- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 2, 2003

D.C. officials yesterday said major portions of the Anacostia River waterfront will be redeveloped within the next five to seven years — if everything goes according to plan.

They stressed that the project’s success hinges on the passage of two pieces of federal legislation.

D.C. Planning Director Andrew Altman told reporters that the city expects more than 3.6 million square feet of office space to be built along the Anacostia River by the end of the decade, along with 4,637 housing units, 613,000 square feet of retail and 32 acres of parks.

Mr. Altman and several hundred other planning officials will present a comprehensive “framework” of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative to the public tonight at Arena Stage’s Kreeger Theater.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, Democrat, is expected to endorse the plan and speak in favor of federal bills designed to clean up the river and create a public-private corporation to focus on waterfront redevelopment.

“Great cities are founded on waterfronts and use the waterfronts as a source of regeneration,” Mr. Altman said. “It’s clear that Washington is not there yet.”

The redevelopment project will focus on 4.8 square miles of land stretching from the District’s northeast corner down to Buzzard Point and the area across the Washington Channel from East Potomac Park. Eight areas are marked for redevelopment, with a heavy emphasis on the Southwest waterfront, South Capitol Street corridor, Poplar Point and Capitol Hill East. Neighborhoods to the south of Interstate 395 and bordered by South Capitol Street to the west also will be targeted.

Planners say the goal is to use the Anacostia River — long considered a barrier between most of Southeast Washington and the rest of the District — as a driver for development. To do that, officials say, the river must be cleaned of pollution.

A bill introduced in the House on Nov. 21 would allow the District, Maryland and Virginia to collaborate on a 10-year plan to clean the river and surrounding watershed. The Anacostia Watershed Initiative Act was sponsored by several representatives from Maryland and Virginia as well as Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District’s nonvoting member of Congress. Members of the Senate introduced a nearly identical bill last week.

“We all know the Anacostia is dirty,” said Doug Siglin, director of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and a key advocate of the bill. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this plan is going to work better when the water is clean.”

D.C. officials also are pushing a congressional bill that would create a government-chartered corporation charged with the Anacostia waterfront’s development. Officials said the size and scope of the project requires a staff with a single responsibility. The National Capital Revitalization Corp. (NCRC) is the main public-private entity charged with working on redevelopment projects in the District. The power of the NCRC is not expected to change, but it no longer would be asked to contribute to waterfront development.

“To really understand this, you have to have an organization that just does this,” Mr. Altman said. “Its life will be how to make the waterfront happen.”

Corporations have been created in recent years to spur waterfront development in Baltimore and Richmond.

Aspects of the redevelopment are already under way. The General Services Administration is expected to select a team soon to redevelop a section of Southeast Federal Center, near the new headquarters of the Department of Transportation, and private developers already have moved in on the Southwest Waterfront along the Washington Channel.

Redevelopment of the Anacostia River waterfront will not be cheap, officials said. No formal projections have been made on the total cost, but the infrastructure improvements alone — including the creation of a light-rail line in Southeast and reconstruction of several bridges and major parts of the sewer system — are expected to cost several billion dollars.

“These are large numbers, but we shouldn’t be alarmed by them,” Mr. Altman said. He said many of the large infrastructure improvements were needed anyway, and that redevelopment is expected to attract more than $4 billion in private investment and $1.5 billion in tax revenue over 20 years.

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