The Capitol Dome may soon have a direct line to the Anacostia River if designs for the redevelopment of the Near Southeast waterfront neighborhood proceed as planned.
As part of one of the “largest waterfront transformations in the country,” New Jersey Avenue — which currently ends at M Street — would be extended to the river, along with a handful of other thoroughfares, such as Third and Fourth streets, said Andy Altman, director of the D.C. Office of Planning.
The street extensions were detailed this week as part of the Office of Planning’s Urban Design Framework for the Near Southeast neighborhood.
Central to the design is opening what planning officials see as an isolated part of the District through commercial and residential development, park creation and trails — incorporated into the Anacostia Riverwalk and Trail project — with results similar to Manhattan’s Battery Park City, Altman said.
“It’s only a matter of blocks [from the Capitol] but it seems like a matter of miles because the waterfront has been cut off,” Altman noted.
Key to transcending the perceived isolation, planners say, will be the elimination of the barriers presented by South Capitol Street, as well as by the ramps of the 11th Street Bridge and Southeast Freeway. A South Capitol Gateway study, due for release in May, will likely propose, among other options, the creation of a boulevard-like street that eliminates South Capitol’s overpasses, possibly widening the street and placing a median strip down its center.
The Anacostia Waterfront Initiative Framework, which will be unveiled later this year, will also propose a means to funnel regional traffic off the 11th Street Bridge, thereby converting it into a bridge for local traffic with pedestrian access to the waterfront.
This would be in keeping with the AWI’s overarching goal to break down barriers to the waterfront, said Project Coordinator David Howard.
The 346-acre Near Southeast neighborhood — part of the city’s ambitious Anacostia Waterfront Initiative — stretches from South Capitol Street to the 11th Street Bridge and from the Southeast Freeway to the Anacostia River and comprises the Washington Navy Yard and Southeast Federal Center, as well as the Marine Barracks and historic Capper-Carrollsburg neighborhood, among others.
All in all, more than $1 billion of public and private investment is slated for the Near Southeast area, roughly $850 million of which is from government sources, according to Howard.
Among the major sources of investment is $400 million for the new Department of Transportation headquarters at New Jersey Avenue and M Street Southeast, and $400 million reinvested in the Navy Yard.
The implementation of aspects of the Near Southeast design plan is contingent on the procurement of more than $70 million in additional public funds, however.
Beyond the creation of a waterfront park at the 5-acre Southeast Federal Center adjacent to the Navy Yard — which is the future home of the proposed 1.7 million-square-foot Transportation headquarters — the plan envisions the construction of another park on the Canal Blocks, at the corner of M and Second streets Southeast, linked to Garfield Park in the north and the waterfront in the south.
City planners also project 1,500 new residential units and 600,000 square feet of office space as part of a $35 million Hope VI grant which is leveraging into $250 million in public and private investment for Capper-Carrollsburg.
While Altman stressed that the public housing there would be replaced on a 1-1 ratio, he said the area would also encompass new market and moderately priced residences. However, planners expect some higher-end housing to spring up around the Southeast Federal Center waterfront area, said Steve Green of the deputy mayor’s office for planning and economic development. Balance, he added, would be key in weighing what types of residences will be built.
Along M Street, officials hope to realize an “urban boulevard” with a mixed-use development plan, mandating that at least 50 percent of ground floor space be allocated for retail use, Altman said.
The construction of a baseball stadium at M Street Southeast near the Navy Yard Metro station — one of the sites put forth for consideration by the city — would help “speed up” the waterfront’s transformation, AWI Project Manager Uwe Brandes asserted, though city officials have indicated their preference for a New York Avenue location.
Public hearings will be held by the D.C. Zoning Commission within the next 60 days to consider zoning proposals for the DOT headquarters planned unit development, the Capper-Carrollsburg Hope VI PUD, and the remaining 44 acres of the Southeast Federal Center, bounded by First and Sixth streets Southeast and M Street Southeast to the waterfront.
The design plan was prepared to support and provide context for these zoning cases, said Brandes. It can be viewed at www.planning.dc.gov.