For the past 16 years, the Japan-America Society of Washington has hosted a street festival for tens of thousands of people along Pennsylvania Avenue NW, coinciding with the National Cherry Blossom Festival each spring.
But now that Trump International Hotel is preparing to open in the middle of the renowned corridor that connects the White House and U.S. Capitol, festival organizers say they need to relocate to the Capitol Riverfront in the Navy Yard neighborhood.
Festivals, such as the Japanese culture street festival and Taste of D.C., have long blocked off all six lanes of the street in front of what was once the quiet Old Post Office Pavilion on the 1100 block of Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The Trump Organization, which plans to open the luxury hotel in September, arranged with the city to keep one lane open at all times so the hotel can operate its valet service.
The all-valet-service hotel has a garage at 11th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The Trump Organization wants to ensure that during festivals, guests will still be able to drive to the hotel and a valet employee will be able to move their vehicles to the garage.
According to the deal it struck with the city, during street festivals, a 20-foot lane must be open in front of the hotel to allow for the flow of traffic. A barricade will separate festival-goers from cars entering the hotel property.
One exception is during presidential inaugural parades, when all lanes will likely be closed to traffic.
“The District has specific safety requirements for events and they have devised a plan with our input that is intended to keep event goers safe and allow the hotel to operate in a first class manner for our guests,” a Trump Hotels spokesman wrote in an email.
Michael Czin, a spokesman for D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), said the administration of former mayor Vincent C. Gray negotiated the public usage space. Czin said Bowser’s Special Event Task Force Group would ensure safety at events along Pennsylvania Avenue.
Most of the half-dozen or so events that shut down parts of Pennsylvania Avenue could still be held a few blocks away so they can use all six lanes for events. But April 16 — the day of the Japan-America Society of Washington’s street festival — is also the D.C. Emancipation Day parade, which plans to occupy part of Pennsylvania Avenue NW closer to the Capitol.
Organizers of the Japanese festival say it attracted 45,000 people last year, and the loss of 20 feet to the Trump Hotel would make it too small a space to accommodate vendors and attendees. Although the Trump International Hotel won’t be open in time for this year’s festival, Marc Hitzig, the executive director of the Japan-America Society, said he had to plan the event long before the hotel’s opening date was known.
Hitzig says he thinks the new location will suit the festival, but he wants to ensure that people know to travel to the Navy Yard area for this year’s event.
“Where we were on Pennsylvania Avenue was right next to the [National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade]. It was an energy that we both worked together to develop and having the parade and street festival near each other really helped a lot,” Hitzig said. “It would be nice to be near the parade, however, if you jump on the Metro, the new location is only three Metro stops.”