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The now-former site of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center is a prime site for development for lots of reasons: It’s a big contiguous lot on a couple of major thoroughfares in the middle of relatively dense, prosperous neighborhoods. What it doesn’t have is a metro stop, and a planned streetcar route is so far off it’s not even worth thinking about.
That could change, now that the rubber’s hit the road—-again—-with reuse planning. The city’s consultants have been holding focus groups and leading tours with interested developers and tenants, and one thing has come through loud and clear: Prospective users would really like to see a streetcar there sooner rather than later, since it would add tremendous value to any housing or retail on the site (kind of like how a Circulator bus to Skyland signals the city’s eagerness to make the development work). That value, in turn, could be leveraged to pay for the streetcar’s construction, using a handful of financing mechanisms that you can read about here, or simply through charging developers more for the land that the District will have bought from the federal government.
Right now, the line from the Petworth to the Takoma metro stops is in Phase 2 of the still-entirely-conceptual overall system plan. But at tonight’s Walter Reed Local Redevelopment Authority Committee meeting, director Eric Jenkins said they’re considering moving it up into Phase 1, along with tracks from Union Station to Washington Circle and up 14th Street, over to Georgia Avenue, and up to the Petworth metro stop. That may have just gotten a little easier, with the Anacostia line having been delayed by complications with the 11th Street Bridge.
Of course, with no trolleys even running yet, this is all too far into the future to even put dates to. And there are two segments to go before a line up to Walter Reed could be useful. “To put a piece in that doesn’t tie into the spine does not enhance connectivity,” as District Department of Transportation director Terry Bellamy put it. And as Councilmember Muriel Bowser pointed out, there’s been no discussion yet about the streetcar in Ward 4 neighborhoods, so there’s no telling whether Anacostia-level skepticism might crop up.
But this does look like a re-ordering of priorities, based on a development opportunity that would benefit from it in the not-too-distant future. Shift your mental transit forecasting landscape accordingly.