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Friday, April 3, 2009

Stupid Growth: Palisades

Early this week, DC Mud profiled a new development finally going for sale in Northwest. The post captures the "McMansion" feel of the development, which is at the intersection of Foxhall and W, in the shadow of Georgetown University. This development has quick access to Georgetown, Rosslyn, and Downtown. It is even a quick drive to the Beltway. This was the best and most lucrative use of land these developers could come up with?

Worse yet, this sets a dismal precedent for the rest of the city. Ryan Avent confronts the absurd 46 4500-to-9000 sqf houses by comparing this development with the District's requests for the Brookland neighborhood to embrace greater density while just across town prime land is being wasted in such a gaudy manner (or should I say gaudy manors?)

There are differneces between the two areas, of course. Most notably, Brookland is next to a Metro station and Palisades is not. However, to borrow a phrase from my fellow GGW contributor, areas like these in the favored quarter ought to be increasing in density, if not socio-economic diversity. Neighborhoods like Palisades, Berkley, Foxhall, Colonial Hill, Wesley Heights, American University Park, and Kent ought not be held to a different standard than neighborhoods like Brookland, Anacostia, SW Waterfront, or Petworth. As these areas grow, the absorb more density. Palisades, however, appears to be immune for some reason.

Don't get me wrong, I know Washington, DC is a capital city, the most important in the world. Foreign dignitaries, ambassadors, policy makers, and other VIP's need to live here, often with greater requirements for security than most people. However, high end neighborhoods like Cleveland Park, Kalorama, Woodley Park, and Dupont Circle house many such VIP's in a form much more conducive to the city's urban fabric. The book Suburban Nation argues that more traditionally designed neighborhoods usually offer better security due to the more prevalent street activity and human presence. Tucked-away low-density developments like this one offer less "eyes on the street", provide more empty spaces and hiding places, and tend to have much longer emergency response times.

We don't need enormous high rises popping up over Whitehaven Parkway, but 17,000 sqf properties with enormous "estate homes" will ultimately only serve to partition Palisades from the rest of the city socially and politically. The wealthy and the privileged certainly have a right to live in higher quality housing stock, but in an urban setting, that sort of development ought to be constructed practicing more responsible land use.

1 comment:

Cavan said...

good post. It's quite possible to be upscale in a transit-poor environment like the Palisades without being gaudy. There is a big difference between being swanky and gaudy.

Excellent point about increasing density in the Favored Quarter. The increased land values due to being in the Favored Quarter is one of the key elements that has made Bethesda and the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor so successful. It's an important element in developing a human-scale transit oriented place.