Loose Lips

5 Building Ideas From the Mayoral Architecture Debate

With Jack Evans and Vince Gray headed to New York and Muriel Bowser and Andy Shallal otherwise occupied, the small candidate crowd at last night's architecture debate must have left the hosts feeling as lonely as sad architect archetype Ted Mosby. The lack of candidates at the District Architecture Center brought about a similar lack of political tension, but that didn't keep the candidates who did show up from having ideas about buildings.

Flex Apartment BuildingsTommy Wells, whose background in the world of "livable, walkable" gave him home-court advantage at the debate, liked the idea of apartment buildings with units that could be expanded into other units after residents have kids.

City-Run Parking Garages: Keeping with the candidates' new devotion to using every available public area to store cars, Reta Lewis said that the District should consider turning city-owned property into city-run parking garages similar to municipal parking garages in Silver Spring, Md.

Vincent Orange proposed his own massive public project in the form of his much-discussed idea to transform RFK Stadium and nearby Langston Golf Course into stadium, a waterpark, and a whole lot of other stuff. When the candidates were asked what city project they'd want to cut the ribbon on in their hypothetical administrations, Orange chose the RFK project.

Make This Guy's Friend the Director of the Office of Planning: With Office of Planning boss and smart growth favorite Harriet Tregoning leaving for the federal government, the candidates were asked who they'd like to replace her with. Tommy Wells was the only candidate to offer names of people he'd like to see in the job, including planner Jeff Speck and smart growth advocate Kaid Benfield.

And then there was write-in candidate Michael J. Green, who promised to appoint an unnamed friend to the position. Green, who came off so poorly with the planners and architects in the room that he twice insisted that he didn't mean to offend them, said that he and his friend had some architecture chops of their own. "We're going to take this city by storm," Green promised. "You're going to see some urban design that you've never seen."

Barcelona, D.C.: When moderator and Washington Business Journal editor Douglas Fruehling asked the candidates what cities the District could learn from, some of the candidates treated it as a loyalty test and refused to name any. "I am going to be fervent in my admiration for Washington, D.C." Green insisted.

Lewis and Wells didn't prove as tight-lipped. Lewis pointed to New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Atlanta, while Wells mentioned Zurich and Barcelona as potential examples for the city. Especially admirable to Wells: Barcelona's street lamps that double as benches.

No Height Act Changes: Maybe LL shouldn't be calling this an "idea" since it looks like the Height Act will be law until mankind forgets how to build above 130 feet, but there it is. All of the candidates at the debate agreed that they opposed changing the Height Act. Wells, who opposed Height Act changes along with nearly all but one of his D.C. Council colleagues, gave the exiting Tregoning a shove out the door on her pet issue. Tregoning's belief that the city needed loosened height limits to keep up with population growth didn't take into account development elsewhere in the city, according to Wells.

"She viewed it in a very linear, two-dimensional way," Wells said.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Tom M

    Height Act and Tregoning seeing it as "two dimensional way." Ha ha. Def THREE dimensions at play..... Geometry humor is tickling my hypotenuse....

  • Tight Lips

    That RFK Project will change the way people view EOTR along with the Northeast side of Southeast.

    The city owned parking lots should be used for non DC residents. If you live in the city, you should be able to park on the street. If you live in MD/VA, you should have to pay for parking during the work hours and at 7pm, the parking should be free.

  • Simone

    Yes we need garages. This is a busy city. People don't move here by choice. Its too small for families who require cars, its not a good place for singles to find a partner, its not a place where you can save or build wealth. People are here for jobs, some fly in for business and others are tourist. The City has allowed developers to extort money from new students, young people and families charging 2200 not 1400.00 for a pet cage kenel-size apartment. There are people who are forced to live in basements but the city does not have any enforceable regulations on non commercial or home apartments. Some of the landlords on Capital Hill are slumlords and charge like the commercial apartments. Some are living not 4 or 6 but 14 in a house. This is not safe or sanitary. If you have to work or go to school here you're stuck with student loans and no money to save unless you have well- to-do parents who are willing to help. You're going broke her unless you're in the military. My friends in the military get 1200.00 more!!! living residential allowance to live in DC as compared to living in other major cities. Doesn't that tell you something. BTW,Ellen Wilson is not a good example of mixed use housing. Check out the mixed use housing in other cities. At least market rent is not the entire student loan payment allowance or someones entire first monthly check.
    Sure this city should be moving toward being sustainable and pedestrian friendly but until such time, which will take time, a couple/mom and child/ren, a young woman starting her career in a big city , everyone for that matter needs parking. The other candidates have a good vision but I like Reta Lewis' practical approach to our current city environment.The garage buildings can be the model for design, sustainability and/or technology as we move forward.

  • Max B

    Wasting city money on parking garages is a great way to subsidize upper middle class and wealthy drivers at the expense of poorer people who have to take the bus or train. It's also a great way to increase traffic by encouraging as many people as possible to drive.

    Hmmm, "Help the rich and increase traffic." Catchy campaign slogan.

  • Simone

    @Mayor Max B 1. The city makes the money not rich people. 2. It's practical for the city's current state for now 3. Convert the garage to another use after or if your pedestrian utopia becomes a reality. In the meantime, I would rather have the convenience of a car for the comfort and safety of my family which includes 2 toddlers and a dog. An occasional walk or public transportation is great but not always feasible.


    I see bowser has David Jannarone as one of her top people working with her campaign, isn't he the one who helped Fenty and his frat brothers steal all the money or should I say get all that money under the table for giving all the city contracts to his frat brothers....yet she screams her hands are clean...looks like she starting early with the swindles

  • David Wrenn

    Lovely discussion about designers own opinion.