Saturday, July 28, 2012

Union Station Master Plan Released

Train shed looking southwest, Image courtesy of Amtrak
Amtrak released details this week of a much-talked-about $7 billion plan for Union Station's tracks, platforms, concourses, and parking that will dramatically overhaul the space.

Under the Union Station Redeveloment Corporation, Union Station is already undergoing a renovation of its Grand Hall.

In a move officials acknowledged was belated, they said the plan would help the nation's capital catch up with other parts of the world with high-speed rail service.  The plan, they said, would eventually triple the station's passenger capacity and double the train service over the next 20 years.  The plan goes hand in hand with plans for a 1.5 billion dollar project by Akridge development, Amtrak's private partner in the project, to develop the air rights over the train tracks into a $1.5 billion mixed-use project called Burnham Place.

Amtrak and Akridge, Amtrak's private partner on the project, released the master plan this week in a press conference attended by city glitterati, including embattled mayor Vincent Gray.

Greenway looking north along 1st Street, Image: Akridge
Burhnam Place, named after Union Station's original architect Daniel Burnham, is part of Amtrak's master plan, and will be developed by Akridge and architectural firm Shalom Baranes.  Developers plan, over the next 15 years, to build a 3-million square-foot mixed use development over the train tracks.  

In 2006, Akridge purchased the air rights to a total of 15 acres over the Union Station rail yard. The $10 million dollar sale marked the first sale of air rights by the federal government. As reported by DCMud, the conceptual construction plan began to move solidly forward and Shalom Baranes was selected as the architect in 2008.

Interior view of the train shed, Image courtesy of Amtrak
The plan envisions 500 hotel rooms, 100,000 square feet of retail, and 1,300 residential units built on a concrete platform over the tracks and supported columns placed throughout the rail yard.  Akridge went through years of technical negotiations with Amtrak before deciding on a construction plan, and the Smart Growth Alliance and Urban Land Institute (ULI) have both voiced support for the project.

Developers emphasize that the project will feature elements that enhance public space and amenities. One such feature includes a 1.5 mile elevated greenway with a bike lane along the west side of the station that will link the NoMa neighborhoods with Union Station and the Metro and connect to the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

Historic control tower into restaurant, Courtesy: Akridge
Plans also call for a "grand plaza" fronting both sides of H Street that will lead into a brand new Train Hall in what developers say will be "a grand northern entrance to Union Station."  

The plan also calls for pedestrian connections with adjoining neighborhoods, a new entrance near First and K Streets, NE, and a plan to turn the K Tower - a control tower - into a restaurant.

Will office workers and urban sky dwellers feel the rumbling of high-speed trains below them?  That remains to be seen.  What is certain is that the plan makes an ambitious promises to bring more natural light into Union Station, even while building above it.  

Plan overview. Image Courtesy of Akridge.  
Blue represents office space, 
Beige is residential, 
Green / yellow is naturally lit space,  and 
Brown is hotel space.

Red circles are vertical connections,
Red arrows are station entrances.


Anonymous said...

I love it. Looks awesome

Anonymous said...

It's hard to imagine where $7B comes from nowadays. Without a compelling vision, it would be an impossibility. Kudos to the architects and development team for coming up with a compelling vision. It provides hope.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous! Build it!!!

Nathaniel Martin said...

This is an exciting and ambitious design -- we need more of this sort of thing in Washington. I am convinced that the expenditure is totally worthwhile -- it will help attract private investment in an area that is critical to the city's future.

Anonymous said...

I actually am sure the design is that great. Reminds of the class cover above the Portrait Gallery. Need to see more

Anonymous said...

... am NOT sure ...

John Edelmann said...

I love it! A great addition to the city.

Anonymous said...

Almost unfathomable to imagine yet another major development of this scale in the works. Thanks for a well written and informative article.

Anonymous said...

To all those iffy on the architecture, its hard to imagine that if or when the funding is in place for such a project that it would take this rather preliminary form. I foresee some big guns like SOM brought in to hammer out the actual architecture when that time comes. Like the article informs, this announcment is really about creating a "vision" for a 21st century Union Station.

Anonymous said...

WE are desperately in need of architectural representation of the early 21st century. This is an exciting plan. Good Luck!
good article!

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