Saturday, April 22, 2023

Still Life with Robin: The former "Dave Thomas Circle" needs a new name -- and DDOT wants your help!

by Peggy Robin

If you've been reading this column for any length of time, you may have noticed how many times I've jumped into local naming controversies. FIVE columns on renaming the Reds***s (whose former name is in the one-who-must-not-be-named category, like Voldemort).  

Then there was the long-running Wilson HS name-change, with the school re-emerging as Jackson-Reed. Three columns on that account.

Or you may remember the Name That Shelter contest that resulted in the "The Brooks" -- a lovely tribute to Donald Brooks, a DHS case worker who was a tireless advocate for the homeless, whose last name also happens to be evocative of  gently flowing waters. See:

I also liked the Name That Neighborhood brouhaha on Twitter, which elicited a tweet-fest of tongue-in-cheek suggestions for the new Amazon HQ + Mini-City/Company-town that is now officially known as "National Landing." Just one column, but it was a fun one: 

My personal triumph in the naming arena came at the conclusion of the Potomac Conservancy's contest to name two Potomac River/Chesapeake Bay dolphins, which I actually WON with my paired suggestions, Mac and Chessie. See:

So I'm more than ready to take on another great naming challenge. This one comes from DDOT and requires a bit of background. For a long time, one of the most accident-prone locations in DC was the complicated intersection of three streets, Florida Avenue NE, New York Avenue NE, and First Street NE, that used to form a sticky sort of web around a small island, in the middle on which sat a Wendy's hamburger joint. So naturally, people took to calling it "Dave Thomas Circle" after the famous founder of the fast food franchise (how'd ya like that quintuple alliteration?) In 2021 the DC government acquired the land by eminent domain and started the process of redesign for greater safety, creating new intersections, and in the process, a new public green space.

To see what the finished design will look like, go to:
Odd, isn't it? Not a circle, as the three grassy plots are triangular in shape and not connected to each other but separated by streets -- so it's not a plaza, either. Do these odd plots of land constitute a park? A crossing? A commons? A green? What to call them?

DDOT is stumped and they would like our help.

DDOT NY/FL Ave redesign project
First, read the excellent DCist article that explains the problem in more detail, and with diagrams and maps, giving more historical and political background than I have space for:  

Second, look at the helpful NoMa BID's webpage to read about various perspectives on the naming issue, giving both present-day and historical reference points, along with a list of possible terms to consider:

Third -- now we get to the fun part! -- come up with something creative and enter the contest:

I won't reveal the name I entered, unless of course it is chosen as a finalist....or it wins! I will just say this: I did NOT suggest Trafficky McTrafficJam -- or maybe better: Jammy McTrafficJam.
Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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