Giving Up On Smart Growth--Adventures in Tenleytown
There's good news for Northwest Washington library users who have been without a full-service branch since the Tenleytown library was shut down in 2004. The long-debated replacement library will now finally be built, scheduled to open in 2010.
But alas, there's bad news in that same decision, because by moving ahead on building a small branch library on the busy corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Albemarle St. NW, the District government is deciding against taking advantage of a choice location across the street from a Metro station. Despite years of talk about the wisdom of smart growth and the need to make better use of the areas immediately surrounding the city's transit stations, the District is now putting itself on the side of neighborhood activists who fight to maintain a small-town, low-density look and feel at what should be the focal point of a far denser urban neighborhood. The Tenley station is probably the most underdeveloped spot along the more affluent western spur of the Red Line--mainly because of resistance from a relative handful of neighbors who like to pretend they're living 20 miles outside a big city rather than in the heart of one.
As Ed Cowan first reported in his email newsletter to D.C. voters, the District has withdrawn the library site from the package of properties that had drawn the interest of three developers. The developers wanted to build an expanded Janney Elementary School, a replacement for the Tenley library and a residential building in one complex, creating a busy, exciting community of residents, students and library users.
The District was in a tough spot. It would be unconscionable to deprive a good swath of the city of a decent library for the many years it might take to work out a development plan that could get past highly organized activists--even if much of the community craves a far more urban environment along the major retail corridor of Wisconsin Avenue.
Yet by giving away the prime corner where the library sat, the District basically eliminates the possibility of gaining private capital to pay for a much-needed revitalization of Janney School and for a state-of-the-art library. The city's late move raises questions about whether it has any intention of upgrading the Tenley Metro area or of following up on the Tony Williams administration's drive to lure more residents to the city.
Nor does this move bode well for the ability and determination of Mayor Adrian Fenty's government to stand up to small but loud groups of neighborhood activists who know they can block almost any effort to expand the city's tax base and provide better retail and other services.
The plans for the new Tenley library are to be unveiled at a community meeting at 6 p.m. on April 9 at the interim Tenley branch at 4200 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
10:00 AM UPDATE:
How to do it right: The Washington Smart Growth Alliance, an independent coalition of developers, business moguls, environmentalists and smart growth activists, is out this morning with its latest awards for projects that enhance neighborhoods while promoting growth that will add to quality of life, and one of the two new awards goes to a project just like what should go in Tenleytown. The winner is a joint development between Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Woodmont Triangle section of downtown Bethesda and Bozzuto Homes. At Old Georgetown Road and Glenbrook Road, the plan is to take out a handful of single-family houses that sit on church-owned land and replace them with an eight-story residential building, a large, four-story community center with a full-sized gymnasium, and an underground garage, all of which will allow the church to stay in downtown Bethesda rather than seek a new home on the edge of sprawl.
The community center would include meeting and classrooms, art and theater space, and daycare facilities in addition to the gym--all available to the wider community. And 17 of the 100-plus units in the apartment building would be reserved for affordable housing. "The addition of housing accessible to transit will contribute to a better jobs-housing balance in this job-rich community and help reduce auto-dependence," the alliance said in granting the award.
The project still faces some neighborhood opposition and approval won't be decided on until at least this spring. But this is an example of a development that adds density, keeps important neighborhood institutions, and allows more people to live near Metro, jobs, shopping and entertainment.
By Marc Fisher |
February 20, 2008; 7:30 AM ET
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