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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Imagine River Terrace

GreaterGreaterWashington thinks there should be a Metro station there. So does BeyondDC. Track Twenty-Nine envisions four Metro lines going right through that area. It's a little over two miles from the Capitol, on top of a freeway and an existing Metro station, scenically located next to the Anacostia River and the Arboretum, and a walk across the bridge to RFK Stadium. River Terrace a prime piece of real estate in the world's most powerful city. Why then, is it so blighted?

How about a coal power plant? And not one of the new, waste-recovery coal power plants. This one dates back to 1906. Though it only runs on the hottest and coldest of days when the city burns more energy, it blankets the surrounding communities with an average of 1,000 pounds of carbon smog a day, causing neighborhood residents to be 3 to 5 times more likely to have cancer, asthma or bronchitis than any other group of people in the city.

Maybe it's the housing projects. The Great Society-era Mayfair projects were home to Marvin Gaye, but I submit that their location and orientation do little to empower low income residents on the eastern bank of the Anacostia. At the very least, they do less than they could. Though close to Minnesota Avenue Metro Station, they are isolated from amenities and their surrounding communities. Affordable housing in this case is a sentence to a blighted campus of garden apartments disconnected from the rest of the city.

What if Goerge Gurley and the African American Environmental Association succeeded in having this plant shut down? What if the housing projects were redeveloped into a walkable neighborhood with ample connections to the surrounding neighborhoods? What if mixed-income and mixed-use came together on top of a new Metro station? Construct a marina and other local amenities, offer modest leases for local businesses, and tax breaks for minority and veteran business owners, and then you have my vision of a new River Terrace and Mayfair:

Red - Residential
Blue - Commercial
Yellow - Civic
Green - Parkland
Orange - Transit

As always, the disclaimer

The orange on the left would be the River Terrace Metro Station, Blue and Orange Lines, perhaps a street car or two. A station with multiple lines on the east side of the Anacostia River, what a novel idea. To the north of it, a classical transit-oriented development with office over retail inside of residential units of gradually decreasing density.

Mayfair would (almost) completely torn down and redeveloped into an actual community rather than a dumping ground of cheap housing. I'm picturing townhouses and walk-up apartments, perhaps some street level retail. Yes, we should actually put jobs near cheap housing. Mayfair would be more oriented towards the Minnesota Avenue station, however good street connectivity would allow a variety of transit options.

The bit of commercial along the riverfront would include a marina and perhaps a fishing pier. This could be the primary attraction/amenity for the development. It would certainly be a lot more eco-friendly than a coal burning power plant.

Most importantly, if something like this is to happen to a neighborhood, it has to happen without displacing the current residents. Give the folks in Mayfair first crack at the moderatly priced River Terrace development, then redevelop Mayfair, keeping the area available to nearby residents of DC. Businesses should be heavily favored toward River Terrace, Mayfair, and Deanwood residents.

Now, what about the displaced power supply? Perhaps this could be supplemented by new nuclear plants in more remote Maryland and Virginia locations. Perhaps throw some windmills down at the Blue Plains Water Treatment Plant further down the river. But whether or not this part of town is developed, that power plant has to go. I'm all for coal power over other fossil fuels, but certainly not in the middle of the Capital City, and definitely not in a neighborhood where its presence purports a sense of inequality for the predominantly black neighborhoods east of the Anacostia.

Possible? Likely? Does anyone know of any plans to develop this power plant? Or to replace it? I'd love to see more info on it.

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