In 2012, the station's flat parking lot should look like this (image from DC Metrocentric).

The Rhode Island Ave.-Brentwood metro stop has some dubious distinctions. According to WMATA’s February Safety and Security report, it’s one of the ten most dangerous stations in the system. Situated behind a shopping center full of big-box stores and a sprawling parking lot, its entry point is the south side of busy Rhode Island Avenue. Narrow sidewalks and formidable staircases make exiting the station so difficult that many choose instead to hop the fence and electrified CSX railroad tracks that lay behind it. On top of everything else, it’s just not very attractive. As Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas said, “The nation’s oldest highway deserves better.”

So, things are changing. Bozzuto Construction broke ground on that sprawling parking lot on Saturday, May 1 to begin a mixed-use development that will include 274 residential units, 65,000 square feet of retail space and a 215-vehicle multi-level parking facility. On the same day, the Coalition for Smarter Growth and representatives from DDOT and Bethesda-based Urban Atlantic Development hosted an informative walking tour of the area to discuss its eventual transformation.

It all sounds pretty good from a transit-oriented development standpoint. Urban Atlantic’s Caroline Kenney told the crowd—a healthy mix of neighborhood officials, community residents, and local bloggers—that the “main street”-esque, tree-lined project would allow 7,000 square feet to local businesses and 20% of housing to below-median-income residents. General contractor Bozzuto’s work should take about 27 months in total, but retailers should begin to move in in about a year and a half.

DDOT Representative and Bicycle Program Specialist Heather Deustch showed off the swath of the new Metropolitan Branch Trail that runs behind the metro station. The trail covers eight miles between Union Station and Silver Spring, allowing bikers and pedestrians to bypass Florida, New York, and Rhode Island Avenues—some of the most dangerous and trickiest thoroughfares to navigate.

More than a few bikers rode by on the trail, to the applause of the assembled group. Most looked confused at the attention, but one gave us a salutary fist pump of approval.