Friday, July 27, 2007

This isn't breaking news, but a number of the most forgotten/abandoned libraries in the District are (once again) on their way to seeing some positive progress. Included on this list is our very own Anacostia Library, which now is home to a mobile library actually much nicer than the original.

This isn't the first time the neighborhood has been promised a new library. In 2005 the District hired designers and held public meetings, but nothing happened because of a contract flaw.

Now, Fenty has hired two new design firms to start the process over: The Freelon Group and Davis, Brody, Bond LLP. Not only is this jumpstart to the new library process great news, but these architects should produce much more stunning (but hopefully still practical) buildings than what we were shown in 2005.

Recent work: Davis Brody Bond
rendering courtesy of Experimental Media & Performing Arts Center

Recent work: Freelon Group
rendering courtesy of AIA Charlotte, Afro-American Cultural Center

header graphic by DG-rad

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.

the Honfleur Gallery is one of the crown jewels of historic anacostia. Located at 1241 Good Hope Rd SE, the gallery is situated across the street from the under-construction Anacostia Gateway project. It doesn't announce itself in any loud way from the street, but instead invites the casual walker-by in with clean lines and whitewashed walls.

NPR recently aired a story featuring the Honfleur that includes interviews and a commentary on the changing neighborhood. Listen Here

I had the pleasure of attending the opening of "Anacostia Exposed" last month. The show is composed of black and white photographs of the neighborhood and its residents by a Northern Irish artist, accompanied by inspired poetry by local poets and students. The evening was closed with about an hours worth of poetry readings in the gallery's second floor.

let's just say it was brilliant, and renewed my faith in the DC arts community. Definitely check out the Honfleur.

photo portion of graphic courtesy of flickr user photo_obscura

the birds

The canadian geese of the Anacostia River have been all over the news recently (washington post this morning) for the way they are really damaging the already struggling river ecosystem.
"It's like the relative who comes to stay at Christmas and just doesn't go home," said Jim Collier, a member of the Anacostia Watershed Citizens Advisory Committee.
Environmentalists are proposing the park service kill the birds, but public input is accepted Here until August 10.

photo (though altered) courtesy of flickr user annkelliott

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Happenings at Anacostia Square

rendering courtesy of AEDC

Anacostia Square is one of those projects in anacostia that when it begins construction will really spark development interest in the historic district. Jointly developed by Douglas Development and the Anacostia EDC (AEDC), the mixed-use project at the corner of MLK and Good Hope is slated to be over 265,000 Square Feet, and will do a ton to change the image of downtown Anacostia. What stands there now are about 6 crumbling buildings, none of which appear to have any tenants.

photo courtesy of flickr user PGCist

The top image is the only rendering I could find of the development. It looks okay--albeit a lit-tle suburban. My main concern has been for the old buildings it would replace. Some of those fears have been assuaged by last month's DC Historic Preservation Review Board meeting, but it looks like only the three facades shown above will be saved:

1909-1913 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, HPA #06-xxx, revised concept/demolition and fa├žade stabilization.

The Board approved the proper shoring of the facades and the subsequent demolition of the party walls, and the remaining framing and the removal of debris. The applicant and its assigns are required to retain, record, maintain and keep secure the facades. Further, the owner will appropriately rehabilitate them within the context of a new project subject to further Board review and discuss further with the Board the condition of its other properties located within historic districts. Finally, the project is delegated to staff for permit review of the demolition and shoring. Vote 8-0.
link to the Original document

Crossing my fingers that this latest vote means that Anacostia Square is actually happening!

and more...

WTOP reported this morning that it will probably take at least a year before anything much could get started at the Point.
"The city government is going to be taking over federal property. How is the federal government going to be adequately compensated?" asks Bill Line, spokesperson for the National Park Service.

Poplar Point also includes U.S. Park Police headquarters, which employs more than 100 people and includes a heliport.

"There are plenty of people who work in those offices, but it has not yet been decided where all those people will go," Line says.

Can we keep the heliport in the next phase? thanks.

MacFarlane somehow still thinks that he will get a decision about the stadium "by the end of July", which now with competitive bidding and the complexities of the land transfer, seems quite unlikely.

image courtesy of the DC comprehensive plan policy map

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Poplar Point (whew!)

There was a collective sigh of relief going around for a lot of eager watchers of all things Poplar Point yesterday. Fenty announced that they've decided against awarding Victor MacFarlane's company (MacFarlane Partners) sole development rights to Poplar Point, East of the River's (EOR's) future jewel of an urban park. Instead, they're making up an RFP for the land that should be out in August. No word yet from Councilman Barry, who had finally decided that, yes, a soccer stadium Was good for the people of the Costia. Here's the frightfully ugly and anti-park presentation that MacFarlane tried to push. United stadium page

From the Examiner article:
District officials had been negotiating with D.C. United to build a $150 million soccer stadium, but the talks reportedly fell through after investors with the Major League Soccer team asked for $200 million in subsidies.

City officials say Poplar Point could accommodate more than 3.5 million square feet of development during the next 15 years.

At least 30 percent of all the housing built on Poplar Point must be affordable for moderate and low-income families, officials say.

Under the terms of the agreement with the federal government, the District must reserve at least 70 acres of the property for a waterfront park. The District also has promised to restore nearby wetlands, including Stickfoot Creek.

This is big.

I'm pulling for some real creativity on the part of every developer to submit a proposal. Just because you haven't stepped foot in Anacostia before doesn't mean that it doesn't have an urban and architectural legacy worthy of respecting and taking design notes from.

Poplar Point represents a Major project that will either Attract or Discourage people and investment to our streets. I know a lot of people, myself included, that prefer the former.

image* by DG-rad
*yep, that is the Anacostia River, not the Thames.


there's a wind a'blowing in anacostia. a handful of new investments are coming that together make a lot of promises: beautiful streets, more jobs, better quality of life.

it's coming as streetcars, stadiums (maybe), bridges, storefronts, and sidewalks, and it's going to paint a fresh face on this full of life but oft-forgotten (and avoided) neighborhood.

this blog exists to document that change.