Monday, September 16, 2019

Huge trees could be lost at Sursum Corda site

    RMA nurtures the great, huge trees along Embassy Row. Our Grand Avenue was spared the developer's wrecking ball in the 1970s when federal historic status was granted. But RMA cares about big trees all over DC - especially Heritage Trees of 100" circumference or larger, that get extra protection under the 2016 tree law.
       Today RMA warned that developers will axe many Heritage Trees at the Sursum Corda apartment site if a bill before City Council is passed. The bill could come up tomorrow.
       We joined Casey Trees in objecting to the brief bill introduced by Charles Allen, Council Member for Ward 6, where the redevelopment is taking place. Sursum Corda  was a group of low-income homes and apartments for years. The area had many problems, so redevelopment was planned and partly carried out.
      For this phase, hundreds of new apartments would be built on the part of the land where large trees - now called Heritage Trees - have thrived for much of the 20th and all of the 21st century.
      Allen's bill would let the developer pay a lower rate for removing these trees than the 2016 law requires. And by exempting trees on this big, conspicuous project - the bill if passed will invite others to come to the Council with "emergency" exemptions for Heritage-size and other large trees.
      RMA President Deborah Shapley urged Council Member Jack Evans to vote against this bill in  our September 16 letter.
    The 2016 Tree Law is one of the most advanced in the US. It fulfills the visible, shady legacy of our City of Trees which thousands enjoy along Embassy Row and elsewhere in the city.
      We say: Don't gut this law through this back door!


Saturday, September 7, 2019

RMA aids street trees VIDEO

See images of how RMA helps young trees grow, even those next to the busy avenue. RMA works with the Urban Forestry Division of DDOT on what species along curbs will provide the most shade and revive the historic look  - if  they are cared for. We're trying!
Along here, the historic Grand Avenue streetscape had full double rows of shade trees; the District needs these mature tree rows today to reach its tree canopy goals. 

  • Thank you Urban Forestry Division for this lovely little elm which could grow into a mighty shade tree, cooling and beautifying the sidewalk and driveways. It's in front of the vacant Pakistan building at 2315 Mass. The lovely entrance of 2346 Mass is across the street.
  • Thank you Embassy of Haiti (next door at 2211 Mass) for watering this new tree. And for caring for its own sidewalk tree - the 911 Memorial survivor tree (see Our Green Community).
  • Thank you RMA Treekeeper John Umberger for clipping the grass  around this tree and the  Haiti memorial tree next door. The hat is John's after-work attire. There were no bumblebees except in the music.
Your support enables us to help young and at risk street trees. Below are street trees - planted by UFD, for which we arrange care.  Ricky Fuentes of R & J Landscaping loosened and enriched soil around 11 city trees on 20th Street and Mass; two are shown below plus the little elm after John's weedwhack.

Why should neighbors care for street trees? Keeping the tree box clear of grass and crabgrass, loosening soil and light mulch  - improve soil-nutrient exchange. When young trees in hostile environments are cared for  - they grow stronger roots and get bigger.
Note that street trees should be watered regularly through the fall.

          - Deborah Shapley, RMA President, September 2019

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Dupont Tree Plaza - Some Options

Restore Mass Ave champions the cause of transforming the bare old city sidewalk west of Dupont Circle into a delighted, shady space that serves the city and region.

We have achieved an engineered design that retrofits the above- and below-ground space for stormwater management. It has passed all major city approvals, with just a few to go.

So now there's discussion of how present users will be affected by a new space giving priority to trees and nature and to minimizing the bother of heat and rain. To help, our team drew some options. Below the slides is a list of  tradeoffs. But don't miss our main slideshow on our Dupont Tree Plaza project page.

Below the slides are notes on what they mean - the tradeoffs.
View presentation on SlideShare ›
  • Aerial perspective shows at left the bioretention area with native plants and the cypress tree at its center.  The double row of six additional trees are clearly shown. The greenspace down the center is also a bioretention area. Paving is pervious brick.
  • Bikeshare docking shows two Capital BikeShares lines which have 46 docks. Our present plan proposes two lines with 46 docks as now. Another option is one line only, of 28 docks facing the bank wall, so the allĂ©e is pedestrian-only.
  • Bike options plan calls for keeping all 46 bikes on the site. Or one or both lines could move to vacant sidewalks nearby.* **
  • FreshFarm farmers' market operates Sunday mornings along 20th Street adjacent to our site. Up to 12,000 people come and hang out, partly due to the shady row of oak trees RMA planted there in 2009. But:
    • One vendor uses the sidewalk that would be part of the bioretention area. That area is 18" below grade and filled with plants and the cypress tree. It's job is to "pond" in big storms, when rainfall will flow slowly to the city's main water-sewer pipe below there.
    • Option 2 would build a wooden deck across 2/3 of the bioretention area. This means planting the cypress tree in just 200 sg ft of open space and 400 sq ft less sunny soil for native plants and pollinators. Option 3 would put pervious paving over this 400 sq ft. But, per next-to-last slide, this catches less stormwater and the tree is constrained.
    • The farmer's market seeks to add stalls. It could add several tents along the bank wall- the north side of the Plaza - but only if no bikes were docked near the wall on Sundays.
  • Other public spaces could be used for bike stands and farmer's market expansion. The city plans a big renovation of the Connecticut Avenue streetscape from Dupont Circle north to California Street.  This would repurpose sidewalk and street space there and build a permanent "deck-over" where Connecticut Avenue exits from under Dupont Circle. The preliminary design is due in 2021.
All parties have said these programming issues should not hold up our Plaza Engineered Design moving to 95% complete.  RMA has been asked coninue consultations with stakeholders and the community. We will!

          Watch this space!      Comment on Twitter  #DupontTreePlaza

We thank the Chesapeake Bay Trust Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns program, funded by EPA, for the grant enabling us to commission a permit-ready plan for the Dupont Tree Plaza. The grant funded our Contract with team led by Designgreen LLC.

*Excerpts from Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B Resolution of support for the Plaza adopted 9-0 July 10. The full Resolution is on Our Pdfs page.

"•  Will continue to accommodate the significant pedestrian traffic at a prominent
intersection in the neighborhood, and
"• Ensures the same number or more Capital Bikeshare docks will continue to exist
in close proximity to the site if the bikeshare station needs to be reduced or
"...ANC 2B requests and expects that the Restore Mass Ave project team will continue to engage and consult with community stakeholders on the evolution, timeline, and development of the project."

** Excerpt from Dupont Circle Citizen's Association Board Letter of Support July 27.

 The full Letter is on Our Pdfs page.

"DCCA is in support of your plans with one exception: we think it is very important to maintain the current number of Capital Bikeshare docks at this location. This is a very popular station for bike commuters, access to the Sunday farmer’s market, and to serve tourists staying at the nearby hotels. Thus, we request that your final plans include the additional line of bike docks.
....It would also be acceptable if an alternative site can be found that is equally convenient, for some or all of the current bike docks."

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Tree Plaza Progress Reported by TheDCLine

      TheDCLine, an important local news service, reported on RMA's project for a new community space off Dupont Circle. Deborah Shapley, President of RMA was quoted on how the bare sidewalk by the bike stands can be transformed. With rows of trees and greenspace, it would highlight the site's historic and community importance and add beauty.

      Talk about busy! On weekdays 20,000 people use the Dupont Circle Metro station. Nine bus lines intersect within a few blocks. 25,000 vehicles pass, giving off pollution and noise. The Capital Bikeshare stand is one of the busiest in the city. Our Tree Plaza plan would keep the present number of  bike docks and add more of them a little bit away. 

Photo: Naomi Harris, TheDCLine

       “It is quite a crossing point for newcomers and visitors to DC — but nobody pays attention to it," Shapley explained in an interview with DCLine's Naomi Harris. "We are expecting and hoping that, through this project, the regular users and visitors in the community will discover it can be a real place." 

      The article reported that RMA had won a $30,000 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust to design the plaza as a retrofit for stormwater.  RMA let a  contract for design to DesignGreen LLC, a woman-owned engineering firm. Rebecca Stack, the firm's principal, was quoted saying the new engineered design should be ready by May 15.

          Chris Huska of Huska Consulting will work with DC agencies to make a plan that meets stormwater and other environmental goals and city standards for walkways, bikes, etc. Huska Consulting is one of five firms on the Designgreen Plaza team.

    "Green infrastructure can soak up stormwater and decrease runoff that would otherwise enter the sewage system," the article said.  Designgreen did one such retrofit creating attractive green space at Duke Ellington Park, southwest of Dupont Circle.
        “The purpose of our whole project is to let DC residents and workers experience the calm and shade of the elegant old streetscapes,” Shapley said. “There is a very special atmosphere about being under rows of healthy, large trees, when you are in an urban setting.”

     The grant to RMA came from the “Green Streets, Green jobs, Green Towns” or G3 program. Students from School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens, which is nearby at 2425 N St. NW, will be involved, the article said.   It quoted the school’s principal, Richard Trogisch, saying the project “could be considered a junior ‘green jobs’ program, raising our students’ interest in green design careers.”

     “Nobody wants these projects that are dropped down from up high, and just stuck in a neighborhood or community,” Shapley said. “They are not going to be lasting and be maintained if the local community and the next generation is not involved or committed.”
      The DCLine was recently founded by publisher Chris Kain. Its mission is to "offer a first stop to residents to find the information they need to be active participants in hometown DC." 

       Reporter Harris' article appears in a section called  Built Environment

      The article's title was apt:  "Roots of Collaboration."

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Soil is tested at Tree Plaza site

The project for an engineered design of our Dupont Tree Plaza got under way Nov 30. Here you see John, of Soils, Inc, making two holes in the ground at the west end of the plaza location.

Why test the soil here? Below this site we plan a "reservoir" filled with soil to grow trees. The reservoir will run under most of Plaza, and be shaped to direct water to the city's combined system (CSS) of drains. Any remaining water under there must be absorbed by native soil. So how does it behave?
John at west end of site by Colonial Parking,
John measured the water going in the hole, and the time.

How fast does this soil absorb water?  This determines key aspects of the project and details of the design.So John bored  7 feet down, pulling up sections of the core  bit by bit. He laid them out on the ground. He kept and labeled samples for lab analysis.  
                                                                              Here John shows how the deeper  soil is  different; it has more clay, as you can see by the color.
He capped the bore tubes so rain water (or trash) could not get in there. He returned later, to measure how much water in the hole was absorbed in the interval. This will give us the INFILTRATION RATE of this particular soil. 
John of Soils Inc and Rebecca Stack of Designgreen LLC cheer the kickoff.

    For more on the draft site plan and the design contract award see our post of October 26.

   We thank the Chesapeake Bay Trust for funding to make an Engineered Design of the Dupont Tree Plaza.  For this project's background and scope please visit our Plaza project page.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Tree Plaza Design Award: The Winner Is ...

DesignGreen was voted to receive the contract for an Engineered Design of RMA's Dupont Tree Plaza by the Restore Mass Ave Board of Directors Oct 23nd, following a three-way bake-off.

The three valid proposals were read and scored by two outside professional Reviewers.  RMA Board members compared each proposal against the requirements in our RFP released September 25th.

It was close! One Reviewer said all three showed "depth of experience" with designing and getting the myriad permits required to install "storm water retrofits" in District public space.  Five of the seven firms who had attended RMA's onsite briefing Oct 10th then bid on the project  as leaders or team members.

"The high participation rate shows a lot of enthusiasm in the DC storm water/urban design industry for our plaza project," says the President of RMA Deborah Shapley. The RMA Board and Reviewers want the runners-up to know how much we appreciate their input,  RMA hopes to work with them in other ways. The runners-up were Greening Urban / Moody Graham and Sudio39 / Bohler.

Wooden drew the future tree rows from the site plan below.
The DesignGreen proposal was specific as to how each task in the RFP would be done, by whom and when. This meant a higher score on Method and Comprehensiveness because the two others did not spell this out so clearly. The Board found that DG's partner Huska Engineering, which will take the lead from the 65% plan on, also appropriate for this project.

The DG proposal focused more than the others on the innovative aspect of planting and growing large-type trees  The team includes a specialist in this, Melissa Gildea of Lotus.

The proposed investigation of soils was important  The site's soils are unknown yet the roots large-species trees will need the right soil.

The DG proposal warned that boring in the Discovery phase could turn up constraints. Our Reviewers echoed that unexpected hurdles appear in such projects. David Wooden Studio submitted graphics showing the site.
Winning team logos

Runners-up had great recent projects;  both are qualified to do storm water retrofits in DC.  Each lost points for not spelling out clearly the steps requested in our RFP. We also looked for team leaders who are running complex,small projects.

Though DG already knew about the Tree Plaza due to prior contract work for us, DG separated itself when the award competition began.  RMA went to lengths to make the RFP so detailed, and gave so much information on the web site and Onsite Meeting, that anyone in this field could make a successful proposal
. The outside Reviewers knew all three proposers and many of the team partners.

Special thanks to our Reviewers
  • David Suls, Senior Director of Planning & Policy, Golden Triangle BID 
  • Lesley Conroy PLA Associate, GGN Ltd.
Heartfelt thanks to everyone who considered this project, especially those who submitted.  The Board want sall who submitted to get friendly feedback from us. We may be able to engage some who didn't get this award on other projects in future.

Finally we thank again the Chesapeake Bay Trust G3 (Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Town)  fund for making it possible for RMA to commission a permit-ready Engineered Design for the Dupont Tree Plaza.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Tree Plaza proposals due Wed Oct 17 by 4 pm.

      Restore Mass Ave seeks bids from qualified firms to make an Engineered Design for a Stormwater Retrofit in the bare sidewalk by PNC Bank at Dupont Circle. 

      The RFP and more detail is at   Instructions for filing are in the RFP.

      The Dupont Tree Plaza would add 11 trees to the city sidewalk, for 14 trees in all. It will collect stormwater runoff, clean the air and calm traffic. It would help birds and other wildlife move from  the tall, leafy trees of Dupont Circle to the shade trees RMA is growing in rows, marching west from 20th Street along Embassy Row. The Plaza will be a new community space: pleasant to pass through, nicely lit, and having an info kiosk for locals and visitors to learn about this unique neighborhood.

     The Chesapeake Bay Trust has honored RMA with a Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns (G3) grant funded by the EPA, to have this permit-ready Engineered Design created.

     We are excited to receive your submissions by 4 pm Wednesday!
       Restore Mass Ave -  "Friends working together to re-green Embassy Row"