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Don’t blame people for getting personal over the proposed convention center at Mount Vernon Square (The Mail, 7/18). If you had to defend a disaster of this magnitude, you’d want to talk about Fawn Hall—or anything but this project—too.

The proposed convention center is in trouble because costs are escalating as opposition to the Mount Vernon Square site grows.

The total tab for the proposal has skyrocketed by $200 million—nearly 50 percent—as engineers struggle to shoehorn an oversize building into the undersize Mount Vernon site. The price tag is now $650 million for a center that will be the nation’s sixth largest when it’s built—just like the previous short-lived convention center.

Even if the city had the extra money to spend, D.C. councilmembers have acknowledged that a convention center at Mount Vernon Square would destroy the Shaw neighborhood, turning streets into tunnels and overwhelming the area with cars, trucks, and buses—none of which belong in a proud place like Shaw.

The proposed center, drawing average large-size crowds of 42,000 people, would be built without one additional parking space—1,000 spaces currently on the site would be eliminated. Shaw would become a parking lot. Over 300 truck trips per day would overwhelm the residential Blagden Alley Historic District with noise, vibration, and constant diesel fumes. Hundreds of buses per day would rumble around without a marshaling yard, adding to a traffic nightmare on 9th and 7th Streets that would spill into the new downtown.

Meanwhile, a solution exists four blocks north of Union Station that would solve all these problems and be cheaper, faster, and better for D.C.:

The Union Station site would include:

Unlimited expansion capability onsite

All exhibition space on one floor (preferable to three-story Mount Vernon configuration)

Plenty of parking

No downtown traffic congestion problem

Construction costs $100-$200 million less because no excavation


Shorter construction period and cost savings by building above ground

extending development to North Capitol Street as city/regional planners have recommended

Opportunity to turn valuable Mount Vernon site into housing/retail for further benefit to D.C.

And much of the pre-development analysis for Union Station has already been done:

The Environmental Impact Statement analyzed the Union Station site.

Preliminary drawings have been done.

Only three property owners besides D.C.

D.C. owns much of the land.

The Union Station site appears to be the reasonable, responsible, superior alternative for D.C. that could save the proposal for a D.C. convention center—and save the city enormous amounts of time and money along the way.

Shaw Coalition

via the Internet