Thursday, July 31, 2008
the two meetings
Monday night was the meeting about redeveloping the East Campus of St. Elizabeth’s. Fortunately they held the meeting on the campus itself, because I had never before been inside and was completely blown away with how awesome it is there. Yes, totally underutilized right now, with some buildings completely abandoned, but the place looks like an Ivy League school. It’s actually pretty ridiculous how cool the place is, and encouraging to know that since all of the buildings were built to a high standard of quality, that when whatever redevelopment does occur there it will look really nice.
The meeting was essentially a time to revisit the plan that the community and the Office of Planning put together back in 2003, as well as refine it in order to complete the Small Area Plan for the campus. Back then there was absolutely no momentum for development east of the Anacostia River, which clearly now has changed. It has already been decided that the city wants it to be a mixed-use community: residential, retail, office, recreation, and potentially institutional use (UDC, please). There were a fair number of people there – it’s funny because there are definitely public meeting “regulars” and I am finally starting to know them by name.
One of the goals of the plan will be to conveniently connect MLK to Alabama Avenue, via a new boulevard running through the edge of the site. Because there is an entrance to the Congress Heights metro station on the campus, the area around the station will likely be developed to a slightly higher density. One of the presenters mentioned allowing Homeland Security to take some space on the East Campus as a way to bridge the two campuses and allow for some economic development from their tenants to spill onto the east side – however, the idea met with some criticism because the area of the campus they suggest is right next to the existing stables, which many hope can be renovated into a first-class equestrian facility.
Obviously this is just another “first step” towards this project actually getting started, but it looks like the it’s on its way to being a reality. There will be another meeting in September (TBD) to unveil the plan, and the city hopes to put out a solicitation to the development community early next year.
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Tuesday night was the Poplar Point meeting. Although Clark Realty wowed everyone with their sweeping visions for the 110-acre mix of overgrown land and scattering of federal buildings earlier this year, the actual plan for the area has yet to be drawn up. Because the city needs to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in order for the federal-to-district land transfer to occur, this meeting was about asking the community some specifics about how we wanted the development to connect with the river, how we wanted the required 70 acres of green space to be laid out (*cough* central park *cough*), and how sustainability should fit into the overall plan.
I’m of the belief that meetings like this actually do have the power to change big plans, which is why I go – but also acknowledge that we are still pretty early in the planning and development process for Poplar Point that no major decisions for the site plan and development layout are being set in stone just yet. One thing that I have been worrying a little bit about was the possibility that the platform over 295 could be scrapped, and that it was just a way for Clarke to win the master developer slot – but the amount of support shown at the meeting for meaningful connections to Anacostia alleviated some of that. Everyone in attendance was separated into groups of ten or so to discuss various questions and give suggestions, and it was almost unanimous that the most important connection to Poplar Point needed to be from downtown Anacostia.
This is all a ways off, and I felt bad when one elderly woman next to me asked if this would be started before 2012. The response was that it was possible ground could be broken in 2012, but that that was probably the earliest that anything was actually going to begin at the site.
Click Here for the Poplar Point EIS website