Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

(DC) Open House: Federal Urban Design Element for the Comprehensive Plan

... Years ago I testified at an NCPC hearing, and made the comment that the Federal Elements of the DC Comprehensive Plan needed to be augmented by an element on urban design because of the deleterious impact of various federal projects on the quality of place and urban design in the city, not to mention how calling Pennsylvania Avenue "America's Main Street" was a travesty in terms of the quality of the pedestrian experience there.

Federal Urban Design Element Open House
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
6:30 – 8:00 PM
District Architecture Center
421 7th Street, NW

NCPC is hosting an open house to present the draft polices for first-ever Federal Urban Design Element for the Comprehensive Plan. Urban design involves the enhancement of a place's unique urban character through the development and management of its public spaces, including building yards, parks, plazas, and streets. The policies will provide guidance for the design of federal facilities and the promotion of more active public space.

The National Capital Planning Commission is the planning agency for the Federal Government in the National Capital Region, which includes not just DC, but Northern Virginia and the Maryland suburbs around the District of Columbia.

In DC proper, NCPC has a greater role, where it produces a section of the DC Comprehensive Land Use Plan as it relates to the federal government's presence and role in the National Capital.

-- Federal Elements of the DC Comprehensive Land Use Plan
-- Draft, Urban Design Element

In some respects, the federal elements are better than the local elements when it comes to transportation planning (the element has improved, with guidance from the Executive Branch, in terms of locating federal agencies proximate to transit) and visitor management.

And because it is tasked with planning the Federal Presence over multi-decade time frames, it has the luxury of doing extremely "long range" planning, such as considering the planning and locating of monuments and memorials (actually this is so subject to politics and the involvement of Congress that despite the planning, political decisionmaking usually trumps it, at least for memorials).

-- Memorials and Museums Master Plan
-- Extending the Legacy: Planning America's Capital for the 21st Century
-- Monumental Core Framework Plan

Recently, NCPC led the planning of the Southwest Ecodistrict federal area in Southwest DC, in conjunction with the DC Office of Planning.  And the agency continues to be heavily involved in security planning as it relates to the impact of site hardening of federal facilities in the city in terms of urban design.

(In DC, federal planning and review is also undertaken by the Commission on Fine Arts, which:

is charged with giving expert advice to the President, Congress and the heads of departments and agencies of the Federal and District of Columbia governments on matters of design and aesthetics, as they affect the Federal interest and preserve the dignity of the nation's capital.

The agency includes within its purview, oversight of the Old Georgetown Historic District, which was created by Congressional action in 1950, decades before the National Historic Preservation Act or the creation of local historic preservation legislation.)

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