Ad

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

CP: NCPC Weighs In on Burnham Place

Union Station Train Yard (Washington, DC)
Photo by Takomabibelot

Housing Complex reports on the National Capital Planning Commission's reponse to Burham Place (the over the track development surrounding the hopscotch bridge). Basically, NCPC is concerned about allowing the Zoning Commission to measure the base height from the bridge instead of from the ground. NCPC worries that it would not be in keeping with the character of what NCPC calls our "horizontal city."  This project is mixed use, and 3 million (!) square feet. Any thoughts on this one? Here's an aerial view.

25 comments:

Dave B said...

This development is huge. It is like 5 city blocks of what could be the most prime location in DC.

Lydia said...

Horizontal city! :)

oboe said...

@Lydia:

Was just going to say the same thing.

Our beautiful horizontal city, with it's signature skyline of "land-scrapers"!

Anonymous said...

i think it makes as much sense as the streetcar, a big waste of money. if it is a go, they'll really have to figure out how to run the tracks past the hopscotch bridge since they'll be building over it...

inked said...

@Lydia and Oboe,
thanks. Sometimes I mix up right and left too.:)


@7:04,
they'll be building on either side of the bridge, but not over it.

Anonymous said...

The crest of the bridge is around the 4th-5th floor level of the adjacent apartment building. The views and the uniqueness that spring from this interpretation of height rules should bring amazing profits to the bureaucrats who stand in line to sign off on it.

4th & G said...

Let them measure from the bridge. Just don't go over the base of the Capitol Dome.

Derek said...

They want to measure for the bridge so they can build higher. Developers argue that what is holding this city back is the lack of building higher. It will set a precedent and affect a great deal more.
They are getting the right to build there, so I think it is plenty for them. However, the tracks and the height needed above them will take away from possible real estate, so being able to build higher would compensate, right?
Besides, they are going to start to break into the bridge to connect the tracks with Union Metro stop soon.

Dave B said...

derek,

are they really starting to break into the bridge soon? as of a couple months ago, i thought the turn around was still up in the air. it is really the only thing that makes sense. but there were negotiations with the owners of some existing tunnel to have/start/finish. i would have thought that it would have been well publicized that they reached a solution.

nonetheless, i hope you are right

Anonymous said...

This is going to be a goddamn disaster == visible from 10-12 blocks away if allowed to measure allowable height from the peak of the bridger rather than the ground. No one serious opposes development, but we've had height restrictions here forever and there's more than ample room to do something reasonable that we wont have to see from across town.

\FWIW, I live on 11th St and can see Senate Sq from my place and this spot will be substantially higher.

Anonymous said...

Building over railroad tracks must be expensive, and I can understand if the buildings need to be a certain height to make it worthwhile economically.

If the new buildings will help the community, I'm all for them. I care much less about the aesthetics of a tall development than what the buildings offer to the neighborhood. How about a new movie theater with quality films? Or a community center where Capitol Hill residents could go and hang out, maybe play some ping pong, pool, swim, read the newspaper, etc.? If the developers offered benefits like these, I'd sign a petition to let them build as high as they want.

Anonymous said...

If allowed, I suspect that it will be become a curtain that divides NW and NE even more. It will have the effect that the SE Freeway has had on Capitol Hill and the Navy Yard/stadium area.

Anonymous said...

Why would this divide the neighborhood?

H Street will not be built over. It will go straight through the development.

And it's not like you can walk across the tracks as is. It's all fenced off and unused.

If we get some interesting architecture it'd be a much less of a view issue, as looking at interesting architecuture is a lot more fun than looking at bland glass and concrete slabs.

Anonymous said...

This project will be an excellent addition to the neighborhood. Once it's built, it will make the area just feel like a big hill. It will only help bring NW and NE closer together, because there will be wide sidewalks, retail, apartment buildings, and other features where now we just have an uncomfortable and boring walk along a bridge. The measuring point is essential because (unlike Senate Square and Station Place) the only street that touches this project is H Street.

Anonymous said...

I realize its a different topic, but here or somewhere I'd like to hear more about what Derek (or anyone) knows about the timeline of sending the tracks through the bridge and into the tunnel?

Anonymous said...

Second Anon 9:09. Anybody know what is up with the plans for the hopscotch turnaround? I haven't heard anything about this, and if construction doesn't start in the next couple of months there is no way the streetcar is going to be running in Spring 2012.

Anonymous said...

All of the actual streetcar work, like power poles, the turnaround, substations, etc., will be done by a different contractor. DDOT is currently going through the procurement process, which will get wrapped up in the next few months.

The other option would be a change order to the existing contractor, but that would be more expensive (and potentially lower quality) versus competitive bidding amongst real rail experts.

monkeyrotica said...

I predict the Committee of 100 will take a massive dump all over this for not preserving the "historic character of the neighborhood" (e.g., train noise and hobos).

GreyDesk said...

Let them measure from the bridge. This is a transformative development, and if raising the limit ensures that everything else gets done right (entrances, plaza on H-street, entrances to the train station, new bus terminal, streetcar stop, proper mix of retail, public amenities, green plazas, solid, interesting architecture--i.e. not just another box), then it should be done.

Nowhere else does real density make as much sense than right over one of the most high-profile inter-modal transportation hubs on the east coast. If you don't want density on top of a train/metro/streetcar/bike/bus station, then where do you want it?

It's not like building over the tracks is gonna be cheap. Without allowing more than, say, five or six-story buildings on either side of the tracks, we're really handcuffing what could be a development that bridges east and west, and connects H-street to downtown. It could be a very special development.

Failing to make an exception to the height limit there will guarantee a mediocre set of square boxes either side of the bridge.

Campy said...

Anyone with questions about the streetcar project should attend DDOT's community meeting on April 20th at the Atlas:

http://streetcars4dc.org/?p=501

charles said...

if construction doesn't start in the next couple of months there is no way the streetcar is going to be running in Spring 2012

Bingo!

Derek said...

I was walking westbound on H St. and was able to have a conversation with one of the field supervisors on the street improvement. He mentioned to me that very soon the next step is to cut into the bridge. He even mentioned the area there that connects into Union Metro.
The way I see it, the District could claim eminent domain to make it happen. Will they? Probably not. Also, it is too late to treat it as a white elephant.

I recall being at an Office of Planning meeting talking about the future of street cars in the District. This was a few years ago. They were talking about the H Street line turning and connecting into K Street to than go west into Georgetown. I never saw nor understood where the connection would happen. Plus, these were existing lines...I think.

As for the horizontal city (no pun intended), it is one of the unique characteristic this city has. The developers want to build up so they can increase their market, but fail to see that it is something special. As an architect, I am on both sides of this argument. Yet, there are far too many spaces that are empty (including floors in completed buildings) spaces around to argue that you have to build upwards more.

ANC said...

Well said Greydesk, couldn't agree more.

This is such an important project, and the pedestrian entrances will be raised, so measure the height starting up there!

Anonymous said...

If we don't build up, only rich people will live in this city. It's not sustainable. Know what else used to make DC unique? Crack. Things change.

Big Green Cat said...

1) I don't think Akridge will walk away if they can't get the height they want. And I don't think the architecture will suffer either. But I'm also not sure if the skyline will be impaired if they do measure from the bridge. Talk of pemissible building height (restrictions) from developers imo is nothing but a money grab. Best believe they underwrite/model as if they aren't going to get the height they request. And besides, I don't believe negotiations with the city for the air rights have been finalized. That said, an amenities package/subsidy from the city could still be worked out to make the development work at whatever height.

2) Regarding the height restriction throughout the city, I personally feel it is one of the defining characteristics about the city. An architect once said, buildings of our height throughout the city (i.e. <15 stories) allows the architecture to actually be admired, unlike a 30-40 story building where the middle of the building is 'lost in the shuffle'. And yes, if the height restriction is not lifted, the cost to live in the city will go up...like Manhattan. And then there will be demand in suburbs for greater public transportation mobility/retail & service amenities (read: Brooklyn)...which will hopefully lead to the next phase of metro expansion - the next 50-year study to see where the Metro serves (like they did in the 1960's). Lifting the height restriction will prolong this from happening.