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Ballpark Dreams and Street Realities

Today's column compares the beautiful drawings of the new Nationals stadium with the hard realities on the streets of Southeast Washington, and especially on S. Capitol Street, which shows up as a lovely, tree-lined boulevard on the computer graphics produced by the ballpark architects.

In fact, for quite some years to come, Capitol Street near the stadium will remain a decrepit and off-putting relic of an era when pedestrians were the enemy and urban streets were designed solely to sweep suburbanites into and out of the city with the least possible contact with its residents. My Post colleague Jacqueline Dupree lives near the stadium site and has produced in her spare hours one of the most useful and addictive sites on urban planning, design and development that I've ever seen--a veritable encyclopedia about the Near Southeast neighborhood, the stadium plans, the nearby development and, most germane to today's column, the city's plans for a new Capitol Street Bridge to replace the dying Frederick Douglass span.

If you're into cool computer animations of proposed new bridges, the city has spent a good many of your tax dollars commissioning these, and presumably one of them will be built by 2011. But of course the Nats' new home is supposed to open in 2008 (even though virtually everyone involved thinks that will slide to 2009). In any event, for at least a couple of years and probably considerably longer, the stadium will sit not by some Parisian boulevard but jammed up against a rank and crumbling ramp, as depicted in the third row of photographs here.

There's nothing the stadium architects could do about this, and they're obviously right to plan for the day when the ramp is gone and Capitol Street is improved. Just don't be surprised when the stadium area ends up looking a lot scruffier than it now appears in the plans.

Play ball!

By Marc Fisher |  March 16, 2006; 7:15 AM ET
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Everything takes time. By the time the stadium looks like the drawings I will be able to purchase tickets with senior citizen discounts.

Posted by: John | March 16, 2006 9:04 AM

If you think the bridge is off putting, wait until Mr and Mrs Suburb stroll down to Buzzard Point and see the hard drugs being delt. Remember, Marion Barry was busted there a few years ago . . .

Posted by: SW, DC | March 16, 2006 9:47 AM

Capitol St.???

Posted by: Jonathan | March 16, 2006 10:37 AM

Buzzard Point???Just go to the back door of 1600 Penn Ave.

Posted by: John | March 16, 2006 10:49 AM

But Marc, you promised all this urban revitalization! surely the suburbians will flock to live in such a stellar area. that's what we're paying 500 mil for, right?

Posted by: josh | March 16, 2006 11:20 AM

"But the plans released this week are a vision of the future, and indeed the District has an impressive concept for a new Anacostia River bridge and a reconfiguration of South Capitol Street that would replace the ugly ramp with green space. The truth, however, is that for quite some years, the stadium will come smack up against the city's befouled underside."


And not a word about how the stadium's west wall will come smack up against South Capitol Street, nor how the definition of "green" has been so drastically downscaled - putting it mildly -- with the elimination of the Mall like linear park that was the centerpiece of the National Capital Planning Commission, before our government's old boys network decided to desecrate for the sake of baseball?

Posted by: Douglas Willinger | March 17, 2006 5:15 PM

Be patient with the changes surrounding the ballpark neighborhood. As Sam Cooke once sang, "Rome wasn't built in a day."

Posted by: Vincent | March 19, 2006 11:30 AM

Posted by: Douglas Willinger | June 22, 2006 2:08 AM

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