After 18 months of lobbying, 12 months of it behind the scenes, by an outside outfit to take over our recreation center, we’re pleased to have saved Randall Recreation Center. We welcome the Mayor’s support of a Small Area Plan (SAP) for residential Southwest. The SAP will develop an urban design, land use, and neighborhood preservation framework to integrate community amenities and leverage multi-modal transportation choices, among other goals.
However, challenges remain, and many aren’t going to be addressed in the SAP. Just this past week, the City Paper documented the bullying tactics of one Southwest developer. The article didn’t mention the deception and evasive tactics preceding it. The story is not without precedent. Off-site property owners often find the easiest way to redevelop properties is to minimize communication and community participation. Indeed, community leaders are particularly attuned to ensuring a fair and transparent process for the envisioned redevelopment of DC Housing Authority residences.
The Southwest Neighborhood Assembly has been working with residents facing these situations, informing them of the tools, processes, and procedures available to help shape their future. One of the most basic procedures is to document and recognize the significance of their investments. Our residents are finding that their homes not only are important to them, but also the nation.
And it’s not just Southwest’s residential properties. The Deputy Mayor for Economic Development recently found out that the Wharf’s Oyster Shucking Shed and Lunch Room was eligible for National Register of Historic Places. This March, the State Historic Preservation office determined the Jefferson School, Pier 4 Head House, and the Washington Marina Building are also eligible for the Register.
Recognizing that our parks and open spaces are finite and valuable – but tend to be underfunded and under-appreciated – the Assembly has sponsored initiatives to better understand and activate these spaces. Indeed, as we recently witnessed, if the Southwest community doesn’t, others will.
Our study of Southwest parks and open spaces published last year has aided a variety of efforts, including the revitalization of Lansburgh Park and events like Titanic 100, which brought over a thousand people to commemorate our waterfront heritage. It also documented the rich network of pedestrian corridors unique to our neighborhood, and informed people about efforts to buttress and improve these corridors, like linking the Duck Pond with the SW Library.
We’re sponsoring groups that are improving these spaces and adding amenities: the SW Community Gardens, PAWS of Southwest, and Neighbors of the Southwest Duck Pond.
We’re also working with DPR to better activate our recreation centers. Much of the effort at King-Greenleaf revolved around repairing and identifying how the facility can be effectively maintained. Thanks to DPR’s improved leadership, this site has become an extremely active community center. At Randall, we’re wrapping up a major research effort with the expectation that it will inform future uses about the site.
With respect to transit, we asked WMATA to bring the 52 bus to the heart of our community. We’re pleased that they’ve committed to bringing this important inter-city route to our community this coming fiscal year.
We’ve executed an agreement with Southwest developers through the Advisory Neighborhood Commission to greatly expand the interpretive signs lining our roadways. The system will improve navigation and understanding of Southwest’s heritage, but more planning is needed, as illustrated in our ongoing lecture series Shaping Southwest. Southwest’s 20th Century redevelopment effort needs an update. The effort, which created our treasured courtyards, national landmarks, and many mobility improvements, also has its imperfections.
Initiatives like the recent $1 million M Street transportation Plan, which failed to develop feasible alternatives, illustrates what happens without a thorough, transparent process that adequately benefits from community participation.
How we choose to improve our community yet preserve what makes Southwest valuable – whether it be waterfront access or housing/population diversity – is our greatest challenge, but it’s with that that we look forward to the SAP informing this process of community development.
By Kael Anderson