Thursday, July 26, 2007

the Pop(u)lar vote

rendering courtesy of AWC, in This presentation

This blog came into being just in time for a grand political fight between the pro-MacFarlane/DC United plan for Poplar Point and those who favor seeking alternatives. This afternoon Ward 8 Councilman Barry came out in opposition to Fenty and has threatened to vote against whatever developer the mayor eventually chooses. Political maturity at its height.

If it isn't already obvious, I am in favor of competitive development for Poplar Point. This issue is surprisingly similar to the recent debate of elevated vs. underground rail through Tyson's Corner. There were those that said "let's just get this thing built--aboveground, underground, who cares--we just need Metro, at any cost". Then there were those that said "yes, we Do need Metro, but in getting Metro, let's do this right. Sure, it may take a few more years and some extra effort--but taking that time will yield a better and more lasting result."

Somehow I knew that Marion Barry would be one-sided on this. It isn't surprising. He is a politician out to prove something--now out to defend a billionaire developer so that we will remember him for his tenacity in the public sphere rather than his starring role in an incriminating video involving a crack pipe.

If Barry claims to be dedicated to doing what is best for Ward 8, yet supports allowing MacFarlane to build his behemoth development, something is amiss, and for these reasons:

(click image to enlarge) image courtesy of the DC United presentation

MacFarlane/DC United were bold to place their own proposed site plan next to the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation's design. Bold because they propose to develop a significantly larger footprint onto the Point, putting buildings where AWC proposes wetlands, public parkland, and a daylit Stickfoot Creek--amenities that MacFarlane pushes aside in favor more sellable/rentable square feet.

If MacFarlane is so dedicated to building in Ward 8, I suggest he remember its many existing acquisition opportunities: building on the multitude of vacant lots or refurbishing some of its aging buildings.

Competitive development allows for more than one option to be placed on the table. If Anacostia presents itself as a neighborhood desperate for development at any cost, it will end up with buildings that do not stand the test of time and a history of developers taking advantage of it.

We can do better than that, and we--our people, our neighborhood, our aesthetic future and heritage-- deserve better than that.


Ultimately I just want a great park where I can throw a frisbee, see nature thriving, and be proud to live near. And all I see in MacFarlane's proposal is buildings.


Tom said...

"Ultimately I just want a great park where I can throw a frisbee, see nature thriving, and be proud to live near. And all I see in MacFarlane's proposal is buildings."

I think the issue is that Barry wants some buildings because he wants some jobs, restaurants, and shops in the area. Notice that his /DC United plan does include park space too.

It's hard to have a great park if no one will visit because they are worried about safety. It would be a tragedy if this land were wasted without creating jobs for Ward 8. While I would love to be able to play frisbee in a park too, I would love more to see some actual jobs created in the area and some positive attention thrown Ward 8's way.

DG-rad said...

thanks, Tom, for your comment.

Like you (and Barry), I also want to see buildings at Poplar Point. My concern is that in his proposal the majority of the land is built out. I fully support a neighborhood at the Point, just not one that takes up most of the space previously designated for parkland.

Tom said...

But, the whole reason the Feds are willing to transfer the land in the first place is to increase DC's taxbase. There is a lot of park space in DC and even more non-taxable Federal land. This land transfer is specifically designed for commercial development with a minimum of 70 acres left for park space.

Looking at the land, the best way to maximize both usable park space and tax revenue is to put the 70 acres close to the water, following the river. Then, almost all of the rest of the land should be used to bring in tax dollars. This means businesses that are making money.

I'm worried that with something more temporal than a stadium, the development would end up looking like the Alexandria strip malls and be run-down and unsafe within 10 years.

With a stadium, at the very worst, you know that the team will maintain it. You know that there will be at least 15,000 people coming to it 15-20 times a year. You know that there will be fields to play sports on. You know that there will be a hotel, bringing in others throughout the year. In short, there will be people and traffic. This will help with safety concerns for people on the other side of the river to make the trip over.

Without such permanent fixtures, I worry that a park would simply become rundown and unsafe. Then, no one would go there anyway and no one would have jobs. The last thing I want to see is anything like what happened in Alexandria.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with tom's post. Though the United park could be bigger, for sure, the problem with the AWC park is that it's big, relatively isolated, and with a low density of foot traffic being bordered by the river--that's really a bad combination for safety.

Also, the AWC plan is dead. Fenty himself decommissioned it. The *real* choice here is between DC United and "the high bidder"--and the high bidder is not *about* to be neighborhood-oriented, they'll be about making the most buck.

My problem with the community oriented opponents is that they seem to be oblivious to this. They are better off negotiating with a soccer team whose public image actually matters (soccer has enough trouble trying to get over the negative perceptions of the sport itself) than with who-knows-who in a competitive RFP process.

b1968k said...

Of course, that assumes that the city would actually have meetings and gather community input on a new plan for Poplar Point. In the bname of cutting through bureaucracy the city gave away the West End Library and Fire Station to a developer this week without involving the neighboors.

As for OneDC - how do they expect to pay for affordable housing at Poplar Point. The United proposal has, I believe, 1,600 units of affordable and workforce housing. I would think that would please them.

Shaw Rez said...

fascinating debate. I don't know where I stand. the AWC's plans are beautiful, but I do think surrounding density's important to making the most of the park's potential. I look forward to reading more on the debate.

Great blog!

Anonymous said...

dcist reports on this here:

Anonymous said...

How much of AWC's plan was usable park space and how much was just trees for trees sake.
I love the woods, and I don't like development just to make a buck but it seems to me that DC United's plan is in the interest of both parties.
I think any plan will need to have some sort of anchor that will keep people coming to spend their money.
A park wont do that, it would have to be substantial retail or a stadium.
Any plan needs to develop into usable parkland more of this land that is currently usable. Let's not forget that DC United's plan will include not only the park, but soccer fields for public use.
United has proven to be good neighbors throughout the years, it really is a good organization. I hope the detractors take the time to realize that.

Anonymous said...

The $200m subsidy DC United seeks will be required of any development on Poplar Point. I can udnerstand opening this up for public bid, but the statements above about the purpose of the land transfer is spot on.

There needs to be parkland on the river, but whatever comes in needs to have a maximum yeild of jobs and tax revenue to the city.

I disagree with OneDc on this issue.

Marion Barry can completely revitialize and memorialize his legacy city wide by "winning" this debate.