The greater Southwest Waterfront and surrounding community is being redeveloped into a thriving and active neighborhood thanks to extensive planning efforts.

That was the message of the District of Columbia Housing Authority and American Planning Association hosted “Creating Equitable Communities through Planning” tour offered on August 18.

“This tour informs the conversation and highlights the intense work we do to revitalize our sites,” DCHA Executive Director Adrianne Todman said to the APA members.

After explaining that the federal government has not been fully funding housing authorities for many years, Todman said her staff must find creative solutions to build new, or refurbish old, affordable units in DCHA’s portfolio. Recently, DCHA has been leveraging the value of the land in order to replace crumbling public housing units while also helping to build a mixed-income community around them.

DCHA and the city are working together to plan the future of Southwest. The area extends from South Capitol Street to Maine Avenue and from P Street north to the I-395 highway.

The plan includes the Greenleaf properties, which have many structural, electrical, and plumbing issues that make renovation a bad option, Todman said. It is a perfect opportunity to plan for the future of Greenleaf and public housing’s role in a revitalized Southwest.

Both of the nearby James Creek and Syphax Gardens properties are not included in the plan and will not be redeveloped, Todman said.

The Office of Planning’s Melissa Bird said throughout the two-year planning process the community called keeping public housing and allowing for more affordable units a priority. She said the city is trying to find buildings that could be renovated into affordable units but “determining what is a potential site in the District is very challenging.”

The overall goal for the Southwest area plan is to keep the character, Bird said. This means keeping the area green with parks and gardens, while improving space for businesses, mixed-income housing, and transportation connections – from sidewalks to a new soccer stadium to better paths to the waterfront.

To demonstrate to the APA members how these larger plans pan out, the tour went to the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood, home of the Navy Yard, Nationals Stadium, and DCHA’s successful Capitol Quarter redevelopment.

Tammy Shoham of the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District said that 47 percent of D.C.’s new apartments are being built in the area. The investment made by federal agencies moving their headquarters to the area and Metro extending its Green Line helped to spur development, as did the redevelopment of the Arthur Capper/Carrollsburg public housing by DCHA, she said.

DCHA received one of the largest HOPE VI grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to rebuild the site. Now instead of concentrated public housing, there are several new communities that incorporate subsidized housing into the new buildings and townhomes.

“Public housing residents are not [separated],” said David Cortiella, a DCHA project manager. “They are a part of everything.”

The area’s redevelopment has brought new parks, grocery store, restaurants, a school, and other amenities to an area that was largely underutilized.  


APA members are led by DCHA employees on a tour through Capitol Quarter.
Canal Park was built in part by using New Market Tax Credits from DCHA.
APA members look at a model of D.C. in the offices of the Capitol Riverfront BID.
Last modified: 8/21/2015 4:42:16 PM