We are back from summer break to take a look at “Ward 5 Works” (pdf), the long-awaited report from the Ward 5 Industrial Land Transformation Task Force, released to the public on August 27, 2014. The report sets forth policy recommendations concerning the industrial land in Ward 5 for the next 5 years:
- Create an Industrial Advocate to serve as a liaison to Ward 5 residents and spearhead marketing, business attraction, technical assistance and coordination among businesses
- Revise the zoning code to preserve industrial land, buffer residential uses from industrial impacts, encourage inclusion of retail space in production, distribution, and repair (PDR) businesses, and reduce the amount time to obtain a building or occupancy permit
- Improve waste management activities and limit future ones and launch a pilot Good Neighbor program
- Coordinate workforce development program with the Industrial Advocate to ensure a pipeline of PDR jobs for District residents
- Help Ward 5 business access financial resources and technical assistance
- Build support for industrial uses and change perception of Ward 5
- Explore potential for a “creative hub” and partner with private sector to support development of affordable space for PDR
- Enhance access to Ward 5 with investment in bicycle infrastructure, pedestrian connections, bus service, streetcar and other premium transit options
- Invest in new and upgraded community amenities, such as parks, retail, restaurants, streetscapes and family-friendly destinations
The area around Fort Totten metro station, where most of the industrial land in the neighborhood is concentrated, seems to be more of a footnote in the report. There are probably a few reasons for this. The report focuses primarily on the Ivy City neighborhood and the New York Avenue and Rhode Island Avenue corridors because most of the industrial land in the ward is concentrated in those areas. It also highlights Brookland as a potential creative hub, building off of the energy created by Dance Place, the artist housing, and the Monroe Street Market Arts Walk. There is not much vacant or underleased land around Fort Totten on the Ward 5 side. Some of the land has already been developed for residential use. For example, the Aventine Fort Totten Apartments sit on WMATA-owned land. Also in the neighborhood are the Capital Area Food Bank, salt domes, a privately-owned plumbing business, and the trash transfer station. The report notes the municipal facilities have a natural buffer in Fort Totten Park, so the nuisance factor is limited. (Though we cannot forget about the recent fire at the trash transfer station and the fact that the hilly road portion of the MBT between Fort Totten and Brookland does not offer a pleasant biking experience). And finally, the Riggs Road/South Dakota Avenue small area plan, which went into effect in 2009, offers plenty of recommendations for the neighborhood, many of which we are seeing come to fruition.
The report, then, has limited value in terms of official action for the neighborhood. The few specific recommendations have either already been done or are in the planning process. For example, it recommends a bikeshare station at the metro station (check) and improved pedestrian/cycling connections along South Dakota Avenue (on DDOT’s planning list). However, that is not to say some of the ideas advocated for other areas, such as culinary incubators, small-scale local production, media and creative arts spaces, urban agriculture, and tool libraries, cannot be done in this neighborhood. Probably the most important recommendation in the report is to consolidate the municipal facilities along West Virginia Avenue NE and create a PDR hub. The report notes that DC’s government will continue to need an industrial land base for municipal functions. Some municipal functions and industrial uses are more of a burden than others. We have already seen the neighborhood jockeying taking place over WMATA’s desire to either renovate or build a bus barn to serve the upper Northeast and Northwest areas of the city. To the extent government officials can actually follow through on the report’s recommendation to develop a master facilities plan to protect land for municipal functions, while reducing the nuisance factor on neighboring residences, this neighborhood will be well served by the report.
For media coverage of the report, see the Washington City Paper, Washington Post, and the Washington Times.