Thursday, March 30, 2006

South Capitol Avenue

Passonneau and Partners

This illustration appeared within a slide show by Joseph Passonneau FIA, AIA, and a member of the "Committee of 100" in August 2000 at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. The general topic of that presentation was a proposal for a SE Freeway Tunnel between the 11th Street Bridges and the start of the SW Freeway at (or rather above) South Capitol Street. That proposal would not be fully developed: it would show its western tunnel portal being fed by the existing elevated freeway. But it would offer a glimpse of what influential people were pushing quietly.

Can anyone point to any reporting in The Washington Post and other large circulation newspapers, nor the television media, about the opponents of the Frederick Douglas Mall (Promenade), or their efforts to block it?
As this Passonneau plan was shown in August 2000, it came during the Administration of U.S. President Clinton, whose autograph is on the front cover of a copy of NCPC's 1997 "Exending the Legacy: Planning America's Capitol for the 21st Century" affixed to the wall of their headquarter's reception area.

I would call this a South Capitol Avenue because that would be consistent terminology used for other major Washington, D.C. surface streets with a building line to building line right of way width of 130' or 160', such as New Jersey Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue. The term "boulevard" is not used for such roads, and is more of a term to make it sound more different -- indeed more desirable, special or exotic -- then it actually is.

This is the earliest known to me post 1997 South Capitol proposal to exclude the Frederick Douglass Mall (Promenade), and to instead tear down every building along South Capitol Street and replace with new development, except for one cluster of buildings to the west (left) and St. Vincent de Paul Church to the east, immediately north of M Street SE. Asides from Time Magazine's strange to me reporting in 1997 of NEITHER showing any of the illustrations showing the South Capitol Frederick Douglass Mall (Promenade), nor making any text mention, this was the 1st sign that something was afoot to abort it.

The only opposition I have found is mentioned in the 2003 NCPC South Capitol Street Urban Design Study: people living along Carrollsburg Place and Half Streets SW whose dwelling would be demolished for the Promenade, or for new real estate development: a distinction forgotten with the DC government's enthusiasm for eminent domain for the latter for such things as Nationals Stadium.

Notably, Passonneau makes no mention of this Promenade, nor this issue, in any of his public writings that I have found, including his web site. Go cruise it -- -- and attempt to find anything about South Capitol Street, even his proposal for a narrow South Capitol Street lined almost entirely by new buildings significantly larger then those replaced. Indeed, public discussion or controversy or consciousness over this planning substitution appears to be about non-existent.

It's like those behind this planning substitution feel its would not stand the light of day.

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