Thursday, December 06, 2007
A pair of District agencies are planning to redevelop a strip of Georgia Avenue just south of the Metro Station as part of a "New Communities Initiative." The partnership between the Office of Planning and Economic Development (OPED) and the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) seeks to develop the Park Morton community in Ward 1. Last week, the Office of Planning publicly considered a draft of the plan which proposes to broadly (and drastically) change the economic environment of the Park Morton area, a section of the Park View neighborhood located in between Georgia Avenue and Warder Street. The community response was unanimous in support for the draft that includes a compendium of objectives: protect affordable housing in the community, improve economic integration, decrease crime, replace publicly subsidized units, create workforce and market-rate housing opportunities, create better jobs, education, training, human services and other programs for the community; no word on whether it will solve our dependence on foreign oil.
The process for redeveloping Park Morton began in February 2006, when designated as a development site by a Council resolution. Despite a flood of new development over the past seven years, the Park Morton area is still beleaguered with areas of severe poverty that lack the fundamental elements of a healthy community. Park Morton, an area where only about 40% of residents own their homes and the median household income is roughly $45,000, was thereby recognized as a possible site for a New Communities program, a public entity described as a "comprehensive partnership to redevelop the physical and human architecture of neighborhoods characterized by violent crime and poverty," according to the District's CFO, Natwar M. Gandhi.
The overarching goal is to create mixed-income communities with "integrated services that offer...better housing, employment and educational opportunities," according to the draft plan. Their vision for Park Morton involves the replacement of 174 new public housing units, adding social services services within the community, creating east-west connection to break down barriers that segregate communities, and forming new open space and passive park areas. The overall site plan would create a "moderate density mixed-income community of...152 replacement units, 7 homeownership units for current Park Morton residents and 317 market/workforce units for a total of 477 homes," according to the draft.
The plan notes a lack of retail and office space in the general area, yet points out that although demand is high, Park Morton would not serve as the ideal commercial space for consumers. 53,000 s.f. of retail is in the pipeline for the Georgia Avenue corridor, with an estimated 40,000 s.f. of unmet demand remaining post-implementation. A deficient supply for office space was also found in the area, despite a 10% vacancy rate for rental office space.
The entire redevelopment window will span nine years, beginning in 2008, and is expected to cost an estimated $157 million. DCHA and OPED have an abundance of private firms collaborating on the project: DC-based development firm Banneker Ventures, nationally renowned environmental consulting firm Circlepoint, and design firms PGN Architects and WDG Architecture. Although the DC Council still needs to approve, OPED is determined to introduce the plan by the end for the month with the hopes of receiving approval by January.