Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bruce-Monroe redevelopment proposal: mixed use or apartments; school or no school?

There may be some movement on the redevelopment of the Bruce-Monroe School site: DCist reports that the city's request for proposals only received one bid. Doh.

The school, on Georgia between Irving and Columbia, was said to have been dilapidated, and closed in 2007 and was demolished earlier this year. Right now the lot is a big park with basketball courts, fields, playgrounds and more. The bid submitted has two options: one option includes a mixed-use building with retail on 1/3 of the lot, and the developers mention possibilities like "Yes! Organic Market, Neighborhood Restaurant Group (Chuchkey, Birch and Barley, Rustico, Vermilion), Elevation Burger and a hardware store." The other 2/3 would be 52 townhomes with 1 or 2 parking spaces. The other option replaces the townhouses with a new school building. DCist also noted that some people are still angry that the school was demolished.

Here's my take: the mixed-use development seems optimistic. There isn't much foot traffic in that area that would support an organic market, a fancy/hip restaurant, a gourmet burger spot, and a hardware store. Maybe they're hoping that the Petworth Metro developments would bring that, but that's pretty far away.

I also like the park, and some DCist commenters said why not keep it, which is a fair point. Normally I'd go with that option (though apparently it's not on the table) but bringing a school back might be good too. I used to think, like many others, that DC has too many schools that have too few kids in them, and are thus inefficient. Close them and send the kids to other schools. However, I was recently talking with a friend who is teaches in Oakland, and who hears a similar complaint a lot. His point was that the school isn't just a building, it's a center of the community. Parents and family can walk there to pick up there kids and meet teachers easily, which may not be the case if the kids are at another building. Local residents know who is at the school and who shouldn't be, and they take pride in it.

Maybe that's an optimistic viewpoint, but it was interesting for me to hear, since I'd always figured too many schools = combine them.

What do you think? More mixed use and townhouses, or a school,

2 comments:

Patrick T Metz said...

Presumably the development is still several years off. Georgia Ave has too much cheap storefront to remain as quiet as it is, and there are several big apartment buildings going up that will bring more people to the corridor. Plus, that particular corner is just as close to the Columbia Heights Metro as it is to Petworth, and a very short walk from Wonderland. Add in the coming Georgia Ave streetcar, and I can easily imagine it sustaining a grocery store and/or restaurant/bar in a few years.

Andrew said...

I hope you're right. People don't like to walk much though, and the streetcar is a few years away -- plus Vince Gray already cut it once, before the public outcry made him put it back. But I do hope you're right.