North of Tilden: In the name of the Father, the Builder and Community Spirit

The Tenleytown area has been a hub of hubbub for the past two weeks, and more is to come. Four long awaited projects made great strides, however, opportunities are still being lost.

First the good news: The Tenleytown Library will break ground today, September 23rd at 10:30 AM, with Mayor Fenty and perhaps some protesters in attendance. The Economic Development office decided to spend $650K-1M to build stronger girders in the rear of the building, to permit future growth above and to the rear of the library. Across Wisconsin, the renovated and restored fields at Fort Reno Park will open on October 3rd. Another contentious site, the three athletic pitches look great. I can’t wait to see people enjoying the park and all its earthly delights again.

The new structure is on the left. Pray for a good contractor.
Top: Yuma Elevation, new structure at left. Bottom: Western elevation. (Image via DCMud)

Opus Dei revealed more details about their plan for the Yuma Study Center, a residential and educational facility behind St. Ann’s Catholic Church. Going before the HPRB, Moses of the Anacostia Nir Buras presented a handsome traditional home that would stand west of the Covenant of the Bon Secours building. Alvin Holm‘s design for the building is in a humbler strand of Classicism than the grandiose variety that Washington is known for, and that’s really good to see. As you can see, the new building would have nearly identical proportions and mass, but would use a more Chesapeake style and add a porch to indicate a residential character. However, I think the building would be better to stand on its own rather than be a redecorated twin. Still, positive.

And below, the ARD gives us Barabbas.

Safeway and Torti Gallas delivered excellent designs to replace the “Super-Secret” Safeway at 42nd and Ellicott. The current structure there is a sunken box that faces a parking lot, away from the street. The new plan would face the corner, opening up onto 42nd. Architecturally, the design is an attractive street-facing building with a large “modern traditional” placemaking tower near Wisconsin Avenue. Unfortunately, the project will not add any housing stock or commercial space atop it, less than one quarter of a mile from the Metro. It didn’t have to be much, but it shouldn’t have been none.

Courtesy the ARD (how nice of them) and Torti Gallas
Courtesy the ARD (how nice of them) and Torti Gallas. Click for more.

The Alliance For Rational Development has presumed the right to negotiate on behalf of the neighborhood, and has asked for the wrong proposals. The entity with an Orwellian name formed to stop the perfectly-sited Akridge development, consistently argues for low-rise buildings, while claiming to support some growth, insists that the zoning-mandated lowness of the area is optimal for the area and the only way to prevent traffic, crime, and gommorheanism or something. Of course, the record of smart growth, TOD, and urban infill shows the opposite to be the case. Smart growth is rational development.

Their only evidence are claims made in ignorance, and appeals to misunderstandings of density, city life, and context. They are essentially transit-oriented-denialists, who offer no alternatives to growth strategies almost universally accepted in the planning community. The area is privileged to have excellent transit resources. Squandering the opportunities here means more growth elsewhere, so more resources elsewhere, more emissions, and more traffic. Environmentally and culturally, density is better. TOD is what happens when you get out of your Prius and get real.

If there’s anything I’ve tried to show on this website, it’s that neighborhoods change, and neighborhoods can change without obliterating their history. If If the ARD wishes to live up to their name, then they need to provide a better plan to meet the need for sustainable growth while avoiding tall buildings. Until then, they should not be speaking for me.

4 Comments

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  • Will Wilson
    September 23, 2009 - 9:45 am | Permalink

    Amen, brother!

  • Ben
    September 23, 2009 - 10:32 am | Permalink

    Regarding the proposed redevelopment of the Safeway on 42nd and Davenport, the engagement with 42nd Street is an improvement from the current blank wall along that street. Overall, this looks like a more efficient use of land but there are still significant concerns with the proposal.

    First, too much parking is provided in this development. This is a 10 minute walk from the Friendship Heights metro and a 5 minute walk from the Tenley metro. With today’s structure, the parking lot is never more than 80-85% full (my estimate). The need to drive to this store will further be reduced once the Safeway in Glover Park and the Whole Foods in Friendship are completed.

    Second, given that this parcel is so close to two metro stations there should be residential development (like the Giant further down Wisconsin Ave) and some more retail opportunities.

    Third, although the landscaped space along Ellicot is attractive, there is already an abundance of open space in the section between Friendship and Tenley. There is already a very nice park on the corner of 42nd and Chesapeake which is vacant most of the time. This area will likely add no value as open space and merely prohibit another opportunity to add more walkable development close to the Metro station.

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