November 21, 2009

APA Planning Assistance Team Shares Ideas

on D.C. Neighborhood Revitalization

Team says community diversity, reclaimed waterfront should shape Buzzard Point.

WASHINGTON, DC — A nationally recognized Planning Assistance Team (PAT) recommended at a community meeting today that the focus of redevelopment in the Buzzard Point neighborhood should be on building a diverse residential neighborhood, ensuring that current residents are not displaced as the area is revitalized, and reconnecting the neighborhood to a reclaimed Anacostia River waterfront.

The team, which met November 18-21, was organized by the American Planning Association (APA) at the request of District of Columbia Councilmember Tommy Wells (Ward 6).

The area selected for the project — bounded by South Capitol Street to the east, M Street S.E. to the north, 2nd Street S.W. to the west, and Buzzard Point to the south — has been part of many previous plans but has yet to see significant redevelopment activity. The team's final recommendations are expected to be completed in March 2010.

"It's amazing how quickly a [strategic planning study] can take place and produce a high-quality product," said Councilmember Wells following the public meeting today. The PAT recommendations, he continued, allow the leadership of the community to present development options that have not been "influenced by particular economic interests."

The team stressed three key points:

  • Buzzard Point is a distinct area and should build on its strong existing residential character;
  • Avoid using a cookie-cutter approach to redeveloping the neighborhood; the type of redevelopment taking place east of South Capitol Street is not what should occur west of South Capitol Street; and
  • While there are key transformative events in the works — the reconstruction of South Capitol Avenue, the new streetcar system, and the relocation of the Coast Guard, all of these are five or more years away.

The team interviewed more than 40 neighborhood groups, government agencies, property owners, developers, and residents as part of its pro bono study of the neighborhood. Other recommendations include:   

  • Buzzard Point waterfront development should be low intensity, residential oriented, and designed around the needs of residents rather than tourists or visitors. Not all of D.C.'s waterfront is best used for high-intensity, high-traffic activity.
  • Reroute the planned M Street light rail line to run through the middle of the Buzzard Point neighborhood in order to reduce the isolation of the area, increase development opportunities, and improve access to jobs and shopping.
  • Development of a high-security federal facility between 1st and 2nd streets as has been proposed would not contribute to the goal of creating a sustainable neighborhood, or better linking the housing in the area to the riverfront. It might also create unacceptable traffic congestion.
  • The Steuart site, adjacent to the new South Capitol Avenue oval, may be the single most important site in the area — the gateway to the city from both land and water. It should be used for a building that is significant both architecturally, and in terms of its use as a major destination.
  • Reclaim the waterfront from South Capitol Street to Fort McNair once the US Coast Guard is relocated to St. Elizabeth and preserve the historic Southwest Community House on 2nd Street  as a community center.
  • As a long term goal, work with PEPCO to gradually reduce their footprint in the area and reuse the architecturally significant power generating station as a cultural or educational destination.

Team leader and nationally recognized housing and urban revitalization expert Alan Mallach, FAICP, said that it is important to expand housing choices in the neighborhood and attract more middle-income wage earners to the area. At the same time, with housing prices in the District so high, and fewer and fewer options for low-income residents, he warned against any measures that might reduce the number of affordable units already in place.

Other members of the PAT were: Jeff Frank, AICP, who has 30-plus years experience in planning, most recently as president of PHR+A; John Gosling, AICP, who for the past 25 years led RTKL's planning and urban design sector; Jeff Lee, who is a founding principal of lee+papa, which has worldwide credits including the Pentagon 9-11 Memorial and Ronald Reagan International Trade Center; and Nicole White, who is the founding principal of Symmetra Design and specializes in revitalization studies and transportation planning.


Denny Johnson, APA Public Affairs, 202-349-1006;