Wondering about the dearth of updates lately? We at BeyondDC haven’t been particularly happy with some of the changes made last August, which were patchwork fixes anyway. As a result, we’ve been working on a total overhaul of the site’s functionality. Once complete, BeyondDC will continue to look more or less the same as it does now, but the headlines application will be replaced by an RSS-driven newsfeed and the updates section will run off a blogging software. Most of the changes are ready, save for a handful of technical glitches we’re trying to work out.
Apologies for the lack of new content lately. We’re over the hump and getting close to a new system. Please bear with us. Feb 8, 2006
The City of Manassas is considering an ordinance limiting household makeup that would effectively make it illegal for extended relatives such as aunts, uncles or cousins to live together under the same roof. The proposed ordinance is in addition to an existing rule, common to many localities, that no more than three unrelated persons may live together in the same unit.
Laws such as these, ostensibly sanitation-related, target groups like immigrants, college students and the mentally retarded as undesirable elements to be purged from the idyllic suburban lifestyle. Since it remains legal for a white family with say 11 children to live in the same house, but illegal for 4 college students to rent a house together, it is clear to BeyondDC that neither overcrowding nor sanitation are at issue here. If so, health codes limiting the number of people per square foot who can rent space in a dwelling would be adequate protection.
At best laws such as this are misguided, at worst they are straight discrimination. BeyondDC thinks they’re exclusionary and immoral, and hurt the city. Jan 10, 2006
Update: On Wednesday evening the Manassas City Council voted to repeal their ban on extended families living together. The broader issue, that through zoning many localities attack portions of their population that do not fit the predisposition of local leaders, is still and will remain a major problem.
Is bigger better?
Enlarge the National Mall? Obviously a great idea, right? The Mall is Washington’s centerpiece, it’s very raison d'être. Surely the planners and designers proposing to expand the Mall to East Potomac Park have struck gold with the idea.
Actually, we’re not so sure. Everyone knows there are two Washingtons – one for tourists and one for residents. Expanding the Mall into the Potomac River would only exacerbate that dichotomy, as the two Washingtons become ever-more separated from each other. As we mentioned in a recent discussion with Richard Layman of Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space, since a single-use pod of cultural uses is every bit as urbanistically troublesome as a single-use pod of any other land use, Washington would be better served by spreading future monuments and museums around the city rather than clustering them all in a singular new tourist ghetto.
If urban diversity is the ultimate goal of planning – and it should be, since diversity is what makes great cities great, then expanding the Mall as an entity apart from the city is a bad idea. Dec 9, 2005
Stand to the &%*^$@# right!
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. That’s the new mantra at Metro, where for years managers have refused to accommodate common rider practice and encourage users to stand on the right side of escalators, leaving open the left aisle for those who want to walk. Metro’s long-time refusal to admit the obvious was on the grounds that walking on escalators is dangerous behavior that should be discouraged. Starting in February, however, WMATA will install these signs in stations as part of a new wayfinding program designed to speed up flow in overcrowded stations. Also on the way are platform markers indicating where train doors will be and more efficient escalator flow layouts. In the words of WMATA board member Chris Zimmerman, “Hurray!” Dec 2, 2005
Rock Creek Gets A Plan
Graphic by Laris Karklis, Washington Post
Tuesday the National Park Service introduced a draft master plan for the future of Rock Creek Park. The Post has a good article and map highlighting the proposals. Among others, the recommendations include:
Nov 30, 2005
- Reforestation of under-vegetated areas
- Trail improvements
- Traffic calming measures along Beach Drive
- A new Park Police substation
- A new visitor center at the Lodge House
- Improvements to the planetarium
- Preservation of the Peirce Mill and adaptation of the barn for interpretive purposes
- A new administrative facility
- Preservation of the Peirce-Klingle Mansion with a more historically compatible use
A Taxing Commute
Earlier this month a court suit challenging Congress’s ban on a DC commuter tax was struck down because the Congressionally-approved city charter forbids it, apparently ending the debate for the foreseeable future. Apparently, but not really. DC councilman and mayor-hopeful Adrian Fenty recently introduced legislation calling for a referendum to consider amending the charter to allow a commuter tax. Even if passed by voters (and it surely would), the amendment would still have to be approved by Congress to become law. Although Mayor Williams is calling the move a political stunt unlikely to accomplish anything, Fenty believes Congress would be hesitant to ignore voter-approved legislation. According to Fenty, "Can you imagine letting citizens vote in Baghdad and not D.C.?. You can't celebrate democracy in another country at the same time it's being rejected at home."
For our part, BeyondDC is generally in favor of anything that improves the District’s regional political position, so we think the idea is at the very least worth exploring. A spirited debate has already sprung up in our forum, so do join in and tell us what you think. Nov 16, 2005
69 photos of Arlingtonians enjoying the annual Clarendon Day street festival here. Nov 4, 2005
The Return of Fairlee-Metrowest
Fairlee-Metrowest site plan
As regular BeyondDC readers are no doubt aware, earlier this year Representative Tom Davis (R-VA) sponsored a bill in Congress that would have blocked the sale of 3.5 acres of land near the Vienna Metro station to a developer for use in the Fairlee-Metrowest TOD. The land, which is between the proposed development and existing transit station, is necessary to fully integrate the two and ensure that the development is truly transit oriented.
Now there’s a bit of good news. Davis’ bill, which also includes quite a bit of funding for WMATA, last week passed out of his Government Reform Committee with amended language that leaves open the possibility of WMATA selling the land, contingent upon a public hearing and subsequent impact report. The hearing will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 1 at Oakton High School in Fairfax County. Oct 27, 2005
The Near Southeast’s Changing Face
The Post business section has a very cool interactive map showing anticipated development in the Near Southeast being spurred by the new Nationals ballpark. It well illustrates just how dramatically the area is about to change. Oct 21, 2005
Tower of Heaven
The National Cathedral has a free observation deck offering some of the best panoramic views of central Washington and the skylines of the inner suburbs. BeyondDC took an afternoon this summer to enjoy it. Visit our gallery. Oct 18, 2005
Roosevelt Island City?
DCist is reporting that Roosevelt Island National Park, the wooded island between the Kennedy Center and Rosslyn, may be sold for development.
Roosevelt Island is one of those places BeyondDC is a bit embarrassed to admit we’ve never actually visited, so we’re not completely sure what would be lost. That having been said, once we get past our initial shock that anyone would dare sell a park, we’re not totally convinced it’s such a bad idea. We haven’t been there because the island is difficult to access. Good urban parks form the center of neighborhoods and act as “living rooms” for the surrounding area. Roosevelt Island is only accessible via highway and a single bike path from Rosslyn. It's not particularly connected to any community, let alone the center of one. On the other hand, the island is a perfect spot for a dense, mixed-use neighborhood. Smack between the busy K Street and Wilson Boulevard corridors, development on Roosevelt Island would vitalized the Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom waterfronts like never before and do more to connect downtowns Washington and Arlington than anything since Metro’s tunnel. Although DCist is quick to point out the debacle that is Roosevelt Island, NY, BeyondDC can’t help but think of the Ile de la Cité in Paris. Sep 26, 2005
Remember, Computers Make Our Lives Easier
The glitch with our RSS feed has been fixed. Apologies for any inconvenience. Sep 9, 2005
University of Loudoun?
George Mason University has announced plans to build a 123 acre campus in Loudoun County, just west of Dulles Airport. The site would be donated by a development firm seeking to build nearly 30,000 houses (that’s not a typo) in what is now a largely rural part of the county. If built the new campus would be the fourth in the GMU system, adding to the existing satellites in Prince William and Arlington and the main campus in Fairfax. While BeyondDC recognizes the value of higher education, this project – the whole project including houses and school – has got to be one of the most offensive heaps of sprawl we’ve ever seen. Thirty thousand houses in what is now empty? It really doesn’t get any worse, folks. Public money should not be going to nonsense like this. Sep 7, 2005
Welcome to the fourth incarnation of BeyondDC! Most of the changes here are behind the scenes, organizational or cosmetic, but there are three big ones meriting a call-out.
- There is a new section called Planning that gets us back in the new development-tracking business. New developments at the individual building scale will be covered in the yet-to-be-completed Buildings section.
- There is a new headlines function in the upper left corner. Now that BeyondDC is getting over 700 visitors per day we felt it would be more appropriate - and legal - to link news articles directly to their source. Users should feel free to continue creating and discussing threads in the forum, but keep in mind headlines on the forum and home page may not be exactly the same.
- XML syndication of BeyondDC updates is now available. You can use RSS to keep up to date with us from a single feed reader such as MyYahoo. Learn more about XML. Aug 19, 2005
More From The Silver Line Watch
Engineers for the Tysons Corner MetroRail extension have trimmed the estimated cost of the proposed line by about 25%, from $2.4 billion to $1.8 billion. The cost savings come primarily from eliminating aesthetic elements in favor of more functional ones and shortening the underground section, though not eliminating it completely. Aug 11, 2005
Kelo Fallout and Ballpark Design Snippets
First, the important but dry: On Friday a federal judge ruled the District can purchase 33 properties needed to build a new Nationals stadium on the Anacostia waterfront. The decision was cut and dry, but wouldn’t have been if the recent Kelo v. New London decision had gone the other way in the Supreme Court.
Now for the fun part: Months after being promised the new stadium will be iconic and contemporary, design specifics are beginning to be made public. Without actually seeing renderings it’s hard to know if BeyondDC will like the stadium, but in the mean time architect Joseph Spear is saying all the right things, so we’re optimistic. Aug 9, 2005
WMATA: Federal Agency
A Congressional bill introduced by Representative Tom Davis (R-VA) that would invest $1.5 billion in the Metro system but impose major federal oversights is expected to glide through committee and become law. In exchange for the money, which would come in annual payments of $150 million spread over 10 years and be used to add rail cars, expand stations and otherwise improve the system, the bill stipulates that Metro must hire an inspector general to oversee spending, add two seats to the WMATA board specifically for federal representatives, and force regional leaders to create a dedicated source of long-term funding for maintenance. We at BeyondDC love the dedicated funding requirement and think the inspector general idea is at least worth experimenting with, but are not crazy about having federal appointees on the WMATA board. Between BRAC issues and NIMBY Congressmen, the feds have not shown themselves to be very friendly to Smart Growth lately, and we worry that too much federal oversight will reduce Metro to a park-and-ride oriented commuter system, upsetting decades of good land use planning.
And speaking of NIMBY Congressmen, attached as a rider to the bill is a stipulation that WMATA may not sell a small parcel of land adjacent to the Vienna station that is currently planned to be part of a large TOD. Fairfax County officials are naturally outraged, but the real story is that removing that parcel from the development would probably make traffic congestion worse. The developers say if they cannot build on that property they will simply shift the most intense buildings south a few feet and build them on land they already own. If that happens the same number of units will be constructed and the buildings will be just as tall, but a critical pedestrian link between the development and Vienna station will be removed, likely making the development itself much less transit accessible and forcing most of its residents into their cars. Jul 28, 2005
Update: Shortly after posting the above entry we noticed another story in the Post detailing Federal meddling in local decision-making. Apparently, Congress overturned District zoning to block a proposed office building on Capitol Hill. Just what, BeyondDC would like to know, is going on here?
How Long Will Real Estate Boom?
It appears Washington’s half-decade real estate boom is slowing to a more manageable pace. Homes are staying on the market longer and prices are rising more moderately, if at all. As it turns out, the slow down is probably a positive development because it is mitigating against a full crash, something a lot of folks have been worrying about. For our part, BeyondDC doubts a full crash is imminent as long as the region continues to create jobs. Demand is increasing faster than supply thanks to local governments that think the best way to fight traffic congestion is to limit residential density. Of course, doing so has the opposite effect, since the same number of workers then have to drive further to get anywhere, but we digress. The housing market is slowing, and that’s OK. The bigger question mark is at the national level. In our service-based economy real estate may be the last great actually productive American industry. In any event it is certainly driving the economy. If real estate crashes nation-wide the whole of our economy may go with it, hardly a pleasant thought, even if Washington is probably capable of weathering a depression better than most places. Jul 25, 2005
If At First You Don’t Succeed…
Loudoun County has long been the front line in the Washington region’s battle over sprawl. The fastest growing county in the entire country for most of the last decade, it has ballooned in population from 86,000 in 1990 to 240,000 in 2004. In 2003 the county adopted sweeping exclusionary growth controls, limiting development in the still rural western two-thirds of the county. Later that year a Republican majority favoring individual property rights was elected to the Board of Supervisors, vowing to ease restrictions. Then in March of 2005 the Supreme Court of Virginia threw out Loudoun’s restrictions on a technicality, opening the whole county to suburban development.
Now Loudoun is trying again. A diverse majority of the Board, including two Republicans voting against platform, narrowly approved a new set of growth control proposals similar, though somewhat less restrictive, than those thrown out by the court. The 5-4 vote was preliminary and no new rules will take effect until legal kinks can be worked out, but nevertheless the vote strikes a shocking blow to the pro-sprawl contingent on the Board, thought to be an unbreakable block.
BeyondDC doesn’t have a problem with the proposed restrictions, which would limit house-building in the rural areas to an average of one house per 30 acres, as long as it is understood that the same number of people are going to be moving to the Washington area regardless of zoned density limits, and they have to be accommodated somewhere. Limiting sprawl is only half the solution. If not coupled with Smart Growth exclusionary zoning will only make the problem worse. Jul 21, 2005
Ballpark Funding and Arithmetic
The proposed Nationals stadium.
BeyondDC will admit up front that we are not an economist. We’d like to think we have some basic understanding of economic issues, but are far from a professional on the subject. So maybe a real economist can explain to us how a stadium financing plan favored by Councilman Cropp will help rather than hurt the District’s coffers. Under the plan, Deutsche Bank would provide about half the money needed to build the proposed Nationals stadium on the Anacostia waterfront, reducing the tax burden on DC businesses by $6 million per year. In exchange, Deutsche Bank would get the money from taxes on concessions inside the stadium, expected to be at least $18 million annually. This is where we need help: How, exactly, does it make sense for the city to give up a revenue stream of $18 million in exchange for $6 million worth of tax relief? Wouldn’t it make more sense to simply apply that $18 million towards the stadium debt service, thereby shifting the tax burden from DC businesses to stadium users? Jul 14, 2005
The District’s new downtown circulator began operation this week. The specialty bus service operates every 5-10 minutes on two routes between Georgetown and Union Station and between the convention center and Southwest waterfront. The circulator, a sort of BRT-lite (that will become the real deal when the K Street Busway opens), is expected to expand with additional routes, including one tourist-oriented line connecting the monuments. BeyondDC gave the service a test ride Sunday and found it comfortable and easy – though getting from Union Station to Farragut Square is still faster on the Metro.
A note to readers: Four of the last five posts have been about transit. Sorry. We know it’s BeyondDC not TransitDC and promise to be a little more diversified in the future. Jul 11, 2005
Trouble Brewing for Tysons Metro
The original Tysons Metro alignment, now in doubt. The dashed portion is subway.
Preliminary engineering for the Silver Line Metro extension to Tysons Corner is showing that the project will cost about 60% more than originally hoped. $2.4 billion for the first phase, up from $1.5 billion in initial planning. The increase may put the project in jeopardy, considering how rigorous is the competition for Federal new-start transit dollars. It would be possible, however, to build the project for just $1.7 billion if certain cost-cutting measures were taken, including eliminating some pedestrian bridges, reducing the size of the stations and elevating rather than tunneling what was originally proposed as a mile-long subway through Tysons Corner. While BeyondDC has never been a big fan of the western portion of the proposed line – running Metro in highway medians where TOD is difficult is just silly – the Tysons Corner portion is absolutely essential to regional transportation needs and long-term hopes of urban densification. Tysons Corner is the second largest job center in the DC area and bigger than all but a handful of the most substantial American central business districts. If it’s going to be made into a walkable, mixed-use downtown it needs Metro. Elevate the line if you must; drop the extension out to Reston if you must; eliminate the station east of the Beltway if you must, but get those three stations in central Tysons built, no matter what. Jun 27, 2005
Eminent Domain and Economic Development
On Thursday the US Supreme Court ruled that local governments may seize property under eminent domain for private economic development. The ruling doesn’t so much give cities new powers as it fully legalizes a practice that’s been going on for a long time. Property rights activists are naturally upset about the ruling, citing that taking private property in order to further other private development on it is unfair. Where their case runs in to trouble is over the needs of cities to adequately build up their tax base in order to provide necessary services to residents, such as police and fire protection, schools and clean water. Most cities, of course, are happy about the ruling, as an opposite vote would have made urban redevelopment significantly harder.
Some planner-types we know, as well as the LA Times, fear the ruling will lead to increased big-box development or a return to the massive land clearances of the urban renewal days. We at BeyondDC tend to think this helps more than it hurts, as a lot of very important, very beneficial projects around here based on public/private partnerships would suddenly become impossible without the public ability to buy land as needed. For example, DC may need eminent domain to kick off the South Capitol Street revitalization, specifically for the new Nationals stadium, and Rockville never would have gotten it’s downtown redevelopment out of the planning stages (that’s a two year old article, but you get the idea) without the power to seize a strip mall standing in the way. Jun 24, 2005
A Streetcar Named Baltimore
All over the country streetcars are the new it for cities looking to attract development. The unquestionable success of Portland’s experiment opened the door for other cities, including Tampa, New Orleans and Tacoma to open lines, with even more planned in the likes of New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Miami (try BugMeNot.com to bypass compulsory registration). As regular BeyondDC readers probably already know, Arlington is looking at a line for Columbia Pike and Washington’s first new streetcar is already under construction in Anacostia, due to open in 2006.
Enter Baltimore. The Charles Street Development Corporation, an organization charged with revitalizing the Charles Street corridor through and north of downtown Baltimore, is studying the feasibility of a 7.5 mile trolley loop running from the Inner Harbor to Johns Hopkins University. The hope is the line will attract new development and appeal to tourists who rarely leave the Inner Harbor area, both things no bus is capable of accomplishing. BeyondDC is a big fan of streetcars, and we think Baltimore is in desperate need of better, more visible transit, but we have to wonder if a streetcar parallel to and just blocks east of the existing Central light rail is the best place to put it. Jun 17, 2005
Potomac River: Commuter Route?
The proposed ferry route. Click to enlarge.
The latest splash in the wave of efforts to transform Washington’s waterfront from industrial clutter to cosmopolitan hub is coming from the District Department of Transportation, or Ddot, which is accepting bids to operate a pilot program aimed at bringing ferries to the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. The ferry would run for about a year between Georgetown, the Mall, the Navy Yard, Bolling Air Force Base, Old Town Alexandria and National Harbor at intervals of half an hour between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. If successful, the ferry network could be expanded with more boats and additional routes. With thriving ferry systems operating in New York, San Francisco and Baltimore there’s not much reason to think they can’t work in DC given the right set of circumstances. Of course, that’s a big if. Ferries don’t seem to drive redevelopment the way rail does, so it could be that without an active waterfront district already in place a network of water taxis would be premature. Still, though, at half a million dollars the pilot program price tag is pretty reasonable, and given Washington’s relative lack of bridges the long-term potential for ferries is too tremendous not to explore. We say full steam ahead! Jun 2, 2005
Skylines From On High
Thanks to the dense tree cover and relatively flat topography of the DC area, wide angle skyline pictures of cities around here are notoriously difficult to get. With a few exceptions, one generally has to go up a tall building to see anything more than a few blocks away. BeyondDC has done just that on a couple occasions at a few locations around Ballston, our home neighborhood. This gallery displays Arlington, Washington and other skylines from both Northern Virginia and Maryland as seen from more than 20 stories above ground. May 31, 2005
DC’s First Big City
The dome of Riggs Bank
Georgetown, Maryland was one of the country’s largest cities years before Washington, DC was dreamt up. Years before, in fact, there was even a country for it to be one of the largest cities of. Though Georgetown no longer ranks near the top of the population list, it remains one of America’s most desirable and famous neighborhoods. BeyondDC photographs it here. May 25, 2005
Rummy and Sprawl
The recently released plan to move tens of thousands of defense department jobs outside the beltway could have harrowing consequences for growth in the Washington area. The 20,000 or so jobs that will be shifted aren’t so much the problem. Just within Arlington County that isn’t a particularly large fraction of overall employment. The problem is all the private contactors that serve the defense department and are likely to follow them out. Exactly how many people are going to find themselves commuting to isolated fortress compounds in the exurbs (where, incidentally, they can neither handle nor want the growth) instead of walkable, metro accessible neighborhoods inside the beltway is a mystery, but this is for sure: Traffic congestion, air quality and general quality of life in the Washington area are all going to take a major hit thanks to the Pentagon over what amounts to a non-issue - the unlikely possibility of a truck bomb can be guarded against just as effectively and much more cheaply using bollards and creative landscaping. May 17, 2005
Photographing America’s Best Train Station
When Union Station was built in 1907 it was the largest train station in the world. It is one of the most lasting achievements of the City-Beautiful movement and among the most prominent beaux arts buildings in America. Still Washington’s number one tourist attraction, BeyondDC thinks it may well be the finest large train station on the continent. See for yourself.
May 10, 2005
A Banner Week for Rockville
Downtown Rockville, already in the midst of a major revitalization, is having a big week. On May 3 the City Council approved a private redevelopment proposal for the parking lot in front of the Regal Theater, long a major blemish in the heart of downtown. The plan, restructured from a late 1990s proposal that went unbuilt, includes multiple towers of up to 173 feet tall and should have as great an impact on the walkability and vitality of downtown as any other in recent memory. It doesn’t end there for Rockville, though. On April 26 Maryland officials shared plans for a new, 100 foot tall district courthouse to be built on the site of the current public library (a new library is already under construction). Though, of course, some Rockvillians are making a fuss about density and height, these projects, particularly the private one, will go a long way towards making downtown Rockville a genuine urban center rather than the glorified office park / strip mall it has been for so long. May 4, 2005
Reclaiming Georgetown’s Waterfront
The Whitehurst freeway and Georgetown's forgotten waterfront
The Whitehurst Freeway runs like a scar over the north bank of the Potomac, cutting what is arguably our most beautiful and well-known neighborhood off from its waterfront. One of the only of a series of inner city highways planned for Washington to actually be built in the first place, it is one of DC’s most visible planning mistakes. It’s a mistake, though, that may soon be remedied if DC council member Jack Evans has his way. Evans proposes tearing the under-used freeway down (pdf – go to page 8), in order to reclaim the Potomac waterfront as an energetic promenade. May 2, 2005
Congressman NIMBY? Maybe Worse
Congressman Tom Davis (R-VA) has promised to defy Fairfax County officials by proposing federal legislation to scale back the Fairlee-MetroWest TOD project adjacent to the Vienna Metro station and near the neighborhood he has lived in since 2004. Davis announced that he would amend a WMATA funding bill to block the sale or lease of 3.2 acres of land the agency owns on which three 12-story residential and office buildings would be built. In addition to obvious questions about whether it is appropriate for a federal lawmaker to defy local leaders on a local issue, especially considering Rep. Davis belongs to the party of small-government and plainly has a conflict of interest, Post columnist Marc Fisher reports another alternative, that Davis wants to block urban apartments from being built in his district because the sort of person who would live in an urban apartment would also not be likely to vote Republican. Whether he’s a mere NIMBY or a voter-hating partisan, BeyondDC isn’t amused. Apr 27, 2005
A Taller Rosslyn
The proposed tower at 1812 North Moore Street.
A proposal for a 484 foot tall skyscraper in Rosslyn is generating discourse in planning circles. Arlington County officials hope the tower, which would rival the Washington Monument in height and far exceed that of any other building in the region, will help to give Rosslyn a more unique, exciting identity. On the other end of the discussion, Federal planning officials believe taller buildings in Rosslyn would detract from the low-rise character of Washington’s monumental core. For our part, BeyondDC disagrees with L’Enfant purists whose position implies that tall buildings are inherently bad. While we would have to think twice about the prospect of tall buildings in downtown proper, an attractive Rosslyn skyline would better terminate the Mall vista than an ugly one, and a series of skylines surrounding DC could frame the core city in much the same way the Smithsonian buildings frame the Mall. Apr 13, 2005
Eat Your Heart Out, Harlem
The historic nerve center of DC's Black community and most prominent primarily African-American neighborhood in the United States from after the Civil War until the 1920s, Shaw is one of Washington's most interesting and vital neighborhoods. In addition to over 100 photographs of the U Street corridor and Shaw neighborhood, our gallery includes the panoramic vista of the central city from Cardozo High School. Apr 4, 2005
Maryland’s political capital, America’s sailing capital
Maryland's State House
The first Baroque planned city in America, Annapolis is a charming town with an incredible wealth of lovely, historic buildings that almost qualify as ancient by American standards, the city’s tremendous history having begun in 1649, fully a century and a quarter before the Revolution began. It’s well worth a look for anyone even remotely interested in architecture, history or city planning. Mar 14, 2005
Cities to Scale
BeyondDC has always wanted to know how Washington sizes up - literally - with other cities. We got our hands on some shapefiles from the US Department of Transportation and drew ourselves a series of maps. Every city in the US with a metropolitan population over 1,000,000 is represented along with its associated highways and transit lines. Check them out. Feb 8, 2005
The City of Brotherly Love
Philadelphia City Hall
The chief town of colonial America, Philadelphia is a city with tremendous history and equally tremendous urbanity. Arguably even more important than Washington in charting the course of early American city planning, Philadelphia gave us the grid, numbered streets, avenues named after trees and the central square. Though no longer as culturally dominant as it once was, Philadelphia remains one of the largest and most livable cities in the country.
BeyondDC took a day trip up to Philadelphia in August. See what we saw. Dec 7, 2004
September marked the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian. We’ve had two opportunities since then to visit, photograph and think about the new museum. What do we conclude? It’s acceptable but not magnificent. A product of its times, it’s sculpturally interesting but urbanistically selfish. BeyondDC reviews the second major addition to the Mall of 2004 here. Nov 10, 2004
Photographing Adams Morgan
Though not as well known as Georgetown or Cap Hill, Adams Morgan is oft-cited as Washington’s best neighborhood from an urbanist perspective. BeyondDC gets back to regular business with a new thumbnail gallery. Oct 9, 2004
Down to Orange
The good news is we’ve reinstalled the message board software and the forum is back online.
The really good news is we figured out how to import the database from the old forum (the database specifically wasn’t corrupted) in to the new one, so no one will have to re-register and all the posts are still visible. You can even still take part in older threads. Sep 23, 2004
BeyondDC Terror Alert Level: Red
Sometime Saturday evening – ironically the same day we updated the site for the first time in a month and a half - BeyondDC was hacked. We don’t know exactly when it happened or exactly how long the site was offline, but most of the damage was easy to repair. As far as we know, the only lingering problem is the forum, which was totally deleted. We’re working with PowWeb, our host, to retrieve a backed-up version. It’ll take a little longer than just re-installing the forum software, but we think getting all those thousands of articles and posts back is worth the wait. Aug 23, 2004
UPDATE: It’s been a good three weeks since this should have been taken care of, so we re-contacted the service people at PowWeb. Apparently, our request for archive retrieval was lost. At some point after a service representative emailed us back to tell us what could be done, the exchange vanished from their queue. In three years with PowWeb this is first problem we’ve had.
In any event, it is now too late to retrieve the forum. Their archive doesn’t go back that far. So we’ll be setting up a new forum as soon as possible. No decision yet on whether we’ll use the same software or not.
Probably not related, one new problem has surfaced: Our e-mail contact form doesn’t appear to be working. We’ll be fixing that ASAP as well, but in the mean time we can be reached at help @ beyonddc.com (remove spaces). Sep 17, 2004
Smart Growth NoVa style
Frequent readers to BeyondDC know we tend to hop around a lot. For a while we were based out of Colorado (yes, Colorado - "we" earned our planning degree there). Since the new year we’ve been transitioning out of the college life in to the real world of full time jobs, commuting and going to bed before 2:00 a.m. Finally, last month, we settled in to a new office (er, apartment) in Ballston, one of the prime examples of Transit Oriented Development in Northern Virginia. To celebrate the move, we’ve updated our Ballston Profile and taken a brand new set of photos, organized as a Virtual Tour. Aug 21, 2004
Washington's best park
There is no better place in the Washington region to casually hang on a weekend afternoon than Dupont Circle. It’s the perfect example of why the empty lawns of suburbia are no substitute for quality civic open space. View our latest thumbnail gallery. Jun 7, 2004
A Memorial Day reminder
Every large monument built in the history of Washington has been hated by architecture critics. Lincoln was too imposing. Vietnam too modern. FDR too small. Now that the National Monument to World War II is open to visitors, BeyondDC took an afternoon to find out if the critics are right about this one. Find out why we don't think they are. May 31, 2004
Hains Point & The Awakening
East Potomac Park occupies the largest island in the Potomac River between Washington and Arlington. Its southern tip, called Hains Point, presents beautiful panoramic views of the river, while the park itself is home to what is probably the most unique statue in Washington, The Awakening. Take a quick stroll. May 11, 2004
A Charlottesville Afternoon
Nestled at the base of the Appalachians, Charlottesville is a charming and elegant city, well known as home to the University of Virginia and Thomas Jefferson. BeyondDC took a recent afternoon to explore the town that, like Washington itself, is often overlooked by tourists on their way to presidential monuments. They don't know what they're missing.
Oh, by the way, we fixed the drop menus. May 3, 2004
Pretty in Pink
Blossoms in bloom
Or: Thumbnail galleries at BeyondDC
Take a look at the main menu in the upper right corner of the page. It's changed. The "Home" button is gone (from now on click the BeyondDC logo to return home), while a new "Galleries" button has shown up in the middle. We've moved the mostly photographic Richmond, Kentlands and Norfolk Features (which are still in their old format, but won't be for long) over to join DX6490 and Pretty in Pink, a new set showcasing the recently blooming Tidal Basin cherry blossoms. Apr 26, 2004
You scratch my back...
After a number of requests we've expanded the links page with two new sections, one for websites specific to the Washington region and another for BeyondDC-like sites featuring other cities. Happy browsing.
Apr 18, 2004
Ain’t technology wonderful?
The Kodak DX6490|
For the past three years BeyondDC has been using the Kodak DC3200 digital camera for the vast majority of our photos. At 1 megapixel it’s not exactly professional, and with no zoom capabilities extremely limited in what it can photograph. Time for an upgrade! Our new camera, a Kodak DX6490, should provide readers with vastly improved photographs, not just in screen quality, but also with regards to color, angle and scene.
A camera isn’t the only new toy to enjoy, though. We’ve also solved another long running problem with photo viewing. Thus far the only way to look at BeyondDC photos has been to open their directory and click each one. No previews, no forward or backward button, no help at all. From now on, new photo sets will be displayed in a thumbnail gallery format, which will give users the ability to open only those photos they’re actually interested in. While we’re not planning on going back and constructing a gallery for every folder in our inventory (a process that would have to be redone every time new photos are added, which happens frequently), future photo sets will be much more user friendly. This new capacity will lead to some changes in how BeyondDC is structured. The main menu will be slightly redesigned, with a new “Gallery” section that will include new photo sets as they become available. Watch for the change in coming weeks.
In the mean time, check out our first Gallery, a sample of what the DX6490 can do. Apr 5, 2004
Historic urbanity, seat of modern sprawl
An historic and graceful town, Leesburg has served as capital of the United States, been home to presidents, and seen battles fought nearby. Today it's an oasis of urban grace in one of the most sprawling counties in the country. BeyondDC profiles it here. Jan 18, 2004
Give me rail, or give me death!
Maybe death is an exaggeration. If the Purple Line ends up as a mostly useless bus, as Governor Ehrlich proposes, BeyondDC isn’t going to shut down. We may, however, move to Canada. If you want to avoid that unpleasant circumstance, or more importantly, would like to do you part to make sure we get decent transit useful to a large population, go to the links provided below and submit public comments DEMANDING rail instead of BRT. Nov 23, 2003
Purple Line / Bi-County Transitway
Baltimore Green Line
Baltimore Red Line
Yes, we know there hasn’t been an update in quite a while, but we promise we’re still here. Actually, the reason there hasn’t been an update is we’re hard at work on two large projects for the site - the final version of our Transit Vision and the long-delayed Construction Projects section. Both these undertakings require so much work that we just don’t have time to continue with regular Profile additions.
Another minor piece of business: The email address firstname.lastname@example.org has been turned off. Unfortunately, the address had been spidered by so many spam-bots that we were getting hundreds of advertisements a day and often missed legitimate emails either because they never got delivered or we didn’t see them amidst the mass of spam. The solution is a new Contact Form which, we hope, will allow users to continue contacting us with ease while making it difficult for bots to pick up our address. Nov 1, 2003
Arlington’s Once and Future King
In the barbaric times before Metro Clarendon was center to the Arlington County scene. Recent growth in this young, active community begs the question, will it be again? Decide for yourself. Sep 23, 2003
A New Future for Metro
A modern streetcar in Portland, OR
First, some housekeeping: BeyondDC is settled in to our new digs for one last semester in Colorado. For the past three weeks our apartment - er, office - hasn’t had internet access, which severely restricted our ability to work on the site. We’re all set up now, though, so expect more frequent updates.
On to the fun: Over the summer we developed a draft plan for the future of rapid transit in the DC area. That is, we developed a vision of the future we think should materialize, as opposed to simply reporting the current state of actual proposals (as was done with our older, now somewhat obsolete Transit Feature). With hundreds of miles of new service, new modes, new technology, and even a few changes to existing service, the plan is extensive and radical, but wholly within the realm of reason, given appropriate shifts in transportation funding priorities. Take a look. Tell us what you think. Sep 13, 2003
An historic port town, and at one time the second largest city in America, Baltimore is Washington's blue-collar cousin to the north, and center to the second component in our combined metropolitan region of almost 8 million people. It's quirk, eccentricity and grit make it Washington's polar opposite, and a fascinating place to live. Take a look. Aug 14, 2003
Take a shortcut
To make message board access easier from off site we've built in a shortcut - an easier to remember URL. Rather than typing out beyonddc.com/cgi-bin/ikonboard/ikonboard.cgi, users can now type in the simple and easy to remember beyonddc.com/forum. So that's it, guys and girls, there are no more legitimate excuses not to post. All the cool kids are doin' it. Jul 21, 2003
Northerners call it Bull Run
Nationally well known for two large Civil War battles fought nearby, Manassas is a city positioned to either reap major rewards from densification, or be passed over by sprawl. BeyondDC profiles it here.
Jul 11, 2003
Those skyscrapers across the river...
Directly across the Potomac River from Georgetown, Rosslyn is Northern Virginia's closest link to Washington, and is the location of the only tall buildings visible from the National Mall. It's also an interesting and somewhat paradoxical place. BeyondDC profiles Rosslyn here. Jun 29, 2003
BeyondDC does Norfolk
In a new feature, BeyondDC tours Norfolk with more than 50 pictures of our near-neighbor 200 miles to the south. Sitting at the confluence of the James River and Chesapeake Bay, the city is home to centuries old settlements, the US Navy's Atlantic Fleet, and a surprisingly healthy urban environment. Enjoy.
Jun 14, 2003
Looking for a few good men
BeyondDC is looking to take on a volunteer or two assigned to help gather news stories for the forum. Responsibilities would include checking the Post and other news outlets for stories pertinent to the built environment of the Washington / Baltimore region, and posting them here. We're talking 10-15 minutes once a week or so - nothing major.
As a non-profit site run by a poor college kid, no pay will be involved. You will, however, get a spiffy email@example.com email address, as well the fame and glory associated with being able to start new threads in the News forum. Applicants should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org including your name, a short description of who you are, and news outlets you're prepared to take responsibility for. Jun 9, 2003
Suburb on Steroids
Everyone is a number
Our profile for Tysons Corner is online. Hopefully we'll be getting more profiles up again in the near future, now that BeyondDC has settled in to new digs for the summer and actually has time to update.Jun 2, 2003
Want to know what kind of traffic BeyondDC gets? For April, our first full month with the new design, we got an average of 289 unique visitors per day (5,782 for the entire month). The heaviest day was Tuesday the 22nd when we got 425 unique visits. Google is our top referrer, followed by SkyscraperPage (where we run a banner ad). The most visited pages were:
- Profiles Start Page
- Skyscraper List
- Transit Feature
- Downtown, DC Profile
- Alexandria Profile
- Bethesda Profile
- Silver Spring Profile
- Kentlands Feature
New Town meets New Urbanism
Our profile for Reston is online. It includes about 50 new pictures, mostly from older parts of town previously unexplored such as the Lake Anne and South Lakes village centers. Apr 27, 2003
Kentlands and the new urbanism
Single family housing done right
The Kentlands feature, detailing the first example of a permanent New Urbanist neighborhood, is back online. There have been a few minor changes but overall it’s more or less the same as the old tour. Apr 14, 2003
Moving in notes
There are a handful of generally housekeeping and moving-in type changes that have been made. They range from very minor (a slight resize of randomly generated images) to somewhat noticeable (a restructure of discussion pages in the forum).
We’ve already received a number of responses from users concerning the redesign, and have implemented some suggestions with today’s update. If you haven’t done so yet, please head over to the forum and tell us what you think. Apr 4, 2003
Notice a change? A short explanation may be in order. BeyondDC version 1 was tiny compared to the site that’s grown from it. Originally only a handful of cities and buildings were profiled, and our photo collection contained just a few dozen images. As the site grew and more features were added version 2 was put in place to handle the increased information, but the layout and organization remained largely the same as before - the changes were mostly cosmetic. Fast forward to 2003: We’ve profiled dozens of cities and neighborhoods, our building list numbers in the hundreds, new features have been added, and our photo collection has grown to include well over three thousand images. So if that was the major problem, why did we totally redesign everything, even the color scheme? Well… the old site was ugly. It’s actually the same problem. The original design was clean and streamlined, but as more and more information was added it became cluttered and unsightly. Thus was born version 3. Some notes:
We hope you enjoy our new site and will continue to bear with us as construction moves forward. Watch this space for future updates and additions. Mar 29, 2003
- The new version isn’t actually complete yet. You may notice a number of inaccessible pages (primarily profiles in Virginia and around Baltimore). We wanted to get the new page online in time for the American Planning Association national conference starting March 29, and that meant not quite finishing everything. The unfinished pages will be added over the next month or two as time permits.
- Likewise there are a handful of edits we haven’t had time to make yet. If you notice something wrong feel free to let us know about any problems in the forum.
- If you’re looking for pictures from a city/neighborhood that’s not online yet, check our images folder.