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.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Looking back at 2013

It's hard for me to write a post like this, because I don't usually keep a running tally of momentous  events.

-- gas tax change, development of new sources of transportation funds for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads
-- although tolling the Hampton Roads tunnels to fund expansion has been approved, with a lot of opposition
-- the federal government shutdown--a significant amount of the state economy, especially in Northern Virginia and the Hampton Roads (lots of military installations and defense contractors) is dependent on the federal government
-- which impacted the candidacy of the Tea Party endorsed Republican gubernatorial candidate whats-his-name, I mean Ken Cuccinnelli (e.g., now I just toss old clippings about his program visions because they are no longer relevant)
-- the Democratic sweep of statewide offices--but because the Virginia Senate and House districts are slanted to favor rural and conservative interests, and the relative failure of the Democrats to pick up House seats (this year the Senate wasn't up for election) doesn't indicate to me a sea change there, despite the commentary by others
-- Arlington County Board member Chris Zimmerman has resigned to become VP for Smart Growth America.  What has impressed me most about Mr. Zimmerman is how he has engaged all of the Arlington County Board members and built their capacity and commitment to a smart growth, pro-sustainable mobility agenda, which can't be said for any of the other county or city councils in the metropolitan area
-- the opening of the first phase of the Silver Line Metro expansion keeps getting delayed, but the reproduction of land use in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties that will be served by the new line is underway and is one of the most significant land use redevelopment initiatives across the US
-- the National Science Foundation moving from Arlington to Alexandria.  This hurts Arlington's "open-air" research park along Wilson Boulevard a lot.  Will it hold its own, will Alexandria be able to reprogram land use around the NSF to benefit the city in a similar fashion?
-- pushback by citizens in Arlington County, against the "$1 million bus shelter" and streetcar plans

-- gas tax increase, more funds for transportation
-- bidding out for private construction and operation of the Purple (DC suburbs) and Red Line (Baltimore City and County) light rail projects
-- approval of a casino in Prince George's County
-- approval of a casino at National Harbor, opening of an outlet mall at National Harbor, continued failure to require that development at National Harbor be tied to transit service and expansion
-- new hospital center approved for Prince George's County
-- will the owners of the Apex building in Bethesda agree to a rebuild to facilitate the construction of the Purple Line connection to the Metro?
-- delay of zoning rewrite approval in Montgomery County

-- federal government shutdown and the impact on the ability of the DC government to operate (DC government is treated as an agency of the federal government according to current federal laws)
-- continued political debacles with City Council and the Mayor, including Michael Brown dropping out of a special election to get elected back onto Council because of his acceptance of a bribe and continued wondering on if Mayor Gray will be indicted because of election improprieties
-- pushback against an increase in maximum building height by 25% to 200 feet, not to mention City Council's vote against devolution of authority on the height limit to DC and away from the federal government
-- pushback by citizens against zoning changes that are oriented to smart growth and sustainable transportation
-- City Council delay of the election of an Attorney General (and Council's failure to push back the primary to June or July from April)
-- the mayoral race for 2014 (Gosh I am not too excited by it...)
-- land swap and other shenanigans to finance the building of a soccer stadium
-- Washington Post sold to Jeff Bezos and they might relocate to the suburbs (the Atlanta Journal-Constitution moved to the suburbs a few years ago)
-- why the hell did we spend almost $130 million to rebuild Dunbar High School when most DCPS high schools have enrollments under 700 students?
-- DC's first segment of modern streetcar service will finally start operating in 2014
-- WMATA Momentum plan for transit expansion (to be fully realized by a time when it is likely that I will be dead or doddering)
-- Walmart started opening stores in the city
-- the CFO's position was renewed, even after many improprieties within the office's functions, but he resigned soon into his term
-- the FBI will be leaving the city to relocate in either Maryland or Virginia.  Maryland is pulling hard for the win, but Virginia has the advantage of being the location of the agency's major training facility in Quantico
 -- the commitment was made to rebuild the city's languishing central library, the Martin Luther King Library at 9th and G Streets NW, and in FY14--starting October 1st, 2013, the library system went to 7 day service, with some libraries open every day of the week

-- federal shutdown and the local impact
-- failure of a sound launch of the online sign up program for the Affordable Care Act could dissipate the gains Democrats may have made at the national level.  At this point, what will happen in the 2014 elections for the House and Senate is a tossup and it is less likely that Democrats will make any gains
-- Bill de Blasio, the progressive candidate for mayor in New York City, wins the primary and general elections
-- many local initiatives to increase minimum wages legislatively (including in DC, and Montgomery and Prince George's Counties in Maryland), but SeaTac, Washington is the highest at $15 although a judge just ruled that the airport is exempt ("Seattle suburb's minimum-wage measure faces setback," Los Angeles Times)
-- strikes by un-unionized fast food workers for higher wages
-- the rise in supplies of oil and natural gas from fracking make renewable energy less financially efficacious without significant subsidy, gasoline prices are likely to stabilize, and more coal plants will shut down or be converted to natural gas, hurting the economy of coal states like West Virginia and Kentucky especially

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At 3:55 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

In terms of Arlington, I'd add the growing distance for the aquatics center, a much worse commerical real estate market than planned, and the extremely untidy aftereffects of zimmerman resigning (decent chance a republcian will be elected)

With DC, I'd throw the same amount of money at Cardozo (100+ million).

I drove by the Georgia Avenue walmart. From the car -- and that is a caveat -- I did remind me of urban megastores in europe. The look inside was pretty horrible, though. I liked the sign was small and parking was underground.

At 12:21 AM, Blogger Casey A said...

For Maryland, I would add the recent approval of a master plan for a BRT network.

At 2:19 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Thanks. Definite misses. WRT ArCo's real estate market, the f*edness of Congress is hurting them. Since prospectus leases aren't being pursued by GSA now for the most part, because they expect that Tea Party types won't approve, ArCo is priced out and so Alexandria and the now almost Metrorail-enabled Tysons Corner can out bid them.

And yes, the BRT stuff in MoCo is big, hopefully. More on that later...


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