Sunday, November 22, 2009

PAT Recommends Buzzard Point Should Be Primarily a Residential Neighborhood

On Saturday I attended a meeting where the American Planning Association’s Planning Assistance Team (PAT) presented their results of a four-day study of Buzzard Point. Once the slide show presentation from the meeting is released, I’ll provide a link. In the meantime, here are my notes from the meeting:

Buzzard Point is a separate neighborhood from the Capitol Riverfront or Southwest Waterfront, with distinct opportunities and constraints. The PAT recommends that Buzzard Point become a primarily residential mixed-use neighborhood of varying density with improved access to the waterfront. The existing public housing in the northern part of the area should be preserved and upgraded. There are nine major points about the current condition of Buzzard Point that need to be considered when planning for the future, including:

  • Much of the area is low & medium density affordable housing.
  • There is limited accessibility to and from Buzzard Point.
  • Fort McNair acts as a wall.
  • River access is blocked.
  • The area is flanked by a major sports entertainment district and a large retail center under construction at Waterfront Station.
  • There is a huge amount of development occurring to the east of Buzzard Point.
  • There are poor multimodal connections to the area.
  • Industrial uses in the area aren’t conducive to residential development.
  • The Pepco power plant is an impediment.

However, there are some transformative events that will occur over the next 15 years that will have an impact on development in Buzzard Point. The DC Streetcar project will bring streetcars to Buzzard Point; the Coast Guard will relocate to St. Elizabeth’s in Southeast; South Capitol Street and bridge will be rebuilt; and there will be new waterfront connections. Since these events will take a long time to happen, change in the area will be incremental. Following is an analysis of how the planners think different sections of Buzzard Point should be developed:

2nd Street
The Anacostia Riverwalk should be extended from Buzzard Point to M Street via 2nd Street. The historic SW Community House on 2nd Street should be restored as a museum or café.

Potomac Avenue
Potomac Avenue should be extended westward to 2nd Street. Since the road extension will reach the entrance to Fort McNair on 2nd Street, mixed-use development could happen along that stretch which would support the military base, including a retail node. In keeping with L’Enfant’s street grid plan for the city, triangle parks should be created where the diagonal Potomac Avenue crosses east-west and north-south streets.

P Street
Since the distance between the Southwest Waterfront and Nationals Park is only a half mile along P Street, a pedestrian link should be maintained along this street. The PAT recommends that the proposed streetcar alignment along M Street be changed so that the transit line turns south from M Street to 1st Street, SE, then turn down Potomac Avenue until its new terminus at 2nd Street, SW, then turn north on 2nd until P Street, west on P until 4th Street, then north on 4th until it reaches the Waterfront-SEU Metro station at 4th & M Street. The new alignment would better connect Buzzard Point with the rest of the Capitol Riverfront and Southwest Waterfront.

The Waterfront
Once the Coast Guard vacates its headquarters building for St. Elizabeth’s, the building, along with Jemal’s building, which is visible along the waterfront as you cross the South Capitol Street bridge, should be purchased by the District government and transformed to a mix of open space and limited redevelopment. This is one of the more ambitious aspects of the PAT’s plans because it involves the District spending a large sum of money acquiring these sites, but the current buildings block access to the waterfront and redevelopment would open up a lot of space. Also, the city could recover part or all of the cost of acquisition through the sales of development rights to other parcels in the District. As an aside, a representative from Monday Properties, the Coast Guard’s current landlord, stated that the likelihood of the headquarters building being demolished in the next 15-20 years was slim to none, so this aspect of the plan may take longer to fulfill. Some ideas for the waterfront range from providing large parks along the river to creating marinas framed by housing (an example being the Pier Homes along the Inner Harbor in Baltimore).

100 V Street
If Akridge’s 100 V Street project is developed as planned, the PAT thinks it would be a major missed opportunity for the area. An alternative would be to build medium-density housing developed in partnership with the federal government for military families and/or new federal government hires. The northern part of the site could support 2-3-story buildings, while taller 5-6-story buildings could be developed closer to the waterfront.

South Capitol Street Oval and Steuart Site
Great care should be given to the planned traffic oval at the intersection of South Capitol Street and Potomac Avenue. The oval will be 7-acres, but if DDOT doesn’t properly design it to accommodate pedestrians, the result could be a large hole in the urban fabric of the community. The area at the terminus of South Capitol Street where the street meets the river (also known as the Steuart site) should have a major iconic cultural attraction…a la Sydney Opera House. The site should be engaging from the water side (perhaps with a grand staircase like the Lincoln Memorial) as well as on its land side facing the traffic oval.

The District should work with Pepco to gradually shrink the footprint used for electrical generation consistent with sound energy practices. As properties become available, they should be developed for uses compatible with housing. Once the power plant building is decommissioned, it should be redeveloped as a low-impact attraction like a museum, gallery, etc. An example given by the PAT was the Tate Modern in London.

Once the presentation is available online, the PAT will allow public comments on their plans, so they can produce a final report in February or March of next year. Above is a map I made of Buzzard Point showing where the planners recommend changes in the area.

Update: The presentation is now available on APA's website. Send your comments to by January 15, 2010.


Anonymous said...

meh. not much here.

Anonymous said...

Great. Community forums in SW and Office of Planning meetings seeking community input have agreed for ten years or more that housing, not the current indcustrial uses, should be the future of Buzzards Point.
Dale MacIver