Time to Design Our Future

The plans to redevelop federal areas of the District in SW are intriguing and exciting but they should also give District leaders pause for contemplation, forethought, and vision. It is time to start thinking like a state, not a federal city. Recently, as reported by the Washington Post, the General Services Administration (GSA) has issued a request for proposals on how to redevelop the area of SW DC north of D St., south of Independence Ave. and between 6th and 12th St. SW. This could be a great area to redevelop with housing, commercial areas, and government spaces. The National Capital Planning Commission (an entity whose power we’ll limit with statehood) has even envisioned this as an ‘eco-district’ where green development is the driving and guiding force for how the area looks and functions.

While the appeal of this development is great, as it should be, the Mayor and the Council, and District citizens need to get together and talk about the vision for this area. As it presently stands this tract of land would be within the state of New Columbia as articulated in HR 265. As such, the businesses, properties, and people would be contributing to the revenues (yep, taxes) of the state of New Columbia. This would be a huge revenue gain for an area that presently provides little revenue to the District coffers. This is a project that the District, not the GSA, should be leading. While the GSA might be the property holder it should be a cooperative approach with the District really setting the long-term vision for this area.

With talk of over 2000 people living in this neighborhood the citizens of the District should start thinking about what the vision for this area should be. Will this be a demo-neighborhood for Sustainable New Columbia (presently Sustainable DC)? Obviously, since GSA is the property owner/manager for most of these buildings they currently have a huge stake in its future but maybe it’s time for the federal government to divest itself of these properties and maybe it’s time for the District to invest in it. If the District could take a calculated risk to build a baseball stadium for the Lerners maybe it’s time for the District to buy some federal properties in SW and turn it into the signature new green community for New Columbia. If properly developed this area could become a signature community for the city-state that’s not just a model livable walkable community but one that also generates significant revenues for a state that will undoubtedly still have to deal with a ‘structural imbalance.’

This is a great and exciting project for the District. It’s a project that could be transformative for how local residents interact with the mall by creating a new, green, and vibrant community adjacent to the Mall but the District must be wise and visionary with how this project proceeds. The District should determine how it can take the lead on this project rather than a back seat to the GSA. This project needs to break free from federal controls because ultimately it’s not about the District we presently are but the New Columbia we want to be. Let’s seize this opportunity to start designing our future and investing in it.

Josh Burch


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