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"

Monday, October 15, 2018

Dupont Tree Plaza - Q & A on CAD

           Regarding our Request For Proposals to make an Engineered Design of the stormwater retrofit 'Dupont Tree Plaza' next to Dupont Circle, we got one question:

           Is there a CAD file of the site?  RMA's RFP  shows a measured plan made pro bono by Leo A Daly architects. It shows how the trees, bikes, etc could fit on the site. So, is there a CAD file too?

          Our Daly contact said they have no CAD file to share.
    "The Bidders should only be using Leo A Daly’s concept drawing for design intent purposes. Our drawing is not an engineered survey and does not include critical underground elements. It was developed for concept level only."
          Reminder: Bids are due by 4 pm on Wednesday Oct 17th. See RFP for instructions.

          Thank you, everyone!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Tree Plaza: Bidder questions due 6 pm Oct 11

Anyone interested in bidding on the Engineered Design for our Tree Plaza, who has questions, should submit them by 6 pm Thursday Oct 11 to Please say "Dupont Tree Plaza Design" in the subject line.

If there are any Addenda to our Sept 25 Request For Proposals, we will post by midnight, Friday Oct 12, on the Dupont Tree Plaza page. Links to this page are our Home Page and this Blog.

Note: The Site Plan pop-up on the Tree Plaza page has dimensions.

Seven firms attended today's Site Meeting to learn more the project and site detail.
Attendance at this meeting was recommended not mandatory.  See the RFP for full schedule and instructions.

Above is RMA President Deborah Shapley with attendees at the site today. The place was bare and hot as usual. So the group moved to finish the meeting a few steps west in the cool shade of  Quercus rubra red oak trees which RMA planted in 2008.  (There and along 20th Street, canopy grew by 73% in 10 years. The story is on our Canopy Growth page.)

We'll keep working so that, soon, the hot sidewalk above will be shady and cool, based on a wonderful new design.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Meeting for Bidders at Plaza Site noon-1 Wed Oct 10

Bidding is under way for an engineered design of Dupont Tree Plaza! We invite interested bidders to come to the site for a pre-proposal meeting Wed. Oct. 10 from noon - 1 pm.  Meet us on the sidewalk in front of PNC Bank, shown below and on our Tree Plaza page.

Site of future Tree Plaza. Address: 1913 Massachusetts Ave NW.

We'll show the site detail and issues with this space. We'll explain what city agencies and private groups who support the plan - such as Farmer's Market and PNC Bank - have said.

Deadlines for questions, etc, are in the RFP you may download here. No addenda will be issued after Friday Oct 12.  The Proposal Deadline is 4 pm on Wed Oct 17.

Bidders will propose how they'd make a permit-ready design that transforms this prominent but neglected city sidewalk into a shady community space. The design should accommodate the bike stands, pleasant pedestrian walking and eleven new trees.  Below ground, the retrofit will collect stormwater from Connecticut and Massachusetts Avenues.  The Plaza can have other cool features such as a neighborhood kiosk.

This RMA Award will be funded through Chesapeake Bay Trust's Green Cities, Green Jobs, Green Towns program. Since 2011, this regional effort has awarded $8.5 million to 145 projects. Restore Mass Ave is proud to be one of just two stormwater projects in downtown DC earning G3 awards.

The Awardee will be part of CBT's network of groups cleaning the watershed. The G3 program aims to promote community liveability and future green jobs. The Awardee will be expected to share their work with local public school students, so youngsters learn how to make old downtowns "green."

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Tree Plaza advances with Chesapake Bay Trust grant

    Our Dupont Tree Plaza has won a prestigious grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust. The funds will enable RMA to commission an engineered design to retrofit the bare city sidewalk with shade trees and help clean up the Bay.

    Our vision of adding trees to the east end of the Embassy Row route and making a new civic space there has advanced steadily.

    In the past year,  RMA met with city agencies such as Capital Bikeshares, DDOT public space, the Urban Forestry Administration, and the Office of Planning. We were greatly helped by Designgreen LLC, a green engineering firm, which facilitated most meetings.

      RMA met with and obtained letters of support from PNC Bank, which abuts the sidewalk, the Fresh Farm Market, the Dupont Circle Citizen's Association and Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets.

     The international architecture firm Leo A Daly revised its Concept Site Layout Plan several times based on requirements for tree planting, bike stands, pedestrian walks and traffic safety. Shown here is the "jigsaw puzzle" site so far agreed (or not opposed) by public and private stakeholders.

      Two key features of the Tree Plaza plan qualified it for an award from the  Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns program, which is funded by EPA and managed by the Trust:

      1) The plaza will have 14 deciduous trees including 11 new ones,  lots of pervious surface and underground water catchment taking runoff from the streets. Thus our arboreal installation captures storm water. It will measurably help the District comply with federal directives to cleanse Rock Creek, the rivers, and the Bay.

      2) By engaging nearby public schools --  School Without Walls @ Francis Stevens, and Ross Elementary -- the project will teach how people change "gray" city spaces into "green." This is important knowledge for those who will shape the city in future.

      RMA is honored for this chance to expand our "green community."

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

"2700 K" is Big News for Street Lights

    The new Director of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has announced an important policy shift for the future of all of the city's 71,000 street lights. If carried out,  the policy could keep more of the historic character of Washington's streets and avenues when the new lighting infrastructure is rolled out. The change would be good for residents' health, too!

    Director Jeff Marootian spoke about DDOT's street light conversion at the meeting of Sheridan-Kalorama Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2D on March 19, using a technical term for the color temperature of the new Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights.

   "My goal is to go to 2700 Kelvin in many places, if not all places, in DC."

    Visible light has different "colors" depending on the wavelength. Street lights shine at different "color temperatures" depending on technology. DC's  present system of incandescent and high pressure sodium street lights glow in amber tones about 1900 to 2100 Kelvin. But they suck up many times the power of new LED lights.  

    In the photo below you see DC's amber-hued high pressure sodium lights on the west side of 18 Street where it crosses Mass Ave NW.  On the east side of 18 Street (at left, where guide Bonnie Garrity is pointing) you see a 4000 Kelvin LED.  (The photo was taken during RMA's  February 21 Street Light Tour. See Tour Slideshow for more. )

    Most cities are converting to LED street lights to save on power. Also a modern light system includes other "smart city" services like local light controls, wi-fi and monitoring of traffic (the latter prepares for driverless vehicles).  In his remarks to the ANC, Director Marootian stressed that technology for these systems is moving very fast and he hopes the District will be at the forefront.
    But the city began planning its move to low-power LED lights years ago. For much of the last decade, a higher blue-white color temperature was associated with safety.   Some cities such as Milan, Italy installed blue-white LEDs throughout. In the District DDOT began installing 4000-5000 Kelvin lights in alleys and elsewhere. 

    A DDOT pamphlet on the modernization program, some years ago, said that by 2014 most lights would be 4000 Kelvin.
   But the American Medical Association issued a report in 2016. (1) It warned that high color temperature street lights interfere with human melatonin, which naturally prepares our bodies for sleep. Pollinators get confused by these lights; they also interfere with plant growth. Their glare presents a hazard, especially for older drivers.

    To promote better policy, a DC Street Lighting Task Force now represents more than 100,000 residents by enrolling local groups including ANC 2D and Restore Mass Ave.  The Task Force has amassed technical data to show the streets would be just as safe for traffic and pedestrians with lights no more than 2700 Kelvin. 

      It appears the new Director of DDOT agrees. "I meet with the Street Light Task Force monthly," Director Marootian said at the March 19 meeting.

      Not clear is where 4000 and 5000 Kelvin blue-white lamps will be allowed in the District in future - or which of that kind already installed will stay.  The Street Light Task Force counted more than 4,000 LEDs of 4000 and 5000 Kelvin in 2017. (2) Fully 24% or 1,107 are in Ward 7.  But these very bright lights are not hard to miss in Ward 2, which includes downtown and Dupont Circle, and in the commercial corridors of Ward 3.

Correlated Color Temperature in Kelvins (US Department of Energy)

    At stake are the terms of a Request for Proposals (RFP) which DDOT is preparing with the Office of Public and Private Partnerships (OP3).  The RFP would enable private companies to bid for the job of modernizing all the city's street lights and related infrastructure. (3) The RFP is to be issued this spring but it must be reviewed by the City Council first. 

     Council Member Mary Cheh, as Chair of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, held a roundtable on the issue in June 2017. At that time, the Director of DDOT appeared to agree that such bright lights would not be installed until a policy was agreed. (According to local reports, such lights have been installed anyway.)

     At the public ANC meeting, Marootian, who took office in January, did not say whether or which of the present 4000- 5000 Kelvin LEDs would be replaced. 

    He did say "my goal is no more than 3000 Kelvin along Massachusetts Avenue," where, starting west from Dupont Circle, his department plans to replace the lights as part of a big infrastructure project.     

    Restore Mass Ave, a member of the STLF,  has urged warm-white lights of 2700 along Massachusetts Avenue.   The residents of 2540 Mass, one of Mass Ave's most famous apartment houses, have petitioned Council Member Cheh and Ward 2 Council Member Jack Evans for lights no brighter than 2700 Kelvin.
RMA President Deborah Shapley and Jeff Marootian 
at a Dupont Circle meeting in December
(1) American Medical Association

 (2) What-is-the-Street-Light-Task-Force (June 2017).

(3) Smart Lighting Project page

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Street Lights: Make Your Voice Heard

Please forward RMA's Testimony on Street Lights to City Council members and your friends.
RMA's position is informed by experts at the Street Light Task Force and the Dark Sky Association. You can help save the historic character of Embassy Row (ie no bright 3000 Kelvin lights) and improve future lighting for the whole city. 

RMA's Feb 21 Tour of Street Lights drew many from Dupont Circle and elsewhere.
On our tour slideshow see for yourself the differences in present lights (amber, HPS) versus the very bright blue-white LED lights (some at 4000K )which the Department of Transportation is already installing.

Many people from Ward 2 and Ward 3 are joining the ranks of residents trying to make the nation's capital do better than some other cities (Milan, Italy). Other cities are models (Phoenix, AZ) How Washington builds out its new lighting infrastructure in the next 15 years will be decided soon!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Join Our Street Light Tour Wednesday Evening

Restore Mass Ave is advocating for new fixtures and bulbs that are healthful and preserve the historic character of streets and avenues.  Here's our tour map.

See for yourself which new lights are too bright and too blue. Same may be needlessly high, so trees must be cut out for light to reach the street. Compare the old lights; they use too much power but give off soft color.

Our tour will be guided by experts from the DC Street Light Task Force, Delores Bushong and Bonnie Garrity.

New Date: Wed Feb. 21
Where: Start/finish at Embassy Row Hotel, 2015 Massachusetts Ave NW
Times: 6:15pm     Gather
             6:30pm     Start walk eastward  
             7:45 pm    Happy Hour drinks and discussion at Embassy Row Hotel  "Station"

       The Street Light Task Force has engaged dozens of local civic groups and ANCs to push for new energy- saving streetlights that are BEST for alleys, streets and avenues.

      Why is Restore Mass Ave concerned? Why now? We want healthful, appropriate lighting to save our Grand Avenue's character and trees. RMA seeks to influence which LED lights the Department of Transportation will choose for Embassy Row: lighting will be replaced as part of the big Massachusetts Avenue Rehabilitation Project (MARP).

     But street lights on ALL avenues, residential streets and commercial venues will be impacted by DDOT's lighting choices.  Walk with us, see for yourself and learn how to make your voice heard!

     Tour contact/RSVP    Follow us on Twitter  @restoremassave

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Haiti's Resilience Rewarded with 9-11 Survivor Tree

You'll see a small new tree planted by Haiti's Embassy at 2311 Massachusetts Avenue this spring. The tree will be just a sapling about 4 feet tall. Not a lot of branches nor leaves.

This little Callery pear may manage a few white blooms, briefly.  But if not now, in future years its white cloud of blossoms will herald the start of renewal up and down our Grand Avenue.

The tree's parent was discovered in the wreckage of the World Trade Center in October 2001. Rescuers saw "lifeless limbs, snapped roots, and blackened trunk." It was nursed back to health (after another disaster) and replanted at Ground Zero in December 2010.  At right is this Survivor Tree last spring, in full bloom. It is visited reverentially by millions of people now. 

Haiti too has had more than its fair share of disasters.  Its eleven million people have shown resilience despite gnarls of problems with infrastructure, environment,  politics, disease and misdirected aid.

Since 2012 Haiti's ambassador to the US, Paul Altidor, has worked to disentangle aid issues. He has tirelessly put forth an alternative story about the intelligence, hard work, artistry and dignity of Haitian people. His Embassy has opened its doors to the Haitian diaspora and general public, who come for Haitian art shows, cooking classes, crafts and music. Busboys & Poets hosts open-mike discussions about the country.

(Now the Embassy has a hotline to help Haitian deportees clarify their status. The charge that Haiti is not a good country is being refuted by the Ambassador and many in the US public.)

Haiti's struggle to recover from the 2010 earthquake, the largest natural disaster in history, was recognized last fall when the National 9-11 Memorial & Museum awarded a seedling of Pyrus calleryana from the 9-11 Survivor Tree.   Seedlings are awarded to communities "facing and overcoming tragedy" says the award letter from chair Alice Greenwald. 

Just twelve Survivor Tree Tree seedlings have been awarded since 2013, such as to Gulfport, Miss. (Katrina in 2005) and Newton, Conn. (Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012).

Restore Mass Ave has worked with the Embassy of Haiti on green restoration projects for years. It was one of the first foreign missions to help us water city street trees, for example. The Embassy hosted our 10th anniversary in May 2017 as well.

We are glad to assist the Embassy of Haiti with planting and protecting the Survivor Tree seedling when it arrives in early spring. Stay tuned!