2006-10-09, 16:00

The '60s and today: historical perspective on mixed use

By: Jonathan Groner
The Washington Post today has a fascinating article by Dana Hedgpeth that is essentially about the new urbanism, the old urbanism, and mixed use, though she doesn't use those words.

"More than 40 years ago, the District redid parts of Southwest Washington, reflecting the latest and the best urban renewal thinking of the day: Tear down as much as possible, replace it with efficient concrete buildings and build a freeway nearby. . . . Today, planners, developers and residents are looking at the area very differently. Today, cities want foot traffic, not cars. Waterfronts attract leisure use. The ideal cityscape is built to human scale. And so, Washington intends to reverse what was done in the last spasm of urban renewal and remake it to the modern taste."

Hedgpeth points out that the team of developers that was awarded the contract to redo 47 acres in Southwest D.C. will provide retail space, office space, condominiums, hotel rooms, and cultural spaces. Some of the residential units will be for moderate and low-income families. All this will not be completed till 2017.

Some present residents, Hedgpeth says, are enthusiastic, while others like things the way they are. Business owners worry about their continued profitability. And people who live on their boats in the Southwest marina are afraid that the "new urbanism" will push them out, something that the developer, PN Hoffman, denies will happen.

The old Waterside Mall represented an admirable attempt to "clean up the slums" near the U.S. Capitol. Apartments were designed by no less a famous architect than I.M Pei. But the 1960s vision did not take off, and now the thinking has changed.

The headline says it all: "Southwest Waterfront Will Finally Get Over the '60s."


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