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|Committee of 100 rejects
mitigation agreement, calls for study of Union Station site
D.C.'s oldest planning advocacy group is urging the National Capital Planning Commission to reject the plan for a convention center at Mt. Vernon Square until a thorough economic study comparing proposed sites is completed.
In a letter to NCPC Chair Harvey B. Gantt, the Committee of 100 on the Federal City said several months of negotiations with the Washington Convention Center Authority and government agencies led to the conclusion that "it is impossible to shoehorn the largest building in Washington into a small-scale, historic residential Black neighborhood without destroying its integrity and doing great violence to our City's fundamental planning principles..." Trucks in residential neighborhoods, a two-block long pedestrian tunnel in place of a street, and "not one new parking space" for the expected 42,000 convention goers would devastate the Shaw neighborhood, the letter said. The NCPC is expected to vote on the project in September or October.
Committee Chair Tersh Boasberg also pointed out that the proposed Mt. Vernon Square site allows no room for future expansion of the structure. The proposed center would be the nation's 6th largest at completion, just like D.C.'s current convention center, which tourism officials say was obsolete a few years after it opened in l983.
Boasberg said the proposed alternative site at Union Station "seemingly would make good economic, planning and transportation sense," but it has never been seriously studied. At stake, said Boasberg, are hundreds of millions of dollars that could be saved in construction costs, along with tax revenues that could come from residential development of the centrally-located Mt. Vernon site. "Surely the hard-pressed taxpayers of Washington deserve to have an independent comparative economic study of the costs of the two sites," the letter said.
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|Hundreds of additional buses and trucks expected in Northwest
The Transportation Management Plan (TMP) for the proposed convention center at Mt. Vernon Square predicts that hundreds of buses per day would travel Northwest streets if the project were built at that location. The TMP projects that an average of 900 buses trips per day would be needed to get thousands of conventioneers between large hotels like the Shorham and Washington Hilton in Dupont Circle/Woodley Park and the proposed center in the Shaw neighborhood. The TMP predicts that charter and shuttle buses would be the favored mode of transportation for conventioneers due to limited options for the 42,000 average large-size crowds expected.
Some residents expressed worry that the buses would cause added fumes, vibration, noise and pollution on residential streets in northwest neighborhoods including Dupont Circle, Woodley Park, and Georgetown. In Shaw, residents are concerned that buses will idle on neighborhood streets. The Washington Convention Center Authority has said buses will be prevented from idling on neighborhood streets, but some residents noted that buses frequently idle near residential neighborhoods due to lack of enforcement by the District.
The TMP also predicted that a small convention drawing 25,000 people would attract 16,000 people traveling by automobile. There is no additional parking planned for the proposed center.
Councilrnembers Sharon Ambrose (Ward 6) and Kathleen Patterson (Ward 3) voted against further funds for the convention center proposal for Mt. Vernon Square in August, joining advocacy groups like the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, the American Institute of Architects, the D.C. Preservation League and many citizens who have raised questions about the project.
Ambrose said concerns about destruction of the residential neighborhood of Shaw, the likely prospect of increased taxes to pay for the center, and a scathing report by the D.C. auditor revealing financial irregularities at the Washington Convention Center Authority are cause for a re-examination of the city's options. "I'm not going to cast a vote to move this forward until we get some answers," Ambrose told the Washington Business Journal in its July 18-24 issue.
1) Many of us support an expanded convention center for D.C., but not in Shaw.
2) What's at stake: (a) A historic residential neighborhood that is one of the most important sites of African-American cultural development in America. (b) A beautiful area in the heart of D.C. well-positioned to be one of the prime residential areas in the city. (c) A downtown renaissance (arena, opera) that could be thwarted by traffic and parking mayhem associated with the Mt. Vernon proposal.
3) Mt. Vernon Square is the wrong location -- causing opposition from community
4) Eleanor Holmes Norton has terrible reservations
5) Mt. Vernon Square location is too small, no room for expansion
6) Funding gap caused in part by cost escalation due to choice of Mt. Vernon Square site
The Mt. Vernon Site is facing continued roadblocks, growing opposition, possible litigation, costly delays. Convention center will not be built at Mt. Vernon Square.
7) Problems can be solved by choosing alternate location. Union Station Convention Center would be cheaper, faster, bigger, better -- more economic growth for D.C.
8) Much of the pre-development analysis for Union Station has already been done.
Washington Business Journal
Citywide Advocacy Groups
Shaw civic groups
Key decision makers on this project:
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