Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Little Train That Could

Readers may have noticed a blitz of news late last week about a possible Metro station at Potomac Yard, not only in the Post but on broadcast stations as well.

The factor that drove the story: a preliminary analysis from the City on how such a station (estimated to cost $125 to $150 million) could be financed. Those methods might include tax increment financing (TIFs), federal and state funds, and developer contributions.

The Growler is all for a station at Potomac Yard, not least because the Cranky One will use it a couple of times a week. We probably have a lot of readers who would also appreciate another station between Braddock Road and National Airport.

What's interesting, though, is that the memo appears to start from the assumption that there will be no greater development density at the Yard than what was originally approved in 1999. Are politicians trying to find a way to have their cake and eat it too by getting a Metro station without any increase in density?

Recently the Planning Commission greenlighted a density swap that moved office development from Landbay L across from Braddock Metro farther north to Landbay H near the future Yard Town Center at Landbay G. (City Council will vote on the issue on June 14.) But this shift kept density within the existing ceiling that was imposed on the Yard development years ago by Del Ray. This is clear enough from Councilman Justin Wilson's recent newsletter.

So this suggests a couple of questions. First, why is the City still resisting the kind of density at Potomac Yard that Arlington has happily been building for the past two years? Even if they can still finagle a Metro station, they're still selling themselves short on future tax revenue by keeping the ceilings in place.

Second, what will become of Landbay L? Here's a scary thought to ponder: we now know the City is looking at Potomac Yard as a site for some or all of the 16 public housing units that need a new home after the redevelopment of the James Bland and Glebe Park projects. With the likelihood that the density shift will be approved and office space is moved away from Landbay L, is the way paved for the City to plunk the units down there and claim that they have deconcentrated public housing?