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.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Moving too fast with proposals for a massive bridge for South Capitol Street

Once you build a big-ass bridge or spaghetti freeway interchange, it's hard to go back.

DC's announcement that it is going to rebuild, with a likely overbuilt concept, the South Capitol Street bridge ("DC plans to replace aging bridge near Capitol" from the Associated Press) has been challenged by a good piece in Greater Greater Washington, "DDOT wants to build new South Capitol bridge; should it?," suggesting that if not a bridge too far, the proposal is for a bridge too big.

-- South Capitol Street Environmental Impact Study
-- DC DOT Anacostia webpage
1. One of my readers makes the point that we aren't really planning for significant ship use of the Anacostia Waterfront.  (Had I won the lottery a couple months ago when it got up to $500+ million I might have bought a couple of steamboats and figured out how to restore "steamboat" service in the Chesapeake Bay region as a kind of cultural heritage and tourism effort.)

2. I have suggested that we need a more serious planning effort for Anacostia waterfront planning ("Wanted: A comprehensive plan for the "Anacostia River East" corridor")

3.  And the National Coalition to Save our [National] Mall's Third Century Initiative makes some interesting proposals for developing a "southern leg" of the National Mall.  That southern leg is South Capitol and anything the city does with the bridge either makes a Southern Mall possible or dooms it from happening for decades.

4. Plus there is an exhibit, Reclaiming the Edge: Urban Waterways and Civic Engagement", at the Anacostia Museum that I haven't gone to see yet.

5. Plus/2, I hate to admit that I still haven't read John Wennersten's book Anacostia: The Birth and Death of an American River.

6. We don't know what's going to happen with the south side of the Anacostia (in the city we call this "east of the river" but in that place it's really south).

7. And are our plans for the waterfront development of the Anacostia River complete or wise (given the recent flooding of waterfront property in New York and New Jersey post-Superstorm Sandy)?

Below is a blog entry from 2006 with a bunch of ideas for re-engaging with the Anacostia River. Links haven't been checked/updated.
Delta King Hotel
Originally uploaded by MousseFromSacto.
For Stren Series, Anglers Hit the Potomac.jpg

Right: Chris Baumgardner of Gastonia, N.C., finished in second place on the third day of the tournament. (Photos By Dayna Smith -- The Washington Post)

1. A couple weeks ago, Charles County sponsored an fishing contest. How's the fishing in DC? Enough for competitive fishing on the Outdoor Life channel? See "For Stren Series, Anglers Hit the Potomac," from the Post.

[Note, recently there has been coverage of people fishing the Anacostia and how the fish shouldn't be consumed because of chemical contamination of the river.  See "Fishing the Forgotten Anacostia River in Washington DC" from the National Geographic.]

2. DCist has a pretty good idea about the two finalists competing for the contract from the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation to rebuild the Southwest DC Waterfront--in the blog entry "A New Anacostia Waterfront Imagined," they put the two proposals online:

The presentations by the two can be viewed here and here, though beware -- they're large .pdf files.

I haven't reviewed both proposals yet, but I was pleasantly surprised by the one I did page through, the PN Hoffman-SBER proposal, which includes a variety of participants including the Project for Public Spaces, and a number of educational and cultural offerings.

3. Speaking of educational and cultural offerings, and thinking more than just about a riverboat hotel or hostel, and maybe even a warship. (I know these are pretty typical.)

The Sacramento riverboat hotel, Delta King, image by MousseFromSacto via Flickr.

Sacramento has such a hotel (see "Sacramento digest: Riverboat's new manager") apparently there are hostel houseboats in Europe, and Calvert County Maryland is working to land a battleship as a tourist attraction. See "Some See Future for Destroyer in Solomons" subtitled "Backers Want to Turn Ship Into Museum That Allows Students to Stay Overnight."

PH2006071900037.jpgCalvert County commissioners are considering a proposal to dock the USS Forrest Sherman in Solomons. (USS Forrest Sherman Foundation)

(Also see "Naval Warship Museums Problems And Potentials.")

4. Maybe a way to get around the gaming thing would be to do what they did in Mississippi (until Hurricane Katrina), allow gaming on boats in the Gulf of Mexico. How about a gaming cruise on the Potomac? (I am not likely in favor of such.)

5. And speaking of the waterfront, one of the Commissioners of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Carl Cole, makes the point that DC doesn't have a "port authority" to deal with such issues, such as promoting river-based business.

Maritime Heritage of Southwest DCThis image of Maritime Heritage in Southwest DC is cropped from a history trails sign.

See "Cruising the Midwest," an AP story that appeared in today's Express. Note that there used to be a big trade in boat-ship based travel out of DC. One of DC's first African-American millionaires, made his money in the steamboat trade.

In the midwest, the Great Lake Cruising Coalition works to make river- and lake-based boat tourism a reality.

Great Lakes Cruises on Yahoo! News Photos.jpgThe Grande Mariner cruise ship is shown docked in Wyandotte, Mich., on June 13, 2006. By the time the Grande Mariner and its 65 passengers reach Chicago four days after seeing Detroit, they will have traveled through the Erie Canal and four of the five Great Lakes. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

6. And of course, we need to link up with Prince George's County Maryland's Anacostia Trails Heritage Area [note that this organization now has a different name, Maryland Milestones, which I think is a dumb rebranding, very generic], and work together jointly to promote tourism and improvement of the area. Among the many things they do (in association with the Parks Dept. of the County) are river tours of the Anacostia, starting at the Waterfront Park in Bladensburg, and going south into DC.

7. Speaking of DC, I keep meaning to mention the great efforts of Washington Parks and People and their restoration of the Watts Branch Park, now called the Marvin Gaye Park. Also see "Reviving the Roots Of an R& B Legend," subtitled "Park Could Be Homage to Marvin Gaye," and "Getting Its Groove Back," subtitled "A Park Under Restoration Will Be Renamed Today for Marvin Gaye," both from the Washington Post.
Getting Its Groove Back.jpgWatts Branch Park is officially rededicated as Marvin Gaye Park on what would have been the singer's 67th birthday. There is much yet to be done, but the 1.6-mile-long park is well on its way to being turned into what one activist calls the "east-of-the-river equivalent of Rock Creek Park." Washington Post photo.

8. And how about kayaking, faux-beaches, volleyball, and more fun stuff? - Canton Kayak Club member.jpgA Canton Kayak Club member takes in the sunrise at the Inner Harbor. (Sun photo by Elizabeth Malby)Jul 13, 2006

Boat rave, waterfront, Chicago
Boat rave, waterfront, Chicago. New York Times photo.

Water ball 
Water balls...

Paris Plage, Urban Beach 
Paris Plage, an August urban beach tradition. Bernard Bisson, Getty Images.

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At 2:06 PM, Blogger jmgorman said...

You should definitely come see the exhibit - Jack wrote it and it's serving as the cornerstone of a new Smithsonian initiative that will tie more and more urban waterway research together. We also have some bike projects in the works - you might be interested in those as well.

At 2:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

not only does this proposal completely and forever cut off commercial and naval boat traffic- it is FUGLY and really lacks imagination despite the glitzy flyover the "architects" have given to us to consume. This is DC- not some po-dunk place- we should DEMAND a high bridge for large vessels- and monumental LIONS of TIGERS on both ends and real stone construction- why do we always have to settle for CHEAP and apathetic design attempts ???

At 3:08 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I went to one of the presentations at the A. Museum earlier in 11/11, before the exhibition was mounted.

I thought I wrote about it. I did give comments to the presentation. No one ever got back with me...

I do intend to go to this exhibit, now, sooner rather than later.

This is something from a couple years ago that sums up some of my Anacostia musings, although the community, not the river.

At 7:37 PM, Blogger Douglas Andrew Willinger said...

The proposed bridge adds a single lane outbound, making 3 lanes per direction, so I hardly see that as any monster bridge.

Too Bad GGW is such a reliable force against good planning by not standing up for teh Extending the Legacy SCS concept.

Likewise for the Committee of 100 in this regard to.

At 8:49 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Massive I meant in terms of being big, potentially eliminating the possibility of using the Anacostia River waterway for ship access (like cruise ships), and closing off the possibility as you say of "extending the legacy"/the southern mall.

The bridge proposal should be delayed so that these other options shouldn't be closed off.

At 12:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Architects don't design highWays they design buildings.

At 10:20 PM, Blogger Douglas Andrew Willinger said...

The Southern Mall is rather being closed of not by the bridge but by the over-development- aka Nationals Stadium and 1325 SCS demolition specials.

I say, make the oval instead as a circle, and do the western side of the Southern Mall, demolishing 1325 SCS- nothing written in stone against eminent domain here.

Also, the filling in of the underpass is a crime- instead extend it to the left lanes of the new bridge.


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