DC’s Southwest Waterfront neighborhood is a classic example of failed urban renewal - old row houses and tenements (some nice, some less so) were razed, replaced with a freeway and 1960s/70s-era buildings where cars enjoy more square footage than people. The dinner cruise on the Potomac Stefanie and I took for our six-month anniversary departed from a pier in Southwest, and reaching it from the Metro involved exiting a station in the middle of a Safeway parking lot, walking along a wide street with no stores and all buildings set well back from the street, and finally crossing a large parking lot for the boat.
Just as Baltimore rebuilt its inner harbor and Boston is trying to revitalize Fort Point Channel, according to the Capitol Hill Voice plans are being laid to redevelop the area. Like all modern redevelopment projects this area will surely tilt heavily toward big chains and Disney-esque controlled experiences rather than the organic feel of naturally grown public spaces, the developers have many of the right ideas, such as ample public spaces, mixed use housing and offices, and environmentally friendly building. If the final plan lives up to the promise, DC could be on the way to reversing some of the damage it did to its urban fabric during the dark ages of freeways and housing projects.