City on track to add Potomac Yard Metro station

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The Planning Commission took the next step in developing the first new Metrorail station in four years by approving various mixed-use developments at Potomac Yard last week. If the station materializes, it will be several years from now, with revenues from the newly approved development paying its way.

Plans for the areas urbanization include higher-density office, residential, hotel and park space that will coalesce with the slightly older townhouses, restaurants and shops recently developed along the plots edge, north of Slaters Lane, to form a new neighborhood in between the National Airport and Braddock Road Metro stops.

The city hopes that tax revenue generated from a larger town center will pay for a Metro station connecting the Braddock Road and National Airport sites.
The station doesnt depend on it, Deputy City Manager Mark Jinks said. But it moves toward that goal.

Once the area becomes populated it is expected to bring in $27 million in tax revenue annually, which would go towards paying for the Metro station. Metro officials estimate a new open-air station along the Blue and Yellow lines will cost about $150 million, but city staff will look into cost and engineering studies this year to pin down their own figure, Jinks said.

Regardless of the price, a station will not exist until the town center, up for discussion at a public hearing this Saturday, is significantly under construction and largely populated, according to Jinks. Then that will give us the signal that its not just plans on pencils and paper.

The strip of large retail shops and restaurants that characterize Potomac Yards north end have been scheduled for reconstruction since they were built in 1999 as part of a long-term plan. A Metro station has been in the works just as long, but Jinks said that as the city moves closer the strip malls fate could play a major role.

That part of Potomac Yard hasnt been planned yet, Jinks said. So what gets built on the retail center, if its sufficient enough, would then put the critical mass over the top which would further justify the Metro station.

The citys Potomac Yard Plan reflects a sea change in development models from the Twentieth Century. Rather than suburbanization focused on personal transportation, economic, environmental and population shifts have steered people toward higher-density areas and public transportation.

I think that with peoples views of transit oriented development, with gas prices and the environment how they are, this sort of development makes a lot of sense, Jinks said.

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