Showing posts with label L'Enfant. Show all posts
Showing posts with label L'Enfant. Show all posts

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

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Daniel Burnham and the Noble Diagram

"Make no little plans." For more than a hundred years these have been the famous last words of dreamers, gamblers, hucksters, hustlers, and speculators all doubling down on the long shot. Despite a prolific career as an architect and planner, this cliché may be Daniel Burnham’s most indelible contribution to the culture. Posthumously (and dubiously) attributed to Burnham, this has been the prevailing wisdom of every great American ambition from the Manhattan Project, to the moon shot, and now it is the title of a new film about Burnham to be shown this Wednesday, June 9 at 8:30 p.m. on what is arguably his second greatest achievement, the National Mall.

Here in Washington, Burnham is known as the architect of Union Station and (along with architect Charles McKim and landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr.) the author of the 1901 McMillan Plan which shaped the National Mall and the federal precinct as we know it today. But Burnham also designed some of the nation’s great Beaux-Arts public buildings and a skyline’s worth of the early 20th-Century skyscrapers. He was planner of the World’s Columbian Exposition — one of the first World’s Fairs — and later drafted plans for several of the nation’s great cities. And he was also one of founders of the City Beautiful Movement.

A little more than a century before the McMillan plan, Major Pierre (Peter) Charles L’Enfant also made no little plans. After a successful career as a military engineer under George Washington, L’Enfant started an engineering practice in New York. But like so many since who have come to Washington with big plans, the volatile combination of politics and hubris, would be his undoing. L’Enfant, commissioned in 1791 to find a site for the capitol, imagined himself to be the planner of the city--laying out the city’s streets--and even the architect of the federal buildings. After alienating local land owners and Thomas Jefferson (a proponent of a much smaller, decentralized republican government) L’Enfant was dismissed and disgraced, and spent the rest of his life trying to collect payment for his efforts and finally died in poverty.

The rest of Burnham’s platitude is rarely quoted, but explains much about L’Enfant’s contribution to Washington, and his own:

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty.”

Among L’Enfant’s innovations was a grand avenue from the Capitol, west to what would become the site of the Washington Monument, a gesture that was never fully realized until Burnham began work in 1901 on what we now know as the National Mall. The McMillan plan filled in a fetid canal that bisected the Mall and removed a train station and countless other utilitarian distractions to create the ceremonial forecourt to American power. L’Enfant never imagined a colossal pedestrian mall, but L’Enfant’s “noble, logical diagram” never died and indeed found new life in Burnham's Mall.

While few of Burnham’s plans were ever substantially realized, the McMillan plan for Washington D. C. was one of his greatest achievements and one of the purest expressions of the principles of the City Beautiful Movement. Like many of the progressive social reform movements of the early 20th century, the City Beautiful Movement sought to alleviate the problems of 19th century urban life, by ennobling the city. In Washington and Chicago, Detroit and Denver and at a smaller scale in cities across the country and around the world, the City Beautiful Movement is responsible for a wave of Beaux-Arts architecture, landscape architecture and urban planning that undoubtedly ennobled our cities by creating order and beauty, but did little more than displace the squalor and despair, kicking the problem a generation down the road to urban renewal.

DCMud will host a webchat with film's director today at noon.

Washington DC real estate and architecture news

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Opportunities of Constraints: Washington's Building Height Limits and Rooftop Landscapes

Part II of our series on height limits in DC
By Sacha Rosen, AIA

Imagine a vista of green rooftops stretching as far as the eye can see – floating slightly above the tallest trees lining the public streets below, and fading off into a horizon of forested hills to the north and the river valley to the south. The laws regulating Washington's building heights – the 1910 Height Act in particular – have created a unique and recognizable urban skyline which underscores a local culture of history, democracy, and respect for the institutions of government. But the prevailing building heights in Washington also create the opportunity for a system of vegetated roofs which is environmentally sustainable, compatible with the best of contemporary architectural design, and adds yet another “green” dimension to the unique character of the city.

Design Challenges

Practically speaking, the L’Enfant Plan, 1910 Height Act, and other local zoning ordinances cause most buildings in Washington to have broad floor plates, shallow floor-to-floor depths, and a single principal facade on the property line facing the street. Mid-block buildings are fully built to the property lines at either side, and corner buildings fill their lots and abut all street frontages. Few buildings are seen in the round, and if they are, their side and rear facades are typically designed to be secondary in nature. Because most developers want to maximize the building volume, very little sculpting is possible.

Architects and critics complain that the building forms indigenous to Washington are retrograde, boxy, and uncool. Contemporary architecture provides few tools for designing the flat, horizontally-proportioned street facades of the typical buildings here. It can be difficult to make a building appear to soar when it’s as broad as it is high, and it is challenging to create a plastic, sculptural facade while also striving to achieve the absolute maximum enclosed volume. So many designers rely on traditional styles, or end up with something that looks like half a building from somewhere else.

Despite the challenges of designing Washington facades in a contemporary fashion, leaders of the local architectural community have produced some nice buildings. Shalom Baranes’ 22 West Condominiums is a nice geometrical composition in glass and dark metal; HOK’s International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (pictured, at left) has the elegance of much taller glass boxes; Phil Esocoff’s curved brick and ornamental cast stone at 400 Mass Ave bring these materials into the 21st century. Although not yet in this city, international (star)chitects such as Herzog de Meuron, Renzo Piano, and Williams + Tsien have embellished other cities with beautiful, contemporary or avant-garde stand-alone facades which could stand as inspiration for future projects here.

Design Opportunities

Architects experienced with the Washington context are familiar with a number of design opportunities within the local regulations and traditions. The first is the concept of “spires, towers, domes, minarets, [and] pinnacles”, otherwise known as “rooftop embellishments” which are specifically allowed in the 1910 Height Act as exceptions to the height limits. Originally conceived to permit significant prominent features of governmental and institutional buildings (the Capitol dome and church spires, for example) to rise above the balance of the cityscape, the design community has capitalized on this exception for contemporary commercial buildings as much as civic ones. Unfortunately, some of these look like spiky halos (1980’s), luggage racks (1990’s), or the now-ubiquitous folded metal sunshade (2000’s).

The second form-based design opportunity is the concept of “projections into public space,” permitted by the building code, which includes bay windows, balconies, canopies and marquees, cornices, beltcourses, and pilasters. Architects rely on these to add richness and depth to otherwise flat facades. We all love looking into the bay windows when we’re strolling among Capitol Hill’s townhouses; we don’t often notice how important these elements are on large buildings as well. Although these features are often criticized as overly traditional, good designers are able to stretch and reinterpret the rules in the name of plasticity and drama.

What people don’t often recognize is that Washington’s zoning parameters and building height requirements also happen to embody a number of design- and form-generating features which are consistent with the fundamental principles of Modernist design, as formulated by Gropius, Le Corbusier and other masters beloved of the Dwell-reading set. Although these architects made grievous errors in urban planning (including Corbu’s demands to raze most of Paris in favor of a few highrise towers), their work in aesthetics and building design is still relevant and forward-looking.

Horizontality, and not verticality, is one of the principal hallmarks of Modern design, in contrast to traditionalist styles. This is clear to anyone who has laid eyes upon the dramatic roof overhangs of Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style houses or the crisp geometry of Mies’ design for the iconic Barcelona Pavilion. In downtown Washington, the overall horizontality and comparatively short building facades are accentuated by the shallowness of the floor-to-floor heights, which results from stuffing a maximum number of floors under the height limit. To reduce the amount of height required for floor structure, almost all buildings tend to be constructed of flat-plate concrete slabs and columns, setting the stage for the realization of several other tenets of Modernism: “free-floating” interior columns unbound by the constraints of load bearing walls and exterior curtain walls free of structural elements.

Rooftop Opportunities

One of the most significant design opportunities seized upon recently by local architects and the development community is the building rooftop. This is not a Washington invention; modernists as early as Gropius regarded the flat roof as a “fifth façade,” a part of the building that would be increasingly visible from ever taller adjacent buildings and passing airplanes (or Google Earth, these days). To Le Corbusier, his urban plans notwithstanding, the roof was the focus of one of his canonical “five points” of modern architecture, and almost prophetically, he called for the roof to be planted as an elevated garden to replace the landscape claimed by the building’s footprint. Today, investment in time and effort required to improve a rooftop is justified by the provision of additional building amenities, or simply an architectural gesture that will differentiate the building in the marketplace.

A number of factors contribute to the design opportunities afforded by Washington rooftops. First, the general building massing determined by the height limits in conjunction with the L’Enfant plan produces relatively large floorplates, with the roof level similar in size to the typical floor. Although building mechanical equipment is typically located on the roof, this equipment is not overly large, since it serves a relatively short building. In fact, the size of the rooftop mechanical enclosure on most buildings is limited to 37% of the total site area, and 1/3 of the total roof area. Such enclosures must be set back from the edges of the building by a distance equal to their heights, and must be of a consistent height and of a material compatible with the main building exterior. Therefore, at least 2/3 of the roof area, and typically the entire perimeter, is open to the sky. This amount of open area presents a veritable creative playground to a design-minded architect.

Until several years ago, the zoning regulations required residential buildings to provide a certain amount of residential recreational space, a significant portion of which had to be located outdoors. Because most buildings almost completely cover their lots in the downtown core, this outdoor recreation space was typically located on the roof in buildings. At the same time, the interior space of the mechanical penthouse was specifically prohibited from including any space for “human occupancy.” Recently however, the recreational space requirement has been lifted, coinciding with an easing of the strict rules governing the permitted uses within rooftop structures. First modified to allow uses appurtenant to outdoor recreational facilities (such as showers near outdoor swimming pools), the regulations now permit a wider range of recreational facilities on the roofs of apartment houses and hotels, including fitness centers, bars, and party rooms.

To enhance the quality of rooftop spaces, some designers have included plantings and gardens on building roofs for many years. Today, the more stringent requirements for stormwater filtration and retention, as well as requirements and market demands for environmentally sustainable projects induce the industry to provide substantial vegetated roofs on many projects. Buildings with minimal occupant roof access typically have extensive roof plantings (think sedum or turf), while buildings with significant occupied roof terraces are provided with a combination of intensive (think trees and shrubbery) and extensive vegetated areas – the latter also provided on the tops of mechanical penthouses.

Rooftop Panorama

Many of the rooftops in the downtown core are within one or two stories of each other in height. They are quite large, and increasingly provide substantial vegetation. A few roofs have significant access for residents, workers, and guests. As a result, there is a potential for beautiful vistas from each rooftop to neighboring buildings, an overall urban amenity created by the prevailing height limit and related planning context. This elevated garden plane is not so high as to be disconnected from the extensive system of street trees in the city, which already helps make Washington one of the greenest cities in the world.

In addition to the visual and social aspects of this rooftop garden plane, these green roofs have an increasingly significant impact on the environmental sustainability of the city. Such roofs mitigate heat island effects, manage stormwater runoff, provide building insulation, and present a use for treated grey- and blackwater systems within buildings. The potential for such an extensive system of rooftop plantings suggests that there may be additional opportunities for a true ecological impact, as flora and fauna adapt to this unique elevated landscape.

What could be greener or more sustainable than this rooftop panorama? Let’s embrace the opportunities provided by our building height limits, and continue to develop our own unique architectural language and urban design sensibility. No other city has the potential for the reintegration of plants and landscapes into a dense urban environment on such a grand scale. And this sustainable vision is only possible as a result of our building height limits and urban plan.

Sacha Rosen is a Principal of R2L:Architects, a firm specializing in the architectural design of multi-family residential, commercial interiors, and institutional/higher education projects in the Washington DC area. Sacha has ten years experience in architectural design, including eight years of project management experience on multifamily residential, urban mixed-use, commercial office, chancery, hospitality, and campus planning projects. He has a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Oklahoma, where he also taught courses in the history of architecture.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Limits of DC

100 years ago today, Congress passed the Heights of Buildings Act of 1910, a law that has done more than any other to shape the physical environment of Washington DC. The effect has been dramatic - not just on heights - but on architecture, density, land values, even on the city's collective psyche. Much has changed in the intervening century, but the rules have been modified little.

In honor of the June 1st centennial, DCMud will look at the issue of density and DC's height limits, presenting varying opinions on its effects, architecture, and desirability.

A History

No, the height limits are not based on the height of the Capitol dome (at 289 feet high, the 5th tallest structure in the city), a persistent myth. Instead, the 164-foot Cairo Apartment Building (subsequently the Cairo Hotel, now a condo) at 1615 Q Street, NW, aroused the reactionary rules when architect Thomas Franklin Schneider built the Egyptian-inspired building in 1894. Responding to petitions, city Commissioners issued rules limiting building heights, later codified by Congress in the Heights of Buildings Act of 1899, setting maximum height of 110 feet for business and 90 feet for residential projects. The 1910 Act modified the law in several important respects, most notably by permitting heights to rise not past 130 feet, but setting a formula to determine site-specific maximum heights equal to the fronting street width plus 20 feet, judged from the sidewalk, though many sites are sub-zoned for still lower density. An exception still exists for such architectural embellishments as spires and belfries.

Much has changed since 1894 when the Cairo ignited the debate - when Grover Cleveland was President, DC's Commissioners were unelected, and the District didn't even have a vote in Congress (imagine). Few DC denizens are now as shocked by the height of the Cairo as were their 19th-century predecessors. Building construction has progressed dramatically beyond the steel-frame and limestone-brick pile architecture of the Cairo. Firefighting ability, an issue when the Cairo crested above the reach of fire ladders, has likewise adapted to higher structures.

The Plan

Given L'Enfant's sacrosanctity, it should be noted that building height limits at the time the L'Enfant plan was adopted, naturally low due to construction limitations, were never officially part of his creation. Parisian Pierre L'Enfant envisioned the sprawling, low-flung buildings and wide boulevards of his native capital, while President Thomas Jefferson, an extreme Francophile, also dreamed of Paris on the Potomac, providing L'Enfant with inspirational maps of European cities with buildings that hugged the ground (wanting buildings "low & convenient, and the streets light and airy"). Still, formal limits or guidelines were never established.

With the march of technology, the District's earliest architects were without compunction in designing buildings to the upper edge of physical limitations, with no apparent regard for nostalgia. Some of the earliest buildings reached upward unhesitatingly - The Smithsonian Institution Building (begun 1847, 145 feet), Healy Hall of Georgetown (begun 1879, 200 feet), the Old Post Office Building (begun 1891, 315 feet), and of course the U.S. Capitol Building (298 feet).

That Was Then

Proponents of change point to the ever taller buildings creeping up literally on the DC border in Silver Spring, Rosslyn (see Central Place, at right), Alexandria, and Chevy Chase, and with them architecture, development, residents, jobs, and city views denied to DC. Urban planners, preservationists and greenies alike argue for greater density ("if you love the country, live in the city"), a position that also offers a strong economic punch while slowing sprawl. That the law is imposed from without raises the neck fur of DC's voting rights activists who prefer a little more self- determination than that.

Yet it must be admitted that DC is not just another urban environment devoid of national significance. Its existence owes to the founders' desire for an independent district; a national model as a symbol of democracy and showpiece for America's (then) novel experiment. DC is, after all, the only city designated by the U.S. Constitution.

Others prefer DC's uniquely stubbly skyline, greater green canopy, and open, sunny streets. Height limits provide a backstop (if also an upper limit) for property values, limiting developable land and with it competition for developers and landowners. And whatever its initial demerits, DC's low-rise viewscape has become part of its identity as a livable, European-style metropolis.

An Experiment Subject to Change?

If both arguments have some potency, are the two sides condemned to an intractable, Whitehurst-like eternal battle over the issue? Compromise, if there were to be any, would be unlikely to radically change the downtown federal core in an era of accelerating security. Nor are residents of historic neighborhoods like Georgetown or Capitol Hill clamoring for towers in their midst. Others, however, have painted themselves as underserved by the development community, retailers, and entrepreneurs. Marshall Heights and Deanwood - farther from the Capitol building than Rosslyn - have limited claims on the character of DC's downtown skyline. Advocates in both neighborhoods have bemoaned the lack of investment, retail and sit-down restaurants. Taller buildings don't remedy such shortcomings intrinsically but, carefully planned, can increase density to a tipping point that attracts other economic investment.

Raising height limits in select locations could alter the investment dynamic in overlooked neighborhoods, creating entrepreneurial zones, a concept that has worked in numerous struggling cities. Washington DC's "Gateway" avenues present a vexing argument against the status quo: wide, heavily trafficked streets with commercial cores, Metro stations, and less restricted buildings heights one stoplight away. Paris, after all, has Le Defense (at right), a skyscraper-friendly district which only serves to underscore the aesthetics of central Paris and serve as an economic engine for the city of light.

DC has several such zones. East Capitol Street at the PG County border presents a high-speed thoroughfare, Metro station, and yet struggles to find the investment capital to finance its projects. Absent a raison d'etre, Capitol View Park Towers (at left) and Capitol Gateway struggle for existence in a low-density neighborhood, with development on hold.

Georgia Avenue at the Silver Spring border is a dream case study. Farther from the Capitol building than Old Town Alexandria, the two Georgias present a stark contrast - downtown Silver Spring, where painstaking planning has led to a dense and finally vibrant, livable urban core - and its DC root, which lives up to (and then some) its south-of-the-border locale.

Wisconsin Avenue at the city's northwestern terminus presents a different contrast. While the corridor does not want for high-end retail, apartment buildings, office towers, retail, hotels and supermarkets are springing up on the Chevy Chase Maryland side, while on the District's flank development languishes, save an undersized, wood-framed condo, sneaking in by not seeking increased density. Lots above the metro sit vacant or bear empty two-story parking pads, or serve as surface parking for a bus depot. Attempts at development, in spite of zoning approval, are allowed to be vetoed by single-interest groups who protest heights less than half those that exist two blocks north. Density caps on each of the lots render them not quite ripe for development.

Opponents of change need not worry about 50 stories rising in their Palisades backyard or soaring towers blocking off the Mall. The District's zoning authorities would administer appropriate zones for increased height, historic protection, architectural review and case-by-case examination. Modifying the height ban would, in any event, allow the District to make such determinations, making this debate not just an academic one.

Friday, January 29, 2010

L'Enfant Plaza: Feds to Try Again?

Stalin would be proud. Discouragingly wide boulevards, dominant central government buildings, architecture that reduces human interaction, and a monumental plaza that minimizes individual interference with state symbolism. Such is the state of L'Enfant Plaza - a wrong turn off the Mall for most visitors that conveys the feeling of having intruded into restricted space. Fear not, the government that built the plaza is going to try again.

The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) will begin a public examination of how to transform the area into a "model sustainable community" that will "improve mobility, urban design, and land use; and...capture, manage and reuse most of the energy, water and waste on site." Beginning on February 2nd, the urban planning body will hold public meetings to help create the 10th Street Corridor "ecodistrict."

It wasn't intended to be this way. With federal oversight, planners in the 1950's buried the old working class neighborhood in the name of urban renewal, paving farms, razing homes and history in the name of progress. With such tourist-beckoning buildings as the Department of Energy and U.S. Postal Service headquarters, L'Enfant Plaza resulted from the schemes and designs of such notables as I.M. Pei, who designed the expansive concrete, and the government, which sought to remove the messiness of humanity. According to Jane Freundel Levey, Director of Heritage Programs at Cultural Tourism DC, the area was once a place to shop or grab a bite with plenty of taverns and a vibrant nightlife.

Forget for a moment that there is no 10th Street, nor is the defined area a "corridor." The environmentally friendly rehab is still a rough concept, but one without limitations as to the scope. The task force at work on the project is comprised of such disparate organizations as DC and federal property owners, the GSA, the Smithsonian Institution, the Department of Education and the U.S. Postal Service, to name just a few. Then there is the group of "directly affected stakeholders" such as CSX, JBG, WMATA, WASA, HUD, PN Hoffman, and Republic Properties, a group of owners that will form a second tier of cooperation. Can such a coalition get anything done, much less make an inviting community out of a concrete jungle? According to Diane Sullivan, Sustainability Planner for the 10th Street Corridor Task Force at NCPC, yes. "The group is generally very excited about this, they see this as a great opportunity."

Barriers, both physical and figurative, are formidable. But according to Sullivan, all things are possible. A new Georgetown-like community worthy of a family stroll? "Nothing is off the table at this point." As a first step, the task force will create a framework based on infrastructural upgrades such as changes to the on- and off-ramps of the highway and new street grids. Once that is determined, the landowners will be included in ways to develop within the new framework. Sullivan says the resulting mixed-use district may just include new residential districts. "Part of the framework was to incorporate residential space, we recognize that right now it's largely a federal precinct, but residential is not off the boards." But of course private landowners will ultimately be able to decide how best to use their space, and all plans at this point are mere possibilities.

To wit, JBG is currently working on an impressive $40m renovation of its underground plaza, and will be presenting a plan to the task force for coordination with the broader principles of redevelopment. Bill Dowd of NCPC told DCMud there is an imperative to prevent the federal buildings from "being barriers." As to how much change is possible, the answer will not be known for some time. While NCPC's Sullivan says it will be necessary to "look beyond buildings themselves," it is not yet clear how the project will be funded. Other attempts at developing Southwest have failed, such as the ill-fated attempt to bring the Children's Museum from northeast DC to southwest. It is also unclear whether federal property owners, with an increasingly circle-the-wagons mentality, will allow radical change in their midst, or whether planners will allow I.M. Pei's plaza to be rebuilt, despite its alienating qualities, a factor that seems essential for the task force's goal of connecting the riverfront to the National Mall.

In the end, that will not be up to NCPC, as JBG owns the land, and NCPC will be providing the study but not dictating the outcome to either its private or public partners. Elizabeth Miller, Senior Urban Planner and Project Manager for NCPC, says the plaza itself "is part of our study area. We will be looking at public space but any changes to the plaza are up to the owners. Our goal is to bring appropriate parties to the table, and to look at how far should we go." But she stresses that a "redevelopment scenario" is merely one alternative, and that it is at least theoretically possible that NCPC will recommend no changes to the design.

NCPC says the timeline will be 6-8 months to get task force members up to speed, then a year or so to conduct a redevelopment feasibility study to look at a range of alternative for individual properties and the corridor as a whole. Beyond that all guesses are hypothetical. The first meeting will take place February 2, 6pm at 401 9th Street, NW.

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