Thursday, May 14, 2009

Some food for thought for the WDDC, the Delano District, etc., etc.

No time to comment on this (I shouldn't even have been reading what I'm about to link to--Finals Week, you know), but via Matthew Yglesias this morning comes this post from the excellent urbanist blog Greater Greater Washington, DC, on results of the steps that city took in the '80s and '90s to revitalize a formerly-moribund part of their urban core.

A couple of paragraphs:
DC created the DD in 1991 to shape the revitalization of DC's downtown. The office center of gravity had moved to K Street and the Golden Triangle, but as that area filled up, developers began looking back at DC's historic downtown. Planners wanted to avoid reproducing the Golden Triangle's monoculture of law firm offices, low level of ground floor retail, inactive sidewalks, numerous garage entrances and repetition of boring boxes. What to do?

The 1981 "A Living Downtown" plan recommended retail on F, G, and 7th Streets; hotels around the Convention Center, Thomas Circle and "Downtown East" near Union Station; residential development in the Penn Quarter and Mount Vernon Square, and offices around Franklin Square and Judiciary Square. In 1991, DC implemented zoning rules requiring residential units and arts or retail in various areas throughout downtown. The zoning also required transparent glass over a majority of the ground floors on certain streets, with entrances no more than 40-50 feet apart and no garage entrances.

To create an incentive for desired development, the DD created a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program. Any residential, arts and retail, or historic preservation exceeding the requirements generated TDR "credits" that developers could sell to projects in various "receiving zones," including parts of downtown, NoMa, the western half of the Golden Triangle, the Southwest Federal Center, and what's now the Capitol Riverfront (ballpark) area. Buying those credits would allow new buildings in those areas to reach the maximum allowable heights, creating an economic incentive for more housing, arts, retail and historic preservation downtown.
The DD was a great success. Counting buildings currently under development, there will be 12,580 residential units, especially in the Penn Quarter and Mount Vernon Triangle, exceeding the goal of 12,410. Museums and theaters comprise 1,218,000 square feet downtown, concentrated around Gallery Place, beating the goal of 900,000. There are 1,600,000 square feet of retail plus another 400,000 in the pipeline. That falls short of the DD's initial 5,600,000 goal, but planners now believe that goal was probably unreasonable. And many historic buildings remain downtown.
Once the dust settles from Finals Week, I plan to come back to this in combination with some comments over at Momentum, the WDDC's blog--where, by the way, more people need to visit and comment.


Karen in Wichita said...

I dunno if we'd want to bring that sort of system up to the City... I have the uncomfortable feeling it would end up as "overdevelop in Old Town, use the credits to trash Delano." Old Town's got quite a few more developer champions than Delano has.

John B. said...

Isn't Old Town about as developed as it's going to get? One area of interest is the area around the arena: what that will look like eventually--somewhere in another post, someone provided a link to the stated goals for that, and I'll be looking at that once I get done with the semester.

Besides: there are other parts of the city to trash besides Delano :)

My larger point in posting it was simply to provide an example of an instance in which a city worked to achieve a livable, vibrant community in the urban core, and it seems to have succeeded. I think that a credit program--if that's what the city goes with--could be devised in such a way as to limit what gets built elsewhere.

Red Singlespeed said...

Critical Mass is nothing but a short-sighted, moronic lazy way for bicyclist to lash out at motorists. They do this only because they feel as though they are out of control of the situation, not for any type of hope of allieviating the "Share The Road" concept.

It's no wonder that Wichita is one of the most bicycle-unfriendly cities in the country.

We are just too lazy to actually do the work to improve the motorist/bicyclist relationship in a positive manner; so we resort to an (poor) emotional action instead...

Anonymous said...

Higher densities actually make places more friendly for bicycling and easier for cyclists to get around.

Karen in Wichita said...

I guess I consider the Arena an extension of Old Town; they certainly seem to want to tie them together.

And yeah, I don't figure Delano would be the only one dumped on. We're just in that anti-sweet spot of being not good enough to attract developers, not bad enough to attract charity. And close enough to downtown that they'll happily lay claim to the riverbank on this side, but not close enough that they feel the need to court us as good downtown housing. In other words, the same problems that plague any First Suburbs, yep.