- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 3, 2005

A task force wants to transform South Capitol Street into a grand urban boulevard that would serve as a southern gateway into the District, according to several proposals submitted yesterday to the federal National Capital Planning Commission.

The proposals, still in the beginning stages, call for parkland, more stores, and housing units and cultural centers that would serve as a “front door” to the proposed baseball stadium in Southeast.

The design proposals also include a new traffic oval where South Capitol Street intersects Potomac Avenue, a few feet away from what would be a newly realigned Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge.

“South Capitol Street today stands on the brink of change,” said Jose L. Galvez III, chairman of the commission’s South Capitol Street Task Force. “We believe the scenarios the task force is presenting all offer an exciting opportunity to turn the area into a spectacular and vibrant boulevard that will attract residents, workers, and tourists alike.”

The plans are the commission’s first step toward revitalizing the Anacostia River waterfront and the South Capitol Street corridor in preparation for the ballfield. The proposals rely heavily on the completion of the new Frederick Douglass Bridge.

“The key things that’ll drive the project are the bridge and the baseball stadium,” Mr. Galvez said. “The bridge is the most critical step.”

Under the proposals, South Capitol Street would maintain its width of 130 feet, accommodate six lanes of traffic and provide parking lanes on each side of the street. Open space would be preserved along the street’s major intersections.

The proposed traffic oval rotary near the waterfront would help ease traffic congestion in the area and provide room for South Capitol Commons, a new 7-acre green space in the rotary’s center.

“The infrastructure of the roadway and bridge is in serious need of repair and, in its present condition, the street fails to live up to its potential as a great urban boulevard,” said Dan Tangherlini, director of the D.C. Department of Transportation. “Not only would a rotary help ease traffic congestion it would connect our neighborhoods on both sides of the river and help produce a vibrant, lively corridor.”

The task force also wants to add more parking in the area by building an underground multilevel garage that would be located beneath the traffic rotary and widening the street to allow room for parking lanes. The garage would accommodate up to 1,000 cars.

“As a stadium area is planned, new zoning is being considered, and it’s a very important concept to be in the forefront of people’s minds so we have room to develop,” said Michael S. McGill, general services administrator for the National Capital Planning Commission.

During yesterday’s meeting, many commission members, concerned over eminent domain, urged the task force to gain support for the revitalization project from residents in that area.

An official for the commission said it doesn’t want to force people out of their homes, but it does want to open up the area for more businesses. The official said the commission hopes a compromise can be reached.

The issue of eminent domain has been the focus of debate in many cities nationwide. The issue has reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which recently heard arguments in a case involving homeowners in New London, Conn.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams reportedly plans to use eminent domain to acquire and demolish several businesses adjacent to the Anacostia River to make way for the baseball stadium.

Mr. Williams, who is president of the National League of Cities, recently posted a message on the group’s Web site that it is “critically important that the court continue to allow us to use this important power.”

The high court is expected to rule in the New London case this summer.

Protecting the view from the U.S. Capitol to the Anacostia waterfront was one of the critical elements the task force considered while developing the proposals.

An official with the commission said adding the South Capitol Waterfront Park ensures that the view would be protected and that there would be more open space for recreation.

The area around the proposed South Capitol Commons and the waterfront park would be developed as a mixed-use cultural development. New museums and cultural institutions would be integrated with shops and restaurants.

According to the proposals, residential space would be added north of M Street by leasing space in privately developed buildings over the next 10 years.

“This is a long-term plan,” Mr. Galvez said. “We’re looking at evolving South Capitol Street into the gateway into the city in the next 15 to 20 years. It’s going to be the roadway to get to the national capital.”

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