At right is an apartment complex built in 2006 in a meadow out in Price William County. Wait a minute, no. This was actually built right next to the Fort Totten Metro station, about five miles from downtown and on three Metro lines. Nevertheless, this apartment complex got built on WMATA land with about half the lot occupied by parking. There do appear to be a couple of shops facing the Metro entrance, which is good.

You can see from the map that 3rd Street dead-ends at some empty space where the street should continue. That street is a “paper street,” a segment that was removed at some point in the past but never formally de-mapped never actually built as a street. The sensible thing to do would be to reconnect the street. Clark wanted to cover it with parking instead, and we ended up with this in-between situation. There was  is even a fence blocking people from walking on the unbuilt segment of Third Street.

The original plans called for a Phase II wherein the street would be reconnected, but since the original buildings were completed in 2006, nothing has happened. Having a mixed-use project cut back leaving large empty parking lots is not unusual and something we must guard against. And the Phase II design still has one parking space per unit (despite being next to Metro) and a very suburban feel.

Meanwhile, another nearby project, Fort Totten Square, also has a Web site but I can’t find much about its status since January 2007. It’s supposed to bring a much-needed grocery store to the area, but I can’t tell how good a project it will be. The background image on the site shows a lively street with lots of people, but this picture shows one face in the blank-wall, more-cars-than-people style as well.

Development in this area is lagging behind the Metro stops on either side. Maybe it’s good something got built at all and I can understand the economic development impetus to get a project going. But we’re only going to get one chance to try to create a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood in the empty lots at Fort Totten. If it gets a warmed-over design more akin to Florida sprawl, we’ll be stuck with it.

Updates: My sources provided a few more details about the Third Street situation. Also, the Fort Totten Square project may be better than I’d originally thought from the Web site; I’m trying to find out more. Please post in the comments if you know more about it.


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David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.