During that netherweek between Christmas and New Year's, when most of us were still in an eggnog-induced haze, the DC Office of Planning released a draft report on the Maryland Avenue SW Plan, which is part of NCPC's Southwest Ecodistrict Initiative, a concept introduced last May. If the suggestions in this report are adopted – and there's little reason to believe they won't - the consequences for Southwest would be drastic and far-reaching.
Development-wise, the General Services Administration (GSA) is considering conveying (selling off) four federally-owned parcels along a proposed rebuilt Maryland Avenue, with an eye towards private redevelopment as mixed-use projects. This is pricey territory, with proximity to the Mall, the Capitol, monuments, the forthcoming Southwest waterfront redevelopment. Currently these parcels are all monolithic office buildings, like much of the area - a reality this report aims to dramatically alter. The report raises the possibility of rezoning the area to accommodate high-density residential structures - though there are obstacles to the plan. For starters, one of the four parcels (Parcel 1) is crowded by the USDA Cotton Annex, which for right now at least is not being considered for conveyance. According to the report, it's going to be hard to reach the desired density (the study suggested a minimum of a thousand residential units) on these parcels without them “being aggregated with adjacent land.” - perhaps this is a hint at future conveyances.
The main problem with the Maryland Avenue corridor, other than the aforementioned homogeneity and its lunar-like desolation post 6pm, is that Maryland Avenue doesn't actually exist for a good five blocks between 7th and 12th Streets. Clearly, any revitalization of the area will require the rebuilding of Maryland Avenue as priority one. The report presents three possible avenues towards reestablishing the avenue: option one is to just rebuild it with a median, and rebuild 9th Street to connect Independence, Maryland, and D Street. Option two would rebuild it only between 10th and 12th, and convert the rest to a park. The third proposes a smaller, pedestrian- and bike-friendly center roadway with an adjacent public square, shifting the existing railyard south.
The report seems to lean in favor of the second and third options – surveys taken of area residents and workers showed an overwhelming majority specified “parks and open spaces” as their number one preference in regards to improving the area. The report also lays out a strategy of using public spaces to draw pedestrian traffic and “establish an identity” for the area, which will (theoretically) lead to “demand for residential,” which will in turn “create population that attracts retail.” And reading the report – which is detailed, well-written, and ambitious – you get the impression it just might be that easy.
The plan also calls for a long-overdue expansion of the L'Enfant metro and commuter rail stations, and wholesale improvements of Reservation 113, the greenspace where Maryland and Virginia Avenues intersect, into a “dynamic urban park” as neighborhood centerpiece. The report estimates this project would cost around $430 million, a cost defrayed by the sale of the aforementioned federally-held parcels. Other funding sources, according to the report, could include TIF or PILOT funds, developer/railroad contributions, and various federal grants.
The western side of the Maryland Avenue corridor roughly abuts the soon-to-be-revitalized Southwest Waterfront, which is now revving into high gear and the Eisenhower Memorial is slated for 2015 right next door, all of which could very well create a domino effect, perhaps spurring the much-discussed creation of a "second downtown."
Check out the full report . The public can also offer feedback on the full report, and comment until February 3.
Washington D.C. real estate development news