Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Busing it


Photo by ElvertBarnes on Flickr.
Seven Corners gets transit center: The bus transit center at Seven Corners opens today, replacing several temporary stops in the area. It's the town's only major transit hub, but is located in a shopping center. (FC News-Press)

Redevelopment rumblings for Glenmont: Montgomery planners want to give Glenmont a town center, with high-density commercial and residential development clustered around the Red Line terminus. (Examiner)

Counting the homeless: Activists are taking a census of DC's homeless citizens to measure the scope of the problem and how much more needs to be done. Last year's count was 6,546, and new numbers are another few months away. (WAMU)

Residents stuck in limbo: A black hole in the ground awaits new construction to replace apartments lost in a 2008 fire. The city promised funds and is supporting the residents, but support will soon expire and the funds have not yet materialized. (Post)

Gas taxes are the best: Gas taxes are the best way to fund transportation projects in the short term, but other usage fees will need to replace that funding stream, according to a new MWCOG study. (WTOP)

When sprawl isn't sprawl: Development of 23,000 homes outside of any city and with no infrastructure is not legally sprawl in Florida, ruled a judge. Under Gov. Rick Scott, most controls on sprawl have been weakened to meaninglessness. (Orlando Sentinel)

Thriving without parking: Chinatown was abuzz with shoppers in San Francisco during a week without any on-street parking. The neighborhood is the most car-free in the city, leading some to call for a permanent ban. (Streetsblog)

To save or not to save?: Historic preservation seeks to save iconic buildings for future generations, but many mid-century buildings are often architecturally significant while widely reviled. Is historic preservation to preserve beauty or history? (Washingtonian)

Rents may fall: A huge supply boost could make DC's apartment rents actually fall. Realtors predict 23,000 new apartments in the region by 2014. (Urban Turf)

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David Edmondson is a transportation and urban affairs enthusiast living in Mount Vernon Square. He blogs about Marin County, California, at The Greater Marin

Comments

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Americans are too quick to associate the word "historic" with anything that is merely old. And architecture weenies are too keen to associate "history of architecture" with "history," thus leaving us obliged to protect structures so horrible that their erection is what prompted the historic preservation movement in the first place.

Something will have to give.

by Omri on Jan 27, 2012 10:11 am • linkreport

The link to "Residents stuck in limbo" takes you to page 2 of the story.

by DAJ on Jan 27, 2012 10:13 am • linkreport

"but is located in a shopping center." Actually, I think that the logical place for a transit center in Seven Corners -- regardless of what future development model is used for this area -- is in the shopping center. This location maximizes its utility to replace car trips for people coming to the Seven Corners area, given that today it is primarily commercial. The location is central, ensuring minimal route diversion for the bus routes that run through Seven Corners. And the shopping centers at Seven Corners are the most likely place to start any future redevelopment project, if the county or private developers were to decide that a better use of the land would be to reduce the spread of parking lots in favor of a higher-density use. Thus, having the transit center there puts it in the center of the demand today and the most probable center of demand if there is a future redesign.

by Arl Fan on Jan 27, 2012 10:30 am • linkreport

I also don't understand the tone before the Seven Corners transit link. Where else should it be? What is wrong with the location?

by selxic on Jan 27, 2012 11:02 am • linkreport

I agree with Arl Fan that the word "but" seemed out of place in this blurb. What was the intention?

by Lucre on Jan 27, 2012 11:07 am • linkreport

The modern Preservation movement came about becasue of beauty, not history. That's not to say that history didn't play a part in it, just not the dominant part. Cities have always torn down buildings for new ones, and some people have protested for a variety of reasons, but never to the extent they began to protest in the 1950's and 1960's.

It was both the quantity of tear downs and the aesthetics of the buildings which took the place of the tear downs that changed. Both have their roots in modernism, part of who's ethos, at least back then, was to eliminate history and reject beauty as a bourgois persuit through the rejection of applied ornament.

When they tore down Penn Station for the current one, New Yorkers where horrified. When Grand Central Station was threatened with demolition, the wider public began to question whether progress had to be so inhumane as modernism seemed to insist on. At the same time Urban renewal projects where wiping out whole neighborhoods such SW here in DC. When they proposed this kind of "renewal" for lower Manhattan, people like Jane Jacobs among others, finally stood up to the powers that be.

The reason this whole issue is and always will be a sticky wicket is that aesthetics are subjective, even though survey after survey show a disproportionate part of the population consistently shows a preference for traditional architecture. Unfortunatley, this still hasn't permeated most architectural schools, who cling to their outdated modernist dogma, however they try to rebrand it through French literature, computers, or the pschobable du jur.

They should save examples of every era for posterity, including some mid-century modernist examples, but the standard ought to be much lower than for pre-WWII buildings becasue much of that architecture is banal, sterile, and anti-urban by design. But to deny the history of the modern preservation movement is to deny history. We've already done that once to the detriment of our cities and our collective memory.

by Thayer-D on Jan 27, 2012 11:18 am • linkreport

I actually took the "but" in the opposite way. That it is the "only major transit hub" is bad, but there's good--it's at a shopping center where people want to go.

But that was just my read.

by rdhd on Jan 27, 2012 11:46 am • linkreport

@Thayer-D
The modern Preservation movement came about becasue of beauty, not history. That's not to say that history didn't play a part in it, just not the dominant part.
This is, of course, why we preserve things like railroad bridges, swathes of textile mill buildings, many of them blank-faced, old minesweepers and wrecked transports, and drydocks (which you can't even see from ground level).

The preservation movement really got into its swing in the early 1970s, along with all of the Bicentennial celebrations and renewed interest in American history. It parallels the rise of industrial archaeology as a discipline, and a related explosion in preserved railroads and museum ships. No, maybe the New Yorkers writing about Penn Station may have been talking about beauty, but the preservation movement comes out of a moment of intense interest in the past.

by David R. on Jan 27, 2012 11:47 am • linkreport

Arguing that preservation is purely about aesthetics enables NIMBYs who feel that any density is ugly. That is their primary aesthetic concern, and it is subjective.

It also a weekly magazine kind of reading, rather than an understanding of the history of cultural preservation, with changing ideas of history and role of the government.

As a matter of illustration, when I worked on a project in NW that had a modernistic part and a carefully executed historicist part, the local opposition groups fought hard against the historicist part, simply because it was more prominent on the property.

If you argue from history, which necessarily involves aesthetics, you will probably have better policies, and more meaningful government intervention.

by Neil Flanagan on Jan 27, 2012 12:04 pm • linkreport

Funny: my biggest issue with the Seven Corners write-up is referring to the neighborhood as a "town." It's anything but, and technically it's a "commercial center and census-designated place."

by MDE on Jan 27, 2012 12:15 pm • linkreport

@David Edmondson - On further reflection, I'd prefer my comment above to read: "Thanks, David, for taking the time to curate today's morning links."

by Arl Fan on Jan 27, 2012 12:53 pm • linkreport

@Arl Fan

Thanks! The "but" was there to reflect the conflict between the good of a transit center and the inherently transit-unfriendly nature of a shopping center parking lot. It's still the best place in Seven Corners that I can see, but it's unfortunate WMATA didn't have any better options.

by David Edmondson on Jan 27, 2012 1:01 pm • linkreport

Neil,
You've every right to rephrase my argument, as you say
"Arguing that preservation is purely about aesthetics..."
But I would posit that avoiding facts doesn't strengthen your argument. What I said was...
"Cities have always torn down buildings for new ones, and some people have protested for a variety of reasons"

Then again, the modernist ethos that still dominates architectural academia works in a similar parallel universe. Take the referenced article's point that "many aspects of modernism—all that soulless concrete, steel, and glass, the absence of ornamentation, the barren and inhospitable plazas—leave people cold."
One would think a liberal arts institution would work with in the realm of empirically derived evidence and allow this to factor into an architect's training. I do appreciate the lack of snark though.

Then again, maybe David R.'s point is no mere coincidence,
"The preservation movement... parallels the rise of industrial archaeology as a discipline", but I doubt it.

by Thayer-D on Jan 27, 2012 1:02 pm • linkreport

I wasn't responding to your comment.

by Neil Flanagan on Jan 27, 2012 1:16 pm • linkreport

Then I take it back, but I still think there's no reason to deny the primacy of aesthetics in the perception of architecture andthe modern preservation movement. Most people could care less about the musical structure behind music as long as the melody is sweet. My guess is if architects put the art back in architecture, we wouldn't have such tough preservation rules, and history would once again regain it's primacy in preservation as it was when the little old ladies first saved Mount Vernon.

by Thayer-D on Jan 27, 2012 1:35 pm • linkreport

"but is located in a shopping center."

The 7 Corners mall has been the bus hub for decades, including back when it was an enclosed one story mall.

by Kolohe on Jan 27, 2012 1:47 pm • linkreport

The link on the coming glut of apartment and modest declines in rents is very relevant to the highly commented article on Millenials Need Affordable Housing. Real estate works in cycles and anecdotally, when complaints about rents being too high and the lack of apartments reach a fever pitch, that usually marks the top of the market.

What we're seeing is the free market in play, responding to high rents with a huge supply of new apartments.

Some might say that stable-to-slightly-declining rents isn't enough of an improvement to make things affordable. But, stability is what you want for the long run. Big declines just perpetuates the kind of cyclicality that will eventually result in big increases. That is, big declines -> no more new construction -> supply shortage -> big rent increases -> excessive construction -> supply glut -> big decline. What you want is stable rents and a stable continuous supply of new construction.

by Falls Church on Jan 27, 2012 2:18 pm • linkreport

@Kolohe: You are exactly right. The article linked to ("A Penny For Your Thoughts") provides good evidence as to why the shopping center is an ideal location for the Transit Center, at least according to Penny Gross, the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

by ZZinDC on Jan 27, 2012 2:25 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church

Agreed, especially if rents rise more slowly than wage inflation. This actually addresses some of Market Urbanism's concerns in Forbes that supply wasn't rising fast enough to keep up with population growth. If the pace of construction actually does keep up with population growth I could easily see rents remaining stable in real terms.

by OctaviusIII on Jan 27, 2012 2:26 pm • linkreport

The development of this transit center in eastern Fairfax County will provide a major transfer point for Metrobus passengers in eastern Fairfax and western Arlington counties. Other improvements in the Seven Corners area include new pedestrian signals and safer crosswalks at the intersection of Route 7 and Patrick Henry Drive

Glad to see Fairfax using their energy and money to move forward with quick-and-dirty improvements to 7 Corners instead of sitting on their hands while they come up with an approved, grandiose 50 Year Master Strategy.

by Falls Church on Jan 27, 2012 2:28 pm • linkreport

The article on the anticipated glut in apartments supports the contention by some commentators in the "Millenials Need Affordable Housing", that rents are high. And when I see that an average-nice 1-bdrm in Capitol Hill rents for like $2200, I agree with this position: the current rents are too damn high given what the wages are these days.

The spike in rents was foreseeable: when foreclosures spiked and single family mortgage lending tanked, causing the market to shift to renters. But then commercial landlords stopped new apartment construction, putting a second squeeze on the rental market. This meant that the rents had only one way to go: up.

I wonder it the current situation is comparable to the last time there was a housing crunch in DC, after WW2. To satisfy this demand led to suburban construction, which led to bad traffic to the new houses, which led to urban highway construction. The new highways gutted the many near residential neighborhoods. Then came the '68 riots, which further depreciated housing in near the core. So actually there has been a glut of low-cost housing near the core that was not eliminated until the early 90s, when the current round of gentrification began to take hold.

by goldfish on Jan 27, 2012 3:57 pm • linkreport

Glad to see Fairfax using their energy and money to move forward with quick-and-dirty improvements to 7 Corners instead of sitting on their hands while they come up with an approved, grandiose 50 Year Master Strategy.

Now if we could only get the same thing down along Route 1 (i.e. the "forgotten corner" of Fairfax County)...

by Froggie on Jan 27, 2012 4:26 pm • linkreport

What I find interesting about the comments is that they're all concerned with the Seven Corners story. Not a single comment about what should happen in and around Glenmont. For reasons that continue to baffle me, the region is so tilted towards the NoVA suburbs, and this blog's readership is even more so. I"d love to see marylanders get this interested and animated. The Glenmont story is actually far more significant -- it's about developing an entirely new town center and maybe also sprucing up Montgomery County's busiest intersection....and all I read are comment about the meaning of the writer's but in Seven Corners.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Jan 29, 2012 11:47 am • linkreport

@fischy

I suspect its because there are more posts about MoCoa (recently we have discussed the bike trail at Bethesda, development in Wheaton, affordability in MoCo, etc, etc) - by danb reed and others. So us NoVans tend to latch on to any mention. ;)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 29, 2012 1:33 pm • linkreport

Fischy, in general, this blog fails at presenting or covering large parts of the Greater Washington region and what is being done immediatley outside of select inner "suburban" communities. Complaints about lack of comments is silly though. People are more likely to comment about stories they are close to or when they have issues with something.

by selxic on Jan 29, 2012 1:56 pm • linkreport

@selxic

Feel free to write about your area. People tend to fixate on rail transit, but bus hubs - like the Seven Corners center - are still important to regional health.

That's what I did with my blog, and I don't even live in Marin anymore. Everyone else in the Bay Area that talks about urban issues lives in San Francisco or Oakland, so I figured someone should give urbanism a voice there.

by OctaviusIII on Jan 30, 2012 2:32 am • linkreport

@ Fischy; I think AWalkerintheCity nailed in.

The region is so "tilted" to NoVA because that is by far the largest and most imporant part of the Metro area. It is also more dynamic. Outside of Arlington, however, it is an suburban mess, and i can see why GGW doesn't want to touch it.

I dount Nova will continue on the same line for the next 10 years. Hard to say if the District is growing or playing major catch up, but I'd say it is at least possible DC may be the growth leader in the next 10-15 years.

by charlie on Jan 30, 2012 8:47 am • linkreport

I don't think it's a matter of "failing" to cover issues of the outer suburbs. The focus is on urban and urbanizing areas and the people who like those areas, so naturally there's going to be much more coverage on areas inside the Beltway.

by Frank IBC on Jan 30, 2012 8:53 am • linkreport

I actually wasn't complaining about the coverage in my comment, OctaviusIII. Also, I always thought there were more Maryland focused articles than Virginia. It's not definitive, but comparing number of articles with tags confirms this.

by selxic on Jan 30, 2012 9:24 am • linkreport

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