Thursday, June 28, 2007

Landbay L: Put It Back On the Table?

The Growler has discovered something quite interesting about the evolution of Landbay L over at Potomac Yard.

Remember, this is the big open space across the railroad tracks from the Braddock Road Metro station, which is currently being cleared.

Check out the the map of Landbay L and the Braddock Area on the right. It displays the terminus of the proposed new Main Street, which will run through Potomac Yard. See the Growler's earlier posting Can a Picture Paint A Thousand Words? for a photograph looking south toward King Street.

Ya want to understand these details or you'll miss the impact of what the Curmudgeon is going to tell ya.

The developer of Potomac Yard originally proposed greater density on Landbay L specifically due to its proximity to the Braddock Road Metro.

But the proposal was slashed both in terms of density and height at the recommendation of City staff. Those recommendations were then accepted by Council and Planning Commission.

Transit oriented development? The Growler doesn't think so. Read on ...

Remember that according to a June 2006 City presentation to the Del Ray Citizens Association, Landbay L (the "Braddock Neighborhood") is currently slated to have 358 residential units, 473,000 square feet of commercial and office space, plus another 10,000 sf in street retail.

But according to the Potomac Yard Coordinated Development District (CDD) Plan #99-01 staff report, developer Commonwealth Atlantic originally proposed 673,000 square feet of commercial and office space and 319 residences.

South of Monroe Avenue Bridge (Landbay “L”)

South of the existing Monroe Avenue bridge, on the 11 acre landbay “L”, the applicant is proposing another concentration of high density office uses--673,000 square feet--and 319 multifamily residential units. The applicant has indicated that density is being concentrated in this area because it is the portion of the site closest to the Braddock Road Metrorail station. Heights are proposed at 110' for up to four buildings, with the majority of heights reaching no higher than 60’.

The project’s Main Street continues under the Monroe Avenue bridge into this portion of the project, providing the only vehicular access into the area. Main Street extends to the southern portion of the site to culminate in a cul-de-sac located approximately 675' feet from Braddock Road. This cul-desac is proposed to be a drop-off point to the Metrorail for the proposed shuttle bus system serving the Yard. No vehicular connections are provided to the neighborhoods to the west, although pedestrian connections are suggested to align with existing streets in the area. (Emphasis added) (CDD #99-01, page 26)

But after a discussion of the feasibility of straightening the Monroe Avenue Bridge (now a done deal), here's what staff recommended:

Regardless of whether or not the bridge is straightened, staff believes the amount of office within this area should be decreased. The applicant proposes the highest concentration of office--673,000 sq.ft.--at this difficult location, arguing that it is the most Metro accessible area within the Yard. While it is true that this site is physically the closest to Metrorail, it is still 1,500-2,500 ft. walk from the station to the location of the proposed office uses. And more significantly, this site has the worst vehicular access of any area in the Yard, unless the bridge is straightened. And, if the bridge is straightened, high levels of office use become somewhat less appropriate because of the increased connectedness to the adjoining low scale residential neighborhoods.

Therefore, staff is recommending that office uses be shifted from this area under either scenario. If the bridge is straightened, at least 200,000 sq.ft. of office should be shifted from this area to the Town Center to enhance that center of development. The applicant has indicated that they would prefer to eliminate all office uses from this landbay if the staff’s concept plan (without the bridge straightening) is approved, shifting them to the Town Center and throughout Landbays “H”, “I”, and “J”. With the second playfield located in this area under that scenario, the applicant feels that insufficient space is available to create a true office center. Development within this landbay would then become all residential use, with a small amount of retail, which staff supports and finds a more plausible use for this area than office.

Staff is recommending that heights in this area be decreased from the 110'maximum proposed by the applicant to a maximum of 82', with the majority of heights less than 60' and reducing as the lower neighborhoods to the west are approached. Staff does not support the increase from the 77' now permitted by the master plan for this area, which is predominately low scale in nature. A minor increase to 82' is reasonable to allow retail uses on the first floor; this is the height of office buildings on Duke Street and at the King Street. (CDD # 99-01, pp. 28-29) (Emphasis added)

The Growler doesn't even know where to begin.

First, the staff suggested shifting 200,000 sq ft of density away from a Metro site and at a location (Potomac Yard Town Center) that doesn't have a Metro station now and is unlikely to ever have one, despite the fact that the plan optimistically reserves some space for it.

Does this make sense?

Then, we are told that a walk of 1,500 to 2,500 feet is too far for someone to use Metro. Bollocks! The Growler walks more than that twice a day to the Metro, and it's only a four and a half block walk. Anyone on the Del Ray or Rosemont side who currently walks to Metro travels at least as far and probably much further.

Just what does the City define as a cachement area for Metro service? Two blocks and y'er out?

Next, it sounds like the shuttle bus (and make no mistake, that's all the Potomac Yard BRT is) was originally going to terminate on the western side of the Metro. Now BRT from the Yard is proposed to go down First Street, Fayette and Madison to the station. Why was this moved to our side?

And finally, the staff demonstrated a tender concern for height and its impact on the lower-scale Del Ray neighborhood nearby by insisting that no structures be taller than 82', with most at 60'. Yet for the "Northern Gateway" section of the Braddock Road Plan, the proposed CDD designation for the Jaguar property will permit heights of up to 150'.

It's time to end the discrimination. We need to demand that the City reopen the Potomac Yard Plan and propose the same density and height that we are getting on the eastern side.