Improvements Coming to 10th Street SW Corridor

South by West

As a part of The Wharf development, Maine Avenue and 10th Street SW will be connected with a grand stairway that will lead to Banneker Overlook. Photo: William Rich

The National Capital Planning Commission hosted a Southwest Ecodistrict Initiative public meeting in mid-May that discussed options contemplated for Banneker Park at 10th Street SW and for stormwater management throughout the ecodistrict. The Southwest Ecodistrict Initiative is a comprehensive plan to create a sustainable mixed-use community in a 110-acre area south of the National Mall which currently includes a significant amount of federal office space.  

10th Street. In the interim there are plans to activate portions of 10th Street SW with programming. The street has a 150-foot right-of-way and at some places the distance between buildings is 230 feet. It was suggested that some street festivals on Pennsylvania Avenue NW could be accommodated on 10th Street from Independence to Maryland avenues SW. Perhaps the Southwest BID in the works could help bring some of that programming to 10th Street. Other suggestions made to improve the street in the interim include furnishings, street painting, lighting, and way-finding signage. 

In the long-term it was recommended that the right-of-way remain at 150 feet but the median along 10th Street SW be widened from 39 feet to 52 feet and the sidewalk and vehicle lanes be narrowed to accommodate a five-foot bike lane on each side of the street. Alternatives are available to allow trees of varying height on 10th Street, which is built mostly on a bridge structure. In addition there are three programmatic alternatives for the street – one emphasizes hardscape (which would allow more flexibility for programming in the median); the second emphasizes softscape (continuing the feel of the National Mall); and the third emphasizes water (10th Street used to have water elements). Questions remain about whether the character of 10th Street should be more like a park or a street, linear, episodic, or formal. 

A phased approach to improving the streetscape is preferred, since there is no financing dedicated to make improvements. Perhaps some of the funding can be obtained as a result of private development adjacent to the street, such as JBG’s plans for L’Enfant Plaza or the GSA’s planned redevelopment of the area closest to Independence Avenue SW known as Federal Triangle South.  

Banneker Park. While there is no financing available for streetscape improvements along 10th Street, the developers of The Wharf along the Southwest Waterfront will finance the construction of a temporary staircase connecting Maine Avenue with Banneker Park to facilitate access from the National Mall and L’Enfant Plaza Metro. Due to the grade change the stairs can be straight or include switchbacks or have a combination of both. Design of the stair can be monumental, contemporary, natural, or have features found in other areas of the city referred to as “District” in nature.

Stormwater Management. Even though the amount of development in the Southwest Ecodistrict will increase to 15 million square feet of space compared to about 10 million now, the amount of water use is anticipated to decline. The design of the Southwest Ecodistrict will allow more stormwater to be captured on site and recycled instead of being sent untreated to Washington Channel and the Anacostia River. Large cisterns can be built beneath 10th Street and other areas to help store water. Green roofs, flow-through swales, and trees can help reduce runoff. In summer the condensation from air-conditioner coils can be collected to create potable water. Stormwater and grey water can be captured, treated, and used for non-potable uses such as washing and irrigation, while rain and well water can help satisfy potable water demand. 

DCHA Applies for Choice Grant for Greenleaf

Representatives from the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) announced in late April that they have applied for a $500,000 HUD Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant for Greenleaf, a trio of public housing communities in Southwest. Greenleaf was built in 1959 and includes a cluster of townhouses and midrise and walk-up units from I to M streets, between 3rd Street and Delaware Avenue SW. In addition Greenleaf Seniors has a high-rise at the southeast corner of Delaware Avenue and M Street SW, as well as a mid-rise building (203 N St.). The three sections have a total of 497 units.

According to the HUD website the Choice Neighborhoods program supports locally driven strategies to address struggling neighborhoods with distressed public or HUD-assisted housing through a comprehensive approach to neighborhood transformation. Three main goals inform the program: (1) replace distressed public and assisted housing with high-quality, mixed-income housing that is well-managed and responsive to the needs of the surrounding neighborhood; (2) improve educational outcomes and intergenerational mobility with services and support delivered directly to youth and their families; and (3) create the conditions for public and private reinvestment to offer amenities and assets, including safety, good schools, and commercial activity. Communities that receive a Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant must develop a Transformation Plan, which will take about 24 months to complete. The plan helps guide the revitalization of the public-housing units, transformation of the surrounding neighborhood, and positive outcomes for families. 

DCHA's grant application comes at a time when the Office of Planning has started a Small Area Plan for the broader area, which includes Greenleaf Gardens and Greenleaf Seniors and the mid-rise. The Transformation Plan will have the same boundaries as the Small Area Plan, but the process will be different. Then it will take another year to prepare an application for the HUD Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant, which could be worth up to $30 million to help implement the Transformation Plan. 

In other words it will take at least five years before any redevelopment would begin. Meanwhile the units will be maintained. Cosmetic improvements have been made at the Greenleaf Extension buildings (garden apartments), including a new paint job. 

At a May 23 meeting hosted by the Near SE/SW Community Benefits Coordinating Council, well attended by residents of Greenleaf and other community residents, a representative from DCHA explained the grant the agency is applying for and the process between now and future redevelopment. If DCHA receives the Planning Grant for Greenleaf it would be the city’s third Choice grant, after grants awarded to Kenilworth Parkside in NE and Barry Farm/Wade Apartments in SE. According to a physical condition report on Greenleaf done as a part of the application submitted to HUD in late May, the community is distressed, which is one of the conditions necessary to qualify for a Choice grant. In addition Amidon-Bowen Elementary is considered an under-performing school.

DCHA will need to demonstrate to HUD how it will redevelop Greenleaf with or without the grant. DCHA intends to redevelop Greenleaf whether or not it receives the grant since the buildings are near the end of their useful lifespan. It will seek a private partner to help implement the redevelopment, and the goal is no displacement of current residents. All units will be replaced one-for-one, interspersed with market-rate units. In previous Hope VI projects the rules for former residents to return to the redeveloped community were stringent and many people were unable to return. In Greenleaf's case the rules have been eased so that a former resident need only comply with the terms of the lease. 

William Rich is a blogger at Southwest…The Little Quadrant that Could (www.southwestquadrant.blogspot.com).


HopeVI

HopeVI is great in concept however, until the Capper Carrollsburg HopeVI completes its 100% replacement no new projects should be allowed by HUD in DC. It is unconscionable that DC has managed to accumulate massive surpluses but not proceeded to complete this long overdue project. The market rate housing is complete but the public housing units are 386 units short.

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