Photo by MsVinDC on Flickr.
Ward 7 and Ward 8 will not be the next U Street. But at the same time, East of the River will not stay “Mayberry,” as some residents have referred to it.
I remember being told not to go past 14th Street NW when I was an intern working on U Street NW in 2001. Now less than a decade later, U Street is a bustling center that embodies the “live, work, play” motto.
The residents East of the River have had a front seat view of the rapid changes that have occurred in other parts of the City, like the U Street corridor. Residents in Far Northeast and Far Southeast DC are trying to balance the desire for economic development while maintaining some of the suburban elements.
While I believe change is inevitable, East of the River is not going to change as fast as other communities in the City. This side of the City has three unique conditions that are going to slow the pace of development considerably.
Location of Metrorail stations: Land around transit stations is usually prime real estate for transit-oriented development and higher densities. The location of the Metro stations East of the River do not lend themselves to the density of development seen in other parts of the city due to their locations and the existing land use surrounding the station.
Minnesota Ave and Benning Road stations in Ward 7, and Anacostia in Ward 8, have some commercial areas within ¼ mile that are either under construction or have the potential for redevelopment. However, Deanwood station in Ward 7 is more challenging due to its obscure location off Minnesota Ave NE, which is not a contiguous road.
In addition, Deanwood has industrial uses on one side and single-family homes on the other side. A developer has the option of dealing with potential environmental conditions on one side or trying to amass properties on the other side. Though neither are insurmountable tasks, they would have longer development timelines that typical development projects.
Similarly, Congress Heights in Ward 8 has St Elizabeth’s Hospital East Campus on one side, which has some potential for more density. However, it is also bordered by a cemetery.
Undevelopable land: One of the features of Wards 7 and 8 is the large amount of green space owned by the National Park Service. The Fort Circle Parks, Fort Dupont being the largest at 375 acres, make up a little less than a third of the land in Ward 7. Anacostia Park located along the Anacostia River in Wards 7 and 8 is used heavily for recreation, family reunions, and community events. It is highly unlikely that these lands will become available for development, especially with the pending development at Poplar Point located to the south of Anacostia Park in Ward 8.
Prince George’s County has more land: There is speculation that Ward 8 will see an influx of development due to the office space and housing needs in conjunction with the relocation of Homeland Security to St. Elizabeth’s West Campus. While Ward 8 will reap some benefits, Prince George’s County stands to benefit the most. The proximity of Homeland Security to Interstate 295 coupled with the fact that the County has more land available at a lower value make it a more attractive option for larger scale redevelopment.
In addition, Naylor Road, Suitland, Southern Ave, Capitol Heights, and Branch Ave metro stations are gold mines for higher density development. The current land uses around these stations are low-density commercial and medium-high density residential with very few single-family homes in the vicinity.
Will Wards 7 and 8 will experience change and growth? Yes. However, the type of change will not be as dramatic as seen in other parts of the city.