The American Planning Association (APA) has released its recommendations for Buzzard Point, ideas that include swapping Akridge's planned high-security federal building for mixed-use affordable housing for federal employees and military families, a Sydney Opera House-type structure on its southern point to define the waterfront, and turning the PEPCO building into a cultural center for the community. These broad changes were among many suggested after an APA team did a walk through of the area and met with "key stakeholders" earlier in November. Luckily for the APA, the group is not responsible for designing, executing or paying for any of the suggestions.
If you are still scratching your head trying to figure out where this new land of opportunity is, you're not alone. As APA Team Leader Allan Mallach described it, Buzzard Point is an "in between" neighborhood - not quite SE Waterfront, but not SW Waterfront either. It has a large government presence with Fort McNair, the U.S. Coast Guard and PEPCO, but also a "strong existing residential component" largely made up by a variety of affordable housing. Despite the large industrial and government footprints, Mallach indicated the APA focused on the potential future development of more residences to complement the seismic change in the next 5 to 15 years with the departure of the Coast Guard, the arrival of the street car and reconfiguration of the waterfront and South Capitol Street.
Here are the ideas the APA put forth:
1. The Waterfront: The District should plan to buy the Jamal and Monday properties that are currently occupied by the Coast Guard to ultimately convert it to open space with limited development. Mallach admitted that this would "clearly be an expensive proposition," but suggested the District could recoup the costs by trading the development rights of those spaces for greater density elsewhere in the city.
2. Residential. Residential. Residential: A high security federal tenant on the Akridge site would be, according to Mallach, "a major missed opportunity" and the "whole concept of building a high security installation is predicated on the idea that this is not a community, so it doesn't matter." Instead, the team recommends medium-density residential developed in partnership with the federal government for "families of military personnel and/or new federal government hires." But Mallach acknowledged the challenge in convincing a developer to switch from maximum build out of six to eight stories across two or three city blocks to the modest plans for residential development.
3. Steuart Property: The site should be used for a "strong, iconic structure" that acts as the "gateway" to the SE Waterfront from the Anacostia. Mallach likened to their vision to that of the Sydney Opera House. Lest we strive for mediocrity.
4. PEPCO: Though, according to Mallach, PEPCO has no plans to go anywhere in the near future, the planner recommended taking the long view. As some of the stations go offline over time, the APA suggests that the District and the utility provider work out agreements to shrink the utility footprint in the area in favor of, you guessed it, mixed-use development. Ideally the PEPCO facility could be converted into a museum or cultural center much like the Tate Modern in London. So we've got London and Sydney covered.
The final report of the team's findings will be released sometime between February and March 2010.
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