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Case Studies 

7th Street SE

Washington D.C.


Contributed by 
Project for Public Spaces
April 2, 2015
December 14, 2017

What makes it Great?

Why it doesn't work?

Historic Anchor Building

Erected in 1871, the red brick Eastern Market Building gives visitors a beautiful view from the street. Its multiple entrances and year-round uses at all hours provide a constant stream of activity that stretches along the block.

It takes ten destinations to make a great place. Each of those destinations should have ten things to do.
‍It takes ten destinations to make a great place. Each of those destinations should have ten things to do.

Variety of Destinations

7th Street SE highlights The Power of 10 principal that PPS uses as the foundation of the Placemaking process. The street is comprised of a number of smaller destinations, illustrated on the map above. Between the two markets, restaurants, shops, cafes, performers, and more, there is never a shortage of things to do. It's these smaller destinations that combine to make 7th Street SE a lively place.

Benches provide a respite for weary shoppers after a long day at the market. Credit: David Fair via Flickr
Benches provide a respite for weary shoppers after a long day at the market. | David Fair via Flickr

Cover and Seating

A large canopy structure outside of the Market Building provides shade and rain cover for both the street vendors who peddle their wares on the weekends and for pedestrians walking by during the week. The freestanding structure also complements the historic design of the market building. Picnic tables on 7th Street encourage people to linger, eat, socialize, and engage in the most timeless of urban activities: people watching. Several local businesses also provide outdoor seating for their customers.

ehpien via Flickr
‍The market's weekend expansion to the street provides a variety of activities for visitors and locals | ehpien via Flickr

Outdoor Vendors and Events

On the weekends, the Eastern Market is abuzz with activity as the market bleeds onto 7th Street and stalls take over the full right-of-way. For the past several years, the City has closed the street to traffic on Saturdays and Sundays, allowing vendors to spread from the market awning and into the middle of the roadway. Under the awning the vendors tend to sell produce, while those in the street will sell everything from children’s clothes to photographs. The weekends also feature live music and other events, bringing even more life to the street. An outdoor plaza on the north side of the street is used by the market on weekends, and for special events and classes during the week. In addition to events focused around the Eastern Market, on Sundays the street also hosts a large year-round flea market with over 100 stalls and an incredibly diverse variety of goods.

‍The geometry of 7th Street SE encourages slow vehicle traffic and enhances street life | Via Google Maps

Slow Moving Traffic

Even when 7th Street is open to traffic, its design means that cars are moving slowly, and there aren’t many of them. It is a narrow, "non-cut through" street: it only runs for two blocks continuously from Pennsylvania Ave to South Carolina Ave, so drivers typically don’t use it during cross-city trips. Diagonal parking on one side of the street and parallel parking on the other makes the travel lanes narrower provides a buffer for pedestrians. Even though its a two-way street, for the the block-long stretch by the market hall there is no center line marked. In addition, the historic-style stamped pavement mimics cobblestones and provides a visual cue to drivers to slow down.

James Calder via Flickr
‍Local restaurants use the street for extra seating, creating the soft edges of 7th Street SE | James Calder via Flickr

Soft and Active Edges

Outdoor cafes and other local businesses spill out into the street, blurring the distinctions between private and public space. Several restaurants at different price-points line the block with outdoor seating, and coffee shop patrons sit outside sipping lattes. The non-food businesses do their part as well: a local bookstore and clothing shop both set up displays on the sidewalk.

Two Capitol Hill BID Clean Team members empty neighborhood trash and recycling |Capitol Hill BID
‍Two Capitol Hill BID Clean Team members empty neighborhood trash and recycling |Capitol Hill BID


7th Street SE is part of the larger Capitol Hill Business Improvement District (BID). Businesses along the street pay taxes to the BID above and beyond standard city taxes, and the BID manages the street, providing graffiti removal, trash pickup, marketing and promotion, cleaning services, and security teams. The BID also organizes special seasonal events to draw traffic into the area. This organization plays a major part in drawing new businesses onto the street, ensuring a continuing diverse mix of uses. The additional money raised for the BID from local businesses allows for consistent management of the street and are a major part of its success.

JJ Jackson via Flickr
‍The Eastern Market metro station provides access to 7th Street SE | JJ Jackson via Flickr

Proximity to Transit

The nearby Eastern Market metro station on Pennsylvania Ave SE serves as a transit hub for the area, with connections to the Blue, Orange, and Silver subway lines, a Capital Bikeshare station, and stops for several bus lines. A quick crossing of busy Pennsylvania Ave (complete with a tree-lined grassy median and grand views of the U.S. Capitol Building) brings you to 7th Street.


Access & Linkages

Comfort & Image

Uses & Activities


How Light?

How Quick?

How Cheap?

History & Background

A neighborhood hub since 1873, the historic Eastern Market anchors a street that is the heart of its surrounding Capitol Hill neighborhood, loved by locals and visitors alike. On weekends, the market expands into the street with local farmers, an arts and crafts line, live music, events, and more. While the Market may draw people to the block, the street itself serves as the social space, providing residents with a space to gather for community events, socialize with their neighbors, shop at the Eastern Market, the nearby flea market or local stores, have a cup of coffee on the sidewalk, take a tango class, and watch the vibrant street life around them.

Related Links & Sources

7th Street SE
7th Street SE
7th Street SE
7th Street SE
7th Street SE
7th Street SE
7th Street SE
7th Street SE

*Please note that these Hall of Shame nominations were written in a moment in time (most over a decade ago) and likely have since changed or even been transformed. If the above entry is now great, or still not so great, go ahead and comment below on how it has evolved or nominate it as a great place.


Corrections or additions? Email info@pps.org
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