In what chair Anthony Hood remarked might have been the Zoning Commission's first-ever landscape architecture-only case, the Zoning Commission on Thursday night approved the design for the first phase of the waterfront park at The Yards
, the nearly 6-acre green space along the Anacostia River on the site of the once walled-off Southeast Federal Center. My project page
has a number of the renderings that were displayed during the presentation, and additional descriptions of what's planned for the site can be found in these two
Representatives of Forest City said that they are committed to opening the first phase of the park in the summer of 2009
. The second phase, which will include the renovation of the Lumber Storage Shed and the construction of other retail pavilions and buildings, is expected to come before the Zoning Commission this fall. Phase 3 will be the piers and marinas. Somewhat surprising was the news that the floating boardwalk connecting the Great Lawn on the western side of the park to Diamond Teague Park
and the ballpark
is now going to be built by the city as part of the construction of Teague rather than by Forest City as part of this park.
Much of the discussion by the zoning commissioners (that I saw--I watched from home in my fuzzy slippers and the webcast went wonky a few times in the middle) centered around the pedestrian bridge that runs across the bulkhead and the new freshwater canal. Its very "forward" design---described by Commissioner Etherly as an "aggressive architectural play" and by vice chair Jeffries as a "Slinky," a moniker that I'm sure the developers would probably prefer to not catch on--was not met with universal acclaim. The commissioners did seem recognize its intended role as a piece of art and one of the iconic elements of the park. Jeffries emphasized--and others agreed--that because the designs for the buildings and for the "art tower" are coming at a later date, the bridge is setting the stage for the rest of the architecture at the park, and that the future designs must play off what the bridge has started.
Peter May did not like the bridge (though I missed a lot of his comments because of the webcast problems). He expressed a worry that the bridge, along with the not-yet-designed art tower and whatever's planned for Poplar Point, could create a series of "Look at Me" moments along the Anacostia, all trying to compete for attention. "The 'Look at Me' moment for a waterfront park should be the river itself," he said.
There were also discussions of the lighting plans, and concerns as to whether or not the bridge has a railing (it does). Jeffries asked a lot about the vegetation planned for the different sections of the park, and expressed a wish for some landscaping that is a bit more "wild" in nature, to which Forest City seemed receptive.
There were letters of support from ANC 6D, which voted 7-0 on May 12 to approve the plans, as well as from the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and the National Capital Planning Commission, which approved the park's design back in February
. So, in the end, the commission decided to go ahead and vote for approval of the plans immediately, although the issuance of the final order is subject to the commission receiving some new renderings showing more clearly the railing on the bridge. The vote was 4-0-1, with commissioner Turnbull not present.