Monday, April 23, 2007

Developers Unveil Drawings for Old Convention Center Site

Last November, the Deputy Mayor's Office of Planning and Economic Development, after months of community input, approved the master plan submitted by developers Archstone-Smith and Hines for the $650 million complex planned for the 10 acres comprising the site of the former Washington Convention Center, bounded by 11th Street to the west, New York Avenue to the north, 9th Street to the east, and H Street to the south. Last week, the developers finally unveiled their vision at a public meeting at the Carnegie Library for the three main components of this project, which will contain 686 residential units (condos and apartments), 415,000 sf of office space, and 280,000 sf of retail. (In addition, over 100,000 sf of land is being reserved for a possible new DC library.) The designs, by London-based Foster and Partners and also Shalom Baranes Associates, reportedly show the condo complex with a floor-to-ceiling glass curtain allowing maximum sunlight, while the office and apartment structures will feature more traditional features and lines. To gather comments from the community on these new renderings, the developers will shortly post them to and they hope to receive final city approval by the end of May.

The Old Convention Center project is expected to break ground in 2008, with completion in 2011. It will also contain 1,700 underground parking spots and a public plaza, plus feature the reconnecting of both 10th Street and I Street through the site. The project is anticipated to generate over 7,000 construction-period jobs and 5,217 permanent jobs, plus $30 million a year in new tax revenues.


Chris on Apr 23, 2007, 10:00:00 AM said...

They ran an article in the Post on the project today as well, and quoted me in it. I'm a fan of the project.

They quoted Alex Padro from ANC02 as well, who called the project "a bunch of glass boxes instead of an impressive architectural statement". I happen to disagree with with Mr. Padro. The project is highly functional, and contains things that downtown desperatly needs: Pedestrian-only streets, LOTS of retail, and an outdoor music venue.

This functionality is much more important that what the buildings look like (which in this case, is actually quite nice).

So Mr. Padro wants something more "inspiring", perhaps a park with a useless "art-itecture" skyscraper in the middle? Architecture styles change quickly. It's always better to build something functional, usable, ped-friendly, that contributes life to the city streets, than to simply build something pretty. In 20 years, it won't be considered so pretty. Lets NOT build another L'Enfant Plaza, mm'k?

Nick on Apr 23, 2007, 10:15:00 AM said...

Considering this large space has been a dead zone for too long in the center of the city that disrupted the flow of life (even when the poorly conceived convention center was still there), I also welcome this addition of a lively core downtown, one friendly to public interaction. We will see how the final version turns out.

Anonymous said...

Well, it seems to me that the people who advocate classical design and the people who advocate modern and bolder design somehow can't find middle ground. The architecture from about 1960 to about 1990 did a miserable job at contributing to DC's street life and activity. Actually, it took away from street life. The design of the retail space in a lot of those buildings are just awful.

I happen to like classically designed buildings if they are built using materials that will last the test of time. But, most developers took the cheap way out and built buildings that are only made to be torn down after 30 or so years. I also like bolder design because it shows DC's willingness to be bolder and take more risks and be at the front of innovation instead of following from the rear.

Why do we always have to play it safe here in DC?

I'd like to hear other people's comments on this.

Taste in architecture is extreme. For everything that a person doesn't like, another person will like it. I like the fact that we can have a mixture of designs instead of the same ole boring designs over and over again that don't show diversity.

Chris on Apr 23, 2007, 1:00:00 PM said...

Anon, I agree with DC's tendency to play it safe. I wish we could do one bold thing that hasn't already been tried somewhere else.

Maybe its the "too many cooks" problem. With so many committees and goverments in the hands of the city's affairs, bold ideas get inevitably get watered down into inoffensive, dull, ho-hum crap. I work for a non-profit run by several committees, and this tends to happen here. When you try to please everyone, nothing truly great can ever be accomplished.

Ken on Apr 23, 2007, 8:26:00 PM said...

I think I agree with all comments above to some extent. The problem faced in the preceding 4 decades has not been that there is a right answer in the traditional vs. modern argument, its been that buildings are built inexpensively and not to last. Rome has buildings over 2000 years old, most of the recent architecture is tear-down ready after 40 years - partly a reflection of tax incentives (39 year write-off schedule), and partly due to the lack of vision.

Most recent buildings have focused on a steel structure with a cheap facade; 'wallpaper architecture', where architects are trying to make a statement more than satisfy any recognizable aesthetic. Regardless of 'style', where any thought was even given to that, they are poorly executed. At least today planners (a job title that didn't exist 30 years ago) recognize that the view of the pedestrian is the most important one of all. With that in mind, this project will be an enormous improvement over the old Convention Center.


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