Wednesday, July 18, 2012

SW Ecodistrict Draft Released

The National Capital Planning Commission released the SW Ecodistrict Draft Plan last week.  The plan proposes to transform a 15-block predominantly federal precinct located just south of the National Mall into a highly sustainable, walkable neighborhood that connects the Mall and the Southwest Waterfront, and becomes a showcase of sustainable urban development and the site for new nationally significant memorials, museums, and events.  The proposed SW Ecodistrict comprises almost 110-acres bounded by Independence Avenue, Maine Avenue, 12th Street, and 4th Street.  I've written about the process on several occasions, so I won't go into much detail here about what the plan contains, but following are some highlights:

The plan suggests to re-create and connect streets throughout the Ecodistrict, including Maryland Avenue, Virginia Avenue, and 9th Street.  New pedestrian connections will also be created throughout.

The draft plan proposes four focus areas that would transform the area:

  • Independence Quarter: A mixed-use community anchored by a new U.S. Department of Energy headquarters. The Forrestal Headquarters would be redeveloped with uses including residential, hotel, museums, and office.
  • Maryland Avenue: A restored urban boulevard centered on a re-imagined park and an expanded L’Enfant Station intermodal center.  The DC Department of Planning released a draft plan for the Maryland Avenue corridor that was approved by the DC Council earlier this year.
An expanded L'Enfant commuter rail station.
  • 10th Street and Banneker Park: An inviting civic corridor connecting the National Mall to the SW Waterfront, highlighted by Banneker Park—a nationally significant cultural destination. The demolition of the Forrestal complex would open views along 10th Street to the Smithsonian Castle.
Rendering of the 10th Street corridor.
A redesigned Banneker Park.
  • Southwest Freeway: A collection of private mixed-use development and solar panels built on air rights over the SW Freeway. A deck over I-395 would stretch from 12th Street to 9th Street while solar panels would be installed from 9th Street to east of 7th Street.

Aerial view of the SW Ecodistrict.

The public comment period on the draft plan will last until September 10.  If you want to learn more about the draft plan, there will be a public meeting tomorrow from 6:30pm - 8:30pm at 1100 4th Street, second floor.

Renderings courtesy of the National Capital Planning Commission


Bob Craycraft, Executive Director, Waterfront Gateway Neighborhood Association said...

We can do better than solar panels over I-395. Check out what Dallas is doing over their Woodall Rodgers Freeway:

PostIt said...

I agree that as long as the highway is below grade, it should be decked over -- preferably as open space. However, east of 7th street, the grade starts increasing and makes a deck impractical or awkward. So in that case, it makes sense to use the space for another purpose.

In general, I really like the idea of solar panels using the air rights above the highway. It's not something I had thought about before. And actually, it would make sense to build the panels farther East toward the Capitol (say, 7th through S. Capitol St.). If there's enough solar capacity it could replace the fuel of the coal-fired hot water plant that's served the Capitol far too long (perhaps this is an opportunity for Fed assistance too?). My only outstanding question, though, is how much of a difference there is in maintenance cost given the unique placement of the panels -- not only in longevity of the panels but in labor/equipment required to access them.