Friday, May 06, 2011

NCPC Reviews Draft Plan for Homeland Security AU Park Site

Concerns over GSA’s draft Master Plan for the development of the Department of Homeland Security's Nebraska Avenue Complex (NAC), located at Nebraska and Massachusetts Avenues in AU Park, led the National Capital Planning Commission - at its monthly meeting yesterday - to send GSA off with nine action points to address before returning in a few months.

After final approval from NCPC, GSA will begin acting on a finalized Master Plan, and GSA aims to please - in order to meet a Master Plan planning horizon of 2020 - which will require addressing the concerns raised by four of the 12 members of the NCPC, as well as the local ANC.

The plans call for raising the number of seats (employees on site at any one time) from 2,390 to 4,200, and decreasing onsite parking (from 1,239 to 1,150 spaces) without a site-specific Transportation Management Plan in place to assist with predicting the outcome on the surrounding area. DHS’s goal for expanding its operations at the NAC site - temporary headquarters of the DHS since 2003 - is to streamline the dilapidated and out-dated conditions at the aging NAC and save tax dollars by eliminating tens of facilities scattered across the District. With nearly 50 facilities now, DHS hopes to someday have seven or eight, and the NAC campus would be one of the biggest.

NCPC approved the expansion, but tasked GSA to continue to work with the National Park Service to minimize impact on nearby park lands, submit a phasing plan for the project, look at ways to increase the tree canopy, consider lowering the security level (from level 5, the maximum) to soften the public view of the complex, remove non-historically significant buildings, and to move the entry point for employees who commute (by metro, foot or bike) closer to the Tenleytown Metro stop. NCPC asked GSA to continue coordinating with the Department of Transportation and the Office of Planning on this issue.

The NAC is small compared to DHS’s future headquarters - St. Elizabeths' in Anacostia - a 3.4 million s.f. space that will accommodate 14,000 DHS employees and share land with the Coast Guard. The NAC sits on a more modest 1.7 million s.f. (38 acres), and all new construction will be done within the current complex area, leaving the forested portions of the site pristine.

As it stands now, the NAC area is 55% developed (30 buildings for a total of 653,400 s.f), the draft Master Plan proposes to add six new buildings and a four-level (two above ground, two below) parking structure, for a total 1.2 million s.f.
The plan would reduce onsite impervious surfaces by 17% by featuring a green roof on all new structures - the largest one nearly two acres (70,000 s.f.), which will cloak the top of the onsite parking structure in vegetation (also making the view easy on high-rise eyes).

The green roofs, coupled with a yet-to-be-determined combination of porous pavement installations, ponds, gravel beds and underground water detention systems, will not only help the NAC site to achieve an environmentally friendly LEED gold certification, but will help manage and reuse stormwater, reducing runoff. A stormwater management system is currently lacking onsite, something Jim Clark, principal at MTFA Architecture, the consulting firm for the NAC, called out at the meeting as a "grave issue."

The new, greener parking structure will replace the existing one, relocated to the back of the complex from its current location at Ward Circle. Taking the old structure's spot in the highly visible area will be a "signature building" which GSA deems the NAC's "flagship building" - something it hopes will give "the campus a public presence and face on the circle."

The development of the NAC also takes into account the preservation of existing historical structures left over from earlier manifestations of the site as both the Mount Vernon Seminary for Girls (in the early 1900s), until the Roosevelt administration took the property by eminent domain in 1942 to use in the war effort, staffed mostly by women for cryptanalysis. In 2005 the property was transferred from the Department of Navy to the GSA for exclusive use by Homeland Security. GSA is currently readying a nomination of the site to the National Register of Historic Places.

Washington D.C. real estate development news


IMGoph on May 7, 2011, 9:31:00 AM said...

Kelly: Seeing how people write abut and designate neighborhoods in the city is a hobby-horse of mine, if Ken hasn't warned you about me already. I have a question and a comment.

First, saying that this site is in AU Park - how did you choose that? Maps I've seen kind of leave the campus in a bit of a black hole. It's not really in AU Park, or Tenleytown, or any other neighborhood. I'm inclined to lump it in with Tenleytown if I have to, but I can see an argument for AU Park as well.

Now, my comment - the main DHS site is definitely not in Anacostia. Congress Heights would be much more accurate. There's a whole neighborhood (or two) between St. E's and Anacostia - Barry Farm (and Buena Vista).

Ken on May 7, 2011, 9:46:00 AM said...


I think most neighbors call it AU Park, though yes, its not really IN any neighborhood, so that's debatable. But yes, I agree with you about Anacostia. Its close, but its more Congress Heights, though it also straddles neighborhoods.

Anonymous said...

It would seem to make sense, right now, for DHS/NCPC to work with American University to ensure there is some sort of bike facility from the Tenleytown Metro to the AU and DHS campuses.

A dedicated bike lane down Nebraska Ave connecting these locations should be a no-brainer.

Please, I hope someone reading this with the authority to get it on the books will consider it as soon as possible.

Anonymous said...

IMGoph, you are right about the DHS heaquarters location - it is in St. E's and not Anacostia.

I pulled "Anacostia" from

However, Berry Farm and Buena Vista lie between Anacostia and St. E's, and Congress Heights is to the south.


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