The federal government’s big green plan for a 110-acre swath of Southwest D.C. would ramp up development by as much as 5 million square feet while shrinking the area’s impact on the environment.
The National Capital Planning Commission on Thursday released its public draft report on the SW Ecodistrict — its plan to transform the space between the National Mall and the Southwest waterfront. The authors say the plan could result in an additional 2.8 million square feet of office space, 1.8 million square feet of residential and hotel space, up to five sites for new cultural buildings or memorials, and 14.3 acres of new or improved parks and plazas. It would reconnect the street grid, create 17 new intersections and expand the rail corridor, while at the same time drastically reducing environmental impact.
Bounded by Independence Avenue to the north, Maine Avenue to the south, 12th Street to the west and 4th Street to the east, the Ecodistrict encompasses 15 blocks, the Southwest Freeway, L’Enfant Promenade, eight federal buildings, eight private buildings and two federal parks.
The report (Summary PDF) breaks the Ecodistrict into four sections: Independence Quarter, the 10th Street corridor and Banneker Park, the Maryland Avenue and 7th Street corridors, and the Southwest Freeway.
In the 20-acre Independence Quarter, the report suggests setting aside 1.8 million square feet for a new Department of Energy headquarters, redeveloping the Forrestal Complex, developing under-used parcels, decking over the 12th Street tunnel and ramp, and leaving a prominent site for the National Women’s History Museum. The work, the report claims, will yield more than 2 million square feet of development.
In the 10th Street corridor and Banneker Park, the authors suggests redesigning 10th Street as a walkable, vibrant, mixed-use cultural corridor, redeveloping the 8 acre Banneker Park “befitting a national cultural destination to serve as an extension of the National Mall,” and using the lower level of 10th Street to accommodate energy, water and parking infrastructure. The 10th Street project could yield 1.2 million square feet of new cultural facilities, improve more than 8 acres of usable public space, store up to 94 million gallons of rainwater, and provide a new tour bus parking area.
On the Maryland Avenue and 7th Street corridors, the report recommends decking over the CSX rail line and Maryland Avenue to create an “important park-like boulevard,” decking over the 9th Street ramps to I-395, realigning the rail line corridor to accommodate a four track system, redeveloping 7th Street into a retail corridor, creating a new signature urban park and developing a series of connected civic spaces.
The Southwest Freeway, meanwhile, would be decked over to yield more than 400,000 square feet of office and residential space. The freeway, the authors say, is “unattractive” and creates a “physical and psychologocial barrier, making it difficult and unpleasant to traverse south and north of the freeway between the waterfront and the Mall.”
The NCPC’s SW Ecodistrict Task Force, a team of 17 federal and local agencies, crafted the 20-year vision to transform the overall 110 acre area into a “vibrant, highly sustainable, mixed-use community that will showcase new possibilities in sustainable practices, high performance buildings and landscapes and use district-scale strategies to yield environmental and economic benefits.”
The work will be expensive, in the many billions of dollars, though neither the report nor the people who presented it to the NCPC Thursday would quantity the cost. The report suggests going for all manner of financing sources — federal, D.C., and private.
The goal, overall, is to create a zero net energy district as measured in carbon. That means producing all energy on-site, while not producing any carbon emissions.
To get there, the report suggests using solar thermal on both new and rehabilitated building, sharing excess hot water between office and residential buildings, installing solar cells over the Southwest Freeway, using ground source heat technology for new buildings, connecting all new and rehabbed buildings to an improved central utility plant, and using sewage for building heat (sewer-mining). Green roofs, edible rooftop gardens, green walls, rain gardens and permeable pavement are part of the project as well.
Public comment on the plan will be accepted through Sept. 10. A public meeting is scheduled for July 19.
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