Monday, April 07, 2008

This 'n' That

Shell Game

Last Thursday the Growler ankled over to George Washington Middle School for a community meeting on a proposed density swap at Potomac Yard, which will be going to Planning Commission and City Council for consideration and approval later this year.

Seems the developer(s) of the Yard want permission to move nearly half a million square feet of office space originally proposed for the infamous Landbay L opposite the Braddock Road Metro station to the Town Center (Landbay G).

Didja see that one coming, folks?

The reason cited by the developers' zoning attorney: not enough amenities at Landbay L to sustain the office space. Guess that's because there is no direct over- or underpass from Landbay L to Braddock Road Metro, where of course we are promised amenities a-plenty.

While it looks like this shift, along with the proposal to move another chunk of development from Landbay J to Landbay G, is designed to add enough density to support a future Metro station, readers shouldn't be deluded that the City has suddenly smartened up about the dumbing-down of Potomac Yard density.

The cap on total density imposed by the NIMBYs of Del Ray in the 1999 Potomac Yard Plan remains in place. In fact, zoning attorneys and staff acknowledge there would have to be much, much more density at the Town Center to incentivize a developer to pick up the cost for an in-fill Metro station. And the door seems firmly bolted shut to that possibility.

Combine this with WMATA's inability to pay for a new stop and the current crisis in the City's transportation funding, and it looks like the concept of a Potomac Yard Metro station is still as dead as Julius Caesar.

Puncturing the Puffery

We've heard politicians like Mayor William D. Euille and Councilman Rob Krupicka talk in public about the possibility of offsiting public housing units from our neighborhood to blank slate development sites such as the Eisenhower Valley, Van Dorn ... and Potomac Yard.

But when the issue came up at the community meeting on the Potomac Yard density shift, ARHA Commissioner Leslie Hagan stated flatly there had never been any discussion between ARHA's Board and the City about moving public housing units to the Yard.


Who's Afraid of Chatham Square?

A reader posted a recent comment asking about the Growler's viewpoint on the Braddock East Advisory Group.

Well, prepare yourselves for a surprise. The Growler believes the Braddock East Group is really a forum for a face-off between the City and ARHA about the future of the housing authority's properties, with consultants once again driving the agenda.

Citizen members? We're just observers on the sidelines, and were pretty much told that at the last meeting.

Interestingly, discussion about ARHA's award-winning Chatham Square as a model for future redevelopment, has been discouraged as well as talk about the details of the James Bland project, the only site here that ARHA is committed to redeveloping in the next five years. (Supposedly we will get to talk more about Bland at a public meeting on April 23.)

Yet there were slides from Goody Clancy's David Dixon showing how density for the proposed redevelopment of Chicago's infamous Cabrini-Green project started out low and moved higher with community "persuasion." And there were also a lot of references to mixed-income housing.

That can't be a coincidence. Do ARHA and EYA want a Chatham Square-like project at Bland — something which much of our neighborhood could get behind — while the City is pushing additional "mixed-income" (i.e., affordable) housing units? And could the City's agenda eat into the developer's required profit on the market rate units and jeopardize redevelopment?