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Missed Potential Along the Potomac

Fortunately federal and D.C. planners, as well as many citizens and public officials, have realized in recent years that creating architecturally activated waterfront destinations and preserving and enhancing waterfront parkland are not mutually exclusive.

This is beginning to yield results. Well underway on the north shore of the Anacostia River is the Southeast Federal Center, next to the historic Washington Navy Yard. The complex will include not only waterfront promenades, gardens and terraces, but also eateries and shops, all backed by a mix of high-density governmental, commercial and residential buildings.

Immediately west and southwest of the Southeast Federal Center is the rapidly changing neighborhood around the new Nationals Park. Plans call for waterfront destinations between the ballpark and the river, just upstream from the recently realigned Frederick Douglass Bridge.

Across the Anacostia River, ambitious plans for the redevelopment of Poplar Point envision mixed-use destinations at the waterfront, not just park expansion.

The Southwest Waterfront facing the Washington Channel is slated for a makeover. Replacing existing structures and parking lots will be several mixed-use, multistory buildings between Maine Avenue and a new waterfront promenade. Shops and restaurants along the promenade will overlook the channel and marinas filled with boats, as well as East Potomac Park and the Potomac River.

Thanks to their great location, Washington Harbour and the Georgetown waterfront are unlikely to lose their popularity. But their status as one of the District's only vibrant nodes of waterfront activity will diminish as other sites come alive over the next several years. It's about time.

Roger K. Lewis is a practicing architect and a professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland.


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