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(h/t reader M.) Last week, the Congress for the New Urbanism named the winners of its 2009 Charter Awards, and one of them is the "House Office Buildings Facilities Plan and Preliminary South Capitol Area Plan." I won't go into too much detail, since the majority of the area that the plan looked at is north of the freeway, but it is worth noting that, while it's a very neat plan that looks forward to both 2025 and 2050 and takes into account the vision of the NCPC's Extending the Legacy (no more freeway!), the designers of the HOB facilities plan perhaps didn't do a lot of research as to the reality of the land ownership south of the freeway. If you look at the maps of their proposed 2025 and 2050 implementations, you see all sorts of new government buildings on the block now dominated by 70 and 100 I Street, as well as a big park at Second and H, which might come as a surprise to the William C. Smith Co., which owns the block and is planning a 1.1-million-square-foot mixed-use project on that square. And yet the Post Plant remains, 41 years in the future, which probably is not what city planners would consider an optimal solution. And the Capitol Power Plant is still there, too!
All this aside, if you live or work on the Hill, you might be interested in what the future could bring for the parking garages, House Office Buildings, and other structures that are part of the Capitol Complex. And, if I'm missing something about how this plan is approaching the privately owned land south of the freeway, I'd love clarification....
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MJM (Mike) says: (3/31/09 11:37 PM)
Something tells me after your post, you just might get some clarification or better yet you just put them on notice to pay attention to that area south of the freeway. :)


Rick says: (4/1/09 7:14 AM)
JD - do you know if the William C. Smith CO. project will eliminate Canal Street (the street that transects the block) to create one more massive block-sized building or respect it as one of the last remnants in SE of the canal? Oddly, discussion of this project and the transfer station mention "reconnecting" I Street as if the construction of the transfer station closed it off. Of all the historic maps I've looked at, none show I street existing at this location. If anything, it didn't exist (at least as a formal, paved street) because of the canal, rail yards, and undeveloped open space. Seems a shame to "reconnect" it when it didn't exist in exchange for eliminating Canal Street which exists and marks the location of the old canal.


Jim Malone says: (4/1/09 8:05 AM)
A few thoughts:

The Good: First, the fact that they are even doing this at all is laudable. I also applaud them for reinstating South Capitol as a primary boulevard and New Jersey & Delaware as secondary boulevards; decking over/diminishing the presence of the freeway; and significantly expanding the amount of public space. These are fairly common sense concepts however.


Jim Malone says: (4/1/09 8:08 AM)
The Bad: First, it's disappointing, to say the least, that the Power Plant wasn't utilized as a major focal point in the plan. What better arena than this type of 'vision plan' is there for the federal government to set an example for the Sustainable future that they continuously talk about? Second, the fact that a central aspect of this study was retaining and expanding on the insane amount of parking for these buildings is extremely discouraging. One would hope that in 40 years time we'll be much less reliant on the automobile and more so on public transit, and the federal government would set a crucial example there as well.

Perhaps another draft of the 2050 plan is in order that includes a redesign of the Power Plant as a civic element (a showcase of Sustainable Energy perhaps), reduces the amount of vehicular parking, and increases transit linkages. Also the Senate side of the Capitol, southeast of Union Station, is definitely in need of the same type of study.


JD says: (4/1/09 9:04 AM)
Rick--here's the bill passed in 2006 that sets it all out, and it includes the closing of Canal Street:

link

I'm interested that it doesn't say "designation" or "creation" of I Street, it says "opening."

Here's the committee report:

link

When you look at the 1791 L'Enfant plan, you see that I Street at the Canal is basically the waterfront. H Street, however, appears to have a crossing at the Canal:

link




BC says: (4/2/09 1:31 PM)
They should create/distroy streets where it bests serves the community ...no be chained to what worked 75 years ago or so. They should also have some kind of power plant in the area. Whether is runs on coal, nuclear, solar, wind, water, people peddling, etc. it still should be located nearby to minimize potential transmission line problems or attacks.

I am very happy that the government has a vision for this area, even if it does need to be modified here and there. We in this area have been so fortunate to get so much more federal money per person than anywhere else. Plans such as these make me believe that we will continue to be blessed with greater than our fair share of money in the following decades.


MJW says: (4/2/09 1:50 PM)
Great idea. Spend millions of dollars to providing free parking for Congressional staffers so that can drive to work from Maryland and Virginia.


Michael says: (4/2/09 4:43 PM)
Federal money doesn't do much squat to take care of DC streets and DC power lines and DC schools


SG says: (4/2/09 5:52 PM)
So is the Yards residential project dead?


JD says: (4/2/09 6:04 PM)
SG, "dead" isn't the right word (it's not like Forest City has pulled out, never to return). The last I heard (a week or so ago) they are "actively in the credit markets," looking for the financing to continue the project. (For those not following along, they didn't get the expected financing to cover the affordable housing component, it was reported a few weeks back.) But, no timeframe on it. Don't have any updates on the Boilermakers Shop or the park, though at least the park has its funding in place via the public-private partnership with the city.


BC says: (4/2/09 6:20 PM)
We should not try to pull negativity out of something positive. DC residents get a lot more benefits with federal dollars than anyone else. Just because the fed don't pay for every last thing does not mean we should wallow in gloom and doom. While most of the rest of the nation is in economic and developmental decline, this area is one of the very few in the nation that is still moving forward. Also, complaining about parking lots in DCs future does not have much merit. This city used to be a city of parking lots just 8-10 years ago. Many of the buildings built in DC in a last few years were build on what used to be surface parking lots. The fact that there might still be a parking lot or two around in the following decades should certainly not bother those of us who remember when you could not throw a stone in DC without it hitting a surface parking lot.

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