The Wash
The Dupont Tree Plaza project that was introduced in 2018 is set to be funded and built by 2020. The project would plant additional trees, shielding bystanders from inclement weather and creating a cleaner environment. (Courtesy of Restore Mass Ave Founder Deborah Shapley)

Community org targets shadeless Mass Ave for trees

One local community organization is partnering with residents to plant trees on Mass Ave. Thousands of people pass through the 1900 block of Massachusetts Avenue in Dupont Circle every day, but a row of trees that shaded them isn’t there anymore. Now, a local community organization is calling on the city for a little bit of shade.

The sidewalk of 1913 Massachusetts Avenue currently looks bare and empty. There are no trees to block rain, snow or heat and there are no lights for residents at night. (Courtesy of Restore Mass Ave Founder Deborah Shapley)

The sidewalk at 1913 Massachusetts Ave. used to have a row of street trees, offering shade in hot summer months and protection during the rain. The street address belonged to Stewart’s Castle, the home of Nevada Republican Sen. William Morris Stewart back in the late 1800s.

Now over a 100 years later, a PNC Bank stands in the same spot but the trees no longer exist. An all-volunteer organization, Restore Mass Ave, is trying to return this patch of sidewalk to its former glory through the Dupont Tree Plaza Project.

The project also seeks to add seven large, healthy trees in front of the PNC Bank, adding to the current five trees on either side. They also want to add new lighting to help people move around the area and see better at night.

Restore Mass Ave Founder Deborah Shapley giving a 23-slide presentation at an ANC 2B meeting in front of committee members and the community about the Dupont Tree Plaza Project. She explained how this will help commuters and the surrounding community. (Courtesy of Restore Mass Ave Founder Deborah Shapley)

According to a presentation by RMA President and founder Deborah Shapley at an Advisory Neighborhood Commission2B meeting, planting these trees will help prevent floods, unpleasant or harmful exhaust from cars and buses as well as help the problem of polluted watersheds.

Funding for the project comes from a $30,000 grant RMA won from the Chesapeake Bay Trust G3 program in March 2018.

“The Chesapeake Bay Trust came to the rescue with a lot of experience in this regard,” Shapley said. “Restore Mass Ave is delighted and grateful that the Chesapeake Bay Trust design grant has enabled us to move this thing as far as we have.”

The grant will cover engineering designs for the tree plaza. RMA is currently looking for more funding, as the project could cost up to half a million dollars.

Shapley said she would like construction to be complete by as early as next year.

The process, she said, is a lengthy one. The water pipes, electrical lines, gas lines and storm drains underground all need repair work done to them.

Multiple agencies are working on the final plan, which currently stands at 20 pages of engineer and design drawings and is about 90% percent complete, according to Shapley. After this, RMA can move forward with the next steps.

Shapley added this will be a green infrastructure project because contractors will use soil, which filters and cleans the water. Instead of a mechanical system, natural elements are used to do the work. The redeveloped plaza would also be able to handle heavier rain.

An aerial view of the area where the Dupont Tree Plaza project trees would be placed. This is the front of the PNC Bank on 1913 Massachusetts Ave where seven trees are planned to be built for shade and protection from inclement weather. (Courtesy of Restore Mass Ave Founder Deborah Shapley)

The empty paved area will also feature an integrated stormwater bioretention system, permeable pavers, a pollinator rain garden and a new lighting area.

Dupont Circle sees 20,000 Metro users, 25,000 vehicles and nine Metro and Georgetown University bus lines each day, according to Shapley’s presentation at the meeting.

Community members, residents and local, elected officials are behind the project. When the Dupont Tree Plaza project was proposed before all nine commissioners of the ANC-2B in July, they unanimously voted in favor of it.

City workers and locals that pass through this area daily say the project couldn’t come soon enough.

Dupont Circle resident Collin Savage said currently, the area is dangerous because of the lack of lights.

“It is a nice looking area, but it just seems like it needs some more added to it,” Savage said.

Dupont Circle commuter Devin Paige said his wait for the bus in the summer is not a pleasant one because of the current lack of shade.

“It feels like a sauna out here, which is not good for our health or bodies,” Paige said.

Courtney Jacobs

Courtney CJ Jacobs is a Student Reporter at American University, studying Journalism and Public Affairs for his Master's Degree.

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