Matthew Steenhoek -- The Renewal of Post-Urban-Renewal Southwest Washington, DC -- Page 2
of significant investment and redevelopment. Finally, the planning of the Southwest Eco-District
along L’Enfant Promenade shows how modern building systems and a renewed focus on the
pedestrian experience can provide a framework for revitalization and sustainability. Takentogether, these four projects, each in a different state of planning, design, or completion,demonstrate the various methods by which the sins of urban renewal can be absolved. All four of these projects involve significant government intervention, with both local andfederal influence and funding instrumental in all.
Despite being located on “The Island,” these
projects are also the product of the larger political, social, spatial, and conceptual frameworkwithin which they were conceived. When viewed through this lens, these four projects offer areflection on the development environment in not only Southwest but also elsewhere in theDistrict of Columbia and around the United States.
A History of Renewal
Long known as “The Island,” the Southwest, the smallest quadrant in DC, has
a historyof being isolated from the rest of the city. At first it was the Washington Canal, which ran whereConstitution Avenue currently sits, and separated SW from the northern portions of theDistrict. Then in the 1870s, the construction of railroad tracks along Maryland Avenue created anew barrier. Finally, as almost insult to injury, the Southeast/Southwest Freeway cut the SWquadrant off from the rest of the city in the 1960s (National Capital Planning Commission,2011). This isolation created a dynamic in Southwest that permeates today, as residents and
visitors of the city are again beginning to “discover” Southwest DC.
Having roots back to 1790, when it was established as a military outpost, and beingcompletely uprooted and reestablished in the 1950s
1970s through Urban Renewal,Southwest DC is simultaneously one of the oldest and newest communities in DC. After theCivil War, the Southwest was settled by both African Americans and European immigrants of Italian, German, Irish, and Eastern European Jewish heritage, all of whom lived in coexistence--