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Breakfast links: Interesting ideas from the past edition

Mall plus plus: The July 2006 issue of Washingtonian presented a vision for the National Mall that would create landfill and new canals behind the Jefferson Memorial to create space for new memorials and a relocated Supreme Court; the VRE tracks would also be buried to restore Maryland Avenue as a mirror of Pennsylvania. Thanks Nick!

Streetcars across Alexandria: Here's a March 2005 proposal for streetcars across the City of Alexandria. Thanks Steven!

Left: Proposal for the Mall. Right: Alexandria streetcar proposal.

How to make restaurants work: Richard Layman has some concrete suggestions for making neighborhood restaurants work, with a special eye to Georgia Avenue and H Street.

Don't call me Shirlington: Arlington just opened a bus transfer station in Shirlington, making a fairly car-oriented part of Arlington a little more transit-oriented. "This is a great example of where you can do transit-oriented development even when you don't have a rail station," said WMATA Chairman and Arlingtonian Chris Zimmerman.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Here are renderings and photos of the Shirlington bus station:

by Laurence Aurbach on Jun 27, 2008 9:20 am • linkreport

Interesting idea with the mall expansion, though I take issue with the actual design.

Though it's true that the Tidal Basin and Hains Point were created by humans, those were all tidal flats anyway - there was exposed ground there at low tide, so raising that land wasn't as 'unnatural' as it may seem. In that design, that southern axis extending into the Potomac just looks wrong. A river doesn't flow like that.

Also, if you're going to do all that work there anyway, I think you could come up with a much cleaner way to cluster the bridges across the Potomac. Also, if you're going to be adding all that stuff there (Supreme Court, new Museums, etc) then it seems adding an infill Metro station on the Yellow line makes sense, too. Reworking all that transportation infrastructure ought to be linked with any plans to alter or completely bury 395. Also, the point about chlorine gas seems a bit redundant, as there are plans in the works for a freight rail bypass of DC, allowing those shipments to stay out of the city (and hopefully dedicate more trackage to passenger rail).

Interesting concept, but I'd change a lot of things if I were making this a proposal.

by Alex B. on Jun 27, 2008 10:24 am • linkreport

The Mall design is in some ways interesting, but others unpleasantly Disney-esque. Much of DC's riverfront, although infilled and engineered has kept some natural feeling to it contours. I also wonder what the islands would do to Potomac flow?

by RanB on Jun 27, 2008 10:49 am • linkreport

The other thing to remember is that the Tidal Basin does serve a function. The gates under the bridges allow water to enter the basin as the tide rises from the Potomac, but the gates then close as the tide retreats, forcing the water out the outlet gate and into the Washington Channel. This helps keep the Washington Channel free of silt and navigable. Creating more islands and water connections through Hains Point is an interesting idea, but I think the waterworks guys would have to take a look at it.

The Washington Channel was a natural channel, too - it's naturally deeper than the rest of the tidal flats that were filled in.

by Alex B. on Jun 27, 2008 11:04 am • linkreport

I love everything about the idea of burying the tracks and restoring Maryland Ave. Could lead to better re-integration of Southwest into the city.

But I do take issue with the idea of expanding the Mall. For planning purposes, expanding the Mall into the Potomac will only serve to further separate monumental Washington from the rest of town. What is needed is to do a better job at linking the two back together again. And for environmental reasons, with the spectre of global climate change and sea level rise, building down by the water doesn't seem like a good bet.

Why not do a better job of steering attractions, museums, and new monuments to different neighborhoods? Let's build them in new or reenergized mixed-use neighborhoods, places that will draw tourists out into the city rather than sequestering them down on the Mall. This would help Washingtonians access these resources, improve the tourist experience (ever tried to find a (good) bite to eat in between museums or monuments?), and make DC the vibrant metropolitan capital city originally envisioned.

There's the entire Anacostia waterfront. There's Poplar Point. Southwest still needs to recover from the 1950s "urban renewal" catastrophe. When RFK stadium is torn down, there will be acres and acres of land to redevelop, just east of Capitol Hill. And the Veterans Home is always trying to shed several of its parcels.

Let's build out into the City, not the Potomac.

by Patrick T. Metz on Jun 27, 2008 12:20 pm • linkreport


For the purposes of clarification (I'm not sure I totally agree with their assumptions, but want to put this out there), I think the idea with expanding the 'Mall' (even though the Mall will always just be between the Washington Monument and the Capitol - the rest is East Potomac Park, technically) is the fact that the space is incredibly overused. Everybody wants to host something there, the turf is doomed to fail, and there aren't a whole lot of alternative options available.

I completely agree with you that city-oriented development should focus inward to the city, but the kind of expansion they're talking about here is nationally-oriented.

The Park Service is putting together a plan to address the Mall's current state:

There are some good ideas in there.

by Alex B. on Jun 27, 2008 12:50 pm • linkreport

Interesting idea to place the Supreme Court down there ... and complete a triangle with the White House and the Capitol. The only thing though ... Where are all the staffers (never mind the Justices) going to go for lunch? The site is kind of isolated ... Though I guess some hot dog stands would make their way there.

by Lance on Jun 27, 2008 1:14 pm • linkreport

While I agree that the Supreme Court deserves a grander vision...

And I am a serious fan of the ideas about Maryland Avenue and M Street...

And I quite like the ideas of decking over the highways and building up that area...

And the war on urban golf is one I support...

And there is a demand for *some* of the extra museum/memorial space they pose...

*They were talking about terrorism, and I don't think that should be the reason for new development - it should be a bullet point cautioning new development. What they've done is inadvertently set the Supreme Court up for a low-tech fertilizer truck bombing.

*It doesn't connect well enough with the rest of the city.

*Hain's Point deserves an epic statue, not this new point.

*Too many memorials / museums - this is the size of the entire Smithsonian. It becomes cliché after a while.

by Squalish on Jun 27, 2008 3:25 pm • linkreport

I've seen that idea to move the Supreme Court down there. That is the type of incredibly idiotic ideas that only a landscape architect could come up with (kind of like the vast empty promenade they planned from the Lincoln Memorial to the Kennedy Center). It's not a garden gnome, it's the god damn supreme court. You can't just throw it in the middle of some island and expect it to be usable. As pointed out, a lot of people work there, and many more like to visit. Putting it on the set of the Prisoner will only make it incredibly inconvenient to get to, not to mention the lack of any transit options, or even any convenient road options.

by Reid on Jun 27, 2008 3:25 pm • linkreport

A preferable plan has much, much less impact on the landscape (the highly treasured, history-cherry-tree-ridden landscape), and develops some of empty space in the dead Southeast into a place with livable streets - including residential, commercial, and a museum every so often. Getting tourists to explore brutalist streets, much less consider their passage part of a park, is difficult.

*Widen East Potomac Park 50 yards into the Potomac (double or triple the sidewalk area as well), and build small memorials, museums, and light commercial there. Plant more cherry trees.

*Set up a low speed ultralight rail line that circles East Potomac Park. Six-foot-wide tourist "steam engine" attractions do it cheaply all the time.

*Eliminate the White Course - from East Potomac Golf Course, and replace it with facilities for other sports. Move the maintenance facilities down below the driving range. If ye desire a hill for placement of anything (Supreme Court or no), build it here and paint recreation fields around it.

*Build a *small* canal parallel to Buckeye Drive Southwest that allows two-way small boat traffic and small underground boat slips. Frequent pedestrian bridges over it.

*Yellow Line station. Build it.

*Deck over and develop the area between the freight tracks and Buckeye Drive Southwest into a new urban center. Underground parking and Metro.

*Develop the area around Banneker Circle into a suitable commercial atmosphere to take care of a bus depot at L'Enfant Promenade.

*Develop the massive parking lot at the end of Maryland Avenue into a multistory garage with associated residential & commercial space

*Across from the Bureau of Engraving & Printing, take a chunk out of the Mall and build a thick mixed use complex with at least one attractive museum. The rugby field can be moved to EPP. People need a reason to be there and see it as a continuation of the Mall, not just vacant land, in order to unify the park.

*Build some type of attraction in the plot of land north of the paddle boat rental, without disturbing too many of the cherry trees or blocking the view of the Washington Monument.

by Squalish on Jun 27, 2008 5:46 pm • linkreport

Typo - any plan to make this a workable extension of the Mall will have to develop some street life by any means necessary(combined with museums / park facilities) in the dead Southwest office zone, not Southeast.

by Squalish on Jun 27, 2008 10:18 pm • linkreport

I like the concept of covering I-395, but that highway needed to be lowered to make that idea work there; as currently conceived the plans will create a giant wall right by the Jefferson Memorial.

I discuss what needs doing there in my Sept. 2007 post a A Trip Within The Beltway A Washington DC Big Dig

Examples of highway segments that could be covered without being lowered are I-66 by the Kennedy Center and the SE Freeway to the east of the 11th Street Bridges.

by Douglas Willinger on Jun 29, 2008 7:53 pm • linkreport

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