Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Southwest Neighborhood Planning Process Kicks Off

Over the next six months, the DC Office of Planning will be engaging Southwest residents and stakeholders to create a community led plan to guide the changes in the Southwest neighborhood for the next five to ten years. The Southwest Neighborhood Plan will focus on four key elements – people, parks, connections, and building. A Public Kickoff meeting related to the Southwest Neighborhood Plan was held on September 11th at Arena Stage. The meeting was well attended with people who live and/or work in Southwest. For the first hour or so, there was an Open House with different stations that allowed residents to comment about the benefits and challenges that exist in each of the four key elements of the neighborhood plan. Afterwards, Planning Director Harriet Tregoning and Ward 6 Planning Coordinator Melissa Bird gave a presentation about the planning process and entertained questions from the audience. During Tregoning’s presentation, she mentioned that some of the values Southwest residents expressed to her during the Open House portion of the meeting include diversity, green space/tree canopy, and the library. Following the presentation, the Open House resumed for another hour. 

Some of the participants at the Open House.

During the planning process, the Office of Planning and their consultants will work with the community to analyze several components to help inform their recommendations for the Southwest neighborhood. First, they will assess the development potential for multiple underutilized District-owned sites. A number of underutilized District-owned properties are included in the study area, including Randall Recreation Center, the northeast parcel of Waterfront Station, First District headquarters, Lansburgh Park, the DMV inspection station, and the DCFD Repair Shop/Engine Co. # 7, among others. The team will create an urban design framework that promotes greater pedestrian access, improved neighborhood connectivity and increased multimodal transportation choices. A coordinated approach to public parks and public space improvements will be developed. Meanwhile, neighborhood conservation potential will be assessed to reinforce character in established residential areas. Finally, opportunities will be identified to enhance sustainability at a neighborhood-level. 

The Southwest Neighborhood Plan study area extends from South Capitol Street to Maine Avenue and from P Street to Interstate 395. Within the study area, the portion from I Street to M Street is considered to be the primary focus area – where most of the development opportunities are located, as well as urban design issues. A portion of Greenleaf is also included in the primary study area, but a separate study will be conducted for that site as a part of the HUD Choice Neighborhood Planning Grant recently submitted by the DC Housing Authority. The remaining area is considered to be the secondary study area, where neighborhood conservation, neighborhood connectivity, and sustainability are the principal focus. 

The Office of Planning has created a project website and a second website called “Engage Southwest” where community members can interact. Other ways to participate in the process include using social media (use the hashtag #SWDCPlan on Twitter, “like” posts on Facebook, etc.), submitting hand-written comments or questions at the public meetings, calling the Office of Planning at 202-442-7600, or sending an email to Melissa Bird. All of the comments from the Open House will be posted soon on the website. Not all Small Area Plans focus exclusively on real estate development – questions and comments from the audience at the kickoff meeting suggest that the Southwest Neighborhood Plan may include other components, such as teaching computer skills to seniors, helping break down barriers between longtime residents and newcomers, as well as other social improvements. 

Image courtesy of Graphic Recorder Jim Nuttle

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