Friday, November 17, 2006

DC to Gain Federal Land in Land Transfer

Washington, DC, will gain about 200 acres of land from the federal government if President Bush signs a recent piece of legislation. The land lies mostly in two parcels sited on either side of the Anacostia River.

The biggest parcel is Poplar Point, a 100-acre site on the eastern side of the Anacostia that is intended as the location of a stadium for the D.C. United soccer team. Also transferred to city control would be Reservation 13, a 66-acre site on the western edge of the river that houses the former D.C. General Hospital campus and is slated for mixed-use development and health-related facilities.
The parcels are intended for development to add land into the District's tax base. Development will probably according to the plans of the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation, which expects big things along the river. At least one parcel will become a sports facility.
Plans for the Poplar Point site include a mix of high- and low-rise housing and retail, as well the eventual site of the soccer stadium. According to the land swap, 30 acres of the site would be developed, and the rest would be preserved as parkland.
A large portion of Poplar Point is already parkland, or at least undeveloped enough to be treated as such. While it is not great bird habitat, several species do use it in all seasons. It has some large (for DC) overgrown fields, as well as some edge/riverine habitat. Hopefully at least some of this will be left in place or at least allowed to regenerate elsewhere.

One issue that is sure to arise is the condition of the land. Much of the land on both sides of the Anacostia River is fill, since the river was originally lined with freshwater marshes. Because the dredging and filling was done in the days before environmental regulations, no one really knows what was dumped there. One fill site north of RFK is known to have highly toxic substances just underneath the surface. If the same holds true for the Reservation 13 and Poplar Point sites, substantial remediation may need to be done before anything can be built there.