- The mayor comes to Anacostia. (Photo: John Hendel)
Anacostia could use some more trees, D.C. officials believe. I just returned from a parking lot outside the Anacostia Metro station, where the District's mayor, D.C. director of transportation Terry Bellamy, and others had a few words for the neighborhood.
"This is an announcement of yet another program today," Gray said a little after 10:30 a.m. this morning. He smiled at the podium looking at out a small crowd of District officials and a few Anacostia locals who had wandered over. He stood with his back to the Anacostia Metro station, its sides all covered in art — blues, greens, and a little yellow, showing a turtle and a lizard. He and the other officials gathered on hot dark pavement under power lines, but the gorgeous summer weather as well as some of the green life visible behind him near the station already hinted at what the mayor was about to declare. "We're talking about thousands of trees."
The District is one of five capital cities the Environmental Protection Agency is partnering with to make city neighborhoods more sustainable and pedestrian friendly, Mayor Vincent Gray announced today. In D.C., Ward 8 is a perfect spot to focus on, specifically at and around the Anacostia Metro station where the officials gathered to make the announcement. It needs to be more sustainable, greener, and the city wants to make this a commitment as part of Greening America's Capitals Program. This new commitment is described as a "joint collaboration between the D.C. Office of Planning (OP), the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), the District Department of the Environment (DDOE), and the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development" in which the "EPA will organize teams of regional urban designers, planners, and landscape architects to provide customized technical assistance." The four other cities the EPA has partnered with this year are Phoenix, Jackson, Lincoln, and Montgomery.
Specifically, the EPA will lend a hand in making three intersections around the Anacostia Metro station safer and "more effective for cars, pedestrians, and bicycles" as well as developing "design options" for the streets and spaces nearby, according to EPA press materials.
Oh, and streetcars! Gray brought those up this morning as well.
"We are excited about streetcars coming east of the river," the mayor added. He spoke of their efficiency and utility and described a 37-mile system that would cost $1.5 billion, but was quick to emphasize that the price was well worth it.
The Greening America's Capitals program's implications lie closer to the Metro station, which this morning's event centered on.
"This multimodal station serves almost 8,000 in the community," said Rosalynn Hughley, deputy director of the District's Office of Planning, at the announcement.
Hughley described the neighborhood as "heavily transit-dependent" because half the residents don't own a car. She rattled off a list of different dimensions the project hopes to improve around Ward 8: "pedestrian traffic ... streetscape improvements, sidewalk improvements." The woman mentioned their ability to reuse materials and to add solar-powered meters. She as well as others on stage emphasized how this project could transform and enhance the experience of walking and biking in Anacostia.
And when might any of this happen?
I asked Shawn Garvin, the U.S. EPA region III administrator after the speeches whether any sort of timeline was associated with this project. He and others hesitated to put a firm date on anything. According to District press materials, the project should begin in fall and lead to a three-day design charrette in early 2012, during all of which they'll hope to receive community and technical input on how to best serve the blocks around the Anacostia Metro station. I imagine many voices will rise to the occasion. ANC commissioner David Garber has frequently emphasize the need to revitalize the historic blocks of Anacostia as well as suggested a pedestrian bridge across the river, and a joint effort with the EPA sounds like the first step to assisting in pedestrian access to the station as well as improving the area's streets. The District has also recently promoted green living in its recent partnership with the Urban Forest Project, which led to the creation of a 100 banners of art around town highlighting the capital's trees.
"Every mayor I see wants to be the greenest mayor in the country," the EPA's Garvin remarked at the announcement as he looked at Gray. "I thank you for raising the bar."
Everyone thanked one another, spoke of their excitement for the project and the partnerships at hand, and spoke of their thrill to, as DDOT's director Terry Bellamy said to the small crowd, "recreate Anacostia."
"This is an important day for the District and DDOT," Bellamy said.