Saturday, September 09, 2006

Swan Song

Eileen Fogarty made her last appearance at the September Planning Commission hearing on Thursday, and the Growler is happy to say that she has not left Parker-Gray in the lurch.

The Commission held a work session before the regular hearing to discuss the status of the Braddock Road Metro Small Area Plan, the critical blueprint for development in the neighborhood.

Ms. Fogarty actually postponed her departure for California by a week to ensure that the draft will be delivered next Friday to Planning Commission, which will hold a hearing in late September or early October. The City Council has also requested another work session and public hearings will follow later this fall.

The protection of the historic neighborhood, cursory in previous drafts, is now a centerpiece of the plan. Ms. Fogarty even talked about "celebrating the history of Parker-Gray," which has a nice ring to it. The plan promises to respect the scale of the old neighborhood, transitioning building heights on new development immediately adjacent to Parker-Gray. Denser development and height will be concentrated further north, near the current Monroe Street Bridge.

And Ms. Fogarty boldly broke the ice about the future of the controversial Andrew Adkins public housing project by presenting a plan for its possible redevelopment.

Although acknowledging that she had not had formal discussions with ARHA yet and while hedging that this could happen in 5 years or 25 years, Ms. Fogarty presented a sketch of two taller buildings, presumably with both market and subsidized units like Chatham Square. The eastern structure would be C-shaped, eliminating the crime-prone hidden courtyards, and would feature a wide swathe of green space between the building and Fayette Street (undoubtedly as a better buffer between the project and Braddock Lofts).

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has been pressing the City about development on the subway station lot, while some Commissioners like John Komoroske have urged that the open space be somehow preserved.

P&Z responded with a neatly creative solution that involves reconfiguring the kiss and ride and the bus stops. The plan places two office buildings on the north side of the site close to Braddock Place and a large green park at the southern end.

Some of the transportation aspects of the plan continue to sound worrisome (more about that later), but overall the plan is vastly improved from the first draft. The Growler thinks it’s a genuine attempt to address everyone's concerns, ranging from open space to better lighting, appropriate density and height, and mixed use development.

In the past, Ms. Fogarty sometimes gave the Parker-Gray District rather cursory treatment. But at the end she rose to the occasion, leaving the National Register nomination and the Braddock Road Plan well launched on the road to completion. So the Growler must say that nothing becomes Ms. Fogarty more than her method of leaving. Ave atque vale!