Friday, November 13, 2009

South(west) Beach?

In today’s Washington Business Journal (subscribers only) there’s an article about how vacant spaces in DC are being utilized creatively for temporary uses. Due to the recession, vacant sites have been popping up all over the city since developers are having difficulty getting financing. Some examples of temporary uses mentioned in the article include the Bullpen near Nationals Park in Near SE and the summer stadium for the Washington Kastles tennis team at the Old Convention Center site downtown. At the end of the article, D.C. Office of Planning director Harriet Tregoning mentions a use for the Southwest Waterfront (which isn’t exactly vacant). From the article:
Tregoning also has ideas for PN Hoffman’s 30-plus acre Southwest waterfront: “Considering what it is, it really gets very little use. What if we put a beach there? With umbrellas. I mean, I wouldn’t be encouraging people to swim in the Anacostia, you know, but a place to hang out, catch a little sun, relax. It could be fabulous.”
Some European cities have turned their riverfronts into temporary beaches during the summer, including Paris and Prague, but would this work in DC? Besides the SW Waterfront, there are several vacant lots in the neighborhood that could host temporary uses (not a beach, though). Along South Capitol Street, a major gateway to the core of the city, there are vacant lots galore, including Camden’s 1345 South Capitol Street site (a vacant field), Vornado’s site surrounding the 7 Eleven at South Capitol & M Street (a parking lot), and the Ruben Companies’ 1001 - 1101 South Capitol Street (more parking lots). Aside from the lots on South Capitol Street, there’s the Randall School site, the old Friendship Baptist Church, the old First District HQ, Southeastern University, the Market Inn…the list goes on and on. However, there are examples of other sites that have been used for temporary purposes. For instance, the St. Matthews site on M Street became a Christmas tree lot last year and Pastor Huber has plans to create a community garden next spring until the new church and housing can be built. Also, Artomatic used the old Waterside Mall before it was torn down. Hopefully the economy starts to pick up soon so some of these vacant sites can get built, but in the meantime, some creative uses can be found for the plethora of empty spaces we have in Southwest. What temporary uses would you suggest for some of these vacant sites?


Anonymous said...

"I wouldn’t be encouraging people to swim in the Anacostia"

Enough said. A beach, or any property that sits at water level and might encourage swimming is totally out of the question.

But a nice, wide dock that stretches out over the water, isn't directly next to a marina, and provides ample seating might be a nice treat.

Anonymous said...

Why not let vendors, for a small fee, set up short term marketplaces in the vacant retail spaces in the Portals, and elsewhere in Southwest - this might also help test the market and stimulate the economy!!

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't encourage people to swim in the Anacostia from a SW Waterfront-based beach, since the SW Waterfront abuts the Washington Channel, not the Anacostia River.