February 7, 2008

Waterfront Park at The Yards
(File Number MP03/6805)

At its February meeting, the National Capital Planning Commission approved preliminary plans for a waterfront park at The Yards (formerly known as the Southeast Federal Center), located next to the Washington Navy Yard.

The park promises to become a signature attraction of The Yards, the Anacostia waterfront, and the city as a whole. Covering just over 5.5 acres, with 1,100 linear feet fronting the Anacostia River, the park will serve active and passive recreation and allow for entertainment programming.

Plans for the park include paved and landscaped plazas, a great lawn, a signature pedestrian bridge, a water feature—a canal basin and waterfall—designed to draw people into the park and toward the river, an overlook, a boardwalk, public piers, a marina, and a river garden designed for quieter activities.

The park will connect to a bicycle network and the Anacostia Riverwalk and Trail, planned to run from the National Arboretum to the Southwest Waterfront. One historic building, the former lumber shed, will be incorporated into the park along with new retail structures. The buildings and piers were not part of this review; the Commission will evaluate them in future project submissions.

The Commission commended the applicant, the General Services Administration; the developer, Forest City Washington; and the team’s designers for the quality of the design, the range of activities the park will support, its visual and physical connections, and for creatively adapting the design to the site’s ground elevation constraints. With its approval, the Commission recommended the following: further design development of the pedestrian bridge to make it lighter in form and character, the addition of an accessible path below the lawn, and inclusion of a site for a commemorative work, in keeping with NCPC’s Memorials and Museums Master Plan and the Southeast Federal Center Master Plan.

See the Commission Action and Staff Recommendation.

Walker Jones School Building, Community Recreation Center, and Public Library
(File Number 6410)

The National Capital Planning Commission approved preliminary and final site and building plans for construction of the Walker Jones School at 100 L Street, NW in the Sursum Corda neighborhood of Washington, DC. The new facility, which also will house a shared gymnasium/community recreation center and a branch of the public library, is the first major project to be implemented as part of the District’s Northwest One Master Plan. The new school will accommodate approximately 850 students in Head Start through eighth grade and replace the existing Walker Jones Elementary and Terrell Junior High.

The project includes a total building area of 125,000 gross square feet as well as ball fields, a play yard, parking, and related service areas. The facility will be jointly managed by the District of Columbia Public Schools, Department of Parks and Recreation, and Public Library.

With its approval, the Commission commended the applicant, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, and the development team on a well-planned design that respects the historic L’Enfant streets of the District of Columbia and will contribute to neighborhood growth.

See the Commission Action and Staff Recommendation.

Informational Presentations

Update on Preliminary Floodplain Maps for the District and
National Mall Levee Improvements

On February 7, 2008, representatives from the Baltimore District of the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) and from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) briefed the Commission regarding recently proposed floodplain maps. The modified maps, drawn by FEMA, now include much of downtown Washington—including the Federal Triangle—in the 100-year flood area. FEMA redrew the maps after the Corps failed to certify three levees in Washington, DC, including one that is located on the Mall. The representatives provided information on the modified maps and the status of the levees. They also answered questions from the Commissioners regarding next steps, potential solutions, and estimated costs.

Today’s briefing is a follow-up to the release of an NCPC flood report at the January Commission meeting. At that time, staff notified the Commission of the modified floodplain maps and recommended that a request be made to FEMA to extend a public comment period scheduled to expire on January 3. FEMA has since extended the deadline to March 7, 2008.

Update on the CapitalSpace Parks Initiative

Staff briefed the Commission on the status of CapitalSpace, a collaborative effort by NCPC, the National Park Service, and the District of Columbia government, to improve the coordination and quality of all of Washington’s parks, both local and federal. The CapitalSpace partners have developed six major goals for the initiative; staff briefed the Commission on one of the goals: developing a work plan to link the city’s Fort Circle Parks.

The Fort Circle Parks, a series of Civil War forts ringing the city, have long been envisioned as part of a regional park system, connected by a greenway. Over the years, many plans have been developed to unite the forts and memorialize the historic Civil War features, including the National Park Service’s plan that positions the Fort Circle Parks as a central unifying open space element in the District. Unfortunately, no previous was implemented nor did the plans address how to integrate the parks into adjacent neighborhoods.

The CapitalSpace partners are developing specific recommendations on how to connect the Fort Circle Parks and create a greenway around much of the city and how to transform the parks into destinations known for historic, cultural, and natural resources. The CapitalSpace plan also will offer recommendations for integrating the Fort Circle Park trail into the region’s network of trails and bikeways. Two key forts—Fort Stanton and Fort Mahan—will serve as models for improving the other Fort Circle parks and their surrounding neighborhoods.

Consent Calendar: The Commission voted on Consent Calendar items without staff presentations or public testimony.

Delegated Decisions: Projects for which the Commission delegated decision-making authority to the Chairman, Executive Committee, or Executive Director.