Posts about Brightwood
3 of the 6 stores will be unquestionably urban. 1 will be a hybrid with some urban characteristics. 2 will be almost completely suburban.
Gonzaga: The closest store to downtown is suitably the most urban. With apartments above and smaller-format retailers lining the street, Walmart's H Street location is a model of what urban big boxes should be.
Fort Totten: Almost as good as the Gonzaga design, this store is inferior only because it's in a much more isolated location, and because the building materials appear to be somewhat cheaper. But still, the design is unquestionably strong.
Georgia Avenue: Although this design lacks the mixed-use amenities of the previous two, it's still primarily urban, with greater emphasis on pedestrian access than vehicular. It greets the street and parking is provided underground. It's a reasonable choice for a neighborhood that has not seen much investment in recent years.
Skyland Town Center: Resembling something one might expect to see in Gaithersburg, this location is a bit like a shopping mall; it's internally walkable, but poorly connected to any surrounding neighborhoods.
Capitol Gateway: The farthest out proposal from downtown is clearly primarily suburban. It's a strip mall. But it does take a few tentative steps towards walkability, with both street-facing and parking lot-facing entrances.
New York Avenue: The intersection of New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road is probably DC's most car-oriented corner. And so it was predictable that Walmart would choose it for a store, and propose a totally suburban design.
The store faces away from the biggest street and fronts onto a big open-air parking lot. The only indication that this location is in a city instead of an exurb is that the Walmart will be stacked on top of another big box store (probably a Home Depot).
Is DC a testing ground?
Each of the 6 stores has such unique characteristics that one wonders if Walmart is using DC as an experiment to see which types of layouts work in the urban environment. By comparing the sales at the more urban stores to the more suburban ones, Walmart will gain many valuable insights.
Inevitably, Walmart will probably want to establish stores in other central cities around the country. The DC example will very likely influence the design of those future stores.
All images in this post are from Walmart.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
Can 14th Street north of Columbia Heights become a lively and successful commercial area once again? A new plan suggests finding spots to catalyze development, possibly including the WMATA bus barn or surrounding properties, and making a piece of the corridor into a place for artists to live and work more cheaply.
This part of DC boomed in the mid-20th century, spurred by population growth and easy access to transit via the 14th Street streetcar line. The corridor began to decline after 1970, as the District's population decreased. As a result, the commercial nodes of central 14th Street have struggled for several decades.
Now, as the city's population begins to grow once again, DC's Office of Planning studied ways to make the area more attractive for residents and businesses, both old and new. After a series of community workshops in 2010 and 2011 with residents and stakeholders of the central 14th Street corridor, OP has released its draft plan and is looking for public comment until February 3.
The plan covers the 20-block stretch of 14th Street NW from Spring Road to Longfellow Street. It includes three distinct commercial nodes: Spring Road to Shepherd Street, Webster to Decatur Street, and Jefferson to Longfellow Street. (This portion of 14th Street has been referred to as "upper" 14th Street for as long as I can remember, but the Office of Planning is now referring to it as "central" 14th Street.)
The 2010 population of the study area was 14,370, showing an increase of about 300 people since the 2000 census. The population growth is encouraging, but the plan notes that because the population hasn't reached the level of the mid-20th century (the high population was 16,736 in 1960), the corridor has too much commercial space for the number of people that the spaces are meant to serve. That means greater density is necessary to make new businesses viable.
The plan points to Longfellow Flats, a newly renovated 14 unit condominium at 14th and Longfellow Streets, as one of a few projects that will help to attract more residents to the corridor. The site of the CK Motel, and 14th and Quincy Streets, is also slated for residential redevelopment.
Can the bus barn move?
The site with the largest potential for both commercial and residential redevelopment is the WMATA bus barn, along the eastern side of 14th Street from Buchanan to Decatur Street. Redeveloping the bus barn as a mixed-use project would likely catalyze the rest of that node and perhaps the rest of the corridor, but to redevelop the barn, WMATA has to find another location for the 175 buses that are currently housed there.
One idea, to construct a new bus barn on the site of the old Walter Reed hospital, has been an issue of much contention between residents of Ward 4's 14th Street and Georgia Avenue corridors. Both Mayor Gray and Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser have voiced opposition to that idea. As an alternative, the plan recommends excavating a level beneath the existing bus barn to house the buses, allowing for the above-ground structure to be redeveloped.
Another complication is that the bus barn is quite an attractive structure. Constructed in 1907 and designed by the prominent Washington architect Waddy Wood, the building is likely eligible for historic designation. Between this and the dilemma of finding an alternative for WMATA, the bus barn is likely to stay for at least the next decade.
In lieu of redeveloping the bus barn, the plan identifies 3 sites in the Webster-Decatur node that could serve as catalysts.
- The WMATA bus barn parking structure on the northern end of the bus barn property. This is not eligible for historic designation and therefore could be redeveloped for mixed-use within the next 5 years.
- DSK Mariam Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which owns the entire 4500 block of 14th Street with the exception of the Exxon gas station, has plans to construct a new sanctuary that will face 14th Street. It will include an Ethiopian cultural center on the Buchanan Street side.
- The Value Furniture store, the former home of the Park Theater, which opened in 1924 but shut its doors just four years later. As the second largest site (75,000 square feet) in the study area with single ownership, it has the best potential for redevelopment within the next 5 years. It could easily become 2 or 3 floors of residential space above ground floor retail, an ideal spot for a neighborhood-serving grocery store.
The plan recommends focusing on attracting unique retail, such as second hand shops, specialty food shops, and culinary incubators (the plan includes a photo of Boston's Crop Circle Kitchen culinary incubator as an example of what could be). The goal is to fill niches between the chain stores to the south in Columbia Heights and the proposed Walmart to the north in Brightwood.
Affordable space for artists?
The Jefferson-Longfellow Street node has its wide sidewalks, some as wide as 20 feet, that are perfect for pedestrian-oriented activities, such as a farmers' market. However, there's also a high commercial vacancy rate, which the proposed Walmart store on nearby Georgia Avenue will likely exacerbate.
The plan recommends focusing on arts-related uses in this area, with a focus on artists who have been priced out of other neighborhoods and who might be attracted to the area's relatively large spaces. OP recommends designating this area as an Arts Cluster and listing the node's vacant commercial spaces in the DC Creative Retail Space Bank in order to advertise their availability.
The area can build on its existing positive features, such as the mature tree canopy, attractive housing stock, and walkable neighborhood atmosphere. The plan makes several recommendations for improving the area's aesthetics while strengthening pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, as well as connectivity between the three commercial nodes.
A number of recommendations would improve mobility, including:
- Upgrade bus service. 14th Street is one of WMATA's Priority Corridors. Improvements like making traffic signals adapt to the buses, having people pay before boarding the bus, and more could speed up travel and make buses more reliable and productive.
- Add Capital Bikeshare stations. OP recommends placing a Capital Bikeshare station at or near the intersection of 14th and Kennedy Street during DDOT's next round of station installations.
- Increase car sharing options. To give residents a choice not to have to own or drive personal vehicles, OP recommends collaborating with DDOT to target off-street locations for car sharing companies. Two possible locations are the parking lot of DSK Mariam Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the parking lot of the Children's Medical Care Center (14th and Kennedy Street).
OP plans to create a task force of community residents and stakeholders who will help determine which recommendations are the highest priority. Community and business associations can also help find resources, programs, and grants to bring specific recommendations to fruition.
To give your comments on the plan, mail them to OP or (more likely) email Gizachew.Andargeh@dc.gov by February 3, 2012.
Between the high-volume Columbia Heights retail district to the south and a planned Walmart in Brightwood to the north, upper 14th Street occupies a precarious position in the District's retail landscape.
Planners are working to make sure the future of 14th Street NW is one with vibrant, neighborhood-serving retail nodes. The DC Office of Planning is working with consultants and the public to create a revitalization strategy for the corridor.
On January 19 at Kingsbury School, the DC Office of Planning and its consultants presented the results of an existing conditions inventory and market analysis. They presented the first draft of a course that steers the corridor's commercial nodes on a route that avoids direct competition with national chains, focusing instead of developing distinct niches that can't be served by a big box.
14th Street between Spring Road and Longfellow Street contains three main retail nodes identified in the study. From the south, the first is between Spring Road and Shepherd Street; the second, centered on WMATA's bus barn, is between Webster and Decatur streets; and the third, between Jefferson and Longfellow streets, is centered on the intersection with Colorado Avenue.
Project consultants presented on residential and non-retail potential, retail conditions and concepts for streetscape possibilities.
Streetsense's Heather Arnold talked about retail strategies for the corridor. She performed an inventory of existing retail services in the corridor and analyzed spending habits by residents, area employees, and visitors to see what types of purchases currently being made outside the neighborhood could instead be made on 14th Street.
Arnold noted that retail along the corridor should serve a different purpose than Walmart or Target. Instead of competing on price or selection, retailers must serve a different need by being representative of the neighborhood and offering convenience and quality service. There is little market demand to construct new retail space in the area, Arnold said, but there will be normal retail turnover in the next decade.
The retail node near the WMATA bus barn seems strongly positioned to fill neighborhood needs. A small grocery could serve as an anchor for the area to keep more retail dollars in the neighborhood.
Because it is a local-serving retail strip not far from big-box retailers, this node shares many parallels with Mt. Pleasant Street, a revitalization project Arnold and Ferretti are also working on with DC Office of Planning. Arnold noted that attempting to attract customers from across the city "would cause more problems than it would solve," leading to potential parking and noise issues. In addition to neighborhood residents, employees at the bus barn already form a base of customers for retail in this area.
Analysis for the northernmost node, centered on Colorado Avenue, had to be reset after the plans for Walmart were announced. Because proximity to Walmart would significantly impact what kind of retail could be successful at this end of the corridor, Arnold recommended that the area build upon the relocation of renowned artist Sam Gilliam to the neighborhood and build an arts cluster, creating a destination for unique products that have no overlap with Walmart's offerings.
This concept for this type of arts cluster is consistent with Office of Planning's own Creative Action Agenda, which seeks to foster artistic and creative industries within the District.
Abby Ferretti of Partners for Economic Solutions presented a study on the market in the corridor. Her analysis examined supply and demand for residential and non-retail commercial space within the corridor.
Ferretti identified three market demographics that might play an increasingly important role in the neighborhood: millennials drawn to walkable urban neighborhoods; Latino families that expect to see increased income in the coming years; and single women looking to purchase residential units.
In the next decade, Ferretti forecast that the 14th Street corridor would see 300 new rental units and 120 new for-sale residential units, created through either new construction or conversion. Because the area is not a regional office or retail destination, Ferretti expects that the corridor would see modest growth in the amount of non-retail commercial space, growing by 18,960 square feet over the next decade.
Since the area is a quieter residential neighborhood that is convenient to downtown but off the beaten path for tourists, one possibility for new non-retail businesses is bed and breakfasts. Ferretti cited a cluster of B&B's along 12th Street NE in Brookland as an example for the corridor.
There are specific sites within the three retail nodes that offer opportunities for streetscape improvements, such as parking lots near the WMATA bus barn, surface parking and traffic islands near Colorado Avenue and some building facades north of Spring Road. Specific streetscape recommendations will be made later in the study process.
The study's southern boundary is Spring Road. The commercial zone in this area Heather Arnold noted that the commercial area south of Shepherd Street attracts customers from Columbia Heights. "While we aren't suggesting that this area becomes some kind of Columbia Heights North, we are suggesting it would be foolish...not to benefit from that customer draw a couple blocks to the south," she said. The major challenge to drawing customers northward, she noted, is the derelict block between Meridian Place and Oak Street.
Despite stopping short at the Ward 4 boundary, the 14th Street Revitalization Strategy is taking a holistic approach to revitalizing retail nodes that are not usually in the spotlight of the city's economic development agenda.
Heather Arnold noted that the commercial area south of Shepherd Street attracts customers from Columbia Heights. "While we aren't suggesting that this area becomes some kind of Columbia Heights North, we are suggesting it would be foolish...not to benefit from that customer draw a couple blocks to the south," she said. The major challenge to drawing customers northward, she noted, is the derelict block between Meridian Place and Oak Street.
Despite stopping short at the Ward 4 boundary, the 14th Street Revitalization Strategy is taking a holistic approach to revitalizing retail nodes that are not usually in the spotlight of the city's economic development agenda.
Ever since Wal-Mart announced earlier this week that they intend to build four stores in the District of Columbia, the question on the mind of urbanists has been: What will they look like?
Can Wal-Mart be fit into an urban context? Will we be getting walkable, transit oriented stores like the Columbia Heights Target, or the typical sprawly suburban model with acres of parking out front?
In all four cases the architecture is still in preliminary stages, making it impossible to obtain complete site plans. However, after speaking with the developers working on each of the projects, some information is nonetheless becoming available.
This post will be the first in a multi-part series discussing the urban design of each of the four stores. First up: the location in Brightwood, on the former site of Curtis Chevrolet, on upper Georgia Avenue.
Average suburban Wal-Marts often occupy sites with over 20 acres of land, but the Curtis Chevy property is barely four acres. Clearly, Wal-Mart won't be able to build its usual model at this location.
Dick Knapp of Foulger-Pratt Company, the developer for the Brightwood site, confirms as much, saying "This is not your father's Wal-Mart. They're moving in to tighter spaces and they're going vertical."
The plans would replace the old car dealership buildings with a new 102,000 square-foot Wal-Mart store. The only way to fit that large a store on that small a property is to eliminate surface parking and bring the building right up to the street, so that's what will happen.
It isn't yet clear whether the entire store will be able to fit into a single story or whether a second floor will be necessary, but in any event the parking will be located in an underground garage directly below the store. The entrance will face the sidewalk 20-30 feet back from the curb. That will make for either a comfortably wide sidewalk or a narrow landscaped strip.
When asked about preservation of the existing buildings, Knapp responded that due to a now-canceled redevelopment plan for the property that would have replaced the car dealership with 399 apartments, Foulger-Pratt has already received city approval to demolish all the buildings on the site except the façade of the car barn, a historic structure used by the dealership to store vehicles. Wal-Mart is hoping to obtain permission to take down that façade as well, but such permission has not yet been secured.
Unfortunately, the development won't be mixed-use. If Foulger-Pratt would stick a few floors of apartments above the retail uses, that would add new customers for the surrounding businesses and help revitalize central Brightwood as a place to live, not only to shop. It's regrettable that the plan misses such an opportunity.
The goods news, though, is that Wal-Mart appears dedicated to providing a fundamentally urban store at this location. It will greet the street and it will not have any surface parking out front. These are real victories for the community, and represent a real evolution for Wal-Mart as a corporation.
Important questions do remain. Will the car barn facade be preserved? Will Wal-Mart's frontage along Georgia Avenue be an uninterrupted blank wall, or will the architects take steps to give it pedestrian-scaled details? What sort of effect will Wal-Mart have on Brightwood's independent businesses, and what will be their labor practices?
But from an urban design standpoint, we may be looking at one of the most progressive and walkable Wal-Mart designs in America. That, at least, is good news.
The federal government will soon vacate most of Water Reed hospital in northern DC, and DC officials are currently pondering potential uses and getting community input. Metro's proposal to build a new bus garage should be part of the final plan.
Federal base closure rules restrict the uses to government and non-profit, so DC can't simply let developers build some condos and grocery stores on the site. It can be used for public health, prison, homeless assistance, seaports, and more. A seaport is probably not in the cards, but a bus garage would be a great use of some of the space.
Why does DC need a new bus garage? Its two bus garages in the northern part of DC are falling apart and neighbors would rather use the land for other purposes. The 175-bus Northern garage, along 14th Street between Buchanan and Decatur Street, needs a massive overhaul. However, the local community is strongly pushing to remove the garage entirely.
Meanwhile, the 138-bus Western garage occupies an enormous tract of land right on top of the Friendship Heights Metro, creating an empty block-long wall right on Wisconsin Avenue and heavy bus traffic on the smaller streets in the neighborhood, where the garage entrances lie. Many residents would love to see more street-activating uses on Wisconsin and remove the bus traffic.
However, these buses would have to go somewhere. Who wants a bus garage? Nobody wants one in their neighborhood, but Walter Reed represents a great opportunity. It's a huge site, and WMATA could build its garage in one of the interior spaces. Many buses could exit directly onto 16th Street, which is not a neighborhood street at all. Meanwhile, the Georgia Avenue frontage could get other uses that more directly serve residents on Georgia Avenue.
Alternately, WMATA has made some sketches of a bus facility that could front onto Georgia with a more attractive facade. However, putting it farther west seems to make the most sense.
The best aspect of this option is that it could return two significant parcels of land in dense neighborhoods back to the tax rolls. DC can't get tax revenue from Walter Reed itself, but it can get some from the Northern and Western garage properties. WMATA would sell those properties and use the money to fund the new garage, and DC could get stores, apartments and townhouses right on the growing northern 14th Street commercial corridor and atop the Metro in lively Friendship Heights.
If WMATA doesn't get to do this, they'll have to invest substantial resources into rehabilitating the existing garages, ensuring those stay where they are and annoy neighbors for another generation.
WMATA's long-term bus plan calls for closing Northern in 2014 and rehabilitating it until 2016. WMATA would temporarily move Northern's bus operations to the DC Village facility in Southeast DC, which will replace the Southeastern Bus Garage that closed in 2008. DC Village is scheduled to open in 2012 and will have enough capacity to handle the buses at Northern. However, WMATA will have to spend millions of dollars a year in extra fuel and driver pay to deadhead buses from DC Village up to routes in northern DC and southern Montgomery County, which translates into high costs for the local jurisdictions.
After Northern is rebuilt, they would close Western, shift its buses to Northern, and rehab Western until 2018. All three garages, as well as the others outside DC, are necessary if WMATA wants to have enough buses for the anticipated growth in ridership by 2020.
The Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development is rightly working with residents right around Walter Reed to identify the uses they'd prefer for the site. However, especially for the parcels that aren't immediately adjacent to residents or businesses, they should also consider the bigger picture. A new garage in the interior of the site would help residents in two other neighborhoods without harming the Walter Reed neighbors, bring in more money for the DC budget in the long run, and ensure that our bus service can continue to grow as more and more residents use transit.
The District government has received many proposals from government agencies and non-profits for redeveloping 62.5 acres of the 113-acre Walter Reed campus in northern DC.
In 2005, the Pentagon decided to relocate the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to the campus of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. Last year, the State Department selected 18 acres on the west side of the campus to host foreign embassies, much like the former National Bureau of Standards campus in Van Ness.
The General Services Administration (GSA), which manages much of the Federal Government's office real estate, chose to keep 32.5 acres on the northeast corner of the site. The remaining 62.5 acres will go to the District for certain acceptable uses.
One would expect DC to auction the site to the highest private bidder, but the federal base closure process requires proposals from government agencies or non-
More than half of the applicants propose a combination of affordable, workforce, senior and rehabilitative housing. Five applicants propose public charter schools and Howard University proposes relocating its medical schools and hospital from their current campus. DC Fire and EMS proposes to relocate Engine 22 to the site while DDOT proposes testing highway materials. Even WMATA proposes a building a new bus garage on part of the site.Social Services:
- Help USA: 75 units of permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless veterans
- So Others Might Eat: 277 units of rental housing for the chronically homeless, the elderly, the mentally ill, veterans, and others requiring rehabilitation
- Transitional Housing Corporation: 120 units of mixed-income affordable and workforce housing, 110-120 units of affordable housing for the elderly, 3500-4000 sq. ft. of office space for the program
- Zenith Community Arts Foundation: housing for 20 artists over age 50, an art gallery, art classrooms, parks
- Concerned Citizens: housing for seniors
- Manna, Inc.: 30 units of affordable and workforce housing
- DC Dept. of Housing and Community Development & DC Dept. of Mental Health: Artist housing, homeless housing, student housing, Section 8 housing, market-rate rental housing, first-time homes, and senior housing
- Veterans and Military Family Life Progress: two-year transitional housing for veterans
- DC Dept. of Human Services: family shelter and permanent supportive housing
- Urban Matters/ Emory Beacon of Light: 146 units of permanent supportive housing for veterans, the chronically homeless and families and 209 units of workforce housing
- Veterans and Military Family Life Progress: (unknown)
- Ayeni International Inc.: job training and emergency, transitional, and permanent housing for homeless and low-income families.
- DC Fire and EMS: Relocating Engine 22 and building a community service unit.
- DDOT: Materials testing and research laboratory
- WMATA: garage for 100 - 250 buses
- Building Hope: Charter school incubator facilities.
- Center City Public Charter Schools: New public charter school teaching pre-K through 8th grade
- Friendship Public Charter Schools: New public charter school teaching pre-K through 12th grade; 1,125 students, IB program.
- Latin America Montessori Bilingual: New public charter school teaching pre-K through 6th grade; 200 students.
- Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School: Relocation of existing school, expansion to teach pre-K through 12th grade; IB program.
- T & T Healthcare -(unknown)
- Howard University (and Howard University Hospital) - relocation of Howard University's existing hospital and medical schools.
The deputy mayor's office will soon determine which applicants are qualified to continue and, over the coming months, will award the site to one or several of the applicants. Since many of the applicants do not propose using the entire site and since the city has hired a planning firm for the site, it seems highly likely that Walter Reed will host several of these projects together.
What would you like to see at Walter Reed?
Dick Durbin has joined the ranks of Congressmen who pick on DC for its inability to instantly, magically melt several feet of snow that smashed the all-time record.
But Durbin might want to look a little closer to home for the source of some problems.
Along Pennsylvania Avenue, for example, the worst job clearing snow came from the National Park Service, part of the federal government in which Durbin is so influential. Commenter Kelly writes:
I walked in [Friday] morning ...along my usual route down Pennsylvania Ave SE and Independence Ave SE/SW.To be precise, while Seward Square (4th-6th Streets SE) is indeed an NPS property, the Eastern Market Metro plaza (7th-9th) was transferred to DC in 2006, and the District hasn't shoveled most of its parks either. Still, NPS has plenty of unshoveled spots all over the region. James, who lives off Georgia Avenue, writes,
Residential and business sidewalks were well-cleared except for the blocks along Pennsylvania Ave SE maintained by the National Park Service (4th-6th / 7th-9th) which were completely unshoveled or plowed.
Although extremely frustrated about the lack of plowing on my side street, I've been understanding of the District's limited resources and limited plowing capabilities. What I don't understand, however, is how the National Park Service has neglected to shovel the long portion of sidewalk in front of Battlefield National Cemetery, located between the Takoma and Brightwood neighborhoods on Georgia Avenue.It's good that Durbin realizes that our snow response could be better. How about he talk to his friends on the National Parks subcommittee about holding a hearing into why the Park Service isn't doing its part?
All the neighbors on the blocks around the cemetery, including a Safeway and a CVS have cleared their sidewalks after every snowfall. NPS has not. Seven days since the first flakes fell and not a single shovel has hit the cement. I've witnessed countless people make the decision to walk in the cleared, but dangerous, street rather than walk through the stretch of uncleared sidewalk. So, what's NPS's excuse?
In recent storms, they've plowed the freeway through Rock Creek while ignoring the walking and bicycling path. What was the agency's mission, again? But maybe that sits just fine with some of our Senators, who generally get chauffered by SUV from their homes to the parking lots at the Senate.
By the way, this is bizarre: the NPS directions page for Capitol Hill parks recommends taking the bus from Naylor Road on the Green Line to get to Seward Square, or a bus from Eastern Market and then walking three blocks when the park is just a single block's walk from the Metro. Marion Park (around 5th and South Carolina SE) suggests a bus from Anacostia with no mention at all of the one-block walk from Eastern Market.
The east side of the 5500 block of 13th Street, NW, viewed from the intersection at Kennedy Street.Left: Image from the Library of Congress National Photo Company Collection, taken in the 1920s. Right: The same view today.
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