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A "Capital" Plan


With earthmovers soon to appear in the South Capitol Street area, implementation of the Legacy Plan is currently underway. The Plan, the National Capital Planning Commission's (NCPC) long-range framework that will guide development in Washington's Monumental Core for the next 50 to 100 years, is now poised to move from vision to bricks-and-mortar reality.

The most ambitious initiative is the redevelopment of South Capitol and M Streets SE, an historic area near the confluence of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers. The Washington Navy Yard and the Southeast Federal Center, both of which have ambitious development plans, anchor the South Capitol/M Street Corridor. In addition, the area has been targeted for commercial and housing development by the newly established and funded National Capital Revitalization Corporation. First Initiative partners are taking advantage of these and a variety of other development plans to advance Legacy objectives by using federal resources to spur local and private development.

As part of a Congressionally mandated military base consolidation program, the Washington Navy Yard is preparing to receive 5,000 new employees relocated from Northern Virginia. The Navy Yard, now sprouting construction cranes, is undergoing a major building and modernization program that will preserve the facility's historic industrial character, while upgrading it to meet modern office requirements. Several hundred Navy employees have already moved into the Yard and all 5,000 are expected to be in place by 2001.

The General Services Administration is now developing a revised master plan for the Southeast Federal Center, an underutilized 55-acre waterfront site adjacent to the Navy Yard with excellent development potential. The revised master plan is expected to recommend mixed-use development of federal, retail, restaurant, and entertainment uses and public open spaces for all activities that will contribute significantly to the revitalization of the M Street Corridor. Although construction funding has not been made available, ultimately the Center will accommodate 23,000 federal employees in 5.8 million square feet of office space.

One of the Navy activities relocating to the Navy Yard is the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), a major Navy procurement office and a magnet for private-sector contractors. Many of the approximately 4,000 private contractors and consultants doing business with NAVSEA and now located in Crystal City, are expected to follow their customer to the South Capitol/M Street, SE area. Recent studies indicate that even if only half of these private companies relocate, they will generate a market for 500,000 square feet of Class A office space.

Private developers have been quick to recognize the opportunities offered by the relocation of these consulting firms and two development projects are already well advanced. Two new seven-story office buildings, both with ground-floor retail space, are now being marketed--one at 300 M Street, SE and the other at First and M Streets, SE. All seven floors of one building have been pre-leased and the developer of the other reports strong interest from at least 40 potential tenants.

To support this commercial interest, NCPC has developed computer-aided, three-dimensional animations of an improved South Capitol/M Street. These animations depict proposed improvements in the area, including new streetscapes and office construction, and illustrate how these corridors can become attractive mixed-use urban destinations. The Commission staff has presented these computer animations to over 40 private contracting companies, developers, key Navy staff, and District of Columbia officials.

To further assist private developers and the federal and District agencies that are trying to bring change to the South Capitol/M Street Corridor, NCPC is now preparing a "precinct book" of the area. Using NCPC's detailed geographic data and digital mapping technologies, the precinct book will provide up-to-date information --such as, property ownership, land use, zoning, tax status, environmental conditions--in one widely available and easy-to-use format.

Thousands of new employees at the Navy Yard and, eventually, at the Southeast Federal Center will require banks, restaurants, dry cleaners, and other services, all of which will help to spark the rebirth of M Street as an important commercial artery. Today, however, the street is in a state of serious deterioration. To attract these new commercial establishments and to lure the newly arrived employees out of their cars and offices and into the community, NCPC and its planning partners are working to refurbish M Street between South Capitol and 11th Street, S.E.

Working with a block grant awarded by the District's Department of Housing and Community Development, NCPC, and the city's Department of Public Works are now overseeing detailed design and engineering studies for a new M Street streetscape--trees, lighting, sidewalks, benches, and landscaping--that will enhance the pedestrian environment, improve security and invite further private investment. NCPC, the Department of Public Works, and the Navy are serving as streetscape project managers; the design and engineering work was completed at the end of 1998 and construction scheduled to begin in the spring of 1999. NCPC and its planning partners have been consulting with property owners, local citizens, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, and District of Columbia elected officials.

The Legacy Plan envisions Washington's waterfront--nearly all of which is publicly owned--as a continuous band of open space from Georgetown to the National Arboretum. Some stretches will be quiet and pastoral, perfect for walks or picnics, while others will support festivals, concerts, and other urban activities. To achieve this vision, NCPC is now working with Landscape Architects, such as EDAW, Inc., and other government agencies to complete a study to highlight development and conservation opportunities for the 22 miles of waterfront. Expected to be completed in spring/summer of 1999, the study will include analysis of the public and private waterfront interests, assess the current state of the rivers and their shorelines, and recommend methods to coordinate development and environmental interests.

Another First Initiative effort on a more pedestrian scale is a coordinated visitor orientation program for central Washington that will eventually be expanded to the entire city. Such a program would include improved maps and signs and a network of information kiosks to direct visitors to museums, Metro stations, historical sites and special events. The effort, which is led by the Downtown Business Improvement District, includes NCPC, the General Services Administration, and other stakeholders. NCPC is assisting the group in developing a visitor wayfinding program in the downtown area. A stakeholders group will review the final designs in January 1999 and sign prototypes will be installed in the spring of 1999.

This visitor signage program is more than a cosmetic flourish. The more than twenty million visitors to Washington each year generate $295 million in tax revenue. Nurturing the tourist industry is vital to Washington's long-term economic health.

Look for a large model of Washington, videos, and watercolor renderings, highlights how the Legacy Plan preserves the historic vistas and open spaces of the National Mall through April 15, 1999 in the Main Terminal of Washington Dulles International Airport. For additional information and free copies of the Legacy Plan, call 202-482-7200 or log on to In future issues, LASN will keep you informed of the progress of the Legacy Plan.

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June 17, 2019, 8:40 am PDT

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