Thursday, May 19, 2011

Southwest Ecodistrict to Replace Concrete Jungle?


What do Northern Europe and Portland, Oregon, have in common? EcoDistricts.

DC might join these two in commonality – along with a handful of leading cities worldwide that are engaged in creating large-scale sustainable urban areas, sometimes referred to as EcoDistricts – if it moves forward with a 110-acre redevelopment plan for a “21st century sustainable community” in Southwest D.C. known as the Southwest Ecodistrict Initiative.

Tonight, the National Capital Planning Commission, the driving force behind the initiative, will hold its third public meeting on the SW Ecodistrict from 6:30 to 8:30 at Waterfront Station in Southwest: 1100 4th Street SW (2nd Floor Conference Room, Complete details).

The initiative came onto the scene early last year under the name “10th Street Corridor Task Force” and the first public meeting was held in February of 2010.

NCPC’s initiative was in response to a federal mandate – Executive Order 13514: Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance – calling for the reduction of the fed’s greenhouse gas emissions, but also stemming from a desire to reinvigorate the concrete desert around L’Enfant Plaza, and turn 10th Street into a true corridor – connecting the National Mall (to the north) with Banneker Park (to the south) and creating pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, outdoor cafes, and tree coverings.

(Below: 10th Street now, versus what it hopes to become)

10th Street's possibilities as an attractive thoroughfare was clearly the inspiration behind the initiative’s original name; however, public feedback and market studies led NCPC to expand its vision, and notably to include the Maryland Avenue SW corridor. Potential SW Ecodistrict boundaries are now Independence Avenue SW and Maine Avenue SW (north to south) and 12th & 4th Streets SW (west to east).

The boundary for the SW Ecodistrict (shown in red, below) encircles a 15-block area south of the National Mall, and loops within it several monolith government agencies – GSA, FAA, Dept. of Energy and the Postal Service to name half –as well as several important sites: 12th Street Tunnel, Southwest Freeway, 10th Street Overlook/Banneker Park and L’Enfant Plaza.

The Office of Planning (OP) is currently in charge of a Maryland Avenue Plan and will finish a study of that corridor at the end of the summer. Along with NCPC and OP, the Ecodistrict is being mentally sculpted by a task force of 15 federal and local agencies, among them: the Architect of the Capitol, DDOT, GSA, the National Park Service and the Smithsonian Institution.

Public meetings, like the one tonight, continue to provide NCPC, OP, the greater task force, and all invested parties with important public feedback. Tonight’s meeting will focus on the plan’s visibility, connectivity and sustainability and will truly be a hands-on affair; according to Elizabeth Miller, senior urban planner at NCPC and project manager of the SW Ecodistrict Initiative, there will be three stations for attendees to rotate through, with the goal of critically assessing all alternatives to redevelopment in the 15-block area of Southwest.

Another public meeting will likely take place at the end of July, giving another chance to contribute to or critique the initiative’s plan before NCPC and OP take it to the Council, likely at the end of this year.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

please tear all of this down and make such inhuman architecture illegal! The sooner we destroy everything from the 1960's the sooner we can get back to urbanity.

Anonymous said...

Ditto. I doubt this plan will accomplish anything though, it has no teeth or funding.

Anonymous said...

The whole city ought to be advanced as an ecodistrict. Agree with the previous two posts. Architects are always complaining about the anti modernist vein in the public, this is why!

Anonymous said...

But this is where Angelina Jolie ran around in "Salt"! We shouldn't destroy part of Hollywood history!

Michael said...

So I guess it would be known as Saltwest Ecodistrict....

A-lo on May 21, 2011, 7:24:00 AM said...

I don't think that area can be improved much without knocking down all those concrete bunkers. Just imagine if a mixed residential and office community sprang up in that area south of the mall (a la penn quarter)--the Mall would finally become the vibrant urban park space that it could never manage to be.

Thayer-D on May 23, 2011, 7:32:00 AM said...

Hey ho on what A-lo said.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all of the above comments. This is a great opportunity to undo one of the ugliest parts of the city. I'd love to see mixed use to add vibrancy and residential to that area.

Anonymous said...

Comment from the Baby and Bathwater Department: Yes, the 10th Street, SW corridor is atrocious. It should be razed and completely rebuilt in a more urbane fashion. But not all architecture from the 1960s is bad. Philip Johnson's pre-Columbian museum at Dumbarton Oaks, for example, is an awesome building. Actually, a number of the housing developments in southwest DC are pretty good. So let's just remember to judge each project on its own merits.

Anonymous said...

I agree that bad architecture should be illegal, however discussions for the development of the ecodistricts that begin with simply throwing away what amounts to an overwhelming amount of embodied energy in these existing buildings seems a very poor place to begin. Likewise with poorly conceived statements like we should "destroy everything from the 1960's."
We need to look deeper at things like infrastructure (which in DC's case is gravely unsustainable) and planning which make the greenest of green buildings simple specks in an oil spot if not done correctly.

Anonymous said...

Part of making something green is making it lovable. Just becasue there's some embodied energy in a brutalist concrete monolith doesn't mean replacing it is wastefull. If people want to be there for aesthetic reasons, that will eventually make up for the loss of embodied energy.

Anonymous said...

A lot of people love the HUD building.

Kelly Matlock on May 24, 2011, 12:14:00 PM said...

Yes, interesting note, the HUD (The Robert C. Weaver Fed Bldg) at 451 Seventh Street SW, was designed by Marcel Breuer, widely thought to be one of the masters of Modernism.

The plans for an Ecodistrict in the 15-block area are nascent, to put it lightly, but would likely include retrofitting and demolishing buildings.

Anonymous said...

For those of us who don't care for the masturbatory praise of modernist / brutalist architects this period only represents a conscious effort to sterilize society aesthetically and socially.

Not that architecture has really recovered from it's love affair with boring rectangles but anything is better than what's down there now.

Having lived in "real cities" I cant see Washington as anything but a failure, largely due to the development policies and designs of the 60's, 70's and 80's.

Anonymous said...

HUD building could make a neat residential building.

SWag on Jan 12, 2012, 5:06:00 PM said...

The HUD building sucks!

 

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