Search This Blog

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Top 10 Infill Sites Under the Radar

Poplar Point. The Soldiers Home. Near Southeast. Columbia Heights. The Kennedy Center. Anacostia. NoMa. Southwest Waterfront. It's no secret that DC is in the process of getting a makeover, and several prominent locations are seeing a major influx of infrastructure development that will bring new amenities to the city. the 50 year trend of exodus from DC is over.

There are a bunch areas that could probably use some urban infill, but I never hear about them. Perhaps this is because I'm not looking in the right places, perhaps it's because there are no plans, and perhaps it is because some of these places are wholly impractical for development. But I chose the 10 spots, all within the District, that I thought would be the best candidates for urban infill development that don't seem to be getting the attention they ought to deserve.

10. Buzzard Point

Southwest, between Potomac Avenue, South Capitol Street, and the Potomac River
With all the work being done around Nationals Park and Navy Yard, You don't hear too much about that nice little piece of riverfront real estate on the other side of South Capitol Street. On this map by the Capitol Riverfront BID, not much improvement is shown. This summer when I was down there exploring, it was still largely industrial wasteland north of V Street and parking lots and wasted riverfront vista south of V Street. That industrial stone plant at Half and R Streets HAS to go some times, doesn't it? I haven't heard anything about it yet.

9. Benning Power Plant
Northeast, Benning Rd between the Anacostia River and the Orange Line tracks
I talked about this last week. What is currently an antiquated and pollution creating coal power plant that blankets this neighborhood and adjacent estuary with heavy pollution could potentially be one of the top mixed-use locations on the Anacostia.

8. Fort Lincoln
Northeast, between New York, South Dakota, Bladensburg Rd, and the state line
Something looks like it is being built here, but I have no idea what. The wide roads are indicitive of future development, but I haven't been able to dig anything up on how whatever it is will fit into the urban fabric of Northeast or the surrounding historic communities in Prince George's County.

7. Lamond-Riggs
Northeast, Kansas Avenue at Blair Road
This area would be a great spot for an infill station on the Red Line. About halfway between the Fort Totten and Takoma stations, this area has seen its commercial areas blighted over the last few decades. A Metro station and a little investment could pay big dividends in this neighborhood.

6. RFK Stadium Site
Northeast and Southeast, along west bank of Anacostia River
Dan Snyder is jealous of the Dallas Cowboys planned stadium which, when completed, will be the largest stadium in the NFL. He also doesn't like the fact that FedEx field is outside the District. If he builds a new stadium at the RFK site (or anywhere else, for that matter), it will be a dome with a capacity approaching 110,000. This will attract a Super Bowl to the city. I'm all in favor of a venue of that size located in the district on a couple of Metro lines. But something needs to be done about that horrible surface parking. I love to tailgate, but I'll modify my gameday plans if it means less pavement along the river.

Saint Elizabeth's Hospital
Southeast, along MLK Avenue between Malcolm X Avenue and Suitland Parkway
I am aware of Department of Homeland Security's plans to relocate to some of the western portion of the campus, but currently most of the campus sits in disrepair while only the tiny portion on John Marr Circle is still used as a hospital. This area is full of historic buildings with spectacular vistas to the rivers, the Capitol, and other prominent DC landmarks. There's a ramp to an interstate and a Metro station. But over 30 years of disrepair has left this campus as a chunk of blight partitioning an area of the city in dire need of connectivity and economic development. And Now, Anacostia says the east campus looks like an Ivy League school. Well, why not put a university there? ANA hopes that a campus of UDC is located there when renovation begins. Current plans to break ground in 2012 will bring a mixed-use community.

4. Theodore Roosavelt Island
Northwest, in the Potomac River
I like to think that perhaps a Metro station could be built on the north end of the island, and a pedestrians-only colony might spring up on the island, which is currently only accessible via a footbridge from Rosslyn. A pipe dream. But who knows, when we run out of good real estate in the city, it may happen.

3. Fort Totten
Northeast, south of South Dakota Avenue and Riggs Road
This stop is served by three lines. It is the only such station in the system outside of downtown. But there's nothing there. This is completely unacceptable. I understand that there is not currently the road network to support very high density, nor would I call for such a network to be built. But can we manage some decent retail along South Dakota or Hamilton? Perhaps some better pedestrian access to the station? Perhaps it is just par for the curse for the Green Line, which is notoriously disconnected from its surrounding communities.

2. Ivy City
Northeast, between New York, Florida, and Mount Olivet Road
I would love to see a metro line built along New York Avenue out to Mount Rainier, Hyattsville, and ultimately College Park. But even without one, Ivy City sits along a favored corridor but remains mostly industrial and auto-oriented retail space. I would like to see New York Avenue become a grand boulevard leading downtown, and a makeover for Ivy city would be a nice start. I don't know of any plans to make this happen at this time.

1. McMillian Slow Sand Filter Plant
Northwest, between North Capitol and 1st Streets near the McMillian Reservoir
It took some research for me to figure out what was going on on this site. It seems like a prominent site for a park, a library, some condos, a marketplace, or just about anything over an abandoned water filtration plant. Alas, the filtration system below was built of unreinforced concrete, meaning significant and expensive retrofitting would have to be done of structures were to be built atop the site. To complicate matters, in 1991 it was deemed a historic landmark by the city. The fact that this eyesore sits deteriorating along North Capitol Street in a prominent part of the city is criminal. It sits between Howard and Catholic Universities, adjacent to the Hospital Center, with somewhat scenic views of the McMillian reservoir. isn't this important enough for someone to do something on this site, which has sat useless for over 20 yeas?

By all means, if you know of something I failed to mention on one of these sites, leave a comment. If you feel I left somewhere out, let me know.

50 years ago, race riots and highway construction gutted the Capitol City, but finally this trend is reversing, and Washington is a highly desirable city worthy of building up. Now is the time to invest in the blighted or underutilized spots in the city. We can't let areas like these be ignored.


fourthandeye said...

Not too far from your proposed Fort Lincoln infill is Abdo's proposed Arbor Place. It's bordered by New York Ave, Montana Ave and Bladensburg Ave NE.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Lots of great ideas.

Fort Lincolon "New Town" is set for some development in the near future.

The one I have to wholeheartedly disagree on is Roosevelt Island. NEVER develop that piece of wild land. It's also highly susceptible to flooding...

Dave Murphy said...


I see your point on Roosevelt Island. I think it's sad, though, that if someone wants to get to it, their only option is a footbridge across state lines. Shouldn't, then, the city transfer responsibility for it to Virginia?

David C said...

I'd like to see a ped bridge from the Georgetown Waterfront to Roosevelt Island, but not sure it's worth the cost of a bridge.

And it'd be nice if they fixed the non-grid situation in Fort Lincoln - while they still can.