Urban Development in Washington, D.C.

Urban Planning and the Revitalization of D.C. Neighborhoods


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In the last decade, Washington, D.C. has experienced a surge in urban development. The city’s population has seen a huge increase in young professionals choosing to live an urban lifestyle. The concept of a mixed-use community - combining housing, employment, shopping, and recreation - has really taken off. That demand for upscale, urban rentals is driving the development of many unique neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. In addition, the city continues to focus on revitalizing its neighborhoods to increase tourism and improve the local economy. The following neighborhoods are ones to keep an eye on in the coming years.

The Wharf (Southwest Waterfront) 

The biggest redevelopment project in the capital region is the neighborhood that stretches along the Potomac River from the Maine Street Fish Wharf to Ft. McNair. The waterfront area has been underutilized and lacked appeal to visitors. Urban renewal plans will create a mixed-use riverfront community with restaurants, shops, condominiums, hotels, marinas, a waterfront park, and an expanded riverfront promenade with public access to the water. Construction on The Wharf began in 2014. The first phase opens in October 2017. The project completion is slated for 2021. 

Anacostia Waterfront 

Redevelopment of this part of Washington DC began with the building of Washington’s baseball stadium, Nationals Park, in 2008. New housing, office space, retail space, hotels, and restaurants have been built and more are expected to be added in the coming years. The area continues to be revitalized although the progress has been slower than anticipated due to the national economic crisis. Capitol Riverfront is a vibrant mixed-use riverfront community that is located along the Anacostia River near the Navy Yard. Major League Soccer’s DC United has set plans to build a new 20-25,000-seat stadium in the Buzzard Point neighborhood.

11th Street Bridge Park 

Washington DC is preparing to build the city’s first elevated park, a one-of-a-kind structure that provides a venue for recreation, environmental education and the arts. The project will combine the functionality of a bridge (crossing the Anacostia River) with performance spaces, playgrounds, and classrooms. The bridge is expected to be completed in 2018.

RFK Stadium-Armory Campus 

The 190-acre RFK Stadium-Armory Campus, the site including and surrounding the Stadium, Festival Grounds, and the DC Armory is outdated and underutilized. In April 2016, two plans were proposed to provide amenities that would serve the community and connect the current site with sustainable green space and flexible recreational space. Events DC, in collaboration with OMA New York and Brailsford and Dunlavey, are working on a redevelopment plan for the area. A construction timeline is unknown.

NoMa - North of Massachusetts Avenue 

The opening of the New York Avenue Metro station in 2004 sparked the improvement of NoMa, the Washington, DC, neighborhood located just north of the U.S. Capitol and Union Station. Private developers have invested over $3 billion and built over 15.7 million SF of office, residential, hotel, and retail space in the 35-block NoMa area. The neighborhood now boasts a daytime population of 40,000; more than 2,800 residential units are either occupied or under construction. Future development plans will bring an additional 16 million SF of office, hotel, residential and retail space to the NoMa area.

H Street 

The redevelopment of this neighborhood was kicked-off with the opening of the Atlas Performing Arts Center, an art-deco 1930s movie theater that was converted into an arts complex with multiple theaters and dance spaces. The vibrant community along H Street is an arts and entertainment district with unique bars, restaurants, and shops. Many redevelopment projects are still underway. The installation of the DC Streetcar makes the area more accessible.

St. Elizabeths 

The former Government Hospital for the Insane, a 350-acre historic landmark, is being developed by the federal government to consolidate the headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). A part of the campus, the Eastside, will be developed as a mixed-use, mixed-income, walkable community with a variety of amenities. Construction of the new U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters was completed in the spring of 2013. Additional redevelopment will be ongoing for several years. Plans have been set to build a new state-of-the-art entertainment and sports arena at St. Elizabeth’s East to serve as a practice facility for the Washington Wizards and the Washington Mystics.

Penn Quarter 

This Downtown DC neighborhood began its revitalization in 1997 with the construction of Washington’s entertainment area, the MCI Center (now the Capital One Arena). The neighborhood, with its prime location near the Washington Convention Center and Chinatown, attracts tourists and locals to explore its museums, restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, art galleries, theaters, and trendy stores. The area continues to grow and has become an entertainment hot spot in the city.

Columbia Heights 

This neighborhood was destroyed in the 1968 riots that followed Martin Luther King Jr.‘s assassination. The area had many abandoned homes and shops but has dramatically changed in the past decade. In 2008, DC USA, a 546,000 square-foot retail complex, opened with major retailers such as Target, Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond and Washington Sports Club. There are several restaurants and an underground parking garage. The community is made up ​of a diverse population and is still undergoing many changes.

Tysons - Virginia 

Fairfax County has established a comprehensive 40-year development plan that will transform the rapidly growing Northern Virginia community into a walkable, sustainable, downtown area over the next few decades. The Tyson’s area began to change dramatically in 2014 with the opening of the Metro Silver Line which is comprised of four metro stations and will bring rapid-transit to this busy suburb of Washington DC. This is an area to watch over the next few decades.

White Flint - Rockville Pike - Maryland 

The Montgomery County, Maryland neighborhood is set for one of the largest redevelopment projects in the capital region. The White Flint Sector Plan will dramatically change the communities located along Rockville Pike and transform large parking lots and suburban shopping centers into a mixed-use, compact urban center. Several projects are underway to improve the walkability of the area and to relieve traffic congestion.

Crown and Downtown Crown 

Gaithersburg, Maryland - The 182-acre multi-use urban inspired development is under construction in Gaithersburg, Maryland and will include four distinct neighborhoods, six parks, shopping, restaurants, a grocery store, fitness club, swimming pool, and clubhouse. A large village green will host community events from musical performances to farmers markets. Crown celebrated its grand opening in 2014 and will continue to develop over the next few years.

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