Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Logic of the 2002-2004 South Capitol Mall Deletion

The 2003 studies exclude the basic Mall option for a reconfigured South Capitol Street presented in NCPC's Extending the Legacy and Memorials and Museums. NCPC's South Capitol Street Urban Design Study, did this in response to community outreach meetings in 2002, where people from neighborhoods including those along Carrollsburg Place and Half Streets SW, expressed their sentiment that they did not want to have their dwellings removed for the new parkland and/or the new adjacent buildings. Hence this 2003 report included two drastically scaled back linear park proposals: its options "c" and "b". These had very little property acquisitions to the west, avoiding the Carrollsburg Place and Half Street neighborhoods, limiting residential displacement west of South Capitol Street to directly along that street south of N Street. Because of a dearth of dwellings to the east, options "c" and "b" would have displaced about 5 residences, including the Alfred Richards House that was last privately owned by Ken Wyban, which were demolished in May, 2006. Although this study would cite the need to establish a linear park along the South Capitol Street corridor, it included a 3rd option, “a” that would not widen the right of way, but instead provide a linear park in the form of sidewalks that would be widened by eliminating a parking lane.

To help the authorities decide among these 3 options, the 2003 NCPC South Capitol Street Urban Design Study list the following as their advantages and disadvantages:

For Option “c” with its 195’ wide linear park offset to the east:
New monumental public realm;
Continuity of public realm established between mall and the Anacostia River parks system;
Reinvestment in the area may be attracted by the appearance and the scale of the new South Capitol Street environment.
Substantial land takings required east of South Capitol Street;
Most complex and costly of the three to implement;
Requires negotiating with Navy to allow crossing to take most southerly location.
For option "b" with its 220' total right of way with a 100' wide median greenway:
Central median can accommodate series of smaller memorials;
Continuity of public realm established between mall and the Anacostia River parks system;
Reinvestment in the area may be attracted by the appearance and the scale of the new South Capitol Street environment.

Substantial land takings required including existing housing east and west of the present South Capitol Street ROW.

For option “a” to not widen the existing 130’ South Capitol Street ROW:

Few land takings
Modest adjustments to South Capitol Street
Maximum land for redevelopment

Lacks a compelling vision for South Capitol Street
Few opportunities along corridor for memorials, etc.
Limited incentive for additional investment.
By choosing option “a”, the authorities valued an opportunity for extending the monumental core as less important then not infringing upon maximizing the sheer amount of square footage for new real estate development: squandering a unique opportunity for the more mundane by this above criteria. By their admission they selected the option that “lacks a compelling vision for South Capitol Street, in order to minimize property acquisitions for expanding a public right of way, so as to maximize real estate development square footage, while ultimately preserving only one building: St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church.

Curiously it calls option “c” as most complex and costly, despite the space it provides for a cut and cover tunnel alongside South capitol Street, being the easiest to construct while maintaining the existing South Capitol Street traffic.

This charge of being “most complex and costly” ignores the reality that the buildings along this right of way for the tunnel beneath essentially the eastern half of NCPC’s 1990s through 2001 South Capitol Mall concept, are being cleared anyway, with the sole apparent exception of the St. Vincent de Paul Church. Look at what's happening along South Capitol Street's east side now, in 2006, with demolition for Nationals Stadium clearing every building from Potomac Avenue northward to N Street demolished May-June 2006; and threatening the storage building northward to M Street for a new development project by Monument Reality that may or may not conflict with the Urban Land Institute’s 2003/NCPC’s 2005 proposal for a “town square” at the intersection of South Capitol and M Streets, with additional development projects envisioned for the open parking lots and the McDonalds fast food restaurant northwards from the St. Vincent de Paul Church, which is the sole structure blocking this east-offset tunnel route to the ramps to the SW/SE Freeway.

This charge of “most complex and costly” fails to distinguish between the offset to the east linear park and the tunnel beneath, hence avoiding any consideration of running the tunnel directly under South Capitol Street, with any substantial linear park truncated to go no further north of M Street to avoid a conflict with a position of not demolishing, deconstructing or even relocating St. Vincent de Paul Church. After all, this Church would be the only structure in the path of the offset to the east tunnel and linear park of option "c".

All of the 2003 and later planning documents AFAIK but NCPC’s 2005 report reflect this by showing St. Vincent de Paul Church in its existing location. This includes the November 2002 stadium study where the Nationals Stadium site appears as the mis-named "M Street" option, as well as the Passonneau and Associates illustration that Joseph Passonneau included in his August 2000 slide show presentation at the National Building Museum.

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