Archive for March, 2011

New York Avenue Bridge: ho-hum or fabulous?

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Today I sent this message to the New York Avenue Bridge Project Manager:

I hope, I hope, I hope that you are going replace the opaque metal railings on the bridge with something that doesn’t obstruct the view. This bridge, could - and by all rights, should - have fabulous vistas in both directions. It is all that remains of a grand boulevard, a boulevard which constitutes not only the eastern entrance to a major city, but to the nation’s capital. A distant view of the Capitol itself is only possible from a few locations, and this is one of them.

At the very least, see-through railings would de-uglify this drearily utilitarian stretch of roadway. Moreover, it would make the bridge far more pedestrian friendly and give frustrated drivers who are stuck in traffic a way to take their minds off their miseries (and thereby help reduce road rage). People feel confined and edgy when presented with a view that consists of a few yards of concrete and then stops at a solid wall, no matter what’s on the other side. And in this case, they have reason to believe they’re being deprived of something that is interesting, or even - to many - fascinating.


Eckington’s NoMa West: instant gratification

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

According to a DC MUD post, developers finally broke ground this week on Alexan NoMa West, originally known as Eckington One.

Back in 2006, community members almost unanimously supported the zoning change that was required so that new residences could be built in this spot. For one thing, people opted for houses and condos over the specters of industrial waste dumps that were skilfully conjured up.

A more savvy community would have weighed its options more thoroughly. With NoMa development imminent, industrial concerns were probably priced out, even back then. This large tract of vacant land, practically a stone’s throw from the New York Avenue Metro, was destined to become highly desirable commercial real estate.

But, no, people wanted guaranteed shopping destinations, and soon. When the original PUD specified 15,084 square feet of retail space (about 2.5% of the total), collective tumescence ensued.


NoMa: the fight for retail

Monday, March 14th, 2011

More than anything, the modern gentry lusts for shopping opportunities – specifically, national chains within walking distance. For years our community has been told it doesn’t have enough potential customers to support this kind of retail, that we need a better-heeled, denser population. As a result, otherwise sane people instantly rally in support of every oversized condo block that comes along.

Well, guess what? We’re here. Between the Metro station and all the employers NoMa has (or will have) within its boundaries, it looks like these new dwelling boxes will, before too long, become filled with residents who will sleep far more soundly knowing their trusted brand names are merely an arms-length away.

So please, enough bending over for every “mixed-use” development asking for a zoning change or a taxpayer handout. Current land use plans exist for good reasons, one of them being to provide a transition between NoMa and our little pocket of historical rowhouses.


50 Florida Avenue NE needs to be retail

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

The main reason our neighborhood has been so liveable all these years – and stands to become even more attractive as time goes on and higher density developments inevitably grow up around us – has to do with the modest use of our lots.

Our buildings are as tall as they can possibly be and still allow street trees (and street life) to thrive. That, combined with the mandatory setbacks, also allows us to grow things (and, as one neighbor observed, to capture solar light for aesthetics and energy).

If we allow ourselves to become a terrarium at the bottom of a canyon, we will not only regret it ourselves, we also risk spoiling this area for the generations ahead. Eckington’s layout anchors the whole neighborhood. Years from now, people who come into the area for the first time will hopefully see a graceful transition between NoMa’s modern, most-bang-for-the-buck, early 21st-century taxpayer-subisidized developments and our human-scale rowhouses. What we don’t want is, "Look at that pocket of regular houses! How did that manage to survive under all of this?"


My first Megabus trip

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

The single-digit prices Megabus offers can’t possibly cover gas, let alone drivers’ salaries. Sure, their no-refund policy means they can keep the money from tickets people buy on impulse and never use. But still . . .

Maybe moving people from city to city for practically nothing is just to introduce the service, and Megabus will reap big rewards someday when their fares inevitably rise. Whatever their business model, I am just excited that for now, I can visit my friends and family (and hopefully have them visit me) by spending essentially nothing but time. And if that time involves hours I’d normally be sleeping anyway, so much the better.