- The Barracks Row Fall Festival is tomorrow (Sat., Sept. 27) from 11 am – 4 pm on 8th Street SE. Always a good time with great food and activities. I’ll be at the ANC 6B booth from 1-3 pm near District Doughnut. Be sure to stop by and say hello!
- The Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development’s Office has announced an Oct. 29 surplus meeting for parcels F1 & G1 at Reservation 13/Hill East Development. I’ve posted some additional information about the meeting.
- On Thurs., Oct. 2, I’ll be holding a meeting on the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue SE project at 7:30 pm at New York Pizza (1401 Pennsylvania Ave SE). Greg Selfridge of NOVO development will be on hand to provide updates on the construction and answer questions.
- Beginning Monday, Sept. 29, the District Department of Transportation will be conducting a roadway improvement project on the 1400 block of Potomac Ave SE. The project, which is expected to last 3 weeks, will include a much-needed resurfacing of the roadway and repairs to sidewalks, curbs and gutters and wheel chair ramps. Note that traffic will likely be reduced to one lane on this block during construction hours.
- The Department of General Services has scheduled a second building tour for development teams interested in responding to the Eastern Branch Building RFP. The tour will be on Tues., Sept. 30. from 9:30 am – 4:00 pm I’m working with DGS to schedule a separate community tour date and time.
- If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to register for the Dead Man’s Run 5K on Saturday, Oct. 4, 6:00 pm at Historic Congressional Cemetery.
The Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development’s Office will hold a property surplus meeting for parcels F1 & G1 of the Hill East Development (Reservation 13) on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 6-8 pm at St. Coletta of Greater Washington (1901 Independence Ave SE).
Currently, DMPED is negotiating a land disposition agreement with Donatelli/Blue Skye, the development team awarded the right to develop parcels F1 & G1 (phase I). Since the parcels are District property, the parcels must be declared surplus property – property not required for a future public (city) purpose. The Oct. 29 meeting is required by law and is an opportunity for DMPED to receive public feedback and comments on the District’s plans to surplus the parcels. All comments, including written comments received by Nov. 10, 2014, will be submitted to the Council for its consideration.
DMPED’s scheduling of a surplus meeting is a positive development and suggests that the city and development team are making progress in their negotiations. Hopefully, the land disposition agreement will be considered by the Council by the end of the year.
Curbside Cafe owners Kristi and Sam Whitfield plan to apply for a liquor license for the cafe in the near future. If you are interested in learning more, please stop by a community meeting tonight (Mon., Sept. 22) at 6 pm at Curbside Cafe (257 15th Street SE).
Note that ANC 6B will have an opportunity to weigh in on the liquor license request once an application is filed. If you can’t make tonight’s meeting, there will be a few more opportunities to weigh in on the request.
The reopening of the Southeast Freeway, the location of a Francis Marion Memorial and more comments on the city’s comprehensive zoning update were among many items on ANC 6B’s September 9 agenda. Here is a brief recap of major actions:
- The commission voted unanimously to oppose the reopening of the Southeast Freeway between Barney Circle and 11th Street SE. In a letter to DDOT (pdf), ANC 6B urges the agency to use available funding on the final recommendations of the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard transportation planning study.
- ANC 6B voted unanimously to provide testimony at the Department of General Services’ Sept. 16 Surplus Hearing for the Eastern Branch Building. The testimony (pdf) highlights issues raised by ANC 6B in formal comments submitted earlier this year. The Eastern Branch Building RFP has been issued.
- While voting 4-3-2 to support Marion Park as the appropriate location of a planned memorial to Francis Marion, ANC 6B also urged the National Park Service (pdf) to improve outreach to surrounding neighbors and to provide additional details on how the memorial would be maintained (I voted with the majority). A number of residents who live Marion Park noted a lack of communication by NPS on this project and other construction projects at the park.
- The commission voted unanimously to support the design concept of a proposed 48-unit residential building located at 900 11th Street SE (the corner of 11th and I Street SE).
- The commission voted unanimously to send a letter (pdf) to the Zoning Commission with comments on the Office of Planning’s proposed alternative amendments to its Zoning Regulations Review proposal. In the comments, ANC 6B urges the Zoning Commission to approve the zoning update and to oppose a number of OP’s suggested changes related to corner stores, accessory units and parking. The comments also include suggestions on how to better define fast food restaurant for purposes of zoning.
- The commission voted unanimously to send comments (pdf) to DDOT on its proposed rules for the Visitor Parking Pass program. The new rule requires residents to request visitor parking passes using an online system. ANC 6B suggested that the passes be limited to parking in a resident’s ANC single member district versus the entire commission area as proposed.
- In an effort to help the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop stay in its present location at 545 7th Street SE, ANC 6B voted unanimously to send a letter (pdf) to the DC Department of General Services encouraging the agency to sign a new lease with CHAW at its existing terms.
- The commission voted unanimously to send a letter (pdf) to the city’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer encouraging the agency to expand internet and wi-fi access at Potomac Gardens (1225 G Street SE).
- In October, the commission will be moving its office from the Hill Center to Eastern Market. All commission meetings, including committee and task force meetings, will continue to take place at the Hill Center. The move is necessary due to continued funding cuts to the commission’s budget and the reality that ANC 6B can get free office space at the city-owned Eastern Market.
- ANC 6B’s October meeting will be on Tuesday, October 14, 7 pm at the Hill Center.
The District Department of Transportation is now sending an e-mail response (pdf) to anyone who has urged Mayor Gray to halt the reopening of the Southeast Freeway segment between Barney Circle. While I appreciate DDOT acknowledging concerns of Hill East residents, it does not alleviate my concerns about the agency’s plans.
Here is my response to the response, section by section:
We at the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) have received your concerns about reopening the connection between the Southeast/Southwest Freeway (I-695) between 11th Street SE and Barney Circle.
This is an important connection for District residents east of the Anacostia River, primarily in Ward 7. Reopening this roadway segment will reestablish traffic movements (for example, eastbound I-695 to eastbound Pennsylvania Avenue SE toward Ward 7; westbound Pennsylvania Avenue SE to westbound I-695). However, the restricted lanes under Barney Circle to access Capitol Hill neighborhoods will remain closed.
Thanks to a productive conversation last weekend, I certainly have a better understanding of the traffic issues and concerns raised by Ward 7 residents. A major issue is the poor design and layout of freeway ramps at I-295 and Pennsylvania Ave, where merging traffic leads to numerous accidents. But reopening the freeway connection will encourage more vehicles to exit I-295 off of these ramps and will likely lead to more congestion on the Sousa Bridge, making it more difficult for Ward 7 drivers to even access the new connection.
Additionally, DDOT does not need to rebuild a freeway to “reestablish traffic movements between I-695 and Pennsylvania Ave SE.” Traffic movements can also be reestablished by building a boulevard or more neighborhood-friendly connection. That is the purpose of the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard project and why DDOT should be putting taxpayer dollars toward the final project recommendations.
This reopening is expected to have positive effects for residents of Capitol Hill and surrounding neighborhoods. It will reduce traffic on streets such as Potomac Avenue and I Street SE, which have been used by residents to access Pennsylvania Avenue SE from east of the Anacostia River. As part of the 11th Street Bridges Environmental Impact Statement, it is also necessary to open these to meet projected traffic levels within the project area.
The reopened freeway is not going to significantly reduce traffic on Potomac Ave and I Street. As long as 17th Street remains a two lane one way thoroughfare through the neighborhood, commuters are going to continue to use 17th, Potomac and I as a shortcut route when I-295 is backed up at East Capitol Street. Implementing the long-delayed 17th Street safety improvements (narrowing the street to one lane, adding curb extensions and a bike lane, etc.) will do more to help traffic on Potomac Ave and I Street than reopening the freeway.
Also, when the new freeway connection inevitably backs up as drivers continue to try to get around backups on I-295, vehicles are going to continue down Pennsylvania and take Potomac Ave and I Street once again, merging with all the traffic originating on 17th Street.
And while DDOT does plan to prevent vehicles from accessing the freeway from 17th Street, it does not change the fact that the agency is re-establishing a barrier between the neighborhood and waterfront. If you build a freeway connection, it is going to attract more high-speed traffic into the neighborhood and along the waterfront. This cost significantly outweighs any (if any) “positive effects” of reopening the freeway.
Finally, DDOT fails to address two major risks associated with reopening the freeway connection:
- The use (waste?) of around $6 million of 11th Street Bridges funding to rebuild the “temporary” freeway, money that could be used to fund the construction of the permanent boulevard and circle, and
- As David Alpert of Greater Greater Washington points out, the significant risk that the temporary reopening becomes a permanent reopening (for a Hill East example of this phenomenon, see DC General Temporary Emergency Family Shelter).
The city has a great opportunity to connect the neighborhood to the Anacostia waterfront and correct a mistake of the past. Let’s not waste it. If you haven’t already done so, please contact Mayor Gray and urge him to halt the reopening of the Southeast Freeway.
The DC Department of General Services (DGS) has issued a Request for Proposals (pdf) for the disposition and redevelopment of the Eastern Branch Building, the former Boys and Girls Club building located at 261 17th Street SE. Responses are due by Thurs., November 20 at 3:00 pm.
While the RFP does not include everything ANC 6B requested (pdf), it does reference the commission’s comments and encourages respondents to proactively reach out to the community if interested in the building. The RFP also references a community presentation for all development teams that submit complete proposals that DGS determines are responsive.
If you are interested in learning more about the RFP, please plan to attend one or both of these upcoming meetings:
- Tues, Sept. 16 – DGS Eastern Branch Surplus Hearing, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm, Payne Elementary School (1445 C Street SE) – Though titled a “hearing,” this meeting will be a much more informal discussion of the state of the building and the RFP process.
- Wed., Sept. 17 – Pre-proposal Conference, 10:30 am, Reeves Center, 2000 14th Street NW, Second Floor – This will be another opportunity to learn about the building and RFP process. While the agenda will be geared towards parties interested in responding to the RFP, the meeting is open to the public.
DGS is also conducting tours of the building on Wed., Sept. 17 from 12-3 pm. These tours are designed for development teams interested in submitting a proposal, and all individuals touring the building will have to sign a waiver. I plan to ask DGS whether residents will be allowed to tour the building as well.
I will post additional information as the RFP process unfolds.
As I mentioned in my recap of the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard planning study meeting, the District Department of Transportation is planning to reopen the Southeast Freeway between Barney Circle and 11th Street SE by the end of the year. Construction crews are already spending millions of dollars to rebuild and clear portions of the old freeway, which was closed in January 2013 as part of the 11th Street Bridge Project. Once it reopens, it will draw more commuter traffic off I-295 and into our neighborhood, particularly on the already high volume 17th and 19th Street corridors.
Unfortunately, DDOT plans to move ahead with the reopening despite objections from the community. That leaves only one person – Mayor Gray – who can direct DDOT to stop this bad idea.
Please call Mayor Gray’s Office today and tell the Mayor to halt the reopening of the Southeast Freeway. You can reach his office by dialing:
Here are some key reasons why halting the reopening is critical:
- Reopening the freeway undermines the planning and transportation studies underway for this area. The Office of Planning, in conjunction with DDOT and the community, is finalizing recommendations on design concepts for the old freeway space that will extend the neighborhood grid, facilitate pedestrian connections to the Anacostia waterfront and provide a more neighborhood sensitive vehicle connection between Barney Circle and 11th Street. DDOT’s decision to reopen the freeway undermines this study and will continue the decades-long separation between the neighborhood and the waterfront.
- Reopening the freeway is a tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars. These dollars could and should be used to fund the final product of the ongoing planning and transportation study, both of which should wrap up by the end of the year. The money should not be used to re-introduce a mistake of the past.
- Reopening the freeway will not relieve traffic congestion. Instead, it will exacerbate traffic issues in our neighborhood, particularly as the freeway draws more and more commuters off of I-295 and the 11th Street bridge and down 17th, 19th Streets and Pennsylvania Ave.
Again, please call Mayor Gray’s Office today and tell the Mayor to halt the reopening of the Southeast Freeway. You can reach his office by dialing:
Thanks for your help!