Thursday, January 31, 2008

In 2015, the Anacostia Waterfront will Shine! (Maybe...)

At Saturday's Anacostia Waterfront Community Fair the year 2015 was mentioned...a lot! We can imagine that this is when all the projects that are depicted in dreamy watercolor renderings on glossy display boards will actual come to fruition. Also about this time, representatives from DC WASA tell us, that major steps to control combined sewer overflow will be in place, serving to remedy the current system by which combined sewage and storm water overflows into the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers during heavy rainfalls. And even the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge may be completed, though a DDot representative admitted that might be optimistic.

Don't be mistaken though, things are happening on the Anacostia Waterfront. The new Washington Nationals' ballpark is preparing for its inaugural season, and the area there abouts is betting on new residents with the construction of new rental and condo properties. Billing itself as the "DC's fastest selling condominium", Velocity is looking to lure new residents, as well as new retail and restaurants to the area. The limited depictions of this property render what is becoming the typical turn of this century DC condo building style: a corner building with bay windows and pronounced corner bay. It looks passable, if not slightly awkward, though we'll wait to pass final judgment until construction is complete. Capitol Yards' 'Axiom' and 'Jefferson' are on track to be some of the first luxury rental properties to come online later this year. Boasting "an industrial, historical warehouse look" the architecture is uninspired and tired. Of the four buildings in the Capitol Yards development, only the '909' has head turning potential, and regrettably, this property, slated to open a year after the first two rental only properties,
is the only will be the first to feature retail. The representative couldn't offer a satisfying reason for this shortsightedness, but we assume that with the proximity to 395, it was assumed that new residents would head to Costco for their monthly provisions.

But we should be thankful for target completion dates in the '0's, I suppose, as most other projects had completion dates beyond 2010. Some of these were met with anticipation, such as Forest City's 'Waterfront' and 'The Yards' projects, both which seem to offer a vital mix of mixed use opportunities near the emerging Anacostia Waterfront communities. As does Monument Realty's Half Street, though it is perhaps the most blatantly poised developments to turn a forgotten and impoverished neighborhood on its head. One has to wonder what the effects will be on the residents nearby. In fact, with the exception of Poplar Point, there was little focus on development east of the river, and upstream (stay tuned for a future post on Poplar Point). There is, of course, the RFK site, which NCPC and DMPED seem to have conflicting notions for development with Fenty's recent announcement that he hopes to lure the Redskin's back to town. In fact the mix of bureaucracy certainly was apparent, with many of these proposed projects needing to work within frameworks established independently by NCPC and the DC government, and in some cases the NPS, though a recent land transfer has mitigated some potential headaches.

As a rower who understands the value of the river now, as well a native of Norfolk, VA, where the waterfront is embraced as a key element, and the waterways the life blood of the economy, I am fully supportive of the District's plans to finally focus on developing the waterfront. But of course this takes more than just dreamy watercolor renderings on glossy presentation boards. It takes big ideas, and it takes actions. So DC is to be applauded for hosting a community forum, that, by many accounts, seems to have exceeding expectations. I only hope that DC is listening to the needs that were less apparent in these glossy renderings; things such as the retail vital to support new residences and offices, mixed-income development and affordable housing, sustainable initiatives, and recognition of the various environmental and sporting groups that are utilizing the rivers today, and ensuring that these stewards have a place on tomorrow's river.


  1. Actually 23 Eye St. will have 15,000 SF of retail, according to the site. But its ridiculous that the first two don't have any retail, seeing as together they will have about 700 units.

  2. Thanks to Justin for pointing out the err...23 Eye will in fact have retail, though unfortunately will be one of the last buildings in the development to come online...