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.)
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.