georgetown Waterfront, but the marina over in SW DC is kind of interesting, with stands selling fresh and cooked seafood and, of course, docks with boats. Unless they have turned all that into a Whole Foods now too. (Ack! Google shows them building over there too!)

    1. Jennifer Cannon Post author

      Yes, the Georgetown Waterfront. I didn’t get to as many places as I wanted. Maybe next year!

  5. Jonathan

    The one thing that DC really beats Minneapolis in for walk ability is the subway system. It is nice but closes too early (should close after bar close instead of midnight). Also it’s probably cooler for a tourist than Minneapolis is too.

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