Our community, as defined by the ANC boundaries is one of the most exciting communities in the United States.   The extraordinary growth in less than ten years is a result of our proximity to the Capitol complex and other federal anchors like the Washington Navy Yard and Fort McNair, the construction of Nationals Park, the phenomenal public private partnership that is the Yards, The Wharf, a two billion world class development along the Washington Channel, and the federal-DC partnership establishing a necklace of unparalleled open space lining Washington’s rivers and historic canal.  For those who have lived here a short time, it’s hard to imagine what all of that change took to get.

But as rapid as the change, it was not without debate and planning. Lots of it.  Residents participated in countless public meetings, charettes, community engagement sessions, roundtables, and more Southwest Neighborhood Assembly and ANC meetings than anyone in their right mind should have to endure.  And, through all of that process we’ve emerged with what is rapidly becoming one of the hottest neighborhoods in the country.

Most who’ve lived here have embraced the change.  Others, not so much.  New building means inevitably means change.  And change is scary.  But what we all have agreed upon is that as change comes and it must be as a result of open discussion where residents, developers, city planners and the political establishment all have an opportunity to sit at the table and properly vet projects one-by-one.

So what now?  How much is there really left to develop and how do we want that development shaped?  For Southwest, where we have some brightly shining spotlights brightly but lack uniform lighting, that’s where the Southwest Small Area Plan comes in.

How will we be engaged in plans to bring the National Mall over Banneker Overlook and to The Wharf?  What kind of development do we want to embrace at Buzzard Point?  Will a soccer stadium bring the same kind of opportunities that the ballpark has done in SE?  How will we ensure that we get neighborhood-serving retail?   How will development maximize our scarce waterfront resources?  Where will the Frederick Douglass Bridge be built?  How will its placement alter the street patterns for Southwest?    How will putting South Capitol Street at grade impact the street grid and any surrounding development?  How do we develop a plan that breaks down the barriers across South Capitol Street?    Do we honestly plan development around a streetcar line or is that just a pipe dream?  The residential population on both sides of our ANC is going to increase by 50% and the daily workforce will double in less than ten.

Folks, this is a brand new city within a city.  So, the question is how do we plan for that?  How will development pressures be brought to bear on property adjacent to buildings that are already occupied?

Many of us who have lived in Southwest for a long time moved here because we wanted to be a part of a neighborhood with a rich heritage, full of diversity and ample public amenities. How will the development impact our residential diversity?  Will we continue to build for singles and empty-nesters or shall we promote development that attracts families who will choose Southwest for the long term?   What is our vision for our public facilities and open spaces, both of which are being given very hard looks by development interests?  The choices we may make now in our schools, our library will have long-term repercussions.  If we give up control what do we lose?

Where will our kids go to run around?  Where will they play soccer?  Where will we play tennis?  Would we like to carve out space for a year-round swimming pool?  Are we looking for densely packed development or a community that embraces our heritage while accommodating new uses and opportunities?

We have the opportunity to all come to the table and engage in a discussion that assures one another other – and demands of our public officials — that we maintain housing opportunities so that everyone benefits from the neighborhood’s resurgence.  That opportunity is the Small Area Plan. The District’s Office of Planning is now engaged in the initial preparation for a Southwest Small Area Plan (SAP).  It will begin this Spring and will take about a year to properly explore all of the facets of what we want to see as our Southwest neighborhood continues to develop.  Once those discussion have been held, the SAP will be adopted  by the City Council and then formally become part of the District’s Comprehensive Plan. So, start talking to neighbors and in your coop, condo and resident associations.  Begin to regularly attend SWNA and ANC meetings.  And follow events in The Southwester and online.  In order for the Southwest Small Area Plan to work for all of us, the conversation must begin with you.

By Kael Anderson, President of the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly, and Andy Litsky, Chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6D.

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