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New Metro Station Carries Civic Hopes

By Steven Ginsberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 18, 2004; Page A01

Work crews installing Metro's signature hexagonal bricks on the platform at New York Avenue for a station's scheduled opening Saturday are putting the finishing touches on an unusual structure.

The new Red Line stop amid the rail yards north of Union Station and south of Rhode Island Avenue NE will serve about 1,500 passengers a day to start, making it among the least-used in the area's transit system, Metro officials said.

Metro officials and District leaders hope the new Red Line station, named New York Avenue-Florida Avenue-Gallaudet University, will prompt development in the area. The station's opening is set for Saturday. (Michael Williamson -- The Washington Post)

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But the District leaders and Metro officials who have been planning the station -- the first one to open within the original 83-station network since that system was completed nearly four years ago -- hope the stop will prompt construction of high-tech firms, government offices and apartment high-rises on the neighborhood's undeveloped land.

"You often hear about transit-oriented development, but this is development-oriented transit," said John D. Thomas, the station's project manager. "In a few years, the landscape will be considerably different. This area is ripe for redevelopment."

The station, officially named New York Avenue-Florida Avenue-Gallaudet University, is partially funded by private firms and showcases a sleeker, more modern look.

Two more stations, at Morgan Boulevard and Largo Town Center on the Blue Line in Prince George's County, are scheduled to open next month.

Virginia leaders are planning to extend Metro through Tysons Corner to the Dulles area. Metro and the District are building a light rail line through the Anacostia area.

Beyond those, Metro's construction plans are less definite. "In terms of there being dirt moving and bricks and mortar and things like that, there's going to be a lull" compared with the first phase of the transit system's history, Metro chief executive Richard A. White said.

There are ideas to extend service down the Route 1 corridor and on Columbia Pike in Virginia, and between the inner Maryland suburbs and north along Interstate 270.

For that to happen, White said, deals such as the one that brought about the New York Avenue Station probably would need to be struck.

When the idea for the $103.7 million station was raised in 1998, businesses near it offered to tax themselves to take out a 25-year bond worth $25 million toward its construction. If property values rise after the opening of the station, which has entrances on Florida Avenue and on M Street, the businesses will receive a tax credit. The federal government paid an additional $25 million, and the city paid $53.7 million for the project.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), an early backer of the project, said the financing plan is "the real model for transportation infrastructure" as the city tries to regenerate some of its rundown corridors.

The business community that he and other city leaders envisioned has started to appear.

From the station's 30-foot-tall platform, riders can see the Capitol dome off one end and the headquarters of XM Satellite Radio to the northwest. Near the station is the former Peoples Drug warehouse, a refurbished building that provides office space for about 1,000 city workers. A giant hole in the ground next to the station, where cranes are busy at work, will be the headquarters for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is set to open in 2006 and house 1,100 workers.

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