Thursday, June 02, 2011

Southwest Federal Center Gets Green Improvements



Federal planners voted today to approve replacement of a swath of pavement in Southwest DC with a landscaped park, converting the area dominated by federal office buildings and minimal streetscaping into something slightly greener and a touch less alienating.

The National Capitol Planning Commission's vote today facilitates the plan to turn a large surface parking lot on C Street into a public park, narrow the street, create a sidwalk, and blend the now ubiquitous security wall more discreetly into the landscaping.  The 5-story Mary E. Switzer building, owned by GSA and host to an alphabet soup of agencies, has already been given an internal nip-tuck, with greener, more modern features, but outside had abandoned any pretense of pedestrian friendly streetscaping in favor of automobile access and security.

Plans for the building directly across from C Street, which also sports a large surface parking lot, are in the works but have not yet been approved.  The block-sized Switzer building was completed in 1940 and has been a government office building since completion, but is on a regular tourist footpath between the Federal Center Southwest Metro station and the Mall.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

27 comments:

Jo on Jun 2, 2011, 8:47:00 PM said...

Going green is an excellent idea. It saves the environment, energy and not to mention other resources. Plus it may start a movement for other businesses in the area to go green. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

That's fine, as far as it goes, but something more is needed over there. I can only hope that the SW waterfront project will change things, but I don't think that will be enough. L'Enfant plaza needs to be radically changed too.

Anonymous said...

Foolish. The area is home at at least two 24-7-365 agencies where parking has always been at an extreme premium. Now Feds who have already sacrificed much are being penalized for a few trees. Is the Mall just one block over not green enough?? This is fine if a spacious parking garage is built underneath.

Anonymous said...

This is Crazy. Is it an attmept to drive more federal workers to use public transit? Then have public transit run 24/7. The proposal is also dangerous. Many workers arrive or leave in the middle of the night. Who do we sue for injuries?

Anonymous said...

While I am as much an environmentalist as anyone and prefer green over asphalt, I am in firm agreement that those who work in these buildings after hours need to be guaranteed a safe place for their cars before a park is built. This can be a scary neighborhood at 11:00pm, especially when waiting as long as 40 minutes for the bus or on deserted subway platform for a train.

Ken on Jun 5, 2011, 5:10:00 PM said...

There will be parking beneath the park, more than there is now. But do you really think that we have trees on the Mall so we don't need them anywhere else? And sorry, but if building a park means you now want to sue for expected injuries, you're a walking case for tort reform legislation. But hey, thanks for reading and contributing to the dialogue.

Anonymous said...

For decades, employees at 330 Independence Ave, home to the Voice of America and on the third floor, the obscure Broadcasting Board of Governors, have labored under difficult conditions and limited parking, and this development will not improve things. To the contrary it will worsen things. Imagine personnel who, faced with deadline news stories, sometimes have to leave their posts and go move their cars to avoid parking tickets. What's a bit shocking about this story is that most people working at 330 Independence, where this new green project will be constructed, had no idea that this was coming. Perhaps it's all for the best -- since rumor has it that the entire agency (BBG) will be moved in coming years to a location far outside of the District.

Anonymous said...

I read the Project Review Narrative and see no mention of any parking lot beneath the park for employees that Ken mentions. I would also add that we have handicap employees at this 24-hour agency using this parking since they cannot use Metro. The most appalling thing is, work begins in less than two weeks, and employees have been told nothing about it by their management.

Anonymous said...

"There will be parking beneath the park, more than there is now."

Thanks for providing facts to offset the knee-jerk ignorance of the NIMBY types who seem to swarm into blog comments sections like parasites.

Anonymous said...

the "anonymous" who wrote about "knee-jerk NIMBYs" clearly does not work for the BBG or VOA and has no idea of the minimum regard in which they hold their employees

Anonymous said...

^don't try to cover your ass with your "point fingers elswhere" hypocrisy. It's way too many square feet at this point.

Anonymous said...

the comment immediately above makes no sense

Anonymous said...

Go figure

Anonymous said...

every wonder why so many of us are 'anonymous'? It's because we work for the BBG - 'bottom of the barrel government'. By the way, the only underground parking is for official vehicles and the agency brass. It will not come close to providing the necessary security for personnel who constantly work off hours, weekends, holidays and snowstorms, the the 'commoners' are even allowed there in the first place. If 'Ken' is so certain underground parking will be ample, then where is this indicated in the project plans? It isn't. You want green? Enhance the sidewalk area directly along C street, there are already several, big, old shady trees lining the block. The only green in this project is for the contractors at $6-8 million - at a time when we are trying to slash budgets. This is a prime example of how not to go green - the area is intended to be functional for government business. There are numerous parks and green spaces all around that have existed since L'Enfant himself designed the city, others created with the construction of the large buildings in SW beginning 70 years ago. Get real, and properly balance green with functionality in cities, not go off with half-baked plans cooked by people who have no remote idea what goes on in specific locations. The Mall is the largest green space within any major city in the world, one block away. But elsewhere in DC, government has to be able to function, this plan impedes government's ability to function.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to believe "Ken" too that there will be plenty of parking in this project. But the GSA combined with the BBG and VOA management is a toxic brew for rank and file workers with genuine needs. And this is speaking from experience, not out of sour grapes. There's a good reason so many of us prefer to remain anonymous.

Anonymous said...

I cycle to work in that area most days. I fully support green projects. But I have to agree with other comments that this is perhaps the worst location to try an initiative like this. Plant some extra greenery and put in some more bike racks, put in fresh pretty sidewalks, leave the parking alone, that will be improvement enough.

Anonymous said...

"The block-sized Switzer building was completed in 1940 and has been a government office building since completion, but is on a regular tourist footpath between the Federal Center Southwest Metro station and the Mall."

Wow, like it's some kind of stigma. Let tourists see where government workers labor, those tourists are taxpayers and won't like footing the bill for an unnecessary park. They are heading to the Mall anyway, not C Street.

Anonymous said...

What the heck is the matter with you people? The area is an eyesore, 1 block from Metro, there shouldn't be surface parking there. Sure, its convenient for you, like its convenient for everyone else in the world to have parking at their front door, but the rest of the world makes a sacrifice or uses public transportation, but the federal workers have to gripe and whine about it. Get into the real world like the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

Very few agencies are 24-7-365. But this area in question is home to one - therefore surface parking is a necessity. Come by at 2am any night and see how safe you feel. Necessity and safety trumps 'eyesore' any day. You get real, this isn't some luxury for federal workers.

Anonymous said...

and metro doesn't run 24-7-365 - use some common sense, metro's entrance could be at the front door and it wouldn't matter overnight.

Anonymous said...

I went without a car for a year and a half, relying strictly on Metro. During that time, I was attacked and robbed in broad daylight at the Fort Totten metro station. Other women have been attacked there, too. I work overnight shifts at the Cohen building and drive to and from work, rather than take public transport, to stay safe. Eliminating those parking spaces may sound good if it doesn't affect you, but it will directly affect my safety and that of others working after dark.

Anonymous said...

Just think, all those extra trees and shrubs will shelter more homeless and muggers while providing extra vermin for our already infested building, which has had mice for decades. What a great idea.

Bayma on Jun 7, 2011, 1:01:00 PM said...

I don't care about the 'green' aspects of this in the slightest. But, having just moved from that area after living down the street for nine years, I can tell you that they need to do something to make this more walkable. It is very dangerous and often impossible to walk that block of C St. Especially for those who are unfamiliar with the area and don't know that you can walk through the parking lots.

People do live in SW -- I've seen them -- and that always gets lost on the people making these type of land use decisions. I think this is a great idea.

Anonymous said...

I work nights in the Cohen building and have attempted to take public transportation instead of driving. All three Metro lots nar my home were filled to capacity at 1:00 in the afternoon. Fine, I'll take the bus between home and the subway. The last bus is 11:10pm. If I miss my train because I'm carrying out my official duties as part of my job, I'm literally stranded. Parking for me is not a luxury for a "griping and whining" federal worker. It is an outright necessity. Let them build greenery. It's much more attractive than a couple of shabby office buildings. But only after folks who work in those buildings have their legitimate needs accomodated so the taxpayers get what they're paying for.

Anonymous said...

Why don't we make these old buildings really green and tear them down completely, not work here any longer and let nature overgrow the whole #@*# place. Wake up urban planners, this is a city, not a tree farm.

Anonymous said...

Seems there is a lot of myopia on both sides in this 'debate.' Those who feel 'green improvements' are of paramount importance ought to take a moment to think about the concerns of those who work in the Cohen Building at very odd hours. And vice versa. I would welcome environmental improvements to the area around my office in Cohen, but I want to be able to get there, too. Over time I have worked on schedules that cover every hour of the day and week. Workers' transportation should be considered as an issue of equal importance to green esthetics. It's been said multiple times above, but there is simply no way to use public transportation and report for work at the Cohen Building during many hours of the day and night. I live outside the District in MD, less than one mile from the DC border, but I must drive if my working hours begin or end before 7:30 a.m. or after 7 p.m.

Anonymous said...

I think one guy nailed it by saying that driving isn't a luxury, it's a necessity.

 

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