Since January, 2003
            
 Page Through from Before to After

I'm back from tonight's public workshop held by the Marines as part of the process they're currently undergoing to find a site for a new barracks. For those just tuning in, the Marines are desperately needing to replace "Building 20," their lovely barracks structure on the southeast corner of 8th and I, and the new building needs to meet the many security requirements that now exist for Marine Corps living quarters. In what they readily admit is a new approach, the Corps is going through this series of public workshops to gauge public reponse to various sites that they have identified as possibilities. (There is also a "community leadership group" that meets monthly.) They are hoping to find an existing landowner to partner with, instead of how they might have operated in the past (with, shall we say, a little less give-and-take with the community and a takeover of the land rather than a partnership).There could be additional components to any new location (like a daycare center) that could be shared with nearby residents.
For more background, you can read my recent posts and links, or better yet, check the project web site, where they're doing a good job of posting all the latest materials from the process. Hopefully the slides and notes from tonight's session and Wednesday morning's will be posted soon, because what follows is really just a few points among the many that were discussed. But, as always, JDLand is the site where you get what you pay for {ahem}, so this is my best cut at it:
The potential expansion sites discussed this evening were: the existing "Annex" that was built in 2004 (along Virginia Avenue west of Seventh Street); the large area by 11th Street dubbed the "Exxon site" but which also includes the Virginia Avenue Park; Square 882 (the old Capper Seniors site), just south of the Annex on L Street west of Seventh; the northeast corner of the Navy Yard, where the Marines already have some operations inside the walls, and Tyler Elementary at 10th and G, SE, though it was quickly acknowledged that the DC Public Schools folks (and the parents) aren't really interested in that notion.
There were a number of residents (some of whom you already know from my comments section) who spoke strongly in support of the Marines expanding south across L Street into the northern half of Square 882, especially when it was mentioned that this option would most likely include the closing of L Street to vehicular traffic, which these residents of Capitol Quarter say is a speedway of drivers avoiding M Street. (Whether it would also be closed to public pedestrian traffic is not yet decided.) This opinion was not shared by Jennifer Steingasser of the city's Office of Planning, who said that the city would be very much against this solution. (And the Housing Authority seems to be indicating that it isn't really interested in the idea, at least as of now.)
In fact, Steingasser made clear that the city is very concerned that years of planning for the revitalization of Near Southeast, both as a mixed-use neighborhood and as part of the broader Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, are in danger if the Marines create a larger "secure enclave." She said that the city's preferred choice is for the Marines to build inside the walls of the Navy Yard, or on the existing Annex site on Virginia Avenue, or at any of the other federally owned properties in the city, such as the Armory and associated lands at RFK.
The possible loss of the athletic field at the Annex site if a new barracks were added there concerned the residents in attendance, with a possible replacement field at Virginia Avenue Park not seeming to fit the bill. But there were others (including Michael Stevens of the Capitol Riverfront BID) who supported the idea of more density on the Annex site, including perhaps demolishing the existing three-story parking garage and perhaps gaining control of the community center site next to the garage for additional square footage. (Stevens said that the BID would love to see the very-much-needed community center perhaps combined with a public school offering on the current Van Ness Elementary site.)
The discussions of the Exxon/Virginia Avenue Park site included the possibilities of the Marines using the entire area between Ninth and 11th and Virginia and M, which does include some private residences (and the spay and neuter clinic and a couple small businesses). The concern about whether retail and the "vibrant Main Street" feel envisioned by the city would be part of the M Street landscape in this scenario was voiced as well.
Needless to say, there was no consensus, nor was there expected to be at this stage, and this is just a small subset of the 2 1/2 hours of discussions, so I'll link to the official notes from the meeting once they're posted. There will be two more workshops, and a charrette in September. Again, see the official web site for more details, and how to submit your own comments.
UPDATE: Another view of the meeting, from Norm Metzger, with a little more detail on Jennifer Steingasser's comments. And there was this: "Bruce Jackson, of the CIMP team, noted the essence of the problem: That there was no choice on giving up Building 20 as living quarters, and that the hope was to use the CIMP process -- unique, according to Mr Jackson in the annals of military-community development efforts -- to create a 'win-win' outcome. That was later amended to 'everyone is going to have to give up something.'"
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Michael says: (3/24/10 8:45 PM)
If they can just up and take any site they want, then hopefully they take the less desirable Exxon site...

Steingasser and the ballpark BID are right to be concerned about this development's impact on the neighborhood!

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