Sunday, August 31, 2008

Seafair Sighting on the Waterfront

While I was having dinner at Cantina Marina with some friends back on July 27th, this huge yacht passed up the Washington Channel. I didn't have my camera with me at the time, but luckily my buddy Wilson had his with him, so he took this photo of the Seafair. Here are the specs on this yacht from its website: "The $40M purpose built yacht was designed by internationally acclaimed super yacht designer Luiz De Basto. At 228 feet and 2800 international tons, it is the largest ship built for commercial operation in the Intra-coastal Waterway and requires a draft of only 6.5 feet allowing it to visit small yachts facilities in central city locations rather than use commercial ports. It is the first vessel constructed specifically as a mobile marine megayacht exhibition venue and is the 4th largest privately owned yacht in the United States." The Seafair was docked at the Southwest Waterfront for a few days before setting off to unknown parts. Did anyone see this yacht docked back at the end of July and does anyone know why it was here?

SW to See More Investment in Affordable Housing

In this week's Washington Business Journal (paid subscribers only) there's an article that states the Local Initiatives Support Coalition (LISC) will focus their efforts on three neighborhoods in the city, including the South Capitol neighborhood in Southwest and Near Southeast. From the article: "Since its founding, LISC has been putting money into housing, supportive services, retail and community amenities in areas where other private investors feared to tread...LISC has only invested in one Southwest project, housing for the former William Syphax School." I wonder where in the neighborhood they will invest? I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Body Found in SW

According to NBC4, MPD discovered a body at 10:30 PM last night along the 300 block of P Street. The cause of death has not been determined yet. Once I find out more about this incident I'll post about it. (Update) According to MPD, the medical examiner said the decedent died of an accidental overdose and no foul play was discovered during the autopsy. (Update #2) According to an article from the Examiner, the decedent was murdered in Prince William County by a heroin overdose and his body was then transferred to the site on P Street. Three people in Manassas have been arrested in the murder. What a bizarre case!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Amidon-Bowen Elementary Participating in "Safe Routes to School" Program

Amidon-Bowen Elementary School, located at the corner of 4th & I Street, is one of 13 schools from across the city that will benefit from Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells' new DC Safe Routes to School program, according to this press release from the council member's office. DC received $5 million in federal dollars for all 13 schools. From the press release: "Each winning school will form a safe routes team composed of parents, teachers, principals, health and safety specialists and community members. The teams will develop and implement a safe routes plan which will include diverse elements such as bicycle and pedestrian safety training for students; infrastructure improvements (such as signs, signals, crosswalks, sidewalks, and traffic calming measures); enhanced MPD enforcement of traffic rules; and education and outreach activities targeted toward students and families." I'm assuming the reopening of 4th Street through the old Waterside Mall will be incorporated into plans for increasing safety near Amidon-Bowen Elementary. The DC Safe Routes to School program is an off-shoot of the Safe Routes to School State Network Implementation Project, where the District and nine states, including Virginia, will identify and provide technical assistance to locals schools within their communities.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

September Issue of The Southwester is Available

Unfortunately, my vacation is over, but that means I can start posting about Southwest again. The September issue of The Southwester, a monthly paper published by the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly, Inc. (SWNA) has been released. In this month's issue, two articles mention this blog as a newcomer to the Southwest DC media scene. The first article talks about three local blogs in the area, including Southwest...The Little Quadrant That Could, Knight-Batten Awards for Innovation in Journalism-nominated JDLand and SWDC Blog, another new blog on SW development. In the second article, it refers to my prior post about the Southwest Rectangle portion of NCPC's and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts' National Capital Framework Plan. Once I get back into the swing of things, I'll do a post on plans for East Potomac Park as well.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Break From Posting

I'll be on vacation and far from a laptop for the next couple of weeks, so I won't be posting any new stories until I get back.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Details on Southwest Rectangle Portion of Framework Plan

If one walks along 10th Street SW today south of Independence Avenue, it would be hard to know due to the configuration of the street that at either end of the corridor lays the Smithsonian Castle and Banneker Overlook. Elsewhere in Southwest, Maryland Avenue is a disjointed boulevard blocked for the most part by railroad tracks. Empty lots and unused buildings litter the landscape. Freeways and expressways crisscross the area and disrupt the neighborhood urban fabric. These consequences of urban renewal in Southwest will change dramatically over the next few decades if the plans from the recently released National Capital Framework Plan are implemented. On July 10th, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) in conjunction with the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts released the draft plan for a 90-day public review and focuses on four main areas surrounding the National Mall – Southwest Rectangle, Northwest Rectangle, Federal Triangle, and East Potomac Park. The main areas of interest in the Southwest Rectangle redevelopment include 10th Street, Maryland Avenue, redeveloping existing sites with infill development, and restoring the street grid by decking freeways.

10th Street & Banneker Overlook

The draft plan calls for 10th Street Southwest to become a mixed use corridor with shops, residences, offices, restaurants, and a memorial at the intersection of 10th Street and a rebuilt Maryland Avenue – most likely to be the site of the Benjamin Banneker Memorial. The Forrestal Building, home to the Department of Energy, currently straddles 10th Street at Independence Avenue and blocks the view of the Smithsonian Castle. Under the draft plan, the Forrestal Building complex would be redeveloped to allow multiple uses. At the southern end of 10th Street, a new major museum would be built at Banneker Overlook, helping to draw people from the National Mall to the new Southwest Waterfront below via a grand staircase.

Here's the current view of 10th Street north towards the Smithsonian Castle. Notice that the Forrestal Building blocks most of the castle from view.

Maryland Avenue

Maryland Avenue would be restored between 9th Street and 14th Street by covering the railroad tracks that currently run in the avenue’s right-of-way. As a result, Maryland Avenue would link the U.S. Capitol to the Jefferson Memorial. Under the draft plan, Reservation 113, a patch of land between 9th Street & 7th Street, would become the public space it was meant to be under Pierre L’Enfant’s original plan for Washington. Neighboring Virginia Avenue would be enhanced by creating a slender railroad trestle and enhancements to the VRE station would allow two-way traffic on that rail line.

Here's the L'Enfant Plaza VRE Station platform alongside Virginia Avenue.

Redevelop Existing Sites

Buildings such as the Liberty Loan Building near the 14th Street Bridge, the Whitten Building at the Department of Agriculture campus, and the unused Arts and Industries building at the National Mall could be redeveloped as museums or other cultural institutions. Other sites scattered around the Southwest Rectangle, including parking lots, vacant land, and decked over portions of I-395 (the Center Leg Freeway) could yield new mixed-use development opportunities.

Restoring the Street Grid

In addition to decking over the Center Leg Freeway near the U.S. Capitol complex, the draft plan calls for decking the Southeast-Southwest Freeway west of 7th Street so F, 9th, 11th, and 12th Streets can be re-established in the neighborhood. The 9th Street tunnel would be decked between Independence Avenue and D Street to re-establish 9th Street. In the long-run, the 14th Street bridges would be rebuilt, with tunnels approaching those bridges.

A copy of the National Capital Framework Plan is available on the NCPC website. The public review and comment period for the draft plan will extend until October 10, 2008.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Women's Museum Coming to Mall?

Not quite, but according to this week's Washington Business Journal (available to paid subscribers only), a vacant site at 12th Street and Independence Avenue next to the National Mall is being considered for the site of the National Women's History Museum. The vacant site could accommodate up to 300,000 SF of space. Currently, the site is owned by the GSA and bills are pending in Congress which would allow the GSA to sell the parcel to the museum. From the article: “'We will look to see whether we can move quickly to get the House or the Senate bill passed and then move to the other chamber,' said museum President Joan Wages, who is pushing the museum’s members to urge Congress to act. 'It will hopefully help us get the legislation passed before Congress leaves, targeting the last week of September.'” The National Women's History Museum currently isn't part of the Smithsonian, but once they secure a site, then they can petition the Smithsonian for an affiliation. Once Congress allows the sale to occur, the museum will need to raise $250 - $300 million in order to build the complex, so don't look to add this museum to the tour circuit any time soon...

Monday, August 4, 2008

Construction Along Independence Avenue

DDOT had a press release about a week ago, but I didn't get a chance to post about it until now. From the press release: "The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is scheduled to begin work to resurface Pennsylvania Avenue, NW from 3rd Street to 15th Street, and Independence Avenue, SW from Washington Avenue to 1st Street. The nearly $2 million roadway project is scheduled to begin on Monday, August 11, 2008 with completion set for October 30th, 2008, weather permitting." This resurfacing project is in anticipation of Inauguration Day, which takes place on January 20, 2009. Here's some more from the press release: "Work will occur both during daytime and evening hours. Daytime hours will be from 9:30am to 3:30pm Monday through Friday with all lanes accessible for morning and afternoon rush hours. Milling and overlay work will be done nightly between 8pm and 3am. Some lane reductions should be expected during work hours." So the streets along the parade route will be pothole free for the new president!

New Construction at Marina View

Thanks to reader A for pointing out to me that both DC Metrocentric and DCmud are reporting that the first new tower at Marina View Towers is slated to start construction this fall. The new towers are designed by Esocoff & Associates, with one tower located at the existing parking lot facing M Street and the second tower at the parking lot facing K Street. Renovations are already underway at the two existing apartment buildings, designed by I.M. Pei and built in 1962. New windows have been installed in the north tower and interior improvements are also being made. In addition to two new buildings, green roofs will be installed in all four buildings, a public garden will be created along 6th Street, the central courtyard area will be restored, below-grade parking will be constructed below the new towers, and an amenities building will be built. The new south tower will have ground floor retail, with space reserved for a restaurant. Patrons of the new Arena Stage across the street will now have more food options with the addition of a restaurant at the corner of 6th Street and Maine Avenue. One change to the original plan by builder Fairfield Residential is all four towers will now be rental. At least one of the existing buildings was originally planned as a condo conversion, but changing market conditions caused the developer to alter their plans. I recently saw signs indicating that the existing north tower is now being marketed as The View at Waterfront. With Marina View getting ramped up, along with Waterfront next door, as well as all the other projects currently under construction in the neighborhood, the number of cranes in Southwest may soon surpass the number at neighboring Capitol Riverfront. (rendering courtesy of Esocoff & Associates)