As you’ve probably heard construction on CenterCityDC recently broke ground – fifteen years after its inception – and leaders in the District are talking very bullish on the 10-acre redevelopment project. They have good reason to be optimistic about what CenterCityDC – the largest downtown development project currently underway in the U.S. – can do for the city and the region. In addition to the thousands of jobs it will generate (during construction and afterwards in the 700000 square feet of retail and office space that it will create) there’s a lot for urbanists to be excited about regarding this project.
CenterCityDC will turn the long-underutilized space (it’s basically been a parking lot for too many years with some other sporadic and partial uses) into a mixed-use development that connects with the urban form surrounding the area. Over 20% of the 458 apartments planned for the area will be below market-rate (which to be fair still doesn’t necessarily mean “affordable”) and the ground floor of every side of every building will have retail or restaurants.
And the people in these shops and restaurants won’t just be folks who work nearby stopping through during lunch – many of them will be residents. CenterCityDC will add over 1000 new residents to the downtown area bringing its population to about 10000 (up from 4000 residents 20 years ago). This will have a tremendous impact in transforming downtown DC into a 24-hour downtown rather than one that largely shuts down after 5 pm. The Housing Complex’s Lydia DePillis is particularly excited about the pedestrian “alleys” that will provide people a connection among the various parts of CenterCityDC “without having to compete with cars.”
Of course all of these positive figures are still just plans on paper at the moment. Ensuring that they are realized when the project is completed (currently scheduled for 2014 with a second phase expected in 2015) will require the public and elected officials to monitor progress and call for accountability if/when that becomes necessary.