Braddock Metro neighbors look at changes ahead

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Green space, parkland, transit-oriented development and historic preservation were all part of the discussion at the Braddock Metro Neighborhood planning meeting Mon., June 11 at the Jefferson Houston School.

The town meeting was just one i

n a series of meetings between city planners, residents and City Council members to lay the groundwork for area plans in the coming years. The area of discussion was outlined on a map with a blue boundary roughly surrounding the Braddock Road Metro station, and another orange boundary outlining the Parker-Gray historic area.

Faroll Hamer, the city director of Planning and Zoning, chaired the meeting with fellow city planner Kathleen Beeton, and discussion facilitator Bob Kramer of Kramer & Associates.

An aerial map showed the streets, the Braddock Road Metro station and larger, warehouse type buildings that are prevalent in the northwest quadrant of the area bordered by the railroad tracks, Potomac Yards and N. Henry Streets. These properties are industrial in nature and targets for redevelopment, but privately owned so the city cant just go in with a blueprint and dictate what goes where. The real estate market plays a role for redevelopment as well, noted Beeton.
Its hard to say when its going to be redeveloped because there are a lot of players. The city doesnt own the land, Beeton said.

Condo plans approved
One of the first steps in redeveloping this section of the city is at 600 N. Payne Street where a warehouse and parking lot has been approved for redevelopment into a mixed-use space with retail and condos. Bulldozers have not started rolling yet, but the plans to redevelop the block into the Payne Street Condominiums have been approved by the city council. A sign has been placed on the property notifying passersby of the plans which include 146 condos, 4 work-live units and approximately 279 parking spaces located in two levels of below grade parking. The condos will only be so high so they wont overshadow the block across the street, which is one thing people in the area are worried about. Some referred to it as canyonizing, where the tall buildings formed canyons with streets in the middle. We try to moderate the height, its really a balancing act, Beeton said.
To facilitate discussion and narrow the options, all the attendees were divided into break-out groups so everyones voice would be heard. Each group had those who wanted change, and those who wanted no change. The groups came back together and laid out broadly defined plans.

Group comments
Nancy Hughes was the spokesperson for group I. We were all over the board, she said, noting that their priorities were parks, density, transportation and public housing.

Group II added walkability and streetscapes to their list, while group III added their support for retail and to maximize the use of the Metro, said their spokesperson Mark Freeman.

Stewart Schwartz of Group IV also honed in on transportation while Group V thought that maintaining diversity concerning race, age and income was important.

Kramer wrapped up the discussion, realizing the planners are far from reaching any decisions. There are some issues here that are irreconcilable, he said. Our goal here is that we need to come up with a plan.

Hamers office will now summarize the findings, solicit more input from city residents that were not at the meeting, and come up with a summary before the next meeting in September. Some residents were worried about the city reaching out to residents from the surrounding neighborhoods that didnt live in the Braddock neighborhood. Hamer noted how the city government works in a democratic society. Its a city, not a series of city-state neighborhoods, she said.

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