The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Pedestrian Access

Location

Washington, D.C.

Status

Design Completed 2015​

Client

District Department of Transportation

Cost

$5.5 Million​

Since the Kennedy Center’s origin, critical observers have aspired to improve access between the Center and the Potomac River to the west. The city’s recent actions to reconnect to the Potomac and make it a vital focus of urban development underscore the need of the Center to enhance its visual presence on the river with a corresponding physical gesture of a viable pedestrian link. The success of neighboring Washington Harbor highlights both the potential of such a connection as well as the need for the Center to link with and complement its neighbor.  Linking the theater and dining activities provides a natural but, as yet unrealized evolution of urban interaction with the Potomac: a paradigm shift with two previously seemingly disconnected parts of the city becoming one.

Two major external barriers currently discourage this potential interaction: the pedestrian linkages along the river and the Rock Creek Parkway crossing.  The lack of clear definition of the path and the insufficient development along the route inhibit pedestrian usage of the trail between Roosevelt Bridge (to the south) and the termination of 30th Street (to the north) at the Swedish Embassy on the Georgetown waterfront.  Similarly daunting, the infrequent and often dangerous street-level crossings at the Rock Creek Parkway severely limit the flexibility of a pedestrian to move between the riverside and the city.  While currently underappreciated, this stretch of shoreline has the potential to serve as a vital part of the city linking Georgetown, the historic C&O Canal, Thompson Boathouse, Rock Creek Park, and the Kennedy Center with the Potomac River, a landmark riverside promenade worthy of the city’s international stature.