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, March 26, 2015

A park "is always preferred" by residents over development: proposals for a park on the grounds of RFK Stadium

HillNow reports ("Building Youth Sports Park Near RFK Stadium Is a ‘Long March,’ Charles Allen Says") that Capitol Hill residents are calling for park and recreation uses of the current RFK Stadium parking lots.  I will say that an impressive amount of work has gone into the proposal, based on the renderings.

-- Capitol Riverside Youth Sports Park

But I think this is another example of a point that Dan Malouff (BeyondDC) made once in a comment here, that residents will always prefer the reuse of a site as "a park" because it is not residential or commercial development.

With regard to the RFK parking lots, since 2003 I've advocated that the northern lots abutting Benning Road should be developed as housing.  I think that the city would be better served by such a decision.

Extinguishing an easement would be required. Many people point out that the land can only be used for park and recreation purposes, based on the agreement transferring the use of that land to DC from the National Park Service.

What the deal is with the land there is the reverse of McMillan.

For McMillan, at the outset, the city paid to extinguish an easement that required the land to be used for parks.

That's why "the city" prefers to move forward with a plan to develop the McMillan site, one that seems to be opposed by many residents in the area--although like RFK, it's a bad location "for a park" because of how it is bounded by roadways and with a limited number of nearby residents. (Jane Jacobs wrote about the often poor siting decisions concerning parks.)

With RFK, the city got the land with that easement, the stadium being termed congruent with park-recreation use. To change what could be developed there, the city would have to pay to extinguish or change the easement.

Greater Hill East, Washington, DCI suggested ("Wanted: A comprehensive plan for the "Anacostia River East" corridor") a few years ago that a master planning process occur.  (This piece is a little different, and suggests an alternative course, "DC has a big "Garden Festival" opportunity in the Anacostia River corridor.")

Afterwards, instead, Councilmember Orange proposed a wacked entertainment district anchored by a new stadium for the Redskins Football team ("The 5 Strangest Parts of Vincent Orange's RFK Stadium Plan," Washington City Paper).

I expect that the plan put forward by the residents is designed to ward off such an initiative.

In fact, it appears if the group of residents were spurred in part by proposals predating the initiative by Vincent Orange, a since scuttled plan to build a Redskins practice facility in Reservation 13, land east of 18th Street and south of the Armory.

Personally, I think that the area would be better served with a master planning process, but one that should consider the ability to add housing, which would support transit use in the corridor (streetcar) and the continued strengthening of the H St. retail district, and would make a better connection to the Ward 7 part of the corridor, knitting it together better.

Probably an Oklahoma Street Metro Rail station would be a bit much, but depending on the level of development at the Pepco site, it could be justifiable.

The big problem in strengthening Ward 7 at least in the Minnesota Avenue corridor, is the big gap between Oklahoma Avenue and Minnesota Avenue.  Fixing the gap that exists with the parking lots at RFK, on the south side of Benning Road, across from Spingarn High School, and filling the gap that exists with the Pepco site north of Benning Road, would go a long way towards knitting these two sides of the Anacostia River together.

One other thing about DC and new parks: the city doesn't want to take on "new" operating responsibilities.  I don't know if there is an official, legislated, policy, but in the last decade the city has refused to take on direct financial responsibility for the creation of "new park spaces."  (I happened to have a conversation about this just yesterday.)  Even if the city contributed money to the creation of such parks.

The city's "newest" parks, the Georgetown Waterfront Park, created by the National Park Service with assistance from a community group on land that was transferred from DC to NPS, and Yards Park and Canal Park--both in the Capitol Riverfront district in Southeast--are not operated and managed by the city.  Yards Park is operated by the business improvement district, and Canal Park is run by a separate nonprofit organization.

That creates a major hurdle for the Capitol Hill Youth Sports Park proposal, because there are no adjacent development interests that would be motivated to pay towards building and operating the park as a way to simultaneously support their own business interests.

Note that by comparison, the City of Philadelphia has a completely different policy and perspective.

They are adamant that park spaces should be developed and managed by the city's parks department. Recently, they have opened Dilworth Park ("Top 12 Reasons To Be Psyched For The New Dilworth Park," VisitPhilly), rehabilitated Rittenhouse Square, created a new riverfront boardwalk ("Top Reasons To Visit The Awesome New Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk," VisitPhilly), which extends over the Schuylkill River, and are developing neighborhood pocket parks which simultaneously incorporate green infrastructure as part of the city's stormwater management program.

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At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

another park that no one will take care of is not what we need in this part of DC- what we need are retails tores- not big huge parking lots and empty surface parking but an extension of the city grid and more apartments, houses, and even warehouses and factories aong the river as was initially proposed back in the early 20th century when Kingman Park was first built. As it stands right now you need to get in a friggin car just to find a drug store in this part of the city.Stadium Armory metro station has nothing around it at all- we should have at least one grocery store and other types of things people can use when walking home from the metro after work or going to work.Another park is a crock of shit.

At 1:40 PM, Anonymous Richard Layman said...

you stated much more succinctly what I was trying to say, but badly...

" but an extension of the city grid and more apartments, houses, and even warehouses and factories"

the point is the extension of the street grid. When I get back home I will restate this point.


At 2:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

there is just so much vacant land -a huge wasted resource - it is silly to make more parks where nothing can go. If you have all parks in the city center you wind up with Detroit- all empty land and everything int he Sprawl. This is wrong despite what all of the boomer environmental evangelistas say- they are always pissing and moaning about green space and then they get into their cars to go anywhere. Green space in a city is about the fastest way to environmental disaster possible.

At 2:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

also- I see lots of churches on this east side of the city which have empty surface parking all thru the week- one in particualr I walk by every day is at 17th & east Capitol streets- a HUGE surface parking lot a mere 2 blocks from SA metro station- and a church that stands empty all week long- and on Sundays it is only Maryland Ward 9 people who attend the church. At least Holy Comforter doesnt have the incredile expansive waste of surface parking. We could use a CVS or a Walgreens on the corner of 17th and East capitol streets- this would serve the area far better than an empty Ward 9 church and surface parking.


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