Posts about Brookland
Some wards divide up their ANCs by neighborhood. Ward 5, already a geographically large ward, is carved into only three ANCs, each containing a whopping 12 single-member districts and even splitting Brookland up between ANCs.
That means people vote on issues often very far from their own neighborhoods, such as ANC 5C where commissioners from as far away as Fort Totten Park voted to oppose Big Bear's license way down in Bloomingdale, against the wishes of Bloomingdale's own representatives. That's about the distance from the White House to Columbia Heights.
We support Jioni Palmer, who is running to unseat incumbent Marshall Phillips in Edgewood's 5C08. Palmer wants to do more to improve retail in Edgewood, which has lost some high-profile businesses such as the Safeway on Rhode Island Avenue. Phillips appears to have missed qualifying for the ballot, but is trying to hold his seat as a write-in. With the small turnout of many ANC SMD races, a write-in candidacy can succeed, so we urge residents to vote for Palmer.
Another worthy challenger is James Fournier, who is challenging incumbent Barrie Daneker in Stronghold and northern Bloomingdale's 5C07. Daneker has taken a combative and condescending tone on the ANC, which has created more strife over the McMillan development than need be. Daneker also opposed the Big Bear license, as did all but two of the commissioners.
In 5C06, spanning Rhode Island Avenue with parts of Eckington and Edgewood, Darin Allen would do more to communicate with constituents on the street and through his Twitter account than longtime incumbent Mary Farmer-Allen.
Bloomingdale's John Salatti (5C04, Rhode Island to Adams Street) has been a model commissioner and has led the way in encouraging more commercial development that responds to residents' needs, and is running unopposed. In 5C03, south of Rhode Island, green business entrepreneur Hugh Youngblood is running unopposed as well, also with the support of the friends of Big Bear and of a more vibrant Bloomingdale.
Intense debates over development at CUA and the Brookland Metro drove tempers high in Brookland last year. Carolyn Steptoe, the ANC Commissioner for 5A07 from Irving to Michigan east of the railroad tracks, vociferously opposed projects to make better use of the parking lots at the Metro. John Daggett, her opponent, more reasonably pointed out that some development won't "destroy" the neighborhood or the local parks that residents treasure. Steptoe is also extremely combative toward residents on neighborhood email lists. We endorse Mr. Daggett.
Just to the east, in 5A10 east of 15th and 16th Streets, there is a three-way open seat race between Jehan Carter, Corey Griffin and Allen Tillman. We don't have much information on Carter and Tillman, but residents who've spoken with Griffin came away impressed by his ability to have a strong opinion about the direction of the city, while simultaneously displaying a great deal of respect for dissenting opinion. He would bring a younger perspective to an ANC that has been dominated by an older demographic and created speed bumps for local businesses trying to enhance the 12th Street corridor.
In Trinidad, along Ward 5's southern border, incumbents Thalia Wiggins (5B06, West Virginia Avenue and the Florida Market) and Tina Laskaris (5B08, southeast Trinidad) have very ably represented their neighborhood and enjoy widespread respect. Both should be reelected.
India Henderson, the incumbent in 5B10 which contains the Carver half of Carver-Langston, is not a communicative commissioner and is rarely seen in the district. Camille Tucker seems very likely to do better. India Henderson is also the daughter of Council primary candidate and Kathy Henderson, who often acts as the de facto ANC commissioner and was recently embroiled in a bizarre sign-removing scandal.
A common complaint about many ANC commissioners surrounds their level of outreach to the community, through regular district meetings, email lists, and other mechanisms. Many commissioners stop reaching out to those they don't know after being in office for a period of time, and many don't use new means of reaching constitutents like email and the Web.
While we don't have concrete information on policy positions in all districts, based on the potential for more community engagement we lean toward challengers Joyce Robinson-Paul against incumbent Sylvia Pinkney in Eckington and southern Truxton Circle's 5C02, Tim Clark over sitting commissioner Denise Wright in eastern Eckington's 5C05, Vaughn Bennett against Rayseen Woodland in 5B04 in southern Brookland, and Laura Casperson versus Arthur Yarbrough and incumbent David Hooper in central Trinidad's 5B07.
On the other hand, Angel Alston, representing 5A03 in
Fort Totten Riggs Park, has made strides recently to listen more to residents instead of just casting votes on most distant matters, such as Brookland development, based on a few people's opinions.
DC's traditionally quiet summer is over. There are lots of events coming up this weekend and across the next few weeks. September is always a particularly big month in transportation, as Park(ing) Day and Car-Free Day both show up just days apart, sandwiching Walking
The Surfrider Foundation is paddling the Potomac from 10 am to 2 pm, starting at the Thompson Boat Center where Virginia Avenue meets Rock Creek Parkway. And the DC Building Industry Association is helping out all day to improve Fort Mahan Park.
The following Tuesday, September 22nd, is the more official non-car event, Car-Free Day. As they have the last few years, DC will hold a celebration at 7th and F, NW. You can take the pledge to try to get around without driving for the day. The week is also Try Transit Week in Virginia, designed to encourage Virginians to give transit a try.
Speaking of long bike rides, the following weekend is WABA's 50 States Ride, which hits all 50 of Washington's state-named avenues on a tough ride of over 60 miles. For those who want to see some state streets without so many hills, there's also a 13 Colonies ride hitting the original 13 colonies, all of whose streets come into DC's center, from Rhode Island just north of downtown to South Carolina on Capitol Hill. Both rides are on September 26th, start between 8 and 9 am, and cost $10-15.
In Montgomery, the Takoma Park Folk Festival is this Sunday (the 13th) from 11 to 6:30, and the Magical Montgomery Festival celebrates the arts in Downtown Silver Spring on Saturday, September 26th from 12 to 6.
The Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association is having a discussion of bicycling in Brookland, including the Metropolitan Branch Trail and other trails, featuring folks from the Met Branch trail coalition, WABA, and Rails-to-Trails. That's Tuesday, September 15th, 7 pm at the Brooks Mansion, 901 Newton Street, NE right near the Metro.
Zipcar founder Robin Chase will talk about transportation in a lecture entitled "Beyond Zipcar" at the National Building Museum on Monday the 21st at 12:30. That event is free, but you have to RSVP.Copenhagen Cycle Chic, will discuss the nexus between making bicycling fashionable and getting more people to use this sustainable form of transportation. The talk is on Wednesday, September 30th, at 6 pm at the NCPC offices, 401 9th St, NW, 5th floor.
If this is totally overwhelming, all of this is on the Greater Greater Washington calendar, with the next week or so of events always appearing on the right sidebar on the main page.
The DC Office of Planning has released a new Small Area Plan for the Brookland neighborhood that calls for converting the entire neighborhood to open space. The plan will set maximum allowable heights of 0 feet and adjust the permitted FAR to 0.
The National Shrine, already the tallest building in Brookland, will also be the shortest. Photo by Alan Cordova.
"We heard the message loud and clear from the ANC," said Ward 5 Planner Deborah Ostrich. "Vocal residents expressed a desire to maximize the amount of open space in the neighborhood, and this plan does this." All houses will have to comply with the new zoning by 2015. At that time, the plan assures that riders getting off at the Brookland Metro station will not have any structures blocking their view.
Residents will be able to remain in their homes provided the buildings have basements. DC zoning laws allow for small penthouses provided they are set back at least ten feet from all property lines. Brookland residents will be able to take advantage of this rule to construct penthouses for entry and exit.
DDOT will also remove all obstructions to automobile traffic, including curbs, bulb-outs, and medians. "This plan will ensure that residents no longer have to circle the block to reach the parking lot for the Yes! Organic Market on 12th Street," said ANC Commissioner Carolyn Jumpfoote. Residents had criticized DDOT's previous design for the streetscape, which created a median blocking some left turns and bulb-outs which allegedly reduced the number of parking spaces. Residents will also no longer be constrained by such impediments as sidewalks and corners, but will instead be able to choose the shortest route to their destination. The new transportation plan will ensure no obstacles block emergency vehicles.
Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. (Ward 5) praised the new plan, especially the section on accessory structures, which will permit gas station pumps as long as they do not exceed six feet in height. "DC has lost many of its gas stations in the last ten years," he said. "We need to create an incentive for more full service gas stations in the District of Columbia." The Small Area Plan allows any property to contain small structures under six feet covering no more than 15% of the lot.
The DC Council's Committee of the Whole approved the Brookland Small Area Plan this morning. Technically, they just placed a resolution on the calendar to approve the plan, with some comments; the full Council will vote on the plan later today. However, after this vote, final passage is overwhelmingly likely. Update: The plan passed unanimously.
Chairman Vincent Gray emphasized that the Council doesn't have the power to amend plans. Instead, they can only approve or reject them. However, they often include their comments in the committee report. Chairman Vincent Gray and Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. added a few such comments. None of them force changes for the plan, but rather clarify some neighborhood concerns and ask the Office of Planning to further work with the community on key issues.
One emphasizes that any future development under this plan will still have to go through the PUD process. In a PUD, the Zoning Commission reviews all aspects of a design, and arranges for certain community benefits such as funding for local nonprofits or space in the building for community uses. This plan doesn't create any by-right development, but creates a "framework" for the Zoning Commission to evaluate future PUDs.
Some neighbors want shorter buildings around the Metro station than the plan recommends. Those people have a harder road to oppose such development, because the plan guides the Zoning Commission toward taller buildings in those areas. But at the same time, the plan also calls for stepped-down heights nearer residential development, which will guide the Zoning Commission away from taller buildings in other areas. And either way, neighbors and the ANC will have plenty of future opportunities to weigh in on specific development proposals.
Another amendment to the committee report calls for OP and DDOT to update the area's transportation study by the end of 2010. The report asks OP to better clarify how to consolidate shuttle buses, which currently travel to Catholic, the Washington Hospital Center, and other locations. Shuttles could run more often and serve more people if they combined destinations, and with a lower volume of buses, we could transform the large traffic oval at the station into a public plaza and a real street grid.
Finally, Thomas introduced an amendment asking OP to study the possibility of purchasing the vacant lot adjacent to the Metro station, which some have started callind the "Brookland Common," as "passive green space." This amendment, like the others, doesn't require the city to purchase this property. Doing so would almost certainly be cost prohibitive, especially given DC's current dire budget constraints.
It's too bad that Thomas used the term "passive green space," however. Setting aside the question of whether the lot is really green or brown, "passive" space isn't useful. It's just empty space that makes a neighborhood more spread out. If it's "passive", people aren't really taking advantage of the space. If we're going to create a useful park, with benches, ball fields and a dog area, that's one thing, though the neighborhood already has several of those. But "passively" leaving land unused isn't right for a city, especially right next to a Metro station.
People whose houses or apartments overlook empty space tend to like "passive" spaces, of course, since they provide nicer views, while active parks might generate noise. One opponent wrote on the Brookland list that she would be able to see the proposed apartments from her window. So what? Our city's policy shouldn't prioritize preserving views to the exclusion of other policy aims, except key "monumental" viewsheds along major avenues toward the Capitol, Washington Monument, and other key landmarks. Being able to see the Metro station, at the expense of preventing other people from living in DC, making housing less affordable, and increasing crime, isn't an inherent right.
Harriet Tregoning also sent the Council a letter, promising to keep working with the community on some key issues. They will help the ANC establish a Design Review Committee to evaluate and weigh in on future development proposals. They will study the 12th Street retail corridor and engage with merchants to find ways to revitalize that retail strip. And they will coordinate with the DC Department of Parks and Recreation to "identify creative funding opportunities for park improvements" to the neighborhood's existing parks.
As Chairman Gray pointed out, the Office of Planning has spent an unprecedented amount of time and energy working with neighbors on this plan. And they have promised to keep working closely with the community. Some people love this plan. Others disagree very strongly. Either way, few DC agencies spend as much time and effort listening and collaborating as OP has done. This should serve as a model for good community outreach for other plans and other DC agencies.
At the DC Council's hearing a few weeks ago on the Brookland Small Area Plan, a number of residents argued vehemently that the windswept traffic oval and chained-up empty lots around the Brookland/CUA Metro station are the pinnacle of good civic spaces, and creating housing, retail and public plazas would destroy their community. And some expressed incredulity that anyone could disagree.
When one resident was testifying for the plan, an anti-development leader on the same panel turned to him and shouted, "Who are you working for?" Another resident, Guy Durant, said, "If you can find neighbors who support this plan, I would be surprised." I don't know if he was surprised, but numerous supporters testified in person. Over 50 residents of the neighborhood signed our petition for the plan and the Office of Planning's lengthy process to gather a wide range of public input. George Davis eloquently wrote of the need to break free of parochial knee-jerk opposition and dream of a better future:
I have been a resident in the Brookland area for eight years now and I fully endorse this plan. Brookland, without question, deserves more. It has a rich history of being a vibrant and dynamic part of the city where families can live, work and play peacefully. The transit oriented development efforts between Fort Totten and Catholic University are greatly needed not only to remove the industrial blight, but to show the world that DC is not just Capitol Hill and parts of Northwest. [Emphasis added] I don't want to go to the suburbs anymore for everything. I would rather spend the dollars in my own city and neighborhood. This plan will allow for all of this and more.Others spoke of the scary walk from the Metro station at night, and muggings that have plagued the area. Erin Hutson said, "I currently go shopping and dining elsewhere in the city because Brookland offers so few amenities. Brookland is a wonderful community that could benefit from more residents, more shoppers, and more businesses, and the natural location for all of that to occur is around the metro station." And Michael Sauers summed it up succinctly:
I sincerely believe that the silent majority of Brooklanders believe that the plan is a good one. Please don't let the extremely vocal minority of people push this off-track. Thanks.Tomorrow, the DC Council will vote on the plan. They support the concept, but vocal groups of opponents have been making a last-ditch effort to flood the Council with emails. Please help keep them strong. Send a letter to Chairman Gray, Councilmember Thomas, and the at-large Councilmembers asking them to vote for the plan this Tuesday. Tell them that most residents, visitors, and potential shoppers are eager for a plan that imagines a better future instead of clinging to the past. Click here to send your letter now.
financing fell through to buy the vacant commercial building at 14th and T. In December, an exciting proposal by Tryst, Diner, and Open City owner Constantine Stavropoulous to share the building among a diner, comedy club, yoga studio and dance company lost out to Room and Board. Will Stavropoulous be able to resurrect his original plan and bring more food and arts to 14th Street? (Tip: Scott G.)
Brown dreams of a DC covered in parking lots: New at-large Councilmember Michael Brown told the Kalorama Citizens' Association he wants to use public money to build municipal parking like Montgomery County's, the Current reports. Why is DC's newest member of the WMATA board eager to spend public money to make DC even more car-centric? As we learned from my interview with Brown before the election, Brown's heart is in the right place on transit, but he doesn't understand the relationship between subsidizing parking and discouraging transit use. Maybe that's because he can't remember the last time he rode Metro? (Tip: Reid.)
Would it have been the iPod wing? The U.S. Commission on Fine Arts has rejected a glass-box addition to the historic Mount Pleasant library. Anti-preservation Marc Fisher calls opponents the "taste police". What do you think?
Dueling Compact bills both pass: The Virginia legislature has passed both versions of the WMATA compact amendments, the "you get the house anyway" version and the "you get it as long as you pay for it" version matching DC's. Governor Kaine could sign Maryland Delegate Anna Sol Gutierrez (D-Mongtomery) has introduced the latter version in the Maryland House; the no-strings version is also in play there. All three jurisdictions have to pass the same one for anything to take effect.
How about some transit, PG? The Post's Get There is enthusiastic about Maryland's plans to widen MD-5 (Branch Avenue) south of the Beltway. It's too bad they doesn't recognize the problems in Prince George's headlong rush to sprawl. However, the Post does recommend toll or HOT lanes with transit. That's a step.
How about some transit, eastern shore? Maryland is thinking about adding a third span to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, since so many people drive across it in summer. BeyondDC points out that if so many people are driving from DC to Ocean City, Route 50 BRT could move them all in much less space and much lower cost.
Why no Brookland deck: Richard Layman explains why decking over the railroad tracks around Brookland, as some neighbors want, is really not feasible.
Whither dead big boxes? Infrastructurist looks at reuse opportunities for empty big-box retail sites. Over in Brookland, residents have been discussing possibilities for the empty National Wholesale Liquidators store, the central anchor of a very suburban strip mall on Rhode Island Avenue.
According to a message on the Brookland email list, "Councilmember Thomas stated at a meeting on Wednesday that his mail is running 50 to 1 in favor of the Small Area Plan as submitted by Office of Planning." While a vocal group of people vehemently oppose the plan on the neighborhood list, if that report is true, most residents of the area are enthusiastic about the opportunity to improve the area around their Metro station.
Thanks to everyone who signed the petition! If you haven't, and if you live, work, play, learn, shop or otherwise interact with Brookland, please sign to let Thomas and the other Councilmembers hear your thoughts.
ANC 5A has scheduled a meeting to pass a resolution on the plan tonight. Unfortunately, the email, by 5A10 Commissioner Philip Blair, gives the date and place (the cafeteria of St. Anthony's church, at the corner of 12th Street and Monroe Street) but not the time, and nobody has responded to another resident's reply asking about the time. Update: It's at 6:30 pm.
The proposed resolution calls for a comprehensive transportation study, for OP to restudy the options to deck over the train tracks south of the Metro station, and to incorporate "the community's widely shared consensus on certain important issues" such as "green space", though it doesn't define specific objections.
Ryan, a Brookland resident, just sent this to the Brookland neighborhood list. It elaborates on many of the points in his petition calling on the DC Council to approve the plan.
For the past 18 months, the DC Office of Planning has worked with planners, business people, and residents of Brookland to put together a small area plan for the area around the Brookland Metro station, Monroe Street, and the 12th Street corridor. The final draft of this plan is currently available at the website of the Office of Planning, and a public hearing is scheduled to take place on February 10th at 3:00 pm. For most of the 18th months through which this process has taken place, there has been a lively discussion and debate within Brookland on the merits of the plan. Having heard all the arguments, I have decided that I strongly support the plan, and I'd like to explain why.
But first, I want to make one quick point about this plan. It is not binding and it will not take effect immediately. If the plan is accepted, we will not see immediate construction on buildings up to the height limit. Projects will only begin as economic conditions warrant, and they may come in at smaller densities than are advised under the plan. We have every reason to believe that build-out will be gradual, taking place over two or perhaps three decades. Even the development on Catholic University's properties, for which Jim Abdo has already taken initial steps, will be slow to be completed, particularly given market conditions. It will be at least five years before just that development is complete. Do not be concerned that Brookland will be changed dramatically and immediately.
Now, on to my reasons.
The plan is good for Brookland. When the Brookland area was at its liveliest, at the time when the retail sections of the neighborhood were all occupied and busy, the area had about 4,000 more people than it currently does. Because the number of residents here has decreased over time, and because more people use their cars to get around, local retail options are not nearly as good as they could be. The only way to address the root cause of this problem is to increase the population. The small area plan makes room for an increase of population of about 2,000 people, and it concentrates the development near commercial corridors. So even though Brookland will remain smaller than in the past, new development should allow for an increase in the number and type of businesses within easy walking distance of much of the neighborhood.
This will improve the quality of life in Brookland. It will create jobs and reduce the need to drive elsewhere in the city or into the suburbs for a meal or a bit of shopping. It will enliven the area around the Metro station and improve public safety – instead of a dark, empty ground near the station at night, there will be sidewalk cafes and pedestrians, making for a safer and more pleasant stroll. Adding homes and businesses near the station and along other commercial corridors will energize the public places in Brookland, from the Metro station, to the land around Brooks mansion, to the sidewalks of 12th Street, to Turkey Thicket. By making the neighborhood a more pleasant place to walk, shop, and have a bite to eat or a drink, this plan will help bring the community together.
The plan is good for the city. All of us have a hand in paying for the infrastructure and public services in this city. We pay to take care of the streets and the schools, to fund public transportation, to maintain the police and fire departments, and so on. When businesses stand empty or when land lays fallow, we are increasing the burden on ourselves. By allowing reasonable development, the plan will bring new residents to the District, who will pay taxes, and will keep more revenue in the District at successful businesses, which will also increase the tax base. We have critical infrastructure in DC, like the roads through our neighborhood and the Metro system, which help our economy to function and must be supported by users and taxpayers. When we don't take full advantage of those resources, we increase the burden of supporting those systems on current taxpayers. This plan will strengthen the District's economy and increase the tax base, putting the city on a stronger financial footing.
The plan is good for the environment. Residents of the District of Columbia are the greenest in the entire metropolitan area, for several reasons. First, we live fairly compactly. Even the single-family homes on large yards east of 12th Street in Brookland occupy less space than most homes in the suburbs, and many other Washingtonians live in row houses or multi-family condos and apartments, which take up less space still. What this means is that new housing created in the District takes up less land than new housing in the suburbs, and that means fewer trees cut down and an overall better use of land.
We're also green because we have excellent access to transit. Unlike most suburban residents, we're able to take Metro or buses to our places of business or to go out or shop. A resident of the District drives far less than a resident of the suburbs, and Washingtonians who live in close proximity to Metro drive least of all. And that means that Washingtonians use much less gas than suburban residents, emit fewer pollutants, and have a smaller carbon footprint. When we put housing near Metro in Washington, we allow more people to live a very green life.
And finally, Washington is green because it's built at a walkable scale. It's true than many Washingtonians use cars for at least some trips, but because most of the city is built to have residences near businesses and thriving commercial strips, many more trips can be taken on foot or bicycle.
The small area plan improves Brookland on all these counts. It builds new homes in the city, it builds them near Metro, and it builds them in a walkable fashion. It may not be popular to say so, but we have a responsibility to allow reasonable development near the Metro station, because of the significant environmental benefits involved. It would be a very big shame to waste the opportunity presented by our Metro station.
The plan represents good community decision making. Obviously, the plan will not satisfy everyone in the neighborhood. There are people who live adjacent to lots that may be developed, and who may have less sunlight or a reduced view. I live near Michigan Avenue within sight of the Shrine and the Metro station, and it is likely that my view will be blocked by new buildings. There may be some increases in traffic. Even though new residents will drive less on average, there will be more total residents, which may add to traffic and make parking a bit tighter. Some trees will have to come down. It is understandable that people aren't happy about some aspects of the plan.
But we are a community, and it's sometimes necessary to do what's best for the community as a whole, even if that means that not everyone is completely satisfied by the final outcome. We will all have to give up some things under the plan, but we will also all get some things in return. I think that in the end, Brookland as a whole is made much better off, and most of us will be glad that we were able to put together this guide for future development.
I hope that any Brooklanders with opinions on the matter will make them known to their elected representatives. You can do this by submitting written testimony, or by testifying in person on February 10th. I'd also like to make everyone aware of [the online petition], where residents who feel positively about the small area plan can let their opinions be known.
Thanks for your time, and I hope that we can all grow together as a community after this process is complete.
Take the Metro to U Street, Clarendon, or Bethesda, and you find yourself in the middle of a lively neighborhood. Public plazas, shops and housing fill the surrounding blocks. There's a feeling of place.
Emerge from the Brookland/CUA station, on the other hand, and you'll see none of this. There's only a concrete-filled traffic oval for cars to pick up and drop off. To the east lies a parking lot and a few empty lots. Walk north, and you have to cross another concrete expanse for shuttle buses before crossing a weed-filled plain underneath Michigan Avenue. At the end of the path is another parking lot surrounding the one-story Comcast warehouse. Continue north, and you'll pass a gas station, some industrial buildings, a strip mall, and a park.
Brookland is a beautiful neighborhood with attractive houses, historic buildings, and a charming neighborhood main street. The Metro station, meanwhile, lies in a bleak, industrial pocket with none of Brookland's charm.
Outside the Brookland Metro. Image from Google Street View.
Twenty years from now, this could become a lively neighborhood center, if the DC Council approves the Brookland Small Area Plan after their February 10 hearing. The plan aims to add housing and retail opportunities near the Metro and alongside the train tracks. It replaces unusable empty space with productive community parkland. It reconnects the street grid in several places and creates continuous chains of buildings from the commercial 12th Street east of the tracks to Catholic University on the west, and makes a vast and empty chasm into a pleasant, walkable link. At the same time, it respects the low density of the existing housing near the Metro by stepping down building heights close to existing houses.
Left: Brookland Metro station area today. Image from Google Maps. Right: Metro station sub-area plan.
The plan reconnects 9th and Newton streets through the site, making bus drop-off and kiss-and-ride part of the street grid instead of pedestrian-unfriendly suburban formats and building a plaza around the Metro escalator on each side. It adds new housing on both sides of the train tracks, but with stepped-down heights near single-family homes. For example, see the townhouses in the upper right of the image above, between the apartment buildings and the detached houses east of 10th Street.
As Monroe street crosses the train tracks, the plan calls for low retail buildings over the tracks to fill the gap in the street wall and make Monroe Street a gateway between the two sides of the tracks. To create usable open space, it recommends building a civic gathering place on the grounds of the Brooks Mansion (the solitary building toward the lower right of each image) and replacing Brooks' surface parking with underground parking below some of the new buildings. There will also be a new civic plaza west of the train tracks at a realigned intersection of Monroe and Michigan Avenue.
As with most changes, residents disagree about what's best for the neighborhood. A vocal group of Brooklanders are fighting the plan, arguing that the empty spaces around the Metro station are the neighborhood's precious green space. Others, meanwhile, call that space a "trash-strewn chain-link blight" and prefer usable parkland over somewhat larger but inactive spaces. Opponents charge that four-story buildings will tower over their small bungalows, while supporters point out that a two-story bungalow with an attic and a front door six feet above the street, as many houses have, is nearly four stories tall itself. A six-story building with an attractive facade and setbacks from the street is much less imposing than a three-story concrete box.
We grow accustomed to bad design over time. My irritation at the voids in public space on 17th Street have softened as I shopped there more often. I've gotten used to the desolate sidewalks downtown (except at Gallery Place) on weekends and middays. That doesn't mean 17th uses public space well or that we shouldn't work to make downtown more lively. Just because we become used to a status quo doesn't mean there's not a better option.
Likewise, many people have grown familiar with crossing a parking lot and multiple car dropoff lanes to walk to the Metro each day. They see Brookland as a suburban pocket and understandably worry about change. But a lively plaza with retail will enhance safety around the station. It will bring in residents to patronize Brookland's shops and strengthen the 12th Street business corridor. It will help the environment by accommodating more residents who don't have to drive, the city by growing our tax base, and our population by adding opportunities for housing that regular people can afford. It will even enhance the value of the existing residents' homes by making Brookland a more pleasant neighborhood for all.
In an email to the Brookland email list this morning, one opponent referred to the community's success at blocking a parking garage Metro wanted to construct next to the station in the 1970s. Good for them. If Metro had built that garage, we'd all look back on that as a mistake. But if the DC Council approves the Small Area Plan, residents in twenty years will thank planners, the Council, and supportive residents for laying the groundwork to make Brookland a better, safer, happier place to live.
If you live, work, shop or learn in or around Brookland, please weigh in to support this Small Area Plan by signing Ryan Avent's petition or testifying at the hearing at 3 pm on Tuesday, February 10th.
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