- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2019

Amid the concrete jungle of downtown Washington, city leaders want to make space for a little greenery.

D.C. officials and business leaders on Thursday broke ground at K and 19th streets NW to combat urban sprawl with rain gardens and tree boxes.

“This is radical,” said Tommy Wells, director of the District Department of Energy. “When you think of cities, you think about pushing out the environment. This is going to be a radical transformation of what cities can be.”

Since 2012, the D.C. government has partnered with the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District (BID) to create green spaces throughout the city — compact oases of plants and flowers to counter the pollutants of city growth.

Business and government officials, including Donna Cooper, president of electricity provider Pepco Holdings, on Thursday began the construction of 10 rain gardens and nine tree boxes at the northeast corner of K and 19 streets.

Rain gardens are designed to absorb and filter rainwater to help prevent storm drains from overflowing and keep pollutants from pouring into the Anacostia and Potomac rivers.

“Its an important aspect of this that government and private entities join forces for this extraordinarily valuable change in the landscape,” D.C. Council member Mary Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat and chair of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment. “We are in the midst of a fundamental transformation of our urban spaces.”

Mr. Wells, a former council member, agreed with Ms. Cheh that the transformative act of adding green spaces to cities benefits people and wildlife.

“It used to be that the Department of Transportation was just about getting cars and trucks through here as fast as possible and out of here as fast as possible,” he said. “In partnering with them to think about new ways to reimagine the public right-of-way so that it sustains wildlife but also makes us healthier and feel better about living in the urban core.”

This latest project continues an urban redevelopment effort that has brought six rain gardens and converted 12,000 square feet of asphalt and concrete into green space around the District.

“You’ll see what’s going on is people want to be in cities, it’s a trend. They want to be outside, they really value urban spaces. To that end, its creating spaces that are different,” said Leona Agouridis, executive director of the Golden Triangle BID.

Providing such areas encourages office workers to step outside their cubicles and hallways to walk around and enjoy the scenery, Ms. Agouridis said.

Ms. Cheh described these projects as a successful model for transforming urban spaces, saying plans are underway to establish more green areas.

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