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Photo by jennifer yin licensed under Creative Commons

Greater Greater Washington writes about where we live, work, and play, why we make the location choices we do, and what forces shape these places.

Many people would like to live in safe, diverse, walkable neighborhoods with access to transit, stores, parks, good schools, and other amenities. While our region has more walkable urban places than most, the demand still exceeds available housing, making these places more expensive (and prices keep rising rapidly).

We must ensure that there are enough housing choices so everyone who wants to live in such a neighborhood can choose to do so. We should ensure that housing in desirable areas is available to people at many points along the income spectrum, and take action to fight segregation. And we can improve the vitality of all neighborhoods by encouraging new retail and amenities to improve the quality of life for all residents.

  • Architecture criticism: the good and the bad

    Washington Post architecture critic Ben Forgey drove and walked around downtown Washington giving his opinions about the best and worst of the city’s buildings for Washingtonian. Unlike too many architects, many of his comments focused on the interaction between buildings and the people around them:The Federal Triangle is a planning mistake of huge dimension because…  Keep reading…

  • Building over Union Station rail yards

    One of the best ways for cities to improve the often-forlorn areas around major infrastructure is by building on air rights. When a street crosses over a major highway, why not put buildings over the highway on either side, turning an empty bridge into a city street with activity along the sidewalks, like they are doing in Boston and Columbus.  Covering a big rail yard near a major…  Keep reading…

  • A suburban hotel grows in the urban city

    The most controversial topic at the Dupont Circle ANC meeting was the Hilton Washington, the 1960s building on Connecticut Avenue between Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan. The hotel was recently purchased by a private group that wants to renovate the hotel and build a new condo wing on the property, part of a trend of many older hotels adding or converting rooms to condos. The Hilton…  Keep reading…

  • Preservation “incompatible” with historic preservation

    There is a lot of bad blood between the Dupont Circle ANC and the HPRB. Even before the Third Church issue, there were several other deeply felt conflicts, which led to serious discussion at this month’s ANC meeting about a “historic preservation bill of rights” limiting, in some ways, HPRB’s authority. Some ANC commissioners argued that HPRB is inconsistent…  Keep reading…

  • Bad urbanism on the Potomac waterfront

    In December, I got into an interesting debate on the Dupont Forum neighborhood list about my feelings concerning the Third Church landmarking. Lance, who considers the building a “masterpiece,” asked if my desire to get rid of most 1970s-era buildings in downtown DC extended to more widely praised structures like the Watergate and Kennedy Center. I replied:The Watergate and…  Keep reading…

  • DC keeps getting blank walls

    Two new developments in Washington, DC continue the disappointing trend of creating buildings that present blank walls to the street. Just as New York did in the 1970s and sometimes still does, and just like much of today’s downtown DC, developers create fortress-like apartment buildings, offices, and even churches that isolate their residents from the neighborhood…  Keep reading…

  • Picking on planners

    I’m reading two books about urban planning, Donald Shoup’s groundbreaking work on parking policy The High Cost of Free Parking, and Cato Institute planning critic Randal O’Toole’s The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future whose agenda is apparent from its title.  Keep reading…

  • What’s wrong with empowering cities?

    Discussing the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, Illinois Republican and NPV supporter Kirk Dillard said, “I’ve studied a myth among some Republicans that this empowers cities. The statistics do not bear that out.” Wait, Kirk, what’s wrong with empowering cities? Do all Republicans, or even Illinois Republicans, feel that cities should…  Keep reading…

  • Can NYC build me a personal garage too?

    As even more lurid details emerge of New York’s $340 million giveaway for Yankees parking—that’s right, entirely for parking—we learn that 70 million will go entirely to build a free garage reserved for Yankees and their guests, with no revenue ever being collected to pay back the city; that the total amount the team is paying the city for rent will decrease;…  Keep reading…

  • The blank wall today

    We can at least excuse the awful blank street-facing blank walls of New York buildings like Manhattan Plaza or the Atlantic Center mall because, when these buildings were built in the 1970s, nobody knew better.  Keep reading…

  • Local parks need local government

    When you hear the words “national park” you might think of Yosemite or Ellis Island or any of the historic monuments like Concord’s Minuteman National Historical Park at the Old North Bridge where the “Shot Heard ‘Round The World” was actually heard.  Keep reading…

  • Ward 3 Vision

    A community coalition pushing for smart growth in the upper Wisconsin Ave corridor (Tenleytown to Friendship Heights) and elsewhere in DC’s far Northwest ward 3.  Keep reading…

  • North Capitol: Competing visions for handling traffic

    Capitol Quarter isn’t the only bland urban renewal project being replaced with townhouses. Last week, Express reported  that developers have been chosen for Northwest One, which will replace the Sursum Corda and Temple Court projects near New York Avenue and North Capitol with mixed-use redevelopment that has the potential to become a walkable neighborhood. But…  Keep reading…

  • Cities are more than just poverty

    John Edwards has a plan to “revitalize urban America.” It encompasses many important goals, like creating affordable housing, ending poverty, and reducing crime. But this agenda also belies a common conception, especially among liberals, that equates cities with poor minority people, that helping cities means helping the poor, and uses the language of charity…  Keep reading…

  • DC may experiment with market pricing for parking

    DC Councilmember Tommy Wells apparently has been reading his Donald Shoup. New York livable-streets activists have been calling for parking pricing reform for some time, following the teachings of groundbreaking parking scholar Shoup. Slowly, NYC leaders are starting to come around to this idea. But when they arrive, they may find DC already there waiting for them.  Keep reading…

  • Replacing people with cars

    Via DC Metrocentric, this is the intersection of Virginia Avenue and 8th Street SE, in 1928 and in 2007. When mid-century planners tore apart cities to enable large volumes of cars from the suburbs, neighborhoods like this one disappeared forever. DC’s original plan for freeways would have destroyed more of what are now considered beautiful and historic; this one, though,…  Keep reading…

  • HPRB landmarks Third Church

    I attended the Historic Preservation Review Board meeting last Thursday, which was a special meeting to discuss the landmarking of the Christian Science Church on 16th and I. After hearing from architectural historians and church representatives, the board members affirmed their belief that the church met the criteria for landmarking, while also qualifying their votes…  Keep reading…

  • Maybe they can build ‘em like they used to

    During the dark ages of urban planning (the 1960s and 70s), many old residential buildings were replaced with boxy, alienating public housing projects, until Jane Jacobs discredited the idea. Block after block of attractive row houses are gone forever, even though brownstones in places like Brooklyn, Boston, San Francisco, and DC sell for a million dollars or two, or more. Can…  Keep reading…

  • Landmark or mistake?

    If a building is ugly, doesn’t serve its intended purpose, and the people who own it want to tear it down… but it was built by the firm of a famous architect and is a prime example of its architectural style, should it be a landmark? That’s the debate before the DC Historic Preservation Review Board about the Third Church of Christ, Scientist (aka Christian Science)…  Keep reading…

  • Racial politics kept College Park Metro far from campus

    It may be an urban myth that racism kept Metro out of Georgetown (while many residents did oppose a station, Metro planners hadn’t included the neighborhood in initial plans in the first place), but according to a graduate paper from 1994 that Rethink College Park found and put online, it played a significant role in the decision to locate College Park’s Green Line stop…  Keep reading…

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