Earlier this week Ward 6 had a Community Meeting on the Union Station Intermodal Transportation Center Feasibility Study. Union Station and the surrounding area has many exciting projects on the horizon. These include being a hub for the H Street NE Streetcar, a potential move of the Greyhound station to Union Station, a possible Blue Line reroute, and a 3.0 million square foot mixed-use development concept to be built above the existing rail yard called Burnham Place.
The study itself focuses on:
- Baseline Transportation Improvement Studies
- New Rail Passenger Concourse
- Upgraded Amtrak passenger concourse
- Improved Emergency Access & Egress
- Improvements to the Existing Rail Concourse
- Tour Bus & Commuter Parking Accommodations
- Streetcar Integration
- Pedestrian Tunnel from Union Station to 1st Street, NE
- New Metrorail Entrance from the H Street Bridge
- Baseline Environmental Requirements Study
David Alpert of GreaterGreaterWashington attended the meeting and posted a recap on his blog. If this topic interests you I recommend visiting his site with frequency as he covers DC Mass transit issues in a very detailed and comprehensive manner.
A reader asked a question about Historic districts in the comment section of yesterday’s post on the ANC 6C recommendation for 5th and Eye.
I dug around on the HistoricWashington yahoo group to find this map of historic properties in the Triangle. The map is attributed to Matthew Gilmore and you can visit his PDF by clicking through on the image below.
According to the map the historic properties are both to the north (5th & K) and the adjacent to the east (Eye St) to the property at 5th and Eye (463 I St NW) that the ODMPED has the RFP on. Among other properties this includes the old Capital Automotive Building (443 I St NW), Subway Liquors (500 K St NW) and the Louis Rogue gentlemen’s club (476 K St NW).
If anyone has any knowledge they can share about the Historic rules that might apply to these properties please share your thoughts? Will developers have to keep the facade of these buildings and build over them? If so, does the new structure have to be setback 20 ft? Are there other rules?
Cary Silverman, MVSNA president and candidate for the Ward 2 council seat, recently organized a meeting with city government officials including Council Member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6); Sarah Latterner, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services; Jason Turner, Chief of Planning and Capital Projects for the Department of Parks and Recreation; and concerned residents of the Sonata condominium and the Mount Vernon area to discuss maintenance and renovation of a dilapidated and forgotten park at 2nd Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW.
Read more about the meeting on Cary’s blog. Seems to be some well thought out action items for city officials and residents to reclaim and beautify this park. These items include not only funding for improvements but also giving the park a name to foster ownership. This seemed to come together very quickly after the Spring parks cleanup MVSNA and the CID organized in later April.
Last night ANC 6C held a special meeting to further discuss the 5th and I development proposals. Attendees included the full set of 6C commissioners, Clint Jackson from the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (ODMPED), community residents and some members of the development team also attended merely to silently take in feedback.
Upon entry to the meeting each attendee was provided printed documents of the commission’s analysis and recommendation. The commissioners briefly explained what the documents represented, why they decided to have this special meeting two weeks after initially discussing the topic, and how the meeting would proceed.
Clint Jackson from ODMPED was then given the floor to explain how the recommendation from ANC 6C would be used in his departments decision. Basically the commission and community members are given most of the details of these proposals but not every detail is public. Jackson explained that companies would not compete in this manner if items like detailed financials of bids were publicly disclosed. Therefore ODMPED will give great weight to the feedback of the ANC but will use all the information at their disposal, including that which is not publicly shared, to select a proposal.
The commission then opened the floor to residents to share their points of view. While I lost count of the number of residents who took the microphone it was in the double digits and about 80% 555 Mass residents. I was pleasantly surprised that every resident who spoke agreed that the The Arts at 5th and Eye (Donohoe/Holland) was the best fit for the community. I had expected that some would prefer I5/Potomac due to the lure of a Tryst-like cafe, artist studios and to avoid having any kind of club in the neighborhood. However residents were lockstep in feeling the # 1 priority was to make 5th Street a vibrant and safe place. People were very vocal that they wanted to feel safe near their building and safe during walks to the Safeway and other future amenities at City Vista. Consensus was that, while I5/Potomac is an acceptable proposal, the Donohoe/Holland vision to expand the project up to K Street would have the greatest potential positive impact.
The ANC 6C commissioners reclaimed the floor and presented their recommendation. They unanimously agreed with the community to endorse the Donohoe/Holland proposal.
It is clear from comparative review of the RFP criteria and the additional community criteria that only two of the final four development teams submitted proposals that clearly address community concerns and identified neighborhood needs. Donohoe/Holland and i5 both focus on local retail, local amenities, and improvements that take into account the unique needs and resources of this community. ANC 6C believes that the Donohoe/Holland proposal (aka Arts on 5th) best meets the majority of the above criteria, particularly with regard to the development of 5th St NW, long-term job creation using the First Source standards, pedestrian safety issues beyond construction, and written agreements with the community and the ANC. ANC 6C recommends the Donohoe/Holland proposal as the best fit for the community and the future of 5th and Eye. The Commission notes that i5 is a strong proposal and our second choice.
Feels good to be at a meeting where everyone is on the same page. Hopefully the ODMPED follows suit. We’ll know in mid June. =)
Okay, the exclamations points really weren’t warranted. The new pizza vendors coming to the Triangle are merely national chains. I don’t even like Papa Johns. However it is promising to begin to see some additional retail will arrive to the Triangle soon. Where do we think these delivery drivers are going to park? It’s especially puzzling for Ledo Pizza. Let’s hope it’s their solution isn’t double parking on Mass Ave.
PQLiving broke the news on the new Papa Johns coming to 311 H St NW a few weeks back. The tarp has since come down and the signage has gone up. I’ve also peered into the storefront and have seen that the front counter would seem to be <= 8 feet from the front door. Seems likely this location will be strictly carryout and delivery.
I’ve also previously written about the future Ledo Pizza at 433 Mass Ave NW.
I previously recapped the panelist discussion from the recent special joint MVSNA/DNA meeting on Homelessness and Housing issues. You can reference that recap [here].
The Q&A discussion between the community members and panelists also deserves a recap. I’m new to the area and am still absorbing the challenges for our community. I always learn much from the questions raised by experienced residents. Among the questions were:
- Homeless impact on the libraries
- Pathologies of the homeless
- Locations of shelters
- Is the homeless ‘burden’ really being spread across the district
- Lack of communication with residents
- Perceived busing of the homeless to downtown
Homeless impact on the libraries: Due to the lack of day service centers for the homeless many homeless residents will congregate at libaries such as MLK Library during the day. The Department of Human Services feels that the scattered site housing first approach will help mitigate this. Large meal and mattress shelter facilities are often only open 7pm to 7am leaving their members to fend for themselves during the day. Housing First provides a home and local services.
Pathologies of the homeless: A community member raised concerns that while they do have compassion for the homeless they are worried that individuals with pathologies such as drug addiction, past criminal sexual offenders behavior are allowed to roam the streets unchecked due to their homelessness. For instance, a sexual offender would typically need to register their address into an offender database, notify neighbors of a community when moving in and stay a certain distance from schools. The perception is that the homeless sex offenders skirt by under the radar and avoid these same hurdles. The panel took the angle in their response that the pathologies you find in the homeless are also found in society at large. While true I’m not sure it adequately addresses the sex offender tracking issue.
Panhandling: I found the topic of panhandling to be the most interesting of the evening. Chet Grey wanted to stress to everyone that while many chronic homeless in the downtown do panhandle that conversely many panhandlers are not homeless. Mr Grey gave examples of panhandlers that make $100/day. Such individuals have perfected techniques to earn a living through panhandling. One panhandler sells free Smithsonian maps for $1 to tourists. Others position themselves near popular news stands to get change from pedestrians who buy newspapers. He told a story of one panhandler he knew on a first name basis who was not homeless but used his earnings to buy crack. A member of the audience chimed in that the tourist traffic in the downtown is a magnet for panhandling and that he’s seen a tourist give a $20 bill to one before. While residents who see the same panhandlers on the same corners everyday do the smart thing and donate to an organization rather than a beggar – tourists do not. I myself have seen the same pan handler near my office in Rosslyn for years. Some days he even has a cell phone that he hides in his hat…
Location / Downtown Burden / Communication: Residents expressed concerns about the perceived clustering of homeless shelters within blocks of the intersection of Mass Ave and H Street NW. The Mitch Snyder Shelter at 2nd and D streets is privately run and has over 1000 beds. The Central Union Mission’s relocation to the Gales School also places it nearby. Rumors in the Washingtonpost earlier this year also suggested new shelters could open at 4th and L Streets NW as well as 2nd and Mass Aves NW. The idea of four shelters clustered so closely made residents uneasy. The response from the panel was that the WaPo rumored new locations were erroneous. The Gales School had previously been a shelter and plans to reuse it in that capacity had been public for five years. What I inferred from their collective response is that the downtown does presently have a concentration of shelters. While new downtown shelters are not part of the plans we’re more likely to see downtown shelters downsized over time rather than being outright relocated to other parts of DC. The commitment to permanent supportive scattered site housing will gradually shift the burden out of the downtown. Market forces (read: real estate prices) will naturally make other parts of the city better candidates for these housing sites. MVSNA president Cary Silverman took a moment to recap the anxiety that residents experienced due to the WaPo rumors surfacing at the same time as the public announcement that the Central Union Mission would be relocated to the Gales School. It was agreed that more ongoing communication between neighborhood associations and homeless service/housing entities would be mutually beneficial.
Perceived busing of the homeless to downtown: Residents inquired about the heresay that other parts of the city bus their homeless downtown. Chapman Todd fielded this question. He cited an example of homeless busing related to the closure of the Randall School Shelter in SW DC. This shelter was closed several years back with many of it’s homeless shifted to another shelter south of the Anacostia River. Many of the homeless that stayed at the Randall School frequented the downtown during the day (some for jobs). Once shifted south of the Anacostia a bus service run by Park and Recs(?) was established. This bus service was meant to return the homeless to their shelter south of the river rather than bus homeless downtown. Of course bus trips by nature are round trips…
I’m particularly glad to hear the rumor of a new homeless shelter at 4th and L Street NW is false. I just could not see that as a compatible use with the one long awaited downtown grocer (CityVista Safeway) only a 1/2 block away.
Thinking about parks the past couple of days has got me wondering… Do americans really value the time, money, and effort it takes to keep these urban patches of green pristine? It seems to me that government run parks usually fall into disrepair rather quickly. Washington D.C., the capital of this first world country has a hard enough time funding it’s own National Arboretum
let alone maintaining the mall (which is a nothing more than a large stretch of grass). How can we expect complex gardens to survive with this apathy towards our landscapes?
Can we take matters into our own hands?
By far the most beautiful urban landscapes I’ve seen have come in the form of urban gardens. Public patches of dirt where the community comes together to plant flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables. Let’s take a look at some examples…
Culepeper Community garden – UK (Courtesy of Fin Fahey on flickr)
Fenway Community garden – Boston (Courtesy of bettlebrox on flickr)
Could we handle one of these in the Triangle? Or are we limited to the handful of planter boxes on our rooftops? Let’s imagine the possibilities.
I attended the joint MVSA/DNA joint meeting earlier tonight. This special meeting featured a forum on the homeless issues and housing plans.
This will be part 1 of 2 part post. I’ll recap the forum speaker’s talking points in this space and separate the highlights of the forum Q&A in a follow up post.
Miles Groves of the DNA assembled the follow panel for the forum:
Participants included (from left to right above) Clarence H. Carter, Director of the District’s Department of Human Services; Jose Sousa representing the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development; Chapman Todd, Division Director of Housing Programs at Catholic Charities; Chet Grey, Director of Housing Services with the Downtown BID; and David Treadwell, Executive Director of the Central Union Mission.
Chet Grey led off the discussion. Mr Grey began by stressing that the homeless are people like you and I that simply lack the basic need of a roof over their head. He asked for a show of hands in the room of those who were lifelong DC residents. I believe only 1 or 2 hands were raised. Chet then stated that 85% of the homeless were longtime DC residents. At later points of forum discussion Chet further humanized the issues about both homeless that the BID has helped and notorious pan handlers he is familiar with by referring to these individuals on a first name basis with details of their stories. Chet also explained the Pathways to Housing program the downtown BID participates in, the success rate of the program (90%) and the head counts for how many people they have helped in the program and aim to help in the coming year.
Chapman Todd from Catholic Charities was next in the line of speakers. Mr Todd provided some definitions on the types of homeless and some statistics on the magnitude. Chronic homeless are those for whom homelessness has become their permanent way of life. Transitional homeless are those for whom homelessness is a temporary predicament. The transitional homeless may only experience homelessness a few days a year. The total homeless population in DC was estimated at around 6000. Of which 1840 are chronic homeless in the shelter system, 300 are chronic homeless not participating in the shelter system with the balance being transitional homeless. Mr Todd acknowledged that the Franklin School shelter was a Catholic Charities run emergency shelter. He openly suggested that the facility has not been successful. The Franklin School was not well suited for a use as a shelter. Rather it only became a shelter due to unfortunate past policy decisions of “what’s available“. He stated that this type of shelter was not what Catholic Charities wants to do going forward. The ideal goal of their organization is permanent supportive scattered site housing. They feel that is the strategy best suited to success. Mt Carmel House was cited as an example of permanent supportive housing from Catholic Charities that falls within the downtown area. Todd also appealed to the audience that this approach passes both the Human Dignity and Fiscal tests.
David Treadwell spoke about the Central Union Mission. The Central Union shelter will be relocating in Oct 2009 from 14th and R Streets NW to the Gales School at 65 Mass Ave NW. Mr Treadwell briefly mentioned reasons for the move. Chiefly his currently facility was inadequate with one cited example that heating the old building cost over $300K/yr. Treadwell described Central Union as a ‘high barrier’ shelter facility. This means that they have rules and structure such as no smoking, no cussing, meals and showers are only available at certain times of the day. Central Union also has nightly ministry services. Their plans for the Gales School are for the shelter to be a 125-150 bed facility with upgrades from their current facility including privacy dividers, improving dining area, computers and a day room.
Jose Sousa briefly/rapidly (he’s a fast talker) explained the role of the Planning and Economic Development office. The main takeaway here was that they recognize supportive and affordable housing as being part of their development responsibilities. They tackle this objective by partnering with groups like Catholic Charities, Central Union Mission, etc and work with them to get them the facilities they need.
Clarence Carter of the Department of Human Services spoke the most of any forum panelist. His key points were to describe why the District must take the ‘Housing First’ approach followed by person centric services. The Housing First Initiative (HFI) primarily acknowledges two things 1) Warehousing the chronic homeless in big shelters isn’t effective 2) It’s difficult for anyone to focus on addressing the underlying causes of their homelessness if they don’t have stability of housing. HFI supports the scattered site relocation of homeless in permanent supportive housing. The idea of person centric services is that a homeless person is best positioned to succeed if a program of services that they need, which may include food stamps, job training, substance abuse counseling, etc is individually designed for them. Carter’s team will be responsible for mitigating the closure of the Franklin School so that none of the homeless currently served their will be forced to the streets. He cited that after the closure of the DC Village shelter last year that the District does now have a track record of making this work.
A joint MVSNA/DNA forum on homeless issues & housing plans is being held tonight (5/20) at 7pm in Mt Calvary Baptist Church (755 8th St NW).
Read the post on the Life MVSNA Blog for more details.
Some of the most exciting urban opportunities created by Pierre L’Enfant’s vision of DC come in the form of pocket parks; formed where the diagonal avenues meet the orthagonal street grid of our capitol city. The Triangle has not one or two but several of these parks.
Parc Citroen – Paris (Courtesy of vincent.m on flickr)
Having spent the past year in Paris there is a special place in my heart that understands and yearns for the full potential of these spaces. Currently these parks serve but a portion of the Triangle’s population, some of them crazy and some of them four-legged. I have yet to see a good cross section of the Triangle’s population enjoying these little pockets of green in our neighborhood.
Millenium Park – Chicago (Courtesy of eddieq on flickr)
Perhaps the problem lies in the lack of adequate landscape, hardscape and streetscape. Why don’t we take a look at some beautiful parks across the world for inspiration as to what these prime pieces of urban greenery can be if we dedicate ourselves to the public realm of our neighborhood.
Paley Park – New York City (Courtesy of chrislworships on flickr)
To be continued…