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Posts about Ivy City


A trail from NoMa to the National Arboretum is in the works

Planning is officially underway for a new pedestrian and bike trail parallel to New York Avenue NE. The trail would run from NoMa through Ivy City and out to the National Arboretum.

A rendering of a trail section in Ivy City. Image Rails-to-Trails.

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy ("RTC") just completed a study on the possibility, and DDOT and Douglas Development are now working on the first phases of planning for construction.

DDOT has envisioned protected bike infrastructure along this route since at least the 2005 DC Bike Master Plan's release, but this is the first study to analyze a particular route and provide a cost estimate. Funding for the study came from a donation from Douglas.

The study recommends a 14 foot trail width, with a minimum of 10 feet, from the NoMa Metro to the Arboretum. The trail would connect with the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) at its existing M Street NE ramp, go through the Florida Avenue Market/Union Market, and then along mostly-DDOT controlled land on the North side of New York Avenue NE.

New York Avenue trail area map. Image from Rails-to-Trails.

There are several options considered for some segments of the trail. The exact route will depend on further design and land ownership analysis, but there are some small sections that may be built this year.

DDOT is planning to build protected bike lanes in 2016 on M and 4th Streets NE along the route recommended by the RTC study. From there, local developer Kettler has a PUD pending at the Zoning Commission for several buildings fronting on to the trail.

As part of Kettler's project at 300-350 Morse Street NE called "Union Terminal" they will build 1,000 feet of the trail through an alley from Morse Street NE up to a DDOT-owned tunnel under New York Avenue. Kettler will also build a park at the South end of the tunnel to activate this currently vacant & desolate tunnel portal.

Site plan for Kettler's "Union Terminal" project, from their PUD application.

In Ivy City, Douglas Development is assembling a collection of shipping containers to become a retail and events space on land leased from the DC Government. They will build the trail section between Fenwick and 16th Streets NE as part of this project this year.

RTC is estimating that construction of the trail will cost $5 million, excluding a potential $6 million bicycle and pedestrian bridge across Florida Avenue NE. This would only be built if the developer to the South, Trammel-Crow, can incorporate the trail into their upcoming project at the Central Armature Works site.

Additional funds will be needed to acquire two parcels of land along New York Avenue. These hold a hotel, gas station, and tire shop. RTC estimates that acquiring these parcels, which total approximately 36,000 square feet, will cost $5 million.

Section of the trail through an existing tunnel under New York Avenue from the RTC study.

The next step will be starting a more formal engineering study of the various sections, which DDOT hopes to do later in 2016. The most critical portion will be along the railroad tracks where the trail will be built into the existing embankment between the tracks and road.


Cheh funds 11th Street Bridge Park, trees and recreation for Ivy City, and an Upper Northwest pool

Transportation chair Mary Cheh has released her serious budget proposals today, and has added funding to design and build a park on the piers of the old 11th Street Bridge, give the neglected Ivy City neighborhood new trees and a recreation center, and more.

Artist's rendering of the 11th Street Bridge Park.

Tomorrow, Cheh will propose that her committee amend Mayor Gray's proposed transportation capital budget to add $2 million to design the bridge park in Fiscal Year 2015, followed by $12.5 million across FY2016 and FY2017 to build it. That will cover half the cost; bridge supporters plan to raise the other half from private sources.

Under Cheh's plan, $300,000 will go to fix up streetscapes at Eastern Market, while $1 million over two years will pay to extend Ivy City's sidewalks and include treeboxes. That neighborhood, in an industrial part of the city, has no tree boxes on most of its streets, and therefore no street trees.

Instead of a tour bus parking lot, as the Gray administration proposed last year, Cheh's budget will fund a recreation center on that site (which costs almost $9 million). Rec centers in Chevy Chase, Edgewood, Hardy (in Foxhall Village) and Hillcrest get more money as well, as does the Therapeutic Recreation Center in Ward 7's Randle Circle.

The budget includes $500,000 to finish design for Franklin Square (but funding to actually help build the new park is yet to come in the future).

Roads will also get more money: repaving and repairs to roadways get a boost of $321,000 for each of the eight wards in FY2015. That's in addition to the mayor's capital budget which gave each ward's road projects about $5.2 million over six years. Ward 8 also got an extra $1.3 million from Gray, and Cheh's amendment moves it from the operating budget to the capital budget.

Finally, Cheh is funding a new outdoor pool to go somewhere in Ward 3, which residents have been campaigning for. Critics note that Ward 3 has one of the top public indoor swimming facilities in the city, at Wilson High School, but proponents say that indoor swimming isn't the same, and besides, the ward should have more pools.

Cheh's proposal also will fund some Ward 3 school and library projects: the Cleveland Park library, Palisades Library, Murch Elementary and Watkins Elementary renovations, and also the Capitol View library in Ward 7. It's not unusual for each ward councilmember to pop a few ward-based projects into their respective committees' budgets.

Where does this money come from?

A lot of the money comes from the South Capitol Street Bridge project. It current includes a swing span so that ships can access the Washington Navy Yard, but that was only opened 4 times in the last 8 years.

The Coast Guard has reportedly told DDOT that it is probably fine with not replacing the swing span. And, according to Cheh's committee director Drew Newman, they feel that if the federal government really wants a swing span anyway, then federal money should fund it. (DC is building the South Capitol bridge with local dollars, not federal transportation funds.) The change will save up to $140 million.

Cheh is also moving some streetcar money to later years, because DDOT has built up a surplus of almost $100 million in its streetcar accounts, and won't need some money in the capital plan until later on, according to Cheh's staff's analysis.

Circulator fares freeze, and commuter rail gets a plan

In the operating budget, not much is changing from Mayor Gray's very pro-transit budget. Cheh will freeze Circulator fares at their current level of $1 for at least one year, so that DDOT can engage with the public about whether the fares have to rise.

Another $500,000 will pay to create a Comprehensive Rail Plan. DC does not control MARC, VRE, Amtrak, or CSX, but there needs to be a unified plan about how to help grow commuter rail service in, out, and through DC. The tracks and stations at Union Station, L'Enfant Plaza, and the Long Bridge over the Potomac will need changes to make this possible, and since those facilities are in DC, the District can play a leadership role. The Committee of 100's Monte Edwards has been lobbying for planning around commuter rail, and he's absolutely right. Cheh agrees.

The Committee on Transportation and the Environment will hold its mark-up tomorrow. The other members, David Grosso, Kenyan McDuffie, Jim Graham, and Tommy Wells, could seek to introduce other amendments as well, though typically these budget proposals already reflect requests and negotiations between the councilmembers.


DC wants charters in 4 closed schools, and KIPP is interested

Charter schools could soon occupy 4 campuses which housed DC public schools until the latest round of school closings. KIPP DC, part of the highly successful national chain of charter schools, plans to make a bid for one of them, the Hamilton school in Ivy City near Ivy City and Gallaudet.

The 4 campuses. Map by the author from Google Maps base layer.

DC Public Schools (DCPS) and the DC Department of General Services (DGS) announced a request for offers (RFO) for the campuses: Hamilton, Shead Shaed Education Campus in Edgewood, Young Elementary School in Carver-Langston, and Winston Education Campus, in Hillcrest.

Existing public charter schools, or groups who have gotten conditional approval to create a public charter school, are eligible to bid. DC's goal is to locate high-performing charter schools in these communities. Of the 4 properties, only the Young campus is in an area with several existing, high-performing schools.

KIPP DC met with residents at Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Peta-Gay Lewis's Single-Member District 5D01 meeting Tuesday evening to discuss its plans. A new KIPP school, the Webb campus in Trinidad, will open this summer and serve 300 students, but there are 3,000 students citywide on KIPP's waiting list.

Location of current KIPP campuses in DC. Image from KIPP DC.

The Hamilton site would become a high school that could serve students coming from middle school at the Shaw, Webb, and Benning campuses. Any slots not filled by KIPP 8th graders would accept enrollment from students citywide.

The location is close to many of KIPP's existing middle schools, allowing it to feel more like a neighborhood school, officials said.

Parents of students at the nearby Two Rivers public charter school also said they have heard it may vie for the Hamilton site as well. Schools have to apply by August 14.

Corrections: The original version of this article misspelled the name of the Shaed school, and also said Hamilton is in Ivy City, when it is actually in the Florida Market or Union Market area near but (by most people's conception of the neighborhood) not strictly in Ivy City.


DDOT could put tour bus parking on Southeast Freeway

DC is having trouble finding a place for tour buses to park, but DDOT might have an answer: part of the Southeast Freeway east of the 11th Street Bridge, near 14th and L Streets, SE.

Photo by afagen on Flickr.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has started a study to replace that last segment of the Southeast Freeway, which connects the 11th Street Bridge to Barney Circle, and redesign the circle itself.

The roadway was originally part of a larger project to build a new bridge over the Anacostia from Barney Circle to DC-295. It was canceled in 1996. Instead, as part of the 11th Street Bridge project, DC built new ramps between the bridge and the freeway east of the Anacostia River.

What should DDOT do with the extra land? At last Thursday evening's meeting at Payne Elementary School, DDOT showed one potential use of land on diagrams at the break-out tables: a new tour bus parking facility.

Bus depot options. Click for PDF. Images from DDOT.

I was only able to get photos of two of the bus options. In the third one, the bus depot would be at grade, and the Southeast Boulevard would be placed in a tunnel beneath it. We've asked DDOT for the PDF files of all three proposals. Update: DDOT has sent along all 3 PDFs.

This was only the scoping meeting to start an environmental analysis, so these are just concept ideas, which the consultants will develop into formal alternatives as the study proceeds.

DC has had ongoing struggles with warehousing tour buses while they're waiting for groups to explore the sights downtown. Many tour buses once parked in the parking garage behind Union Station, but got kicked out to make room for intercity buses.

DC proposed using the Crummell School in Ivy City, but advocates have sued the city over that plan, arguing that it violates promises to create a community facility there and concentrating more polluting uses in a neighborhood already suffering from poor public health.

Councilmembers Vincent Orange and Jack Evans proposed legislation to move those buses to a vacant lot near Buzzard Point. A bus depot on the old Southeast Freeway land could be the executive branch's solution to the same problem.

The bus parking discussion was only part of last Thursday's meeting. We'll have more about the boulevard itself and the need for comprehensive planning for this area later this week.


Ivy City deserves some environmental justice

The DC neighborhood of Ivy City is small, poor and wedged between three major transportation arteries. The community feels worlds away from the leafy, charmed streets of many DC neighborhoods.

Photo from the Greening report.

Residents of Ivy City believe that the economic success of recent decades has passed them by, and in a way it has, quite literally: Those who drive in and out of the District on New York Avenue NE zoom past the neighborhood. All that car and truck traffic leaves pollution in its wake, contributing to serious health issues for many of Ivy City's residents.

In the latest insult, the District has proposed parking tour buses in the neighborhood. The buses do need a place to park, as the alternative is for them to circle around for hours. But must the buses—and their exhaust fumes—be sent to Ivy City?

The imperative not to concentrate things with negative public health effects, such as power plants or major highways, in poor neighborhoods is known as "environmental justice."

Continue reading my latest op-ed in the Washington Post.


Traffic is poisoning Ivy City

Tucked away in the not-so-scenic brownfields of the New York Avenue industrial corridor, buried between Gallaudet University and Mount Olivet Cemetery, is an isolated enclave of houses known as Ivy City. Theoretically, it is not a bad location: about a mile from New York Avenue Metro station and its actively redeveloping neighborhood, and walking distance to the scenic National Arboretum. But thanks to its isolation from other neighborhoods and years of neglect, it is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the District.

Photo by inked78 on Flickr.

DC Mud reports on a bit of elbow grease the DC government is devoting to this community. Four nonprofit developers will redevelop 37 vacant properties in Ivy City. DC aims to increase home ownership in an area where only 12% of residents own their houses despite the incredible affordability of the neighborhood.

It's easy to miss Ivy City while driving down New York Avenue. There are only four turns from NY Ave into Ivy City, and industrial superblocks front the avenue along the entire stretch. This is a very unfortunate use of street frontage on a boulevard that has a vista to the White House, especially since it hides the neighborhood.

Perhaps these industrial buildings are here because the neighborhood is so close to the railroad tracks on the north side of NY Ave, but nearby Brookland is a thriving residential community hugging the Metropolitan Branch railroad. And then there is Woodridge, just up the tracks from Ivy City. Unlike Brookland, there isn't even a Metro Station there. And yet it is still a pleasant residential area, not an industrial wasteland like NY Ave in Ivy City.

Ivy City is not on the wrong side of the tracks, it's on the wrong side of bad urbanism. Dumping traffic from Maryland freeways onto New York Avenue at Fort Lincoln is poisoning the neighborhood with blight. The John Hanson Highway (US-50/I-595) becomes NY Ave once it crosses into the District, turning 65 mph freeway traffic into neighborhood traffic. This continues all the way down to the entrance to I-395 near 3rd Street NW.

Today, New York Avenue is the only logical way for a car or truck to get from US-50 or the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to the 395 tunnel, and on to Arlington. The street grid connecting to NY Ave was undermined to make it more freeway-like. NY Ave's six lanes completely cut through the "circle" at Montana Avenue. Instead of an intersection at Mount Olivet Road, there is a freeway-like interchange. At the light at Florida Avenue, a faux "exit" prevents southeast-bound Florida Avenue traffic from turning left onto NY Av. Much of the original grid became super blocks along the corridor. Taking away these intersections made the route more freeway-like and less like a city street. And this makes the area less safe.

Of course there's nothing but moribund industrial development. Who would want to live on a shortcut between two interstates?

The key, then, is to take the freeway feel out of New York Avenue. Take out a lane in each direction (or make them bus lanes), add a tree lined median and street parking, signalize more intersections, reconnect the street grid, and perhaps lower the speed limit. Then NY Ave is more of a city street.

Then we have to do something about the two interstate highways that feed New York Avenune. The way I see it, there are two largely unpopular options here: connect them with a new freeway or get rid of the two freeway stubs (the I-395 tunnel and New York Avenue Freeway).

The first option would be a freeway that connects the 395 tunnel to the freeway segment east of Bladensburg Road. To avoid razing huge chunks of the existing structures along that route, this would mean either an aerial structure over the train tracks or a tunnel. The original freeway master plan for the District included such a freeway, known as the New York Avenue Industrial Freeway. This would create a much more logical freeway system in the District, and we could toll the new route (though I doubt the revenue would make a dent in the construction costs). On the other hand, this freeway would cost a lot to build, induce new traffic, and abandon smart growth practices.

The second option would mean shutting down the 395 tunnel, forcing all the traffic onto the Southeast Freeway, and closing the New York Avenue freeway segment, pushing traffic onto DC 295 (the Anacostia Freeway). We would then need exit ramps from DC 295 to the 11th Street Bridge, to maintain a connection to 395, as DC plans to do with its 11th Street Bridges project. This would be a much cheaper option without the induced demand, but many commuters would create an uproar over any freeway removals, and residents of Capitol Hill are fighting the new, larger bridge that will carry more traffic.

Meanwhile, DC is stuck in a middle ground with two unappealing commuter options, a freeway route without some ramps and a boulevard that can't decide if it's a city street or a freeway. And little Ivy City stagnates as a residential island off NY Av, crime ridden and blighted. Hopefully the refurbished residential properties will help, but I am afraid this neighborhood will languish until bold action is taken to improve New York Avenue.

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