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Solar Decathlon to be held in West Potomac Park

DOE and DOI announced today that the 2011 Solar Decathlon will be hosted in West Potomac Park. The event will still be held in late September, as previously scheduled.

Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

While the park is somewhat less desirable than the originally location on the National Mall, the final location is significantly more accessible than other options which had been proposed, particularly National Harbor in Prince George's County.

The placement is also opportune because it is located just south of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial which is scheduled to open a month before the Solar Decathlon.

Erik Weber has been living car-free in the District since 2009. Hailing from the home of the nation's first Urban Growth Boundary, Erik has been interested in transit since spending summers in Germany as a kid where he rode as many buses, trains and streetcars as he could find. Views expressed here are Erik's alone. 


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I was very glad to hear this news. No, it's not quite the same as the more prominent Mall location it has had before, but it's incredibly better than banishing the Decathlon to National Harbor. Here's hoping they can continue to push for a better answer on the future of the program's site.

by Bryant Turnage on Feb 23, 2011 4:36 pm • linkreport

Hallelujah! The selection of National Harbor was just a slap in the face.

by Shipsa01 on Feb 23, 2011 4:46 pm • linkreport

Terrible location. It's not at all close to Metro and for those walking over from Smithsonian it requires using the car raceway known as the Kutz Bridge.

by Jack Love on Feb 23, 2011 4:51 pm • linkreport

Good choice!

by thedofc on Feb 23, 2011 4:56 pm • linkreport

No, it's not close to Metro.

But you can walk there from a Metro station, which is a lot more than you can say for National Harbor.

by Alex B. on Feb 23, 2011 5:01 pm • linkreport

Will there be a temporary CaBi station set up in the park?

by andrew on Feb 23, 2011 5:26 pm • linkreport

National Harbor is a joke.

A concrete jungle that you pretty much have to drive too, and then they rape you on the parking.

Ignoring the fact that everything is overpriced, it is almost a matter of time before a shooting occurs.

by TGEoA on Feb 23, 2011 9:25 pm • linkreport

I'm applaud the selection of West Potomac Park for the Solar Decathlon. The Lincoln Memorial (which is across the street) and the new King Memorial are close enough to the Smithsonian Metro...vs having to travel to National Harbor which is inaccessible for those who don't bus route to the land of QZ!

On another note, it will be interesting to see how much damage the annual Smithsonian Folklike Festival leaves on the maill this year, yeah right to the National Park Serviceand their double standards.

by dcdotcom on Feb 23, 2011 11:04 pm • linkreport

They should hold this on the National Mall. I'm actually shocked by this decision. Moving this off the Mall marginalizes what is one of the most important solar demonstrations in the world. Now more than ever, this event needs to be held in the Capitol's front yard.

The work by the student teams is exceptional, inspiring and thought-leading. I spent a lot of time at the last one, and was utterly impressed, and expect to see further price reductions and efficiency gains in the next round.

It's just wrong to move this.

by kob on Feb 23, 2011 11:09 pm • linkreport

The biggest complaint everyone had was that National Harbor was not close to a metro. That is completely false. You can get to NH by metro and then take the NH 1 Metro bus and it takes you directly to the site that was being proposed. West Potomac Park is over a mile away from the closest metro! That is ridiculous. National Harbor was a location where the entire metro area could comfortable access the event. AND, parking adjacent to the site being considered was FREE! you can't get that in DC. Let's all be real here.

by rv on Feb 24, 2011 1:38 pm • linkreport

Oh yes, I forgot how everyone loves to take the Metro and a bus. A public bus (read: not circulator) in PGC and a Metro ride on the Green Line South of Navy Yard are just prime transportation options for tons and tons of white suburbanites to ride.

The only true public transportation I see people actually taking is a water taxi from Old Town. Other than that, they're driving and that defeats the whole purpose of the solar decathalon in the first place.

Get off your butt and walk to West Potomac Park.

by Shipsa01 on Feb 24, 2011 1:45 pm • linkreport


It is not completely false. I think the cab ride from Metro to National Harbor was $10+ and then there was the wait for the bus, to and from. It's a trip.

by kob on Feb 24, 2011 1:46 pm • linkreport

I wonder how this will affect the Nation's Triathlon, which uses the same space in early September. Those houses take quite a while to build, so presumably the amount of time the decathlon will take up the park is longer than just the late September festival period.

by Gretchen on Feb 24, 2011 2:15 pm • linkreport

TGEoA - what a horrible comment to make! That was unnecessary to say things about a shooting occuring. You have no clue. I do think its particularly interesting to note that NONE of the things many of those of this site "predicted" would happen at National Harbor has happened. You were probably one of those who said this same thing 3 years ago before the thing opened, and well....[crickets chirping]. I'm not defending that Nat Harbor should have been the location for the Decathlon. Fine, put it in West Potomac Park. Its a nice site too (although I do think its hilarious that now people are bitching cuz the nearest Metro stop is 2 miles away. In the same amount of time to walk, you could have ridden the water taxi or taken the NH-1 metrobus to NH...I digress.) But, you are obviously pretty off base with your other comments. I've been to National Harbor MANY times. Don't mind paying a few dollars to park, stroll around the waterfront, try a new restaurant each time, and I often go to many of their festivals and event which have been GREAT! Stop knocking it. You are now in the minority...thats for sure, as many people have embraced that new "place" across the river.

by Marie on Feb 24, 2011 3:15 pm • linkreport

The nearest Metro station is 1 mile away.

This area is what many people consider to be "on the Mall." At least, when memorials and museums say they want to be "on the Mall," this area is one of the areas that they want.

Technically, "the Mall" only goes to 17th Street; the rest is West Potomac Park.

I agree that the actual Mall lawn, east of 14th, would have been better, but all the wailing over how far away this is just actually illustrates how the Mall is pretty big and the transportation options poor.

by David Alpert on Feb 24, 2011 3:31 pm • linkreport

That brings up a good alternative: just plop down $27 and you can take the Tourmobile to the decathalon. Sigh

by Shipsa01 on Feb 24, 2011 4:22 pm • linkreport

@Marie, you sound like a paid PR person for NH. I went to a convention there. The location was not great. Because of the very poor accessibility to transit I drove and had to pay $20/day for parking, for the 3 day conference. Several of the out of town convention-goers were very disappointed by the location b/c they thought they were going to a convention in their nations capital and instead found themselves trapped in a corportate disneyfied facsimile of a neighborhood like DupontGT/OT Alex. At the final convention meeting when organizers were getting feed back someone suggested next time the convention be held somewhere with better public transit accessibility not so isolated from the city advertised as the host city. This comment recieved a loud round of applause.

by Tina on Feb 24, 2011 4:32 pm • linkreport

West Potoamc Park can be biked to easily enough. NPS and Decathalon organizers should make an effort to make it known that the NPS has its own bike rental system.

by Tina on Feb 24, 2011 4:52 pm • linkreport

Or even if they can't do a temp bike rental station, is there a way they could set up a bike valet through WABA? I seem to remember they do something like that during the cherry blossom festival.

by Shipsa01 on Feb 24, 2011 4:57 pm • linkreport

What a tease showing the cherry blossoms! The decathlon is not held in April!

West Potomac Park is a great location except that it's a major void in the transit network. I know because I use that space a lot for recreation and the only practical way to reach it is on a personal (non-bikeshare) bike. CaBi, which has its closest station on 19th and Constitution, is a hike. Metrorail, whose closest station is Smithsonian, is almost a mile away.

I think NPS should work something out with their incumbent bike rental vendors and CaBi where they allow CaBi stations on their land, perhaps at a markup, where you have "premium" stations that incur a surcharge of 50 cents or something every time you dock or retrieve a bike from it. Use the surcharge proceeds to bribe (I can't think of the right euphemism) the incumbent vendors.

by Ward 1 Guy on Feb 24, 2011 6:20 pm • linkreport

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