City Desk

Neighborhood Watch: Grass Not Greener on the Other Side of Park View


The Issue: In an overhaul of green spaces in the District,  residents in Park View and the surrounding area may be left without a park to view. The Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH), a rolling 272-acre campus, has not been open to the public since 1968—but the community still considers it the neighborhood’s primary green space, and there have been several proposals over the years to open the land to general use. But now the AFRH is planning to develop the northwest southeast part of the site to increase cash flow and the CapitalSpace Draft Plan, a collaboration of D.C. and federal agencies, has no plans to take the space into consideration. Will residents be left with concrete?

Green Trees! Because the campus has existed since 1851, and was even considered public park space by the McMillan Plan, some say the surrounding area has developed without any green space to speak of: Cliff Valenti, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1A chairman, told City Desk: “In other parts of D.C., there are tons of large accessible parks within walking distance… [the plan] really needs to consider equal distribution of park space in our city.” He added that, instead of condos, AFRH should consider leasing the space to the National Park Service to raise revenue.

Green Money! According to the AFRH development plan website, the home was hit with a financial crisis in the 1990s and was permitted by Congress in 2002 to explore a private development option. AFRH says: “New businesses and housing will generate jobs for neighbors, enhance property values and create new tax revenue.” Ross, writing on the blog Prince of Petworth, says, “They are vastly under funded and desperate.”

Next Step: Valenti says the ANC issued a letter of opposition to parts of the plan at its meeting yesterday. In the meantime, tree-lovers have until Dec. 8 to submit comments to CapitalSpace. Jeff Hinkle, a spokesman for the CapitalSpace plan, says, “Our partner agency team is already reviewing comments and discussing responses.”

Photo by Blacknell, Creative Commons Attribution License

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  • Cliff

    You laid out our point of view very well, thanks. There is one factual error, though: The article states "But now the AFRH is planning to develop the northwest part of the site to increase cash flow". NCPC did not approve the plan to develop the northwest corner of the land, only the south east corner, so condos on that property are off the table at this time. In fact, NCPC required the AFRH to work with the community to asses turning it into a public park again. They would need NCPC approval first. A way for them to make money with the current zoning and use of the property would be for a public park leased by DC or NPS or even a conseratory.

  • Lisa

    About that money: Has anyone actually audited the finances of AFRH? The income from active duty military payroll deductions and fines for bad behavior of same must mean a surge in income. And in a few years, won't there be more retiring military to pay the rent and fill the beds? Why do they still need so much money?

  • Blech

    Seriously? I already have to stare at that thing like it's a fucking gated community. Now they're going to just get rid of the green?

  • Blah

    Can't Fenty just funnel millions through various DC agencies to Sinclair Skinner to build a park? Problem solved.

  • DB

    Sinclair to the rescue! Love it!

    The NCPC did discourage development on the Northwest corner after vigorous public opposision (frankly, i never heard a comment in favor of the development at any meeting). But the last time I reviewed their minutes, they also approved development of the Southwest corner.

    This will never stop until congress or DC steps in and designates (or buys, if DC) the space back for preservation.

    I love the obnoxious "our concrete will create jobs for neighborhood residents"... as if we are desperate for low-paying temp construction jobs. Having lived in the neighborhood for many years, my neighbors are now a thoroughly bourgoiesified/gentrified bunch. Houses now go for $500-700k. Very few working-class families remain, given the exploiding tax rates and benefits of cashing out. I don't know any neighbors who are looking for a part-time learned trade in the construction industry. I have one neighbor who owns his own construction business.

    Perhaps some of the few men (there aren't many) I see in the evenings outside the Park-Morton public-subsidized housing complex might be a better demographic? But what's to say they aren't working already? I don't see them during the day. And what's to say they are unemployed construction workers? Not everyone knows how to operate a backhoe, jackhammer, set concrete molds, etc..

    Destroy one of the last native soil parcels in DC... we'll give you some 6-month long shit jobs. And traffic and congestion and noise and a whole bunch of nothing.

    This and Jim Graham's damn publically paid-for CVS make me want to spit.

  • DB

    P.S. - didn't mean to imply sisters shouldn't apply for construction jobs, but the same critique applies. Are we qualified? If not, then it means nothing.

  • PetworthRes

    The part of the AFRH that Park View faces hasn't been on the table for Park View will continue to view green space. The quesiton is really whether what they are looking at will ever be a park, or whether it will continue to be blocked off by barbed wire from public access. I'd be in strong support of the city trying to buy some of the land from AFRH to create a city park.

  • L

    You got a really useful blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Thanks again, Nicholas Wright @ L