Buzzard Point’s Potential Growth Raises Concerns for Nearby Residents

Residents Want to See Increased Density Paired with Better Transit Planning and Increased Transportation Options.

A new rendering of the future DC United Stadium, a catalyst for additional development at Buzzard Point.

In light of the more than $900 million in improvements proposed for Buzzard Point between the DC United soccer stadium and the new South Capitol Street Bridge, DC government planners are identifying opportunities for the city to enable transformative changes in Southwest. But nearby residents are concerned about the impacts from some of the city’s plans. Most notably, the Buzzard Point Vision Frameworkanticipates some 11.3 million gross square feet of new development, including more than 6,000 residential units, among other potential shifts for the this industrial area in Southwest DC.

The Vision

Today Buzzard Point in Southwest is characterized by its industrial uses, lack of green space, inaccessibility, and poorly organized street connections. But two huge investments of public and private funds could act as catalysts to transform Buzzard Point: the $600 million South Capitol Street Bridge replacement (Phase 1) and the new $300 million DC United Soccer Stadium.

Hoping to capitalize on the existing proposals for Buzzard Point and its surrounding community, the DC Office of Planning (OP) envisions a mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood emerging that is greener, more walkable, with better transit connections, and with a more natural relationship with the water.

A few of the key principles for redevelopment are:

A Vibrant Mixed-Use Neighborhood.Commercial-focused development around a new South Capitol Street oval could be part of the bridge project, and new residential development could be concentrated at the southern end of Buzzard Point near the waterfront.

Dynamic Parks and Public Spaces. A promenade for bikers and pedestrians, small parks marking the end of various surface streets, a new Waterfront Plaza at the intersection of South Capitol and S streets, and possibly a Maritime Museum could provide a new focus on the waterfront.

An Improved Multimodal Transportation System. Potomac Avenue, a “symbolic boulevard,” could increase pedestrian traffic between Buzzard Point and the Capitol Riverfront; Half Street could function as a “central spine” for better east-west connectivity.

A Living and Sustainable Environment.Low-impact developments could naturally treat runoff, plantings along the river could help clean the water, and an increased street tree canopy would provide shade.

Transit Troubles

Transportation options, or the lack thereof, are perhaps the biggest concerns about new development among nearby residents of Buzzard Point and the DC United Stadium. Residents want to see a comprehensive transportation plan for the area. “With more than 6,200 residential units [proposed], we can deduce that upwards of 12,000 people would be living on [Buzzard Point],” said Roger Moffatt, representing the advisory neighborhood commission (ANC) for the area that includes Buzzard Point. “Add to that the entire commercial and retail portion, and we have a super congested area with only two streets for ingress and egress.”

The southern area where much of the residential development is proposed is served by access from Second and First streets SW. Though planners for the future stadium note that it is adjacent to the Riverwalk bicycle route and within walking distance from both the Navy Yard-Ballpark and the Waterfront Metro stations, there are currently no transit services or bicycle facilities within the Buzzard Point area.

The DC Circulator 2014 Transit Development Plan Update of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) includes three routes that could service the area near Buzzard Point, with stops at the Waterfront Metro and the Southwest Waterfront, but none of the proposed lines would extend south of M Street into Buzzard Point. The vision framework suggests DDOT could consider such extensions in future plans, especially once the stadium is built. The plan also touches on the proposal for a new north-south streetcar line serving Buzzard Point, “while recognizing that the implementation of the system at Buzzard Point would be several years away.”

The ANC and residents want to see more transportation planning before the city encourages additional density, so as to not “overload” residents already living in Southwest, according to ANC Commissioner Rhonda Hamilton. “Increased density puts stress on existing residential parking,” she noted. “I think that there is a lot of disregard in terms of how it all mixes together.” Moffat advocates for making the area primarily pedestrian in nature, opening the streets to vehicular traffic for deliveries and the like during only limited hours.

Near-Term Catalysts

While the entirety of the city’s vision for Buzzard Point may take decades to come to fruition, one of the initial catalysts, DC United’s new stadium, is scheduled to be ready for the 2018 season.

The city government is assembling the land parcels for the stadium and clearing them for construction. The city may turn the land over to DC United as soon as this summer, DC United’s managing general partner, Jason Levien, told The Washington Post in December. The club is going through the planning and zoning process for its new home, which could hold between 18,000 and 23,000 fans. DC United filed its planned unit development (PUD) with the Zoning Commission in late January.

Meanwhile the six-lane Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge will bring with it improved street connections and create a new traffic oval to bring together South Capitol Street with Potomac Avenue and Q and R streets. That project received approval from the Federal Highway Administration last summer. DDOT should select a design-build team by December, with work approved to begin next winter.

Next Steps

OP sees early changes coming from the new bridge and the stadium, with development to follow those initial investments in five to 10 years. Full realization of the vision for both Buzzard Point and the adjacent Capitol Riverfront would come in 10 to 15 years, according to the framework.

On Feb. 3 the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly will meet to discuss the Buzzard Point Vision Framework.

The Urban Design Concept sets out potential future uses for Buzzard Point.
A Waterfront Plaza could include the future Maritime Museum.

Shaun Courtney is a freelance reporter and real estate writer. Shaun has called DC home since 2002 and now lives in Kingman Park with her husband and son.