Kennedy Center to revamp terrace

The Kennedy Center is in the final stages of a plan to renovate its riverfront terrace for pedestrians and visitors, after soliciting feedback from residents last month.

The Potomac River Pedestrian Access Improvement Project calls for a direct pedestrian route to be built later this year between the performing arts venue’s terrace and the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway trail, so visitors will be able to access the area along the river.

For now, “physical barriers and safety concerns currently discourage pedestrian traffic between these two resources,” according to information provided by the National Park Service, Federal Highway Administration and the D.C. Department of Transportation.

Jack Van Dop, a senior technical specialist for the Federal Highway Administration, said the design calls for two stairways and two elevators to be built on the east side of the building, facing the Potomac.

Because Rock Creek Parkway is between the building and riverfront, the stairways will be built over the road, extending from the center’s terrace.

Development of the plan began in 2003 and a design was submitted and approved by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission in 2007.

The next step is for the Federal Highway Administration – part of the U.S. Department of Transportation – to submit the final design to these commissions.

“An environmental assessment is currently being done on this final plan, and it should be finished by June or July of this year,” Van Dop said.

Although the total cost of the construction is not yet known, “the funds are coming from the federal government, with a small piece from the District government,” Van Dop said.

The addition to the center is expected to be complete within the next year or so.

“It’s hoped that construction would start in the latter part of 2011 and construction would probably take a year or year and a half,” Van Dop said.

He noted that the construction was unlikely to disrupt parkway traffic. A goal of the project is to also minimize disruption to the Kennedy Center or users of the park’s trail during the renovations.

The Kennedy Center hosted a public scoping meeting Feb. 22 in order to gauge public reaction to the project and to answer questions. The public has until March 14 to comment on the project.

Although there were only about 10 people in attendance at the Kennedy Center meeting last month, “there didn’t seem to be any opposition,” Van Dop said.

“There were some questions and [the project] seemed to be supported by the people in attendance,” he said.

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