Southwest DC Ecodistrict Planned

NCPC rendering of Southwest Ecodistrict plan (source: ncpc.gov)

The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) has big plans for the smallest of the District of Columbia’s four quadrants. A preliminary plan released last week (July 12) for a 110-acre, 15-block section of Southwest Washington that is home to the Departments of Energy, Education, and Housing and Urban Development, as well as offices of the Federal Aviation Administration, GSA and U.S. Postal Services proposes transforming the area, which is bounded by Fourth and 12th streets (on the west and east) and Independence and Maine avenues (at its north and south), into an “ecodistrict” by 2030.

The plan—developed over the past two years by the NCPC’s SW Ecodistrict Task Force, a team of 17 federal and local agencies—proposes transforming the 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.” It calls for the improvement of existing federal office space to accommodate 19,000 additional employees, plus the development of more than 1 million square feet of new private and federal office space, 1.8 million square feet of housing and hotels, and 1.2 million square feet of cultural attractions, including new memorials and a proposed National Women’s History Museum. It also calls for street improvements that would create a continuous network of sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and tree-lined streets. Its recommendations are organized into four focus areas:

1) Independence Quarter, where new headquarters for the Department of Energy would anchor a new mixed-use community;

2) Maryland Avenue, where a restored urban boulevard would be centered on a reimagined park and an expanded L’Enfant Station intermodal transportation center;

3) Tenth Street, which would become an inviting civic corridor connecting the National Mall to the SW waterfront, anchored by Banneker Park; and

4) Southwest Freeway, a proposed collection of private mixed-use development and solar panels built on air rights over the freeway.

The plan’s lofty environmental goals include lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 50%, reducing potable water consumption by 70%, recycling 75% of construction waste and 80% of everyday waste; covering 40% of the district with tree canopy and making 35% of the surface area pervious (so that it absorbs stormwater).

How and when will this plan be finalized and implemented? The NCPC presented the draft plan at a public meeting last night (Thursday, July 19). A 60-day public comment period runs through September 10, after which the commission will review and incorporate comments, with the goal of preparing a final plan by January 2013. For more info, see the NCPC website.

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