Housing Complex

City Imagines Another Future for 14th Street Bus Barn

You know what's a drag? Having a giant brick warehouse with buses coming in and out of it all day take up an entire block on one side of a neighborhood commercial street. That's the reality of 14th Street NW between Buchanan and Decatur. It's frustrated upper 14th Street businesses no end, and even Metro wants to get rid of it, given that it could use some major renovations.

Actually doing so will be tricky, considering that the most obvious relocation—moving the buses to Walter Reed—is a political non-starter. Still, the Office of Planning thinks the bus barn ought to be redeveloped, and outlined how in a new vision strategy thing that's now up for public comment. The 104-year-old building has a landmark application pending, so it's possible that the structure would have to be substantially retained. But that shouldn't be an obstacle: The agency's report envisions a business incubator space along 14th Street and townhouses along the other streets it touches, while retaining some of the interior courtyards.

That's not the only piece of land in the vicinity ripe for redevelopment. The report also identifies the 75,000-square-foot Value Furniture site across the street as having big potential for something larger and mixed-use. To that end, the Office of Planning recommends that part of the strip be rezoned from low to medium density commercial, which would make it more worth a developer's while to purchase and build on the strangely Oriental-themed structure.

The rest of the report is worth a scan as well. Webster to Decatur is just one of three commercial nodes along upper 14th Street that could use some help, which increase in vacancy rates as they move north: Only 8 percent of retail spaces between Spring and Shepherd are empty, compared to 32 percent between Jefferson and Longfellow. The office recommends that the southern cluster, which has fed off Columbia Heights' explosive growth, focus on specialty retail rather than anything that would compete with the big box stores nearby. The northernmost node is supposed to become a "creative arts cluster," attracting artists who would benefit from larger spaces and lower rents.

The other neighborhood plan out for comment at the moment is for Maryland Avenue SW, and was ably reviewed last month over at Southwest: The Little Quadrant That Could.

Illustration by Ed Estes, D.C. Office of Planning