Tonight was my first, but the group's last, Potomac Yard Planning Advisory Group (PYPAG) meeting. This group has spent the last several months working on the Small Area Plan for the Potomac Yard area, and tonight's meeting, the final scheduled meeting, was a wrap-up of sorts.
Of course, there was some new material to discuss. On several people's minds was the rumors that an agreement has been reached on funding the planned Potomac Yard Metro station.
The short answer: sort of.
The current funding gap for funding the station is around $32 million, out of roughly $275 million total (the plan is for a $240 million construction cost, $30 million for capitalized interest during construction, and $5 million for bond insurance costs). The city is already working on setting up something similar to a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district covering the Potomac Yard area to cover some of the bond costs, but still came up short.
There have been discussions with the landowners/developers about them proffering the gapped portion of Metrorail station funding, and it appears there is tentative agreement with the owners of Landbay F on such a proffer, though the details are still in the process of being worked out. Still, this potentially gives the city the final piece in the funding puzzle in order to build the Potomac Yard Metro station.
The next subject for discussion was the "Flexible Zone". This is a planned area immediately around the northern Metro station entrance (Blocks 14 thru 21, except for Block 17) that is intended to be a pedestrian-intensive zone. The plan includes a roughly 0.75 acre park centrally located within the "Zone", surrounded on all sides by streets, with adjacent buildings facing the park. Much of the immediate area is intended for Office use with street-level retail.
There was a request from one Group member for a clarification and a more precise definition of just what constitutes "mixed-use". This turned into a discussion on what should be apprpriate land use next to the Metro station, which produced a couple of interesting (yet somewhat contradictory) statements (below are paraphrased and not verbatim):
- "Residents living next to Metro use it more than office workers next to Metro". Meanwhile...
- "Residents are willing to walk farther to Metro than office workers."
The general concensus appeared to be that Office use was more appropriate closest to Metro.
There were some comments about "keeping retail concentrated", instead of what was perceived as spreading it out amongst two smaller retail centers (one each in Landbays F and G).
There was some question (and concern) amongst group members on where (or even if) to reserve space within Potomac Yard for a school. Some think a new school will eventually be needed in the area. A few were skeptical that it needed to be placed within Potomac Yard.
Regarding traffic and transportation, there was definite concern among some that the plan for three east-west connectors (East Glebe, Reed, plus a new connector) would put more traffic on Commonwealth Ave, to which Del Ray residents are not happy. There were two Group members who showed an outright NIMBY attitude towards having a third east-west connector, with one of them going as far as stating he would be against the WHOLE plan if it included that connector. City staff attempted to explain that East Glebe is already over-capacity today, and that having additional east-west connectors forms more of a grid network that spreads traffic out and improves efficiency.
A meeting attendee also expressed concern about traffic impacts in adjacent neighborhoods.
It's obvious that the Metro station is needed before any of this development/redevelopment can occur. I asked the question about the street network and whether it is also a prerequisite or would be incorporated as development/redevelopment occurs. The response was that it's likely the street network, or at least the primary streets (namely Potomac Ave, Route 1, and perhaps one or two of the east-west streets) would be constructed prior to development/redevelopment. Bike trails along Potomac Ave and Route 1 and bike lanes on other streets would be incorporated as the street work is done.
I also asked what the rationale was behind keeping Route 1 at 4 lanes and not having a consistent 6-lane section through the city, since Route 1 is 6 lanes both to the north into Arlington and south through Old Town and beyond. I was told in no uncertain terms that Route 1 "will not be widened for general traffic", with no further explanation. Rather than start a potential argument, I left it at that.
That said, while additional regular lanes won't be build on Route 1, a consistent right-of-way (including space for the future dedicated transit lanes farther south) WILL be implemented along Route 1. This is important as, right now, Route 1 goes from wide at the Monroe Ave Bridge to narrow to a-little-wider near Target and wide again near Four Mile Run.
I left the meeting just as the individual group members were starting to go around voicing their support (or lack of) for the plan and their thoughts on it. Hoping someone from the Arlandria blog was present and will post about the group members comments.