Greater Greater Washington

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Breakfast links: Signs of the times


Photo by jonathankoren on Flickr.
Ugly signs protest development: A Brookland ANC commissioner has painted unsightly signs attached to her house to protest the Colonel Brooks' Tavern project. Since the signs are political, they require no permits. (Brookland Avenue)

Will Capitol surface parking ever go away?: Despite touting sustainability initiatives, the Architect of the Capitol is doing little about the acres of surface parking lots. An award-winning plan would bury the parking under parks and buildings, but that's on hold. (City Paper)

Route 1 to be more friendly: After years of promises and delays, Maryland SHA will allocate $8.8 million to make Route 1 in College Park more pedestrian and bike friendly. Also, a tree-studded median will replace the infamous center lane. (Patch)

Take MLK from MLK to MLK: Marion Barry would designate a bridge, a freeway and Independence Avenue as MLK Drive, connecting MLK Avenue SE with the new MLK Memorial. Kwame Brown called an emergency Council session today to vote. (Post)

The Ward 4 WMATA Board: All 3 of DC's current WMATA board members live in Ward 4. New member Tom Bulger takes Metro regularly, but not from home to work, since he lives in the Chevy Chase area without good transit access. (Examiner)

CaBi sets records on the 4th: The 4th of July set a CaBi ridership record, with 5,983 trips. 51% were "casual users" (apparently people with daily or weekly memberships), the first time they exceeded rides by annual and monthly members. (@bikeshare)

Amtrak privitization faces the 5th Amendment: The Congressional Research Service, Congress's research arm, thinks that a privatization plan for Amtrak's Northeast Corridor might be an unconstitutional taking of "private" property. (Streetsblog)

Bike bits: New transportation chair Mary Cheh attended the Bicycle Advisory Council meeting yesterday. (WashCycle) ... DDOT told Wells the M Street cycle track can move forward after community and BID meetings; L Street still "needs more work."

And...: Why do we need the Old Georgetown Board? (City Paper) ... FedEx Field will install 8,000 solar panels. (Post) ... Once, traffic signs and drivers' licenses were brand new ideas. (TBD) ... Phil Mendelson withdrew his bill to let the DC government act as a gun dealer. (Examiner)

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Eric Fidler has lived in DC and suburban Maryland his entire life. He likes long walks along the Potomac and considers the L'Enfant Plan an elegant work of art. He also blogs at Left for LeDroit, LeDroit Park's (only) blog of record. 

Comments

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M Street NE or SE? I hope SE because that would be great.

by Michael Perkins on Jul 14, 2011 8:57 am • linkreport

That's M St NW, as one half of the L and M pair.

by Alex B. on Jul 14, 2011 9:11 am • linkreport

err, isn't that M st NW?

Is that really "acres" of surface parking on the hill? The senate lots are the big offenders, since the biggest lot of the House side really isn't on the hill. The one by the metro station is the worst offender, and selling that off makes some sense. It is a bit too small for a new office building.

I'd say part of the reason for NOT putting them underground is that parking is such a perk in most offices there is an institutional pressure NOT to increase parking.

by charlie on Jul 14, 2011 9:14 am • linkreport

8.8 million for "design and engineering" for a roughly 3 mile stretch of Rt. 1? Seriously? That seems really expensive for not much road.

by thump on Jul 14, 2011 9:16 am • linkreport

@charlie

Yes, acres. Acres aren't as big as you might think they are.

Some back of the envelope math using Bing Maps shows the lot adjacent to the Capitol South metro station alone is about 108k SF of asphalt, which translates to just shy of 2.5 acres. And that's just one of the many surface parking lots there.

None of those lots are too small for office buildings.

by Alex B. on Jul 14, 2011 9:36 am • linkreport

The fastest and easiest way to drive property values down?

Rename some road running through it to MLK.

by TGEoA on Jul 14, 2011 9:43 am • linkreport

Actually, at least one of the house lots used to be home to an office building that was demolished, and never replaced. As much as I hate to give congress more perks, they really do need more room. They rent tons of space around town, which can't possibly be efficient.

by andrew on Jul 14, 2011 9:58 am • linkreport

I like the idea of the name designation. But what the street name actually change? I didn't get that from the article.

by HogWash on Jul 14, 2011 10:13 am • linkreport

Regarding MLK Blvd, Times Discovery did an intersting article about MLK Blvd across the nation.

http://www.cableready.net/155/mlk-boulevard-the-concrete-dream/

by TGEoA on Jul 14, 2011 10:23 am • linkreport

Hm. I like the name designation too, but am uncertain about naming it a "Drive." It's one of the most complicated freeways that I've ever driven on.

Personally, I'd be in favor of naming the span of road between the northern end of the 14th St Bridge and southern end of the 11th St Bridge as the "MLK Freeway." It's obviously a single, contiguous road, but has 3-4 different designations along the way. Simplifying things would be nice.

by andrew on Jul 14, 2011 10:24 am • linkreport

@alex, thanks. Your guestimating skills at area are much better than mine. Maybe 15 acres total surface lots?

Let me rephrase, slightly. The capital south lot is a bit small for the type of giant office buildings Congress likes to construct. I do find some amusement in forcing the Congress to sell that lot to developers. However, very implausible. And a smaller building could easily provide more meeting rooms, which are always in high demand.

by charlie on Jul 14, 2011 10:31 am • linkreport

Looks like Barry may have gotten into his son's stash.

by aaa on Jul 14, 2011 10:44 am • linkreport

@charlie

Yeah, acres are surprisingly small. I guess we have some sort of bias towards thinking they are large, since urban real estate is usually expressed in terms of square footage, while rural, raw land is sold in acres (and large bunches of them too).

With regard to Congress, there's still no reason they can't put perfectly massive office buildings on those lots. I believe one of the plans called for the removal of the parking under Rayburn (for 'security' reasons) and the conversion of that space to meeting rooms, while parking would be accommodated elsewhere.

I agree that they won't sell off those main lots, but I don't see any reason they can't sell off the two smallest triangular lots near Union Station that front on North Capitol (across from the Dubliner). Those smaller parcels would make for good hotel locations, for example. The two other Senate-side lots are more than large enough, as is the Capitol South lot. My one request would be that any of those buildings include true mixed use design with street-fronting retail to build on extant retail nodes (both at Cap South and along Mass Ave to the east of Union Station).

by Alex B. on Jul 14, 2011 10:46 am • linkreport

Call me crazy, but the streetscaping project on Route 1 through College Park is the single most-important and return-inducing infrastructure investment that the County could possibly make right now (think about how many thousands of peoples' only view of PG has been shaped by looking out the window on Route 1 from the beltway to U of MD). I hope the County/State spends the money to do it right.

by bryon on Jul 14, 2011 11:24 am • linkreport

I agree that these surface lots are wastes of perfectly valuable property. But, let's consider these in context. In my view, there are two reasonable alternatives for each plot of land: private sector redevelopment or congressional office space.

There is a desperate need for office space. And despite the cynicism of some previous posters, I don't think we should be rejecting any call for more construction jobs downtown. Any increase in office space will most likely need to be evenly split between the Senate and the House. So, you would eliminate one lot on each side.

Now, the Tea Party element would not support that sort of spending. So, you would need to leverage it with the sale of other parking lots for private development. In all, you need a grand bargain for it to work. You won't get this done on sustainability grounds. You'll get it done by mixing congressmen who feel they need space with Tea Partiers who want to cut everything.

I also feel that, as frustrating as the Capitol South parking lot is, the lots closer to 395 are far more damaging. They reinforce the separation of the Capitol from other neighborhoods that is already created by two freeways and CSX tracks.

So, in all, convince a Tea Party politician that he can save or make money in this plan, and we'll see an end to those surface lots. Otherwise, Congress has no real incentive to do anything on this issue.

by thesixteenwords on Jul 14, 2011 11:30 am • linkreport

So, in all, convince a Tea Party politician that he can save or make money in this plan, and we'll see an end to those surface lots. Otherwise, Congress has no real incentive to do anything on this issue.

Well, the owners of the office space that congress is renting certainly aren't giving it away for free. Money would be saved. It's more a matter of when there'd be a return on investment.

Given the current budget talks, there's no way in hell that congress will be able to build a new building for itself. It'd be political suicide. (Not to mention that the design process would probably produce something that makes the ATF building look friendly and insecure)

by andrew on Jul 14, 2011 11:38 am • linkreport

An acre is basically a football field, no?

Good point on the two "Dubliner" lots. And there is a lot of street parking. the ones by Union station are ok, but the ones in front of the capitol are quite ugly.

Given security concerns, putting multi-use into those buildings is probably a non starter.

@ thesixteenwords; I know there was an argument that Congress was leasing some office space down on 2nd for a while and it was costing too much. I think 395 is a bigger barrier to integrating SW and the Hill. Well, that and usual crime concerns.

by charlie on Jul 14, 2011 11:39 am • linkreport

@Bryon-It's a good start and surely needs to happen sooner rather than later, but they need to look at the entire corridor from the beltway to DC. Cherry Hill Rd. through CP, East-West Hwy to past the corrections facility, 38th St. to Eastern Ave.

by thump on Jul 14, 2011 11:47 am • linkreport

The rule of thumb I had for an acre was slightly less than a football field.

I want to say that 90 yards of it is one acre. So, no end zones and none of the last 10 yards. Given that those missing pieces still total 30 yards worth of turf, a true football field (endzones and all) is more like 1.33 acres.

by Alex B. on Jul 14, 2011 11:50 am • linkreport

An acre is one chain wide by one furlong long. You may recall that a chain is the distance between wickets on a cricket pitch. A furlong is, of course, a "furrow long", or the length of a field that an ox team usually plows.

At least, that's my rule of thumb.

by Michael Perkins on Jul 14, 2011 12:50 pm • linkreport

Yes, it's 90 yards of a football field. You know how I know, because I typed the word Acre into Google and the first link which comes up is of course the Wikipedia which right up at the top of the article has a picture showing that an acre is 90 yards of a football field. I think it's pretty safe to assume that's what Alex and maybe Charlie did as well, they'd just rather pretend they go around estimating acreages on a regular basis and have a "rule of thumb" for it. Would have saved me the 30 seconds it took to look it up myself if they had just said so though.

Sorry, have a nice day.

by InexplicablyAngryDoug on Jul 14, 2011 1:19 pm • linkreport

@Michael +1 for being so much more subtle and clever than me.

by InexplicablyAngryDoug on Jul 14, 2011 1:22 pm • linkreport

Yes, but how many hectares is it?

No plan resulting in fewer spaces for Maryland and Virginia employees will fly. And even if they bury the lots, I have a hard time believing the usual suspects won't raise holy Hell over any building that slightly blocks any possible views. I think the only politically feasible use of the land is to make it a park. And that just turns it into a huge expense for the addition of a couple parks in an area that has enough parks.

Trust me, I'd like nothing more than to see the restoration of the rest of the block where the Monocle and CHP sit, but I don't see it happening.

by TM on Jul 14, 2011 1:32 pm • linkreport

@ InexplicablyAngryDoug; clearly a city boy who never moved lawns during the summer...

by charlie on Jul 14, 2011 1:34 pm • linkreport

@charlie/Alex B:

An acre is 43,560 square feet, or roughly a square plot 208ft or 70yds per side. The "90 yards of a football field" analogy also works.

A special analogy for Alex B: a standard Minneapolis city block is 5 acres.

by Froggie on Jul 14, 2011 8:49 pm • linkreport

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