Friday, October 10, 2008

Framework Plan Re-Envisions Downtown DC


With development occurring throughout the District of Columbia, many local and government agencies called earlier this year to establish a scheme to orchestrate continuity between Washington’s most visited areas and the up-and-coming projects now in the pipeline. The rejoinder has finally arrived. The National Capital Framework Plan (NCPF) - co-authored by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) and the US Commission of Fine Arts (USFA) - outlines several strategies to "enhance Washington's reputation as a walkable, transit-oriented, sustainable city" for residents and tourists alike.

The plan focuses on four distinct areas of District development: the Northwest Rectangle, the Federal Triangle (including Pennsylvania Avenue), the Southwest Rectangle and East Potomac Park. In all, the plan highlights 5.5 million square feet of land that it aims to dedicate to 4 new museums, 75 acres of “civic gathering space,” 32 acres of recreational area, 13 acres of parkland, “numerous” memorials, federal office space and mixed-use development.

The Northwest Rectangle (defined by F Street to the north, Constitution Avenue to the south, the Potomac to the west, and 17th Street to the east), first on the docket, requires “a symbolic and physical connection” to be established between the Kennedy Center and the Lincoln Memorial. That would include extending E Street NW and establishing it as a one mile “landscaped boulevard” that would connect to the Kennedy Center, the White House and President’s Park - resulting in a new public park on Virginia Avenue NW between 19th and 22nd Streets NW. New residential and shopping areas would be installed on a deck above the Potomac Freeway, which would also allow 25th & 26th Streets NW to be reintegrated in the street grid. The infrastructure modifications don't stop there - the plan also suggests a realignment of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge to free up desirable public space along the shoreline.

Over in the isolated Federal Triangle, the Plan reimagines Pennsylvania Avenue NW as space that will live up to its status as “America’s Main Street.” The Plan critiques federal installations such as the Old Post Office and the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building as not living up to their potential and suggests, politely of course, that the government simply find a new home for these tenants elsewhere in the city (no rush, any time in the next 30 days would be fine). In their stead, the plan calls for the creation of new grand mixed-use development between 9th and 12th Streets and a new National Aquarium (already planned to front Constitution Avenue) - in addition to other “cultural and hospitality destinations” for the area, including the Freedom Plaza, a “Federal Walk” history and arts trail and public outlets that would supply the area with some semblance of a nightlife. "Mixed-use" is also the word of the day in the Southwest Rectangle. Described accurately as an “uninviting federal enclave” - albeit one the federal government created with an earlier plan intended to "revitalize" an existing neighborhood - The Plan proposes an extensive rebuild of 10th Street SW. Smithsonian Castle to a refurbished Overlook (current home of the Maine Avenue Fish Market), transform The new street would run from the Maryland Avenue SW, link the US Capitol to the Jefferson Memorial and serve as a gateway to the emerging Southwest Waterfront. By taking advantage of 18 acres worth of air-rights, the NCFP proposes a new “mix of office, cultural, entertainment, hospitality, and residential” development that would terminate at a newly decked out Overlook. The hope is for new street-level projects on the north side of Maine Avenue SW - across from the waterfront – including (yet another) new museum on the site. The Liberty Loan building (14th & D Streets SW), the Whitten building (1400 Independence Avenue SW) and a portion of the Forrestal complex (1000 Independence Avenue SW) are also identified as possible museum locations. Plans for Maryland Avenue consist of a new park at the intersection of Maryland and Virginia Avenues SW and the reclamation of the original street grid that is currently sliced-and-diced by train tracks and tunnels leading to Union Station.

The NCFP aims to integrate East Potomac Park into the fabric of daily life in the District by making it more than just a golfing and jogging destination. This would be primarily achieved by improving connections between the Park and the city proper through the construction of a canal by Buckeye Drive SW, a new Jefferson Memorial Metro stop, and a new foot bridge at P Street SW “to improve boat, pedestrian and bicycle access.” Additionally, the area surrounding the Memorial would be expanded and improved by eliminating the numerous “infrastructure barriers” dividing the park. Along the shoreline, the waterfront esplanade presently on site would be raised and widened so as to showcase memorial sites (like Hains Point), maritime areas and natural wetlands. The Plan also recommends the inclusion of stops for proposed water taxi service that would connect Nationals Stadium, the Southwest Waterfront, Alexandria, Georgetown and National Harbor. The area which the Plan identifies as the most ripe with potential, however, is the northern side of the park on the Washington Channel, being dubbed Potomac Harbor. Envisioned as the location of “new low-scale, one to two story, development,” Potomac Harbor would host cafes and water-based recreation activities that would serve as a complement to the numerous mixed-use projects occurring directly across the river.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Love it! I especially like the part where they replace the 7-11 at 8th and Maryland, NW and build a memorial. That would be awesome!

Anonymous said...

Should have said NE...

ward8sown on Oct 13, 2008, 7:23:00 PM said...

It would be nice it they would move the dept of commerce elsewhere and transform the entire bldg into the new natl aquarium that would rival the Georgia Aquarium.

IMGoph on Oct 15, 2008, 2:11:00 AM said...

please, please, please, don't let these plans get watered down. re-establish the grid, fix some of the errors that were made with 'urban renewal' and car-oriented development.

the city should go balls-to-the-wall on this. no compromises. make this city the world-class place it's supposed to be!

 

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