Convention Center Area Strategic Development Plan

Okay, I’ve read the plan put out by the city planning office and it wasn’t easy reading. For one it is a couple of separate PDF files that I had to download and read separately and at a %50 reduction because it was on abnormal sized pages. Almost made me think DC don’t want me reading this.
Historic Districts
I have dedicated my adult life to history, and so I might have a strange bias. I was and still am a bit concerned about the idea of creating historic districts for reasons other than a deep desire to preserve the historic character of an area. Reading the development plan, I became concerned when I read that a reason for creating a historic district was to control growth. I don’t doubt that but it doesn’t help history any. Another, slightly more acceptable reason other than a focus on the historical character of an area, was the desire to maintain the architectural character of rowhouses. That’s okay, but still where is the history? It can be in there, but when it is not expressed, I get concerned. There may be a community desire to keep rowhouses and keep a lid on growth, but will the community support the expense and headache that comes with maintaining property in an historic district when history was not the main push to designate the area historic in the first place. If there isn’t that communal desire by businesses and neighbors then there isn’t that pressure to conform to those rules and the designation becomes weak and useless. Kind of like eating on the metro, rarely enforced.
Dueling ideas
I noticed some conflicting ideas. They kind of conflict with affordable housing for poorer residents. Under the idea of creating mixed use development along 7th street up by the Giant there was a statement on page 6 of the guidelines about Kelsey Gardens getting redeveloped and would make a good mixed use site. Um. This conflicts with the other idea of maintaining and increasing affordable housing. Back on the historic bug and affordable housing, affordable and historic don’t mix well. The higher quality materials and the type of systems demanded of the historic ain’t cheap. Like no through the wall HVAC system, read ugly AC units built in. No gotta be replaced with CAC or the HVAC put out back.
Kids and other people
Another concern was making school areas mixed used areas as well. For me it might not have been clear, but if I understand it, there would be residences on school grounds? The things that I think allow a school the freedom to protect it’s students and allow kids to be kids (loud and annoying) is the school’s ability to close itself off and keep it’s grounds secure. I can see potential problems with a large scale school (small charter sized schools, different story) and residences. I would like to know about current set ups where there is this mixed use of public schools and residences.
There were some things I did like about the report. For one a clear definition of the AMI (average medium/median income?). That is always helpful because when officials and other types talk about affordable housing they go on and on about the AMI and never tell you that 100% of the AMI for a single person is $58,833, $84,000 for a family of four, so %50 AMI is $29,400 for a single person and $42,000 for a family of four. Second, was a desire to encourage retail that would attract convention attendees and tourists. I’d like some of that retail (exceptions being a souvenir shop) too. I’m thinking a CVS and stores with large clean windows that allow me to see in, clean well lit interior spaces, and businesses that display store hours clearly. Lastly, I also liked the desire to keep the medium density feel of the area, but I wish there was another way to preserve it without having to become “historic” when preserving history is not the goal.

4 thoughts on “Convention Center Area Strategic Development Plan”

  1. Thanks for the analysis. I always appreciate (and value) your opinion on these types of issues, since I’m a bit dense about them myself.

  2. When you address the issue about affordable housing, do you mean Section 8? I think there is to much section 8 housing in the Shaw area. I’m for mixed development where a percent of the building has a mixed use. Not just one big ghetto complex.

  3. The whole affordable housing issue ties our community in knots, doesn’t it? On the one hand we have visions of school teachers, police officers, and non-profit advocates (and what article about affordable housing doesn’t talk about these types of workers?) being pushed out to Waldorf county. On the other hand, we have a bunch of loud, substance-abusing thugs on every street corner.

    So, we end up with this guilt trip from the Reagan era – ‘the deserving poor’. It turns out that the ‘deserving’ poor work a lot, but don’t earn too much money. So we have the idea that they aren’t really at the rock bottom, but somewhere a bit more affluent, so we set aside “moderate” income housing for them. And “mixed income”.

    And what about the rock-bottom, forty-guzzling, undeserving poor? Where do they go? So far the idea seems to be (a) slowly kick them out to PG county. Or (b) mix them in tiny quantities with the “deserving” poor and hope that work ethic, education, and sobriety can be absorbed like a contact high.

    Maybe thats the (brutal) best we can do.

    – JMAN

  4. Robbie, thanks but I don’t really have any more insight (except maybe for the history part) than any other goof.
    On affordable housing. Section 8 isn’t the only program, there is another one, but I forget its name, yet it appears that Section 8 is the most popular and serves a wide range of people. My mean old 90 year old grandma is on Section 8 and pays less than $40 a month (last I heard) for her little 1 bedroom in Nowhere, NC. My sister is also on some housing assistance program, I don’t know if it is section 8 currently.
    The batch of loudmouth thugs around the way come from other parts of the city and for some friggin reason hang out on our corner. I’ve seen them hop into their mom’s minivan with MD tags. Some others are living with relatives/girlfriends/ babymommas who might own the house or rent the apartment a few blocks down. So they might continue to be a presence as long as they feel comfy driving down from PG to hang out or as long as their hardworking/ retired sponsors allow them to remain in the house.

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