BID Smackdown: Capitol Riverfront
Over the weekend I participated in three development tours as part of WalkingtownDC. I decided to analyze how the Mount Vernon Triangle stacked up against other two “young” BIDs in the city. I’ve outlined my impressions of the Capitol Riverfront below.
Capitol Riverfront BID map; click to enlarge
Overview: The Capitol Riverfront is 500 acres along the Anacostia located in Near Southeast and Buzzards Point. At full build out the BID estimates 15 million s.f. of office space, 9,000 housing units, 800,000-900,000 s.f. of retail space, and 1,200 hotel rooms with four new parks and the Riverwalk Trail. The area is walkable to Barracks Row and the Southwest Waterfront.
Transit: The Capitol Riverfront is served by the Navy Yard metro station with an entrance for the ballpark on Half Street NE and another at the intersection of New Jersey Ave and M Street SE. This station is serviced by the Green Line.
Key Attraction: The National Stadium presently draws tens of thousands of fans into neighborhood 81 nights a year. Although the Lerners stiffing the city on rent is making more news than the team. Down the line The Yards, from Forest City Washington, will feature shops and a Waterfront park.
Anchor Tenant: While NAVSEA is the predominant employer they The U.S. DOT HQ represents the anchor tenant among development delivered since the BID formed. The DOT building has wide plaza sidewalks along M Street with extensive landscaping and extensive public art. The site hosts a farmer’s market between it’s two buildings and during the summer months a concert series and outdoor movies on the Plaza to the rear. I found it quite impressive how the DOT HQ engaged the Public Realm. Contrast this will some government buildings downtown and all you get are brutalist buildings with sidewalks made narrow by concrete barriers.
plaza sidewalks on M Street SE along DOT buildings
Public Realm: The streetscapes featured tree boxes triple the size of others in the city. Canal Park is planned 1.8 acre park that span 3 blocks from Eye to M Streets SE. Both are designed to collect and filter storm water. The Canal Park will reuse the collected runoff in two water features. The Yards project will also have a 5.8 acre waterfront park. It’s clear that the environmental considerations that proximity to the waterfront present have contributed to planning green space rather than focusing solely on “the highest economic use”. A riverwalk bike trail is planned.
Office: This area presently has 36,000 daytime workers and at buildout the number should push 100,000. M Street has the highest concentration of planned office development due to it’s proximity to the metro and higher visibility. Presently government employees and contractors represent the majority of workers. BID director Michael Stevens stated that the present lack of sit down dining and perception of metro’s Green Line (he suggests “Employers are afraid to get off the Red Line“) are concerns that law firms have over the location. They are actively trying to recruit restaurants. The Green line stigma will take time to change but the Capitol Riverfront is estimated a 20 year project.
Neighborhood Retail: I didn’t see much retail yet. That which is present, such as Starbucks and Five Guys, is geared towards serving the office worker lunch crowd. More is planned of course but tenants are TBD.
Residential: The Yards will feature several residential projects near the waterfront. Redevelopment of the Capper/Carrollsburg housing projects will be mixed income. Several residential projects north of M Street have delivered this year and are leasing.
Architecture: The Yards has some exciting adaptive reuse projects including old Navy Yard buildings such as The Pattern Shop Lofts, the Boilermaker Shop, and the Broadside Mount Shop. The WASA pumping station is an amazing 1905 Beaux Arts building nestled next to the Yard development – it will continue to be a pumping station (and eye candy).
Inside the Boilermaker Shop
Safety: I can’t really gauge much from a visit at 11am on a Saturday and a few ballpark visits. But FWIW there was a striking lack of homeless compared to downtown and MVT.
Miscellaneous: Ample parking for high density development near the waterfront may present a challenge due to the high water table. The Pattern Shop Lofts needed to allocate the first floor of it’s building as a garage. Questions were asked during the tour where the post office and schools will be. Stevens said plans are TBD and cited some charter schools at the Blue Castle (but Google searches suggest even those are endangered by development).
The investment in the public realm is extremely impressive. I also liked how the area had a wide boulevard-esque street (M Street SE) bisecting it’s territory. MVT has that with K Street NW which will have wide 40 foot plaza sidewalks like you see at CityVista. NoMA seems to lack such a street to provide a focal point corridor – perhaps because it’s territory is only 3 blocks wide east to west at most points.
Next up: NoMA
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