Washington DC’s continued march towards a complete urban over-haul makes each new year a curiosity of face lifts, new projects and happy construction workers. Cranes dotting the skyline in almost every neighborhood west of the Potomac (and some east of it) are “gentrifying” and “revitalizing” away to their hearts content. Here’s what it’ll all add to the city over the coming year.
I) The highest profile project is the Smithsonian’s first addition in a decade. Created by an act of Congress in 2003, the project has gone from ground-level to near-ready in just under a year (foundations can take a lot of pre-visibility time, I know). Its 11 inaugural exhibits “tell the story of America’s history through an African American lens”—a lens Howard Zinn probably would have argued has been blurred by commercial history.
I’ve been running past this construction since its inception—and I’ve been dying to get inside the building. While I’m obviously interested in the themes, I can’t wait to see the finished architectural project. Its exterior is a unique stack made of metal lattice-work. The multi-tiered look will be a beautiful modern bookend to the strip of neoclassicals preceding it.
II) Another high-profile (a title I reluctantly bestow) is the new Trump Tower. This one really did come together in just over a year—though it’s a renovation, not a new build, so I’m less impressed.
I’m technically a supporter of the project as an architectural restoration adherent. However, the fact that it could be a labelled campaign slogan over the months before the election does make me a little nervous. Whatever your political leaning—do you think an Obama Tower DC would have gone over smoothly?
III) OH, the H Street street car!! Yes, I can hardly believe the fact that I’m including this on my list. However, I want to point out that this was supposed to be on-line and in-service last year. We all know how that story ended… so let’s keep our fingers crossed for a better 2016.
IV) My personal favorite for 2016 is going to be the Uline Arena. Everyone that mentions this project has an “aww… there goes another piece of a bygone era which I don’t belong to” look on their faces. Well, they’re dead wrong. This preserves the building—and adds climbing walls and a host of other really cool stuff.
This is perhaps the best part of capitalism making its stamp where the Beatles played their first show on this side of the pond. It’s using a landmark for a retail company, and if profits continue, then it may be there for the long-haul. Not only that, but this is one of my favorite companies—it’s REI. They’re one of the few companies that, by offering an essentially endless warranty, internalize the cost of breaks and repairs, disincentivizing planned obsolescence! (The economist in me sometimes can’t keep his mouth shut).
V) Phase II of “The Yards” is also on the list of things changing the face of the city. I don’t include it because I think it’s a real “project” as it where. Rather, I think it represents the huge changes taking place in this part of town that has come so far and yet still has so far to go. The housing is half way there, and so are the amenities, but it’s still got a ways to go before it has a real neighborhood feel. But they’re going big! The luxury Arris building is the next residential one to come up this year (though I can’t pick it out from the picture below…)
The Waterfront Station is another game-changer opening in phases. Stage 3 & 4 will complete the total projects seven new buildings at 4th and M Streets SW.
As the face of the city changes it’s always curious to see what the next year would look like. Each project is redefining a neighborhood, and each offer a portion of DC’s new character. As the city and the country become more content in the new urban version of DC, there’s a whole lot of things that move along with that current. We’ve still got years of change ahead, but everyone is filled with stories.