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Hey everybody, our chat about the National Capital Planning Commission’s Southwest Ecodistrict project—which seeks to improve the planning disaster centering around Maryland Avenue and 10th Street SW—is tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. But first, our conversants, Elizabeth Miller and Diane Sullivan, would like to hear a little bit from you. They’ve asked for feedback on the following questions, and I’ll pull good remarks up from the comments if you’d be kind enough to leave some. Here goes, with a few of my own thoughts to start us off:

The bleak present. (Lydia DePillis)

1. What do you like best about the 10th Street and Maryland Avenue, SW corridors?

Lydia: There’s a certain peace in sitting alone at the fountain in Banneker Park. Also the circular awnings around the HUD building are kind of cool.

SW Ecodistrict Worker: It’s very walkable and should be easy to get around in (it would be better if we didn’t have to go through a maze of federal buildings to get anywhere, though).

Alex B.: The opportunity. The physical environment right now is pretty hostile, but there’s great opportunity to do some big things here.

The decking over the tracks at the Mandarin Oriental hotel provides a little glimpse of the kind of opportunities in the area.

2. If you could make a single change in the area, what would it be?

Lydia: If cost were no object? Bury the highway.

SW Ecodistrict Worker: Um…take away its soullessness? Sorry I don’t know how to put that into more tangible terms.

Alex B. Urbanize it. Mix uses. Add density.

Burying the highway would be awesome, as would re-building the street grid. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is currently a mono-use area.

3. Would anything specific encourage you to visit the area more frequently (after hours and weekends)?

Lydia: A great coffeeshop or bookstore.

SW Ecodistrict Worker: Eating/drinking/entertainment establishments would encourage workers to stay in the area after hours.

Alex B.: Mix uses. Mix uses. Mix uses. There are no shops open because no one is there outside of 9-5. Add residents, mix uses, add more density. This is a city, let it be urban.

4. If you work in the surrounding area: what works and what doesn’t?

SW Ecodistrict Worker: The circular park near the Portals building (I know, it’s just outside the Ecodistrict border) works. I wish I worked closer to it. The eating establishments that have outdoor seating work.

Alex B.: I used to work in the area – not much works. The urban framework is all messed up. The good thing is that the bones are in place – high employment, good transit access, etc.

5. How would you link the National Mall to the future redevelopment of the SW Waterfront?

Lydia: I think the current plans for a majestic staircase coming down from the 10th Street Overlook to the fish market area are a great start. It would also help a lot to build more housing in the plaza area, so there are people who’d actually want to traverse between the two.

SW Ecodistrict Worker: I agree that building housing in the area would link it, but I’m interested in knowing how you plan to accommodate housing when the area is already so dense with federal buildings. Making the L’Enfant Promenade less soulless (sorry) and perhaps making 7th Street more inviting for pedestrians would also help.

Alex B.: Tear down Forrestal. Connect the overlook to the waterfront. Connect the overlook at the terminus of Maryland Ave to the Tidal Basin/Hains Point. De-federalize things, add some private development and residential to the mix. Create as many opportunities to cross the freeway as possible.