Tag: mixed-use

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

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Testimony before the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board, Support for McMillan Sand Filtration Plant Master Plan Update

Please accept our testimony on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. My organization works to ensure that transportation and development decisions in the Washington D.C. region accommodate growth while revitalizing communities, providing more housing and travel choices, and conserving our natural and historic areas.

We wish to express our support for the revised Master Plan for the McMillan Sand Filtration Plant proposal. The new plan takes an already thoughtful plan and provides additional open space and careful treatment of the unique historic resources of the site. The plan will restore and provide public access to key elements of the distinctive historic resources. This would not be possible without the redevelopment program that helps pay for the cost of the restoration.

We recognize that the expansion of park space on the site was in part driven by D.C. Water’s enhancement of stormwater management and flood mitigation efforts. The expanded park space, driven both by D.C. Water and public demand for a larger park, has traded off a significant loss of affordable housing for the space. This is a major disappointment and a loss of D.C.’s use of public lands to address the housing needs of many residents, especially at lower income levels of 60 percent of AMI and below.

Notwithstanding this significant loss, we recognize the important historic preservation, public space, housing, and commercial space contributions of the revised Master Plan. For decades, access to this large area was prohibited, creating a wide gap between surrounding activities and neighborhoods. The revised plan would make this historic resource featured in a major public park a citywide destination.  The Master Plan honors and replicates the historic landscape elements of the Olmsted Walk that have disappeared from the site. We agree with the staff comment that additional work should be done with DDOT to ensure that the Olmsted Walk connection to the sidewalk design is more than a standard sidewalk.  This might require some flexibility in DDOT’s design standards.

The plan appropriately focuses taller office buildings towards Michigan Avenue and tapers building heights and forms as the development moves south to meet rowhouse neighbors. The plan adds separation to the neighborhood to the south with a large public park. Large scale buildings are needed close to Michigan Avenue to give a sense of enclosure and connect to the Washington Hospital Center. Eventually, we hope these new buildings will encourage reconfiguration of the hospital complex to create more pedestrian-oriented designs.

Preservation of Cell 14 and recreation of the Olmstead Walk along North Capitol Street highlight the historic features of the site; however, they should be balanced with the need to support a better pedestrian environment along these busy streets by better connecting the pedestrian to adjacent uses on the site.

The plan for complementary new uses of retail, offices, and residential will strengthen the facing hospital complex and reconnect the site the city. These proposed uses are likely to build upon and amplify the contribution that current hospital center-related activities make to D.C.’s economy and employment base.  While the northern components of the plan better connect the site to its surroundings, the large park and recreated Olmsted Walk also allow the site to stand out as a distinctive and special place.

Overall, we support the revised master plan as a sensitive approach to preserving and making publically accessible this industrial architectural and public works heritage. The housing, retail, and office components help address the needs of a growing city and hospital district. Given that we have already lost a significant number of low income housing units planned in the first Master Plan, we ask that historic design guidance work with existing proposed levels of housing and commercial space, and not force further reductions.  While we would like to see significantly more affordable housing in this plan, the redevelopment plan does contribute to important community and citywide needs. The proposed plan for preservation and development is a compromise to enable the restoration of this distinctive historic resource.

Thank you for your consideration.

Cheryl Cort
Policy Director

Testimony to Alexandria Planning Commission on Beauregard Small Area Plan

The plan has benefitted from very extensive community involvement and input, particularly regarding the need to preserve and add affordable housing. We commend the community, and our affordable housing partners in particular, for helping to shape this plan and increase the number of committed affordable units. The plan has also benefited from the developer’s early inclusion of the nation’s top new urbanist architecture, town planning and transportation experts.

Testimony: Support for D.C.’s West End Library and Fire Station project

We wish to express our support for this project. The proposed project will leverage the value of public land to build a new West End Library, a new fire station on Square 50, along with complementary retail and residential units. The combined project of the new library on Square 37 and the new fire station offer a tremendous public benefit for the residents of the District of Columbia that is not otherwise possible. We are only able to create these new state-of-the-art public facilities due to a joint public-private partnership where the full subsidy for the public benefits is derived from the air rights above the public facilities. This project renews important outdated public facilities, and does it at no cost to the District.

Click here to read the complete testimony>>

Urban Design & Transportation Principles for Capitol Gateway Retail Site

Urban Design & Transportation Principles for Capitol Gateway Retail Site

A plan for designing a vibrant community near the Capitol Heights Metro station. This presentation outlines the core principles of smart urban design, including how to put a better face on big box stores and encourage walkable living through mixed-use development.

Cool Communities

Cool Communities

When you think cool communities, you might think of vibrant neighborhoods with great streets and parks, coffee shops, bars and restaurants, a variety of stores and other activities. But these communities also offer the opportunity to help reduce the warming of our climate, while reducing oil consumption and transportation costs. Where we build and how we build our neighborhoods will make a real difference.

Fairfax County: Draft Plan for Tysons Corner Redesign

Fairfax County is in the midst of an evolution, where the focus for future growth will of necessity be transit stations and commercial corridors. Places that will evolve into mixed-use, mixed-income, walkable, bikeable and transit oriented communities. This is the best way to protect suburban neighborhoods, to accommodate population growth and changing demographics (including downsizing empty nesters and retirees), to address traffic, and maximize the energy efficiency and competitiveness of the county. We hope that the experience from the Tysons Corner process will result in new and enhanced public planning processes, and multidisciplinary staff teams for re-planning the commercial corridors of the county.

Montgomery County: White Flint Sector Plan

We would like to express our support for the White Flint Sector Plan and urge the Council and County Executive to support it too. We strongly support the County focusing growth here at a Metro station rather than new areas that require major new public infrastructure investments like the Gaithersburg West Plan, which we oppose in its current form. We need to make the distinction – we should focus growth around our Metro stations and revitalize major commercial corridors like Rockville Pike. Conversely, the great amount of development proposed in the Gaithersburg West Plan fosters sprawl, long distance commuting, increased traffic, air and water pollution. Overzoning Gaithersburg West undermines the redevelopment of Rockville Pike and Metro station areas – the very areas where we should be encouraging sustainable, transit-oriented development and great urban boulevards and streets.

DC – Support for Giant Rezoning in Ward 3

I am pleased to testify in support of this pedestrian-oriented mixed use redevelopment project. This is a wonderful proposal that is far better than simply replacing an old grocery store with a new one. Thanks to Stop & Shop for making the extra effort to create a truly smart growth project.