How the largest newspapers and magazines reported the 21st century planning for the U.S. Capital City, Washington, D.C.
and did NOT explicitly report on the South Capitol Mall
Extending the Legacy, South Capitol Mall at
"The NCPC plan envisions a
Despite its significance as part of a lineage including the National Mall, the South Capitol Street Mall was not explicitly reported, right from the start with the reporting following the initial public announcement of the Extending the Legacy effort cir 1996-97, and follows with later reporting about South Capitol area planning, either during the 2002 stadium study, the subsequent 2003 abandonment of the South Capitol Mall, nor that about the South Capitol Street stadium site's public announcement in September 2004.
The Washington Times, March 26, 1996 `Better' capital city often leaves residents out Author: Adrienne T. Washington; THE WASHINGTON TIMES Edition: 2 Section: METROPOLITAN TIMES METROPOLITAN LIFE; Page: C2
Text provided by library on line service.
Adrienne T. Washington
The National Capital Planning Commission today, amid much fanfare at Union Station, officially unveils its futuristic plan, "Extending the Legacy: Planning
Disney may get its American history theme park on the banks of the Potomac after all, judging from an initial and cursory glance at the grandiose design.
It may take the entertainment conglomerate 20, 30, 50, even 100 years to get exclusive logo rights to Washington's monuments - and thank goodness I won't be around to see it - but the NCPC plan should give us all great pause.
Any time anyone starts talking about a "plan" for a "new capital," as NCPC executive Reginald Griffith did yesterday with editors and reporters of The Washington Times, it makes me more than ! a little nervous. I am not alone.
As a native Washingtonian, I've been around long enough to see the best-laid plans turn into major displacement nightmares for long-standing neighborhoods. What is touted as something to improve the quality of life for an area often translates into that area's total transformation for newcomers.
So when planners, especially those working with the federal government's blessing, start presenting bold, new and radical designs and development initiatives, local folks here know all too well what those plans can porten! We've been down that road of no return before.
For years, native Washingtonians - who've never heard a conspiracy theory they didn't like - have talked about a sinister "plan" by the white establishment to displace the city's black population and diminish its political clout.
That sort of unproductive rhetoric is rearing its ugly head again with the advent of the congressionally mandated control board, the slow but steady dissolution of local autonomy, and the flight of the black middle class as city services are allowed to deteriorate.
This sad state of affairs is in part due to years of benign neglect of Congress and the president.
The predominantly black population of
Redesigned and increased mass-transit avenues are on the drawing board to accommodate an influx of commuters and tourists. We all know that this is the Tale of Two Cities - one, the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.; the other, the local city, the District to us.
In 1791, it was Pierre L'Enfant's plan that laid the groundwork. In 1901, it was the McMillan plan with its federal enclave, which is primarily responsible for the city's current divided, bifurcated status.
Now comes the NCPC and the danger of wiping out a local presence all together. It would appear that someone comes up with a new plan for the nation's capital every 100 years or so.
If history is a barometer, the locals will lose. Invariably the question arises: When and where should the needs of local residents be given priority over the desires of those who view! These special 60-odd square miles as
A longtime Anacostia resident with ties to
He is sensitive to the skepticism this plan presents, despite his contention of extensive local comment.
He insists that the NCPC's draft proposal is a "people plan" and will provide a successful role model to other cities. Nonetheless, this plan, which is big on vision and short on specifics, has been criticized as "loopy" and "a collection of geometric fantasies." It is characterized as an "outdated, top-down, Olympian approach to planning of the nation's capital" by some area planners.
However well-intentioned, the NCPC's futuristic plan to make the nation's capital what House Speaker Newt Gingrich calls "an urban jewel" requires close, careful scrutiny by Washingtonians, even as the American people weigh in with their opinions
On Tuesday, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), the federal body charged with planning for the District, formally unveiled its vision for the future of
The commission's "Monumental Core Plan" for the District is based on five "key ideas," which include specific proposals:
* Building on the L'Enfant and McMillan plans. Proposals include preserving the Mall by locating future museums and memorials elsewhere; restoring
* Unifying the city and the core, with the Capitol as the center. Proposals include redeveloping North and South Capitol streets as major urban boulevards; making
* Using new memorials, museums and other public buildings to stimulate economic development. Proposals include creating public-private development corporations, first focusing on South Capitol Street; using new federal buildings to anchor mixed-use developments that welcome the public after 5 p.m.; developing North and South Capitol streets as major urban boulevards lined with shops, offices, restaurants and housing.
I call this poor reporting for its lack of specifics and its reliance on vagueness.
Note the lack of any specific reference to a "Mall", "promenade", "linear park" nor "green way" for
Note the substitution instead of more vague terms -- less useful for informing readers -- which I addressed in my earlier entry to this blog, "Definitions and the politically useful sloppy use of words"; the favorite such vague term being "boulevard".
“Boulevard” is the term used to describe both North and South Capitol Streets, even though only
Although this is strangely also true with the text within Extending the Legacy, that document clearly showcases the South Capitol Mall on its very front cover.
This is likewise true with the contemporaneous reporting from
An article by The Washington Post staff writer Benjamin Forgery "A Capital that improves with age" proposal's unblinking vision brings the future into focus" features an illustration that shows the South Capitol Mall with the description (7) :
An article by The Washington Post staff writer Roger K. Lewis "Fine-Tuning a Vision For D.C.'s Next Century"
"Unifying the city and the core. North and South Capitol streets would be transformed into tree-lined urban boulevards linked to the city's nearby residential neighborhoods, especially Old Anacostia. A relocated Supreme Court finally would occupy a proper place in the geometric scheme of things at the southern terminus of
"The NCPC plan envisions a
South Capitol Streettransformed from what it is today into a pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined boulevard. M Street is in the foreground."
Actually, this is
This conveniently vague sort of reporting permeates the mass media "reporting."
Time magazine, in its reporting on this planning effort, features the above nighttime image of the northern end of the South Capitol Mall at its traffic circle with Virginia Avenue (this is the current site of the elevated SW/SE Freeway viaduct), but not any of the illustrations that show this South Capitol Mall's broad green way .
Newsweek magazine, owned by The Washington Post Company, and Time's main competitor, did not run any accounts at all of this planning, IIRC.
The Los Angeles Times August 8, 1996 Washington dateline " Album American" article "D.C. planners come up with a capital idea; Panel envisions a future where Washington is a city served by water taxis and the Supreme Court gets a new home" ends with the photo description:
" With the removal of a major freeway,
This is telling as Pennsylvania Avenue is simply a wide boulevard with sidewalks, but without a promenade, with a total building line to building line right of way width of 160'- which is what happened with the post 2001 planning for the South Capitol Street 'Gateway'.
looking towards the Old Post Office at right and the U.S. Capitol at left,
presumably from the 1201 Pennsylvania Avenue
Covington & Burling building
at the intersection with 12th Street
National Capital Planning Commission Deputy Executive Director MARCEL ACOSTA's published letter to the editor in The Washington Post, March 27, 2006, which I wrote about in my earlier post "Definitions and the politically useful sloppy use of words" does not set but rather follows in this tradition.
So did something, quite plausibly, in ensuring that none of these lame stream media accounts actually reported the SCM.