Kennedy Center River Stairs Design Fails to Impress
After decades in limbo, the river stairway design for The Kennedy Center is again in play, and major city players are not impressed.
The Potomac River Pedestrian Access Improvement Project plans a direct connection to be built between the Kennedy Center terrace and the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway trail at the river's edge. "Physical barriers and safety concerns currently discourage pedestrian traffic between these two resources," according to the National Park Service, Federal Highway Administration and the DC Department of Transportation.
First seen as a grand staircase—as are the real Watergate Steps near the Lincoln Memorial—the latest design displays two glass ramps turned right and left and two elevators. Nearby Watergate resident Arthur Cotton Moore, architect of Washington Harbour, submitted a more monumental design in 1987. (It is important to note that Moore's Georgetown work brought the Potomac River back to the people as a real waterfront to be enjoyed.) Moore has said he supported a more dignified stairway design for the Kennedy Center, as envisioned by its architect Edward Durrell Stone.
Expressing skepticism is Jonda McFarlane, a leader in the creation of Francis Scott Key Park and the Georgetown Waterfront Park. "When did this firm get asked to do a new design?" McFarlane said. "We need something that will be appropriate both in design and history (honoring the memory of John F. Kennedy). This latest design does neither. We don't need a little tacked-on thing."
"We should take our time with it," neighborhood commissioner Bill Starrels cautioned about the proposed design. "We have waited long enough, and we need to make it worthy of the Kennedy Center, the Nation's Capital and Georgetown."
"I would love a beautiful gateway to and from Georgetown," said Jennifer Altemus, president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown. "But I do not like the fire escape design."