Sunday, April 16, 2006

South Capitol
Promenade or just a Boulevard?

Which Legacy to extend?

The McMillan Plan extended the parklands of the National Mall further west.

The 1997 National Capital Planning Commission's "Extending the Legacy: Planning America's Capital for the 21st Century" features a new promenade along the South Capitol axis.

The original L'Enfant Plan features only one promenade, that of the National Mall between the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument. It features various public squares, including one to the east of South Capitol Street in the vicinity of M Street. It does not include today's Potomac Avenue. It has a relatively narrow overall right of way width for South Capitol Street, which is no wider, if not less wide then New Jersey and Delaware Avenues. It includes a canal directly along the South Capitol axis, which splits into a pair of canals.

If speaking strictly about the L'Enfant plan, "extending the legacy" may or may not include the idea of a narrow South Capitol Street, depending upon how it is adhered to: do we interpret promenades along spatial axis as a principle to potentially expand, or as something to retain as a sole privilege along a particular axis?

If speaking about the plans of L'Enfant, and of the later McMillan Commission, "extending the legacy" would very likely include the idea of a broad South Capitol Street corridor right of way. If speaking about these plans together with later (1920s-40s) plans for an "East Capitol Street Mall" with a new promenade and buildings replacing the still extant Victorian dwellings, a "South Capital Street Mall" is infinitely more likely, since with but one exception, the buildings lining it are architecturally expandable. That would be the apparant conclusion of the majority of the architects, urban designers, economists and transportation planners involved with the U.S. National Capital Plaanning Commission's 1992-96 planning endeavor "Extending the Legacy".

If there was any discussion or debate anywhere within architectural and planning circles (or elsewhere- including political), this blogger would be interested in seeing some leads.

Who out there would explicitly denounce the "City Beautiful" movement?

Monday, April 03, 2006

A Basic Conflict

1997 "Extending the Legacy: Planning America's Capital for the 21st Century"

2002 Stadium Study

Move the stadium 250' east, or don't build it.

The Legacy

1791: The L'Enfant Plan: named for the French architect, Pierre Charles L'Enfant (born August 2, 1754, died June 14, 1825), established the basic surface road grid and the National Mall west from the Capitol Building to the Washington Monument site.

Conforms to regional transportation infrastructure needs by including an open canal along Constitution Avenue, that turned south along South Capitol Street to split to a pair of canals, one to the southwest and one to the southeast.


1901: The McMillan Commission: named for U.S. Senator from the State of Michigan, James McMillan (born May 12, 1838- died August 10, 1902).


This names its four (4) designers: architects Daniel Burnham (born September 4, 1846- died June 1, 1912), Charles Follen McKim (born August 24, 1847- died September 14, 1909), Sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens (born March 1, 1848- died March 3, 1907), and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead (born April 26, 1822- died August 28, 1903).

Illustrations: Burnham (top left), McKim (top right),
St. Gaudens
(left), Olmstead (right)

It could otherwise be called the Burnham/McKim/St.Gaudens/Olmstead Plan.

This effort for downtown Washington, D.C. established the western extension of the National Mall via new land fill, with the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial and Traffic Circle, which was completed in 1922. This marked what was called the "City Beautiful" approach to urban planning.

It also conformed with transportation infrastructure needs, but with reconstructions making it more friendly for the adjoining areas down-town, replacing the B&O segment across the Mall with a new tunnel starting at a new Beaux Arts Union Station (with its curvature applied to adjacent Massachusetts Avenue NW) and running beneath 1st Street NE/SE, emerging at C Street SE (due to the slope) before entering a covered tunnel along Virginia and Maryland Avenues SW.

It also went beyond the downtown area to include a circumferential road that would link Washington, D.C.'s historic forts.

Illustration: McMillan Commission "Fort Drive"

Various Links:

A Monumental City

The L'Enfant and McMillan Plans

Open Space Design in the National Capital Region

McKim, Mead and White

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Invitation to
Marc Fisher of
The Washington Post
April 1, 2006

Here's an assignment for you.

"South Capitol Street Frederick Douglass Mall"

Read the story at this blog:

A Blog dedicated to the South Capitol/Frederick Douglass Mall (Promenade) that appears in the planning of the National Capital Planning Commission through the 1990s up through 2001, but which has been quietly dropped. Ostensibly this was to avoid eminent domain, which the authorities are nonetheless happy to use for the Nationals Stadium and its related development which DIRECTLY CONFLICTS -- and in practicality STOPS -- the South Capitol/Frederick Douglass Mall (Promenade).


Douglas A. Willinger
Takoma Park Highway Design Studio

I look forward to see this in Marc Fisher's Blog "Raw Fisher" at

And at Marc Fisher's column "Potomac Confidential" at

Saturday, April 01, 2006

South Capitol Stadium

"M Street Southeast: Waterfront"

Illustration from November 6, 2002 "Major League Baseball Park Site Evaluation Project Report" by Brailsford & Dunlavey, Project Management, Sports Facility Planning, Project Finance; Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn, Urban Design; Heinlein Schrock Stearns, Sports Architecture; Jair Lynch Companies, Real Estate Consulting; Gorove / Slade Associates, Transportation Planning.

"M Street Southeast: Waterfront" is actually a misnomer, as the site only extends north to M Street with additional structures. The stadium arena structure itself is located in the quadrant framed north and south respectively by the south side of N and the north side of P Streets, and east and west by the west side of 1st Street SE and the eastern side of South Capitol Street. A more accurate name is "South Capitol Stadium". It was one of three finalists

"M Street Southeast: Waterfront"
("South Capitol Stadium")
the site selected for Nationals Stadium)
The estimated land acquisition costs were $72,378,000 to $78,996,000 . The estimated construction costs were $270,838,000, The estimated "soft costs" were $79,256,000 to $80,249,000. The estimated Total Project Costs was $422,472,000 to $430,083,000.

"New York Avenue Metro: Gateway to the City"
The estimated land acquisition costs were $74,845,000 to $78,645,000 . The estimated construction costs were $271,676,000, The estimated "soft costs" were $79,838,000 to $80,408,000. The estimated Total Project Costs was $426,359,000 to $430,729,000.

"RFK Stadium: Traditional Sports and Entertainment Center of the Region" The estimated land acquisition costs were TBD. The estimated construction costs were $273,333,000. The estimated "soft costs" were $69,031,000 to $69,031,000. The estimated Total Project Costs was $342,364,000 to $342,364,000.

This report included two additional preliminary options which it would drop:

"Capitol North: Capitol Hill and D.C.'s Monumental Core"
The estimated land acquisition costs were $56,475,000-$78,519,000. The estimated construction costs were $276,607,000. The estimated "soft costs" were $78,328,000 to $81,635,000. The estimated Total Project Costs was $411,410,000 to $436,761,000.

"Mt. Vernon Triangle: Downtown Entertainment Zone" The estimated land acquisition costs were $109,485,000-$173,610,000. The estimated construction costs were $273,420,000. The estimated "soft costs" were $85,476,000 to $95,094,000. The estimated Total Project Costs was $468,381,000 to $542,124,000.

The 3 finalists total costs were $436, $430 and $342 million, with the 2 dropped options estimated at $436 million and $542 million.

This November 2002 stadium report's underlying study was commissioned by the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, the D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, and the Washington Baseball Club, L.L.C during the preceding Spring, 2002.

This was only about 6 months after NCPC "Memorials and Museums" which referred to the "Legacy" scale South Capitol Mall as "one of several concepts..." even though it includes no other illustration, description, discussion nor mention of any of the other of these "several concepts".

This November 2002 stadium report would come only about 4 months prior to NCPC's February 2003 "South Capitol Street Urban Design Study" that excludes the "Legacy" Mall like Promenade, and which selects Passonneau's 130' total right of way width South Capitol Avenue.

What indication exists of NCPC formally objecting to this stadium site? Its a question I can't avoid asking when considering the site's direct conflict with its "Legacy" South Capitol Promenade, since its November 2002 report included no variants to accommodate the Promenade, and the timing, as this was a few months prior to NCPC's renunciation of the Promenade, as expressed by the February 2003 NCPC "South Capitol Street Urban Design Report".


Definitions and the politically useful sloppy use of words

Illustrations respectively from satellite and from

Promenade: n 1: a formal ball held for a school class toward the end of the academic year [syn: prom] 2: a public area set aside as a pedestrian walk [syn: mall] 3: a square dance figure; couples march counterclockwise in a circle 4: a march of all the guests at the opening of a formal dance 5: a leisurely walk (usually in some public place) [syn: amble, ramble, saunter, stroll, perambulation] v 1: march in a procession; "the veterans paraded down the street" [syn: parade, troop] 2: take a leisurely walk; "The ladies promenaded along the beach"

Avenue: N: a wide street or thoroughfare [syn: avenue]

Boulevard: n 1: a line of approach; "they explored every avenue they could think of"; "it promises to open new avenues to understanding" 2: a wide street or thoroughfare [syn: boulevard]

The term Boulevard is being used interchangeably to describe what we would colloquially know as an Avenue and a Promenade.

One example: this letter by National Capital Planning Commission Deputy Executive Director MARCEL ACOSTA, published in The Washington Post Letters to the Editor section, March 27, 2006:

Marcel Acosta, AICP, is senior vice president of planning and development for the Chicago Transit Authority, the nation’s second largest public transportation system. In this capacity, he oversees the agency’s strategic planning, market research, service development, schedules, operations planning, and facilities development efforts. His efforts focus on rebuilding ridership and increasing customer satisfaction Loeb Fellowship, Havrvard University School of Design 2000

In his March 16 Metro column, "South Capitol Street Will Have to Play Catch-Up," Marc Fisher said that one needs a good imagination to see a transformed South Capitol Street.

For more than 10 years, beginning long before anyone dreamed of a baseball stadium being built near the Anacostia River, the National Capital Planning Commission envisioned South Capitol Street as a magnificent boulevard that would befit such a prominent location.

Last year our South Capitol Street Task Force unveiled its vision for transforming the neglected street into a grand urban corridor and waterfront gateway, offering spectacular views to and from the U.S. Capitol. The area would have plazas, parkland, national monuments, commercial and residential uses, and a new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge.

We are working with the D.C. Transportation Department, the D.C. Office of Planning and the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. to turn this vision into a reality, and we are delighted that the stadium will help jump-start the transformation.


Deputy Executive Director

National Capital Planning Commission

Why not describe the 1990s NCPC "vision" for South Capitol Street -- as represented by its main publication at that time (1997) "Extending the Legacy: Planning America's Capital for the 21st Century" -- as a "Promenade", and the subsequent plan as an "Avenue"?

Other surface streets of comparable width in Washington, DC are called "Avenues", such as New Jersey Avenue, New York Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue. Or, generally though not neccessarily for narrower ones, Streets, such as East Capitol Street, hence, simply call it South Capitol Street, with 15’ extra building setback for wider sidewalks. Who uses the same single word for describing a surface street and for describing the National Mall?

Describing these two seperate choices with the same word does not adequately convey their major differences, and misleads by suggesting that the differences are not worth mentioning.

Who thinks that's a good idea for using the same word to describe the National Mall and New York Avenue (135' total width right of way) or Pennsylvania Avenue (160' total width right of way)?

This Marcel Acosta letter is only typical with the style of "reporting" regarding South Capitol Street related developments.