Tag: community

Walking tour explores Fort Totten’s present and future

Development at Fort Totten has been slow despite access to 3 Metro lines, its close proximity to both downtown DC and Silver Spring, its access to the Metropolitan Branch Trail, its green space and its affordability. But as demand increases for housing in the District, this previously-overlooked neighborhood could become a hot spot.

Photo by tracktwentynine on Flickr.Last Saturday, the Coalition for Smarter Growth concluded their spring walking tour series with “Fort Totten: More than a Transfer Point,” a look at future residential, retail and commercial development near the Fort Totten Metro station. Residents and visitors joined representatives from WMATA, DDOT and the Office of Planning on a tour of the area bounded by South Dakota Avenue, Riggs Road, and First Place NE.

Today, vacant properties and industrial sites surround the station and form a barrier between it and the surrounding area. Redeveloping them could improve connections to the Metro and make Fort Totten a more vibrant community.

There is a significant amount of new residential, retail and commercial development planned within walking distance of the Metro station. But Saturday’s tour began with the only completed project, The Aventine at Fort Totten. Built by Clark Realty Group in 2007, the 3-building, garden-style apartment complex consists of over 300 rental units as well as ground-floor retail space.

The Aventine at Fort Totten, the newest apartment complex in Fort Totten. All photos by the author unless otherwise noted.Visitors were ambivalent about the success of the Aventine due to its small amount of retail space and lack of connectivity to surrounding neighborhoods. While residents noted that it created more options to live close to Metro, representatives of the Lamond Riggs and North Michigan Park civic associations agreed the development differed from the original vision for the project.

They called it an example of the need to continually engage real estate developers and local government agencies to ensure that new development is of a high quality and responsive to the local context. Throughout the tour, residents said that future development proposals should adhere to DC’s urban design guidelines, improve pedestrian access and have a plan to mitigate parking concerns.

Between South Dakota Avenue and the Metro station, the Cafritz Foundation will redevelop the old Riggs Plaza apartments to build ArtPlace at Fort Totten. When finished, the 16-acre project will contain 305,000 square feet of retail, 929 apartments, and 217,000 square feet of cultural and art spaces, including a children’s museum. Deborah Crain, neighborhood planning coordinator for Ward 5, noted that ArtPlace will include rental units set aside for seniors and displaced Riggs Plaza residents.

An ad for ArtPlace at Fort Totten at its future home.As one of the largest landowners near the Fort Totten Station, WMATA has a huge stake in future development around the station. They own approximately 3 acres of land immediately west of the station along First Place NE that is currently used as surface parking lot for commuters. Stan Wall, Director of Real Estate at WMATA, discussed the great potential for development on the current parking lot mentioned that the agency will solicit proposals for development of the area in the near future.

Parking lot at Fort Totten station.Anna Chamberlain, a DDOT transportation planner, talked about how streetscape improvements could calm traffic, making streets around the Metro station more pedestrian- and bike-friendly. DDOT is also working to improve connections to the Metro, as some areas lack clearly defined walking paths. The agency will begin designing a path connecting the Metro to the Metropolitan Branch Trail within the next few months.

New sidewalks and street trees on Riggs Road.The final stop on the tour was Fort Totten Square, a joint effort by the JBG Companies and Lowe Enterprises to build 350 apartments above a Walmart and structured parking at South Dakota Avenue and Riggs Road. DDOT has completely rebuilt the adjacent intersection to make it safer for pedestrians and more suitable for an urban environment, replacing freeway-style ramps with sidewalks, benches, crosswalks and improved lighting.

Jaimie Weinbaum, development manager at JBG, says they’re committed to working with the city and residents to make Fort Totten Square an asset to the community. They’ve promised to place Capital Bikeshare stations there and would like to have dedicated space for Car2go as well.

With help from the private sector and public agencies like DDOT and WMATA, Fort Totten could become a model for transit-oriented development, but much of the new construction won’t happen for a long time. Until then, residents eagerly await the changes and continue to work with other stakeholders toward creating a vision that will benefit everyone.

Photos courtesy of Greater Greater Washington

Click here to read the original article >>

Strategies Detailed to Remedy DC’s Affordable-Housing Crisis

Lack of affordable housing is an unintended consequence of a region’s success, and can certainly be seen in the Washington D.C. metro area.

As the public demand for walkable neighborhoods has increased, low- to moderate-income residents are being priced out of those neighborhoods. And unfortunately, the public policy regarding housing affordability in the United States remains “drive until you qualify.”

Thus began Chris Leinberger of the Brookings Institution at a recent seminar entitled “Walkable Neighborhoods: How to Make Them for Everyone,” sponsored by the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

The seminar also featured Ed Lazere of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute and David Bowers of Enterprise Community Partners, who brought their own unique spins on the affordable-housing problem in D.C.

Lazere illuminated some startling statistics regarding housing affordability (D.C. lost half of its low-cost apartment rental units from 2000 to 2010). Bowers added the human element with stories of how housing affordability has affected some actual D.C. residents (illustrating his concept that “data without stories are just numbers”).

Leinberger pointed out that Hollywood does more market research than any other U.S. industry, crediting the popularity of television shows such as Seinfeld and Sex and the City supplanting that of, say, Leave it to Beaver, as reflecting the national consumer demand for walkable neighborhoods away from suburban forms of development which remained in demand until the mid-1990s.

The result of this increased demand has naturally been an increase in land values in walkable communities, specifically in D.C.’s 139 designated activity centers. This, coupled with the lesser issue of increased construction costs associated with the development of walkable neighborhoods, according to Leinberger, has led to gentrification.

Bowers pointed to D.C.’s U Street and H Street corridors as the city’s two most recent neighborhoods to undergo gentrification which, Leinberger stated, was either good or bad, depending on where you sit.

The side effect of gentrification, of course, is pricing out D.C.’s low- and moderate-income residents from these neighborhoods, often displacing long-time residents in the process. And where are they to go? Bowers pointed out that 20 percent of D.C. residents spend half of every take-home dollar on housing already. “They are drowning,” Bowers said.

The main solution to housing affordability in walkable urban places, Leinberger stated, is simply to create more walkable urban places. This is a recognition that housing affordability in in-demand neighborhoods is, by definition, a supply/demand problem.

Leinberger enumerated additional remedies, of which the following is a subset:

  1. Offering standard tax credit and vouchers from the local government in lieu of increased tax revenues from other parts of the walkable urban district;
  2. Participating in federal government programs associated with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Choice Neighborhoods, the next generation of the department’s Hope VI programs;
  3. Instituting inclusionary zoning to require affordable units within a district with higher walkable urban infrastructure investment;
  4. Implementing fee capture upon resale of any market-rate unit within a district with such infrastructure investments;
  5. Allowing ancillary units in for-sale housing (i.e., “granny flats”) to expand the housing supply; and
  6. Encouraging employers to locate in transit-oriented developments in order to increase tax revenues in those districts.

These remedies are not just theoretical, but have been implemented in jurisdictions nationwide. Likewise, they are made possible based on increased profitability that does indeed occur in walkable neighborhoods.

Chris Leinberger dropped a staggering statistic regarding how much D.C. land values have increased in the past decade. On one particular site in Capitol Riverfront, he noted that the land value was probably at around $5 per square foot a decade ago. That same land was recently sold to Toll Brothers at a cost of $825 per square foot. “That increase is stunning,” he added.

In addition, in Arlington County, Virginia, the eight significant walkable neighborhoods occupying 10 percent of the county’s land today generates 55 percent of the county’s revenue, up from 20 percent just a few short decades ago. The county now captures part of this value growth by requiring that developers apportion a percentage of their residential units as affordable housing, or make a contribution to the county’s affordable housing fund.

While there is no one silver-bullet remedy, jurisdictions can, with perseverance, creativity, and hopefully a sense of urgency, address the “unintended consequence of success” that housing affordability poses as they create the walkable communities preferred by consumers of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Click here to read the original article from Mobility Lab. 

Photo courtesy of  Paul Goddin.


Maryland: Testimony regarding the Takoma/Langley Crossroads Preliminary Sector Plan

We support the vision of this plan — “achieve a transit-oriented and pedestrian-friendly community that celebrates and builds on cultural diversity of the existing and future residents.” We are excited about the coming bus transit center and future Purple Line stations. We share the county’s aspiration for this plan to spark redevelopment and boost economic development on outdated automobile-oriented strip malls; building higher density, vibrant, mixed use places that are inviting for pedestrians. We agree with the plan’s emphasis on the need to improve connectivity and create a compact, walkable environment. We believe redevelopment of key commercial parcels around the planned transit stations offers great opportunity to foster an attractive walking environment, with new jobs, businesses and housing.

Prince George’s County: New Carrollton Preliminary Transit District Development Plan and Proposed Transit District Overlay Zoning Map Amendment

Overall, we want to express our enthusiasm for the plan to recreate the New Carrollton station area as a great metropolitan center with a grand transit station as the anchor. We concur with the real estate experts panel report of the Urban Land Institute that “the first step in catalyzing development at the station area is to focus on the station itself.” Built in 1978, the station is one of the oldest in the system. The station, however, is a leading economic development asset for the county.

Citizens Campaign for a Green and Sustainable Urban Future for Tysons Corner

A group of citizens and conservation groups launched a campaign today in support of a green and sustainable urban future for Tysons Corner. Coordinated by John Byrne, a long-time Fairfax conservation leader, the group has crafted a platform laying out a vision and detailed goals for a sustainable Tysons Corner. The platform is designed to influence the crafting of the new comprehensive plan by the Tysons Corner Task Force, Planning Commission, and Fairfax Board of Supervisors.