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Will Wal-Mart be urban? Part 3: New Jersey Avenue

Following Wal-Mart's announcement that they will build four stores in the District of Columbia, this is the third in a four-part series examining the urban design of each proposal. Today: New Jersey Avenue.

This is by far the best of the proposals. Located on the fringes of downtown, it is appropriately dense and mixed-use. The building will be five floors, with small format retail lining the H Street sidewalk, Wal-Mart behind, parking underground, and 315 apartments on the upper floors.

Rendering of this proposal, looking northeast from the corner of H Street and 1st Street, NW.

Curiously, the building doesn't actually touch New Jersey Avenue. Rather, the proposal extends First Street partially through the site to create two small blocks where there is currently one large block. The leftover block between First and New Jersey will be developed as a separate office building, presumably with ground floor retail (though that is not confirmed).

It might be more appropriate to refer to this as the H Street Wal-Mart. By putting the main entrance to Wal-Mart and several smaller stores directly on H Street, this building will help pull together the extant retail districts to the east and west. It will contribute significantly to the growth of H Street as a major continuous shopping district running from the CityCenter development at the old convention center site, through Chinatown, and then east to the Atlas District. Combined with the I-395 air rights development, this part of the city will soon be dramatically more active.

The architects deserve credit too. Unlike the Target at DCUSA, which has a plain, strip mall-like facade, the Wal-Mart proposal here calls for a building with traditional, human-scale details. Cornices, individual multi-pane windows, an interesting corner feature at the main entrance, and a thoughtful elevator shaft. This is a fully urban, fully pedestrian friendly building.

All the familiar social and economic questions about Wal-Mart remain, but urbanistically and architecturally, this proposal hits the mark. It may be the most well-executed new urban big box department store in America.

Unfortunately, calls to the developer seeking additional details were not returned. More renderings (though not a site plan) are available thanks to Jonathan O'Connell of the Washington Post Business page.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and professor of geography at George Washington University, but blogs to express personal views. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado, and lives in NE DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post


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Is the walmart one or two floors and where would the placement of the elevator shaft be hope its not like a tradtional Sears, Macy's or any mall where it is suffed in a corner somewhere.

I see the parking lot entrance causing problems due to its location it should have instead been on the I street side there will be a huge amount of people walking down first street.

by kk on Nov 24, 2010 2:32 pm • linkreport

I'm liking everything I see in the renderings. But the still yet to be confirmed detail regarding only a partial restore First Street is a tad disappointing. The Walmart is going to be a large traffic generator and increased connectivity for the grid can help mitigate that.

by Paul on Nov 24, 2010 2:35 pm • linkreport

Although I have no plans on ever visiting any of the new Wally Worlds, I'm ecstatic about the re-mapping of First Street through that block. I can't believe they ever took it out in the first place (and for a freaking parking lot at that!).

by Josh C. on Nov 24, 2010 2:39 pm • linkreport

Love the architecture. Good fabric buildings need to be encouraged at every turn. If Walmart's coming in, at least they're giving something nice to the street.

by Thayer-D on Nov 24, 2010 2:41 pm • linkreport

the proposal extends First Street partially through the site
I'm confused. The drawings make it look as though First Street will extend entirely through the site.

by Eric Fidler on Nov 24, 2010 2:45 pm • linkreport

It might. We're all confused on that point. Hopefully we'll get a clarification soon.

by BeyondDC on Nov 24, 2010 2:51 pm • linkreport

Combined with the I-395 air rights development, this part of the city will soon be dramatically more active.
Don't forget about the Union Station air rights, too. That's going to be a huge part of connecting Near NE and NW.

by OctaviusIII on Nov 24, 2010 3:44 pm • linkreport

Um, haven't you already done an article on this Walmart location before? If I am correct, the first article that you've done concerning the site plan and its renderings were for this location.

by Charmaine on Nov 24, 2010 3:52 pm • linkreport

My apologies for the last post. I had to go further back into the blog. I've mistaken the article for this location to one that was posted on another site. Please disregard my previous post.

by Charmaine on Nov 24, 2010 4:01 pm • linkreport

Combined with the I-395 air rights development, this part of the city will soon be dramatically more active.

Not to mention the Burhnam Place development above the Union Station railyards (which I hope involves some way to bring sunlight to the train platforms so that rail passengers aren't scurrying to and from trains in the dark underbelly of a building).

by Malcolm K on Nov 24, 2010 4:26 pm • linkreport

I'd like to know what is going on with respect to bike parking at this facility and others, and that would include any accommodation for bakfiet parking as well as any urban bicycle delivery models that might develop, as we are seeing in other bicycle-friendly towns like Portland and NYC. Maybe there could be some type of cargo bike drive-up facility, either for 'bike-thru' service for private citizens, or for use by delivery services. Maybe it could even accommodate NEVs. Just putting it out there -- it's not any more ridiculous than building car parking, that's for sure.

So, also and in other words, 'parking' needs to consider 'bike parking' in addition to 'car parking'.

The bike parking should be very near the entrance to the store (priority: pedestrian access, then disabled car/other parking, bike parking, and finally car parking) in a very well-lit area, not around any hidden corners, with plenty of room to maneuver, with appropriately-placed bike racks, etc.

And, though not necessarily part of the purview (?) of this store or any store, perhaps it should be -- the responsibility for granting appropriate bicycle access to and from the store - for regular bikes, for cargo bikes, etc. The sidewalk/curb cub situation is addressed by these new stores, but not the bike-travel infrastructure, as least not as much, and maybe that's the way it has to be, but I like the idea of new developments of this size being responsible for working with the city on how they're going to handle/accommodate new traffic to/from/through the area - including bike traffic. Too often we're still bolting on skimpy/near-useless bike lanes after the fact, when we need to start getting the transportation aspect right first. It seems like we're always handling the walk/car aspects of the transportation plan, possibly even the transit aspect, but bikes are last to the party. and that makes me cry. :(


by Peter Smith on Nov 24, 2010 5:22 pm • linkreport

Peter Smith -- of course heavy duty transportation demand requirements ought to be in place. For the most part, DC doesn't have much in the way of such requirements. E.g., with regard to DC/USA, for 5 years or so I suggested requiring a shared delivery service on the part of the facility (which could be extended to include other stores in the commercial district, such as Giant).

Your point about bakfiets type delivery stuff, I sort of touched on in a post of my own about the Walmart issue, in terms of outlining TDM strategies employed by Ikea at their Red Hook store in Brooklyn, as well as their stores in Denmark.

WRT the latter, Ikea will lend, free, the use of bicycles with trailers, to transport purchases home.

Rather than merely being ecstatic that the stores are coming into the city, DC should in fact try (although almost nothing in the zoning code provides the leverage to do so) to get Walmart to institute a number of pro-urban practices with regard to design, mixed use development, and transportation demand management policies and practices.

by Richard Layman on Nov 25, 2010 9:39 am • linkreport

Ikea not only does the trailer bicycles for free in Denmark, in Europe Ikea takes care of its employees, providing them decent salaries, paid vacations and medical, and is still a very competitive world retailer that does not need to exploit their employees or forbid their unions.

by Mar on Nov 25, 2010 8:25 pm • linkreport


from Wikipedia's Denmark entry...
The large public sector (30% of the entire workforce on a full-time basis[13]) is financed by the world's highest taxes[14]. A value added tax of 25% is levied on the sale of most goods and services (including groceries). The income tax in Denmark ranges from 42.9%[14] to 63% progressively, levied on 4 out of 10 full-time employees[15].

Denmark's business climate functions differently from ours. Ikea employees may get decent salaries but they have to turn around and hand much more of it over to the government.

by pqresident on Nov 25, 2010 11:39 pm • linkreport

Yes pqresident, but their taxes are mostly income taxes and VAT, they do not have as many 'state tax''county tax' etc...taxes related to cars are astronomical but you don't need a car at all.

I find myself in USA paying almost the same taxes as I did in Europe, however I do not seem to get as much in return.
Back in Europe you'd get full medical, full college education, paid 30 day vacation, paid months of maternity leave, free changes fron one country to other but they all follow similar guidelines.
It is all a matter of preference which system you prefer, I did work for Maersk in Coppenhaggen, I did not make much less than I did here, but the benefits I got in return were huge. I guess is a matter of personal choice. My family is here so I returned

by Mar on Nov 26, 2010 2:25 am • linkreport

Um, what happened to the cover on Par 4 of the Walmart article???

by Charmaine on Nov 27, 2010 11:14 am • linkreport

of course heavy duty transportation demand requirements ought to be in place.

this reminded me of a headline i just saw:

Experts call for ban on HGVs in Britain's cities to protect cyclists:

Experts are calling for a ban on heavy goods vehicles in Britain's cities after a study found that despite making only 4% of road trips they were involved in 43% of London's cycling deaths.

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) analysed police road casualty data over a 15-year period from 1992 to 2006. During that period there were 242 deaths in London, or an average of 16 a year. Heavy goods vehicles were involved in 103 out of 242 of these incidents.

London mayor Boris Johnson recently said he plans to ban lorries from central London.

And the latest call from the experts comes on the day a lorry driver was found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving after crushing a cyclist while chatting on his mobile phone with "the most God-awful hangover".

Dennis Putz, 51, was over the legal drink drive limit when he hit City public relations director Catriona Patel, 39, as he accelerated away from a set of traffic lights outside Oval tube station in south London.

we need to continue to plan to have fewer and fewer dangerous vehicles in The City -- there is just no way to make cycling safe, much less feel safe, as long as we have these monsters roaming the streets. we cyclists can't just avoid trucks -- they would also have to avoid us -- and that's just not possible. so, i'm glad to see this formal recommendation, and hope DC and every other city/town follows suit.

Moscow is also talking a truck ban, but their reasoning is 'traffic' and 'pollution'.

and, regarding the TDM stuff that @Richard often talks about, it seems with the rapidly-evolving DC transportation scene, any large/significant developments should have to plan for how they are going to fit into the current city at launch/grand opening/go time, and how to are going to stay current with the city's transportation mix five years out, ten years out, etc. in theory, major developments should help to encourage transportation progress, instead of just acting like more deadweight (or worse). so, maybe Walmart could surprise DC and start out with super-high quality cargo/bike parking -- more than is actually needed at first, and a plan to convert car parking spaces to bike parking when the time comes.

by Peter Smith on Nov 29, 2010 4:51 am • linkreport

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