TRANSFORMING DC'S OUTDATED MILITARY FACILITIES INTO CITY REVENUES
Although the originally surveyed District of Columbia encompassed 100 square miles, the 39 square miles on the Virginia side of the Potomac returned to Virginia state control within some 50 years. The remaining 61 square miles are devoted to many different uses, and only about half of it is available to generate revenues for the city government.
Even more troubling is the fact that barely one-quarter of DC's potentially revenue-productive acreage (i.e., 4000 acres) actually generates more revenues than it consumes in municipal expenditures, primarily for public services to the poor.
Six different military-oriented facilities within DC account for some 1850 acres of prime land and add virtually nothing to DC's financial posture, or to the nation's military posture. Properly developed they could add very substantially to DC's long-term financial well-being.
In fact, within days of originally publishing this section, NARPAC learned that there are now plans afoot to transfer the Navy Security Station to GSA (which is good) for greater use by the Department of Homeland Security (which is bad). It could be far more revenue-productive to DC if redeveloped with high-end, high- density residential units similar to those in the immediate vicinity.
Two current military installations are now helping DC economic development in very significant ways. One is building commercial employment very significantly. The other is becoming directly involved in trying to reduce the poverty that costs DC so much.
Three other military bases are almost certain to stay in DC indefinitely, but could readily enhance- their activities to generate more city revenues consistent with their own missions.
Three much larger military facilities exist only short distances beyond DC's borders, and control some 22,500 acres (three-quarters the total size of DC!). They could easily absorb the relatively few significant functions performed by the six bases NARPAC believes should be closed.
The well-accepted "BRAC" process for realigning or closing military bases is only exercised every few years. In fact, the last one was ten years ago. But a new round is planned for Congressional approval in 2005. This is a very important, but time-limited, opportunity for the DC government to step up and ask that the Pentagon close some of its seriously under-utilized (and hence expensive) bases. DC needs additional revenues to become a world class national capital city. It can be a rare win-win-win situation for the Defense Department, the national capital city, and for Americans everywhere who would like their capital city to be the world's best.
[NARPAC has drafted an open letter to the Secretary of Defense on this issue, and it is used as June's editorial which can be found here, with other NARPAC editorials.]
And finally, by the beginning of October, 2005 this BRAC round was completed , potentially making available some valuable new property that can make a major impact on DC's financial security. But it also suggests some important areas where DC leadership can better prepare themselves for the "post-Iraq BRAC round".
Like most "core cities" in the US, DC suffers from a limited capability to raise the revenues it needs to take care of its municipal fiscal needs, both short and long-term. Many of these costs are associated directly or indirectly with DC's disproportionate share of poor residents. High poverty rates substantially increase the costs of public education, safety and justice, and health and human services, the vast majority of all city expenditures. One basic question for long-range planners anxious to achieve a financially sound city is how to improve the net revenue return from its limited land within fixed boundaries, while still heeding the wishes and concerns of its present population. The achievement of such productivity improvements is fundamental to NARPAC's goal of improving the image of our nation's capital both domestically and abroad. And these issues are discussed in scores of places throughout this web site.
There are many stakeholders in DC's limited 29,000 acres of "usable" acres. These are summarized on the chart below. Virtually none of the acreage lies fallow. Only half of it is not in the hands of the federal or DC governments. And 20% of that acreage is permanently settled by a broad variety of tax-exempt groups, from Metro to cemeteries. Of the 12,000 relatively fungible city acres, about 2000 are either zoned "industrial" (along railroad tracks), "vacant", or "other". They will be developed with difficulty.
Of the 12,000 federal acres, some 8500 are essentially "un-developed" parklands (i.e., no significant buildings). Of the remaining 3500 about half are under the Department of Defense, while the rest are split amongst all other federal agencies. What's important to understand, however, is that those 1850 military acres are almost half the size of all DC productive residential area, and over twice the size of all productive commercial acreage.
NET PRODUCTIVITY OF DC LAND Of DC's eligible 10,000 acres, roughly 2000 are zoned commercial, and 8000 are residential. But it is important to recognize that most of the acreage does not generate as much in revenue as it consumes in expenditures. NARPAC has returned to this issue any number of times from DC's people and land productivity and household productivity, to productivity by Census Tract, for Ward 8 and in limited neighborhoods like Columbia Heights. The early work is summarized in NARPAC's briefing on economic trends by ward.
NARPAC's latest pass at analyzing DC's lagging land productivity is summarized in the chart cluster below, using more recent budget data and somewhat more refined allocations of city spending on items like police forces. The left hand chart displays summary aggregations of revenues (positive) and expenditures (negative) for the city as a whole. The top right hand chart allocates both revenues and expenditures to each of the city's eight wards, showing that cost of services is by far the highest in those wards where the revenues from residents or businesses are the lowest. The "net productivity" is displayed in the bottom right hand chart. Wards 2 and 3 are the only ones that are "revenue productive", Wards 1,4, and 6 are essentially neutral, while 5, 7, and 8 absorb significant resources from 2 and 3. The truly productive acres, then, are less than 800 zoned commercial, and about 3200 residential. The benefit of being provided with some 1500-odd "new" acres, whose use and customs are not already pre-ordained, could have a huge impact on the city's long-term financial viability and first-class standing.
NOTE: newly available aerial photos of DC
(The following sections of this chapter make extensive use of one of DC's most intriguing new Internet capabilities. In March of 2004, the city government's web site unveiled its new computerized "DC Guide" which allows the citizen-user to type in any address under "Find It" (in a certain format) and have displayed (or down-loaded) either a colored line map or an aerial photo of the location and its surroundings at any of nine different scales. Though some of the photos are somewhat dated (and do not show current redevelopment in progress!), or are too sensitive to be shown at all in times of war (!) (Capitol, White House, and Veep House), it still represents a significant new capability which NARPAC cannot resist applying to these sites in question.)
The Three Most Unnecessary Facilities
The click-up aerial photo to the left shows three large military installations, all three of which have outlived their usefulness, and all three of which prevent normal economic development of the nation's capital along almost 3.5 miles of the east bank of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. Together they comprise almost exactly 1000 acres, about the same size as all of commercial "downtown DC" north of the National Mall. The red outlines show the three individual military properties: the Anacostia Naval Station to the north, across the Anacostia River from Haines Point and Ft. McNair; Bolling Air Force Base in the center and larger than the other two combined; and the Naval Research Laboratory to the south, abutting the Blue Plains sewage treatment plant.
The east edge of the properties is delineated by Interstate 295 which runs up from the Capital Beltway (I495) where it crosses into Maryland from Virginia across the soon-to-be-replaced Wilson Bridge. I295 connects with the South Capitol Street Bridge at Poplar Point, just off the top of the montage, and continues north to connect with Rt50 from DC to Annapolis, MD. East of that main road are the residential areas of Ward 8, DC's poorest. Ballou High School is the large building and athletic facility right center. Toward the top right is a portion of the large, mostly empty St. Elizabeth's Hospital complex which has a commanding view of downtown over the Anacostia Naval Station.
The only Metrorail station in this entire area is just off the top righthand corner of the aerial photo. On the other hand, the blue line running down through the three military properties is an existing, now unused, CSX railroad right of way . DC transportation planners are presently hoping to establish a local light rail system along upper sections of this line. NARPAC believes that if these military properties can be released for commercial development, then a first class Metrorail system is deserved, similar to the one that generated the Jefferson-Davis corridor and Crystal City in Arlington and Alexandria.
Anacostia Naval Station (ANS) (260 acres)
This "Naval Air Station" was initially established in 1917 for the use of seaplanes on the rivers. It was shared with Army aircraft operating from grass runways until At that time, air traffic became heavy enough to require the Army Air Corps to build its own Bolling Airfield next door to the south. Both fields were upgraded during WW II, and the ANS stationed a permanent squadron of reserve 'Corsair' fighter attack aircraft there in 1946. Early photographs of these airfields are available on Paul Freeman's web site on Abandoned and Little-Known Airfields.
The ANS had also become a center for interpretation of navy aerial photos, and it remains the headquarters of the Navy Imaging Command and the Naval Media Center. These particular functions could be performed virtually anywhere. More important, President Eisenhower established the use of helicopters for presidential travel in 1957, and Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) became a permanent tenant at ANS, complete with hangars, landing pads, living quarters, underground fuel storage, and ground support equipment. The large building and concrete apron lower left in the ANS facility take up perhaps a third of the entire property. As helicopters have improved and the capital become more vulnerable, it is not clear that HMX-1 need be located so near the White House, but of all the functions on these three bases, this is perhaps the only one quite easy to rationalize. However, it might now operate as well from the large Marine Base at Quantico, VA or from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland (see below).
There are other functions still performed on the ANS site, but which could surely be done on less prime real estate. The White House Communications Agency (!) of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) (!) is located at ANS along with the Navy housing office. And typical of any military installation, ANS also has a Navy relief society, a fire department, an auto hobby shop, a commander's home, bachelor officer quarters and club, an enlisted personnel club, a marina, a family service center and a child development center. Virtually none of these activities provide revenues for the nation's capital city.
Bolling Air Force Base (BAFB) (550 acres)
Bolling Field had three missions during WW II: it supplied air transportation and other services for "official Washington"; it was ready to participate in the air defense of the nation's capital; and it supplied trained men to Army combat organizations. For a brief period in the early 1940's it was GHQ, Army Air Force, and for n even briefer period it was the Headquarters Strategic Air Command for eight months in 1946. Prior to that, during WWII, personnel stationed or housed at BAFB reached 5200, many of whom worked at the newly-opened Pentagon across the Potomac. In 1962, all fixed wing air operations were ceased at NAS and BAFB both because of their proximity to each other (and to National Airport) and because newly introduced military and commercial jet aircraft required far longer runways and more air space.
Since the middle sixties, BAFB has been another military installation looking for tenants and useful functions. It was part of the Military Airlift Command for a while, and it was home base for the "Sacred Cow", the four-engined, prop-driven, official aircraft for Presidents Roosevelt and Truman. It is now home base for the headquarters of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the Air Force Chief Surgeon, and the Air Force Chief of Chaplains. It houses the Air Force Band and Honor Guard. It also retains all normal military base accouterments from hobby shops, theater, bowling, commissary, credit union, and dental clinic, to officer and enlisted clubs, dining halls, fitness center, library, marina, gas station, thrift shop, and youth center. It also has some very good single family housing units, as shown in the housing detail to the right. There isn't a neighborhood in Ward 8 that can claim many of these amenities, nor access to the river!
The largest tenant organization recently added to BAFB is the Defense Intelligence Agency Center (DIAC), prominent in the upper right hand corner of the base. There is no question that this organization serves a useful service to the Pentagon and its Military Departments. But its location seems completely random, and it is not co-located with any other significant intelligence organizations. It occupies perhaps 10 acres (with surface parking) and could almost certainly be accommodated at either Ft. Meade (see below) or even perhaps at the CIA compound in Virginia. In any event, it does not need to deny the nation's capital a better use of 550 prime acres.
Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) (170 acres)
The smallest of the three military facilities is the Naval Research Laboratory to the south, bordering the Blue Plains sewage treatment plant, not in itself a great calling card for the city, though it does serve an essential function. NRL was the first modern research institution created within the Navy, but it is not clear from their web site that any creative research is still conducted on the premises. Rather, it was declared in 1992 to be the "corporate headquarters" for the far- flung Navy RDT&E facilities across the US, and as such encompasses credit for work done elsewhere. To complete the picture, it is, like the two bases above it, a "controlled access facility" which discourages visitors even to the point of advertising inadequate parking facilities. Americans require prior reservations and foreign nationals require "special processing". Considering the administrative and bureaucratic nature of its mission, and its lack of any significant historic value, its continued presence within the District of Columbia appears to be completely arbitrary.
Naval Security Station (Homeland Security HQ) (40 acres)
The click-up aerial photo below shows Ward Circle in lower left center. It is at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, NW (running diagonally down the left side) and Nebraska Ave, NW(running up towards the right). The former Naval Security Station is outlined in red. Bottom left is a portion of the American University campus, with its huge open parking lot on as-yet undeveloped property south of Nebraska Ave. Bottom center is shown a series of upscale town houses (Westover Place) south of Massachusetts Ave, and high-density upscale apartment houses (the Greenbriar, and the Berkshire) north of the avenue. In the upper right hand corner is the National headquarters of the Presbyterian Church, and below it, in the notch cut out of the naval property, the Washington headquarters of the National Broadcasting Company and WRC-TV. The large building top center is the chancery of the Embassy of Japan, with the Embassy of Sweden now right next door. Upscale single family homes in the neighborhood of American University Park are at upper left. This is the beginning of the residential area NARPAC has referred to elsewhere as DC's "gold coast".
The major function of the Naval Security Station was, for many years, to provide the headquarters for the Navy's far-flung communications security activities. In the official obfuscating jargon of classified military activities:
The Naval Security Group Command, under the command of the Chief of Naval Operations, performs cryptologic and related functions; provides operates and maintains an adequate Naval Security Group; approves requirements for the use of existing Naval Security Group capabilities and resources; coordinates the execution of approved cryptologic programs; exercises command authority over, and is responsible for the primary support of, the shore activities of the Naval Security Group Command as a naval service-wide, and provides other activities and resources as may be assigned.
NARPAC believes that over recent years many of those functions moved to Ft. Meade (see below) or elsewhere, but, as seems often to be the case, some residual activities remained and the Nebraska Ave facility remained as another under-utilized property in Navy hands. The site includes, for instance, a Navy Chapel often the scene of memorable weddings in full military regalia. With the formation of the Department of Homeland Security, the need for a suitable headquarters complex, even if temporary, was foremost. The Navy Security Station was an immediately available resource, and already operated with tight security. No decision has been made as to whether this will become the permanent home for this new and apparently permanent bureaucracy, but the Congress has approved funding to lease a quarter-million square feet (enough for 1000 employees) in an office building anywhere in the national capital region. When the site was announced in January, 2003, it was intended that only about 100 staff members would be relocated to this naval site, but the actual current population is not available to NARPAC.
The Nebraska Ave facility does not look like any other federal cabinet department headquarters. It is a sprawling, collegiate campus, featuring only one four-story building. At least one-third of the area is devoted to surface parking and tennis courts, and the two entrances provide awkward traffic conditions on both Massachusetts and Nebraska Avenues. The nearest Metrorail station is a 10-15 minute walk away, and there are few if any nearby amenities for a sizable staff of government workers. It should also be noted that such a daytime workforce generates very little net revenue for the city compared, say, to a new high-density residential complex for as many as 4000 empty-nester, professional tax-payers similar to the two developments to its immediate south (one on each side of Massachusetts Ave). The use of this site with its existing low-density buildings as a permanent government office building should be liable for a legal challenge by the residents of the District.
US Soldiers' and Airmen's Home (USSAH) (320 acres)
This large tract is bordered to its east by North Capitol Street, the boundary between Northwest and Northeast Washington. To its immediate south are a veteran's hospital, and some of the most modern medical facilities in DC, including its famous Children's Hospital. To its east lie the extensive properties of the Catholic diocese, including Catholic University. In fact, the empty sixty acres left center in the click-up aerial photo was just sold by USSAH to the diocese for $22M!, thus leaving it off DC's tax roles in perpetuity. To the north and west of the site are the modest single family and row houses so typical to much of DC.
All well and good, but other than by historic precedent when most of the District was empty land, there is no justification, military or otherwise, for this property to be kept indefinitely off the city's tax roles. In fact, the land is not owned by the military, but by a separate federal agency. Nonetheless, it is a peculiarly military-oriented activity, and NARPAC believes it would be up to the military to find an equivalently bucolic site elsewhere. Although some buildings on the property have been granted landmark status, the vast majority of the site could be available for 'best use' high-productivity development.
The NCPC Comprehensive Plan mentions this site as a potential location for future "embassy centers" (which would also limit their revenue value to DC). NARPAC believes some totally new upscale private sector use should be found for this property which could help improve the surrounding economy. At a time when the city is trying, no matter how foolishly, to raise its population density from 70 to over 80 persons per acre, there is little sound rationale for retaining a pastoral, tax-free USSAH within the city limits with less that five persons per acre. Several nearby military facilities might well provide equivalent, but more modern, facilities on considerably fewer acres. These are noted below.
Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BuMed)(18 acres)
The aerial photo below shows the general area around the 18-acre site originally established in 1844 as the site of a Naval Observatory on "Observatory Hill" (outlined in red.) The very large structure near the center of the photo is the State Department building. Directly above it are the circular auditorium and curved office building of the World Health Organization (WHO). In the upper left hand corner, the large rectangular building (only partially shown) is the Kennedy Center. It is now scheduled to have an "urban deck" added over the parkway that isolates the center (and presidential monument) from the rest of monumental Washington. At bottom center is a segment of the circular sidewalk surrounding the Lincoln Memorial just off camera to the south. The Potomac River is in the lower left corner, and the west end of the national mall in the lower right corner. The statue of Albert Einstein, the below-ground level Vietnam War Memorial Wall and the added statue to its nurses can only be discerned by those familiar with the area. The nearest Metrorail station is four blocks north of the WHO buildings on 23rd Street which runs north/south between BuMed and State.
The original naval observatory moved up to the circle on Massachusetts Ave in 1893, and its original building was first taken over by the Naval Museum of Hygiene (1894-1902), and then turned into the Naval Medical School plus a newly built Naval Medical Hospital (1903-1908). In 1942, the hospital functions were transferred to the new Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, but left behind until now is the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, and several senior naval officers' stately homes.
It appears to include about eight acres of surface parking as indicated on this closer view.
The Observatory Hill facility is completely closed to the public: no tours are offered.It is NARPAC's hands down choice for either the clumsiest cover-up of some more esoteric secret land use, or the least well used federal property in DC.
Seldom has NARPAC published a recommendation on a Monday, and seen its (partial) acceptance reported by the Washington Post on the very next Thursday. In essence, we suggested that the Navy relinquish several of its underused properties within DC (totaling several hundred acres) for more revenue-productive use by the city in the next round of Congressionally- authorized military base realignment and closures (BRAC). One site proposed for better use was the 38-acre Naval Security Station in Northwest DC, currently shared by remnants of Navy communications security activities, and the temporary home of the new Department of Homeland Security. A decision has now been announced to remove the remaining 1700-odd naval personnel to other locations outside the District and to transfer the property to the General Services Administration (GSA), the "federal landlord", by January 2005. As part of a consolidation process, some additional 2000 homeland security personnel would be brought in, doubling their current employment there.
Once this valuable property is under the control of the GSA, further transfers may be possible for more lucrative government or commercial use. In fact, this is the history of the transition of the Southeast Business Center (which originally split off from the Navy Yard to GSA, and later made available for productive DC commercial use). According to the Washington Post, this decision is being "hailed by DC leaders as a victory for the city's economy". By NARPAC, it is being hailed as a welcome first, but tiny step in the right direction. The good news is twofold: a) military ownership is relinquished to GSA in the near future; and b) it happens perhaps two years before the ongoing BRAC process will be concluded. The bad news is that the property remains in government hands, and increases the risks that Homeland Security will turn it into a permanent and still-wasted, revenue-neutral, government property many-fold below its potential "best use". Mercifully, that final decision is apparently still several years off.
Although there are many areas in DC worthy of redevelopment, few of them have the natural appeal for additional high-density, high-end residential uses, and no others also offer some 31 contiguous acres on relatively flat land. It is a natural extension of the city's most upscale revenue-productive neighborhoods, discussed previously under NARPAC's recommendations on the candidates for closure under the current BRAC process. In addition, there are seven acres technically part of this same "square" that, although still zoned low-density residential, now host a commercial enterprise (NBC news, which conveniently contains some of DC's tallest radio/TV towers). This property (shown to left) is also substantially underdeveloped although it does provide some tax income to DC. Redeveloped together, they could provide very substantial revenues.
Furthermore, this square is bordered by properties with relatively few development-resisting residents. It is bounded to the southeast by the northern extremity of Glover-Archibald Park (with its undeveloped right-of-way down to Georgetown) and by high density multiple unit homes (McLean Gardens) on the other side. To its northeast lies the NBC commercial site, and beyond it a large church center. To its northwest across Nebraska Avenue lies university property currently under development, and an embassy completed only a few years ago. To its southwest on each side of Massachusetts Avenue are relatively new high density, upscale residential condos (Berkshire, Greenbrier, and Foxhall) and townhouses (Westover Place). Diagonally across Ward Circle is the main campus of high density American University. Hence, in the immediate vicinity there are few NIMBYs who can plausibly object to primarily residential redevelopment of this site. The schematics below illustrate a hypothetical "before and after" in which existing residential properties currently located just south of the site are duplicated within it at the same density, and the NBC building (red square) is substantially upgraded:
There are less than a dozen significant buildings on the main site, and altogether about 556,000 sqft of useful office space. About one-third of the total area is surface parking lots, and there are tennis courts and a popular Navy Chapel. The older buildings are Georgian brick, originally built in the 1920s for a girl's seminary, and essentially commandeered to support the WWII 'war effort' (see below). They bear little resemblance to normal government office buildings and look sadly outdated compared to the more modern residential buildings nearby, to say nothing of the bright and bustling American University campus across the circle.
It is difficult to believe that the 31-acre site, as is, would reach full employment capacity with about 4000 employees. With a resulting FAR (floor area ratio) of only 0.40, this property utilizes only about 10% of allowable DC high-density occupancy, and only 4% of allowable Arlington County high-density. Moreover,it is not within DC's recommended "transit-oriented development" boundary around the only nearby, and very underutilized, Tenleytown metro station.
DC assessors maintain up-to-date assessments of all DC properties, whether they can tax them or not. The 38-acre Square 1722 contains both the NBC site, and the Naval Security Station. The 7- acre NBC site has a property value of $7.0M (oddly low) and improvements of $9.4M. for a squat, square two-story structure The remaining 31 acres are valued at over $70M and the improvements at only $44M. That the buildings are worth less than the land is a first clue that property is seriously underdeveloped. For instance, the Berkshire apartment building at the southeast corner of the Navy property is valued at $39M while its 3.2 acres are valued at a very steep $12M, still generating over three times as much from its residential structures. A nearby low-rise commercial structure at 3201 New Mexico Ave yields a ratio of 2.8 between structures and land values.
It is also possible to make very credible land productivity estimates of how much of DC's annual locally-generated revenues are derived from commercial and residential land uses. These in turn can be compared to the total assessed value of DC's taxed properties. NARPAC has generated these numbers several times to indicate the current and latent revenue-productivity of its limited taxable acreage, but the technique can as well be applied to the assessed value. Currently, DC generates about $7.00 in total revenues per 100 dollars of assessed residential property, and about $4.70 per $100 in commercial properties. Note that, for simplicity here, there is no consideration of taxes generated privately by employees of businesses (e.g., incidental sales taxes). If those employees are also residents, then the revenues they generate are related (in this analysis) to the property values of their homes, not their businesses.
The net result of these dry analytical ramblings is that the present and potential revenue- productivity of Square 1722 can be approximated for illustrative purposes. This is done on the table below. It assumes a) that the NBC site can be further developed as a tax-paying commercial site, and b) that the "best use" for the re-incarnated Naval Security Station property would be high-density residential, after the style of the existing neighboring properties.
This very crude estimate suggests that the productivity of this 38-acre site can easily be raised by a factor of fifty from less than $1 million to greater than $44 million. While that may not seem like much, it is more than 1% of all DC's locally generated revenues, and is more than DC spends for parks and recreation, public libraries, or its departments of motor vehicles, or transportation! The present enthusiasm for keeping the Homeland Security Headquarters in the heart of the only part of DC that generates positive net residential revenues is lost on NARPAC.
Two famous old military facilities in DC, also under the Navy Department, have become prime examples of good cooperation between the military and the District, and of the very profitable application of the BRAC process. The click-up aerial photo below shows the full 110 acres of the original Navy Yard outlined in red. The left (west) half was taken over years ago by the General Services Administration (dashed line) to become the "Southeast Federal Center" but it remained undeveloped until the Navy Yard itself was revitalized. The left edge of the photo is South Capitol Street, with Ft. McNair further off camera to the west (see below). The Anacostia River forms the southern boundary of the Yard, although in the early days, many of the shipyard workers lived on the Anacostia side of the river. Poplar Point is bottom center, and is an important element of redevelopment as part of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative. The 11th street bridges and highway form the eastern boundary of the yard, and the 11-acre triangular area further to the east is well along in combined commercial/residential development as the 'Maritime Plaza'. (The aerial photo is at least two years old.)
The Southeast Freeway runs across the top of the photo, and to a limited extent it separates the bulk of the city from its waterfront. Some planners without budgetary responsibilities would like to tear down this highway (for several billion dollars) and reconstitute Virgina Avenue SE as a 19th century tree-lined boulevard. NARPAC thinks there are more creative ways to limit the "barrier effect" of that important artery. Top center is the Marine Corps Barracks (red rectangle) just above the Freeway, and the Arthur Capper Dwellings housing project (red triangle) just below. M Street, SE, forms the northern boundary of the Navy Yard. It has recently been completely re-landscaped, the north side of the street is getting new office buildings, and the SEFC is at last in the early stages of full redevelopment, centered around a large new commercial office building to be leased to a major federal agency (and thus provide tax revenues to the city).
There is a Metro station of the Green Line on M Street SE which will serve the SEFC, though it is almost too far to walk to the Navy Yard after which it is named. The Green Line turns south under the river to the Anacostia station just off camera bottom center. Another Metro station, Potomac Avenue on the Blue/Orange Line, is located at the extreme upper right corner, and remains essentially completely undeveloped. NARPAC has long suggested that the Navy Yard station and the Potomac Avenue station be connected with another station added nearer the east end of the Navy Yard. No such plans are included in Metro's very limited urban expansion plans.
Navy Yard (66 acres)
(drawn largely from the GlobalSecurity.org web site) The Washington Navy Yard is the oldest Navy shore facility. Founded in 1799 on land set aside by George Washington, the Navy Yard first served as a shipbuilding facility. During World War I the yard housed manufacturing facilities which produced various guns used in the war. Presently, the Navy Yard is home to a variety of activities, including the headquarters of the Naval District, Washington. NDW functions as the military coordinator for most of the navy units in the Washington, Northern Virginia and Maryland areas. The Navy Yard has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service and features the Navy Museum (established in 1961).
It is important to note here that the Navy Yard has already been subject to several Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) activities (see ahead) that have significantly increased its financial contributions to DC coffers. The largest BRAC project to be performed here, authorized nine years ago in 1995, was recently completed. The Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) has been relocated to the Navy Yard from its former location in Crystal City, Arlington, VA. The NAVSEA headquarters BRAC project included renovation of two historic buildings, demolition of five buildings, and construction of one new building and a new eight-level parking garage. This newly completed BRAC project provides office space for 4,100 people, parking for 1500 cars, and upgraded roads and utilities at the Navy Yard. The estimated cost for this design/construction project was about $130M. Not included in this total are the associated developments outside the Navy Yard to provide thousands of offices for contractors who support NAVSEA, primarily along M Street SE.
During an earlier BRAC project authorized in 1991 (?), the headquarters of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command and the Office of Judge Advocate General were relocated to the Navy Yard from Alexandria, VA. This construction project involved the renovation and adaptive use of four historic buildings to provide space for about 500 Navy personnel. Another new facility at the Yard is a five-level parking garage that was built to support some of the personnel who arrived under the various BRAC actions. The new garage was built on the site of a former surface parking lot and can accommodate 1,000 cars.
Marine Barracks (11 acres)
(adapted from its web site) Meanwhile, the equally historic Marine Corps Barracks has taken on a major community-related expansion. The Barracks was established in 1801 and is the "oldest Post of the Corps". It has been the residence of every Commandant of the Marine Corps since 1806 and is the oldest public building in continuous use in the nation's capital. The site was picked by President Thomas Jefferson because it was close to the Navy yard and "within marching distance of the White House". Until 1901, it was the Marine Corps Headquarters, as well as the training site for new officers and recruits. It remains the home of the US Marine Band ("the President's Own"), and the home base for Marine support (guards, etc.) of the President (at the White House and Camp David), and of the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Equally important, in NARPAC's view, the Barracks and its marine contingent are also home to the Marine Corps Institute, the Corps' "distance training center" which is responsible for all non-resident military education programs. This permits Marines worldwide to continue their education through 'correspondence courses', a valuable concept not available to the city's many high-school drop-outs who remain largely unemployed in civilioan life.
Over the years, the Marines have undertaken a variety of community-assistance projects in what has become one of the poorest (and highest-crime) sections of DC. Most recently, however, the Corps has agreed to take over and rebuild the abandoned Arthur Capper Dwellings public housing project just south of the Freeway. It will provide additional modern living facilities for enlisted Marines. As part of that major local rehabilitation program, joint-use athletic facilities will be built which will provide opportunities for Marines to more closely interact with neighborhood youth, and perhaps with their largely dysfunctional parents as well. The alleviation of poverty is clearly as important to DC financially as increasing revenues to pay for its perpetuation.
Walter Reed Medical Center (110 acres)
This major medical facility retains a special role in the nation's capital primarily for its treatment of seriously wounded soldiers from all the US's 20th century wars, as well as its ongoing ones. It is located near the northern extremity of DC, bounded on the west by 16th Street and Upper Rock Creek Park, and on the east by another evolving "gateway to DC", Georgia Avenue. Beyond Aspen Street to its south, lie middle income residential neighborhoods. As is clearly shown on the click-up aerial photo below, it is still using only a fraction of its total property, and a very substantial share of that is for surface parking.
Construction of Walter Reed General Hospital was authorized by Congress and admitted its first patients in 1909. By the end of World War I, its patient capacity had grown from 80 to 2500 beds. A new 10-story tall main hospital building, with 5500 rooms covering 28 acres of floor space, was dedicated in 1977. The medical center currently admits some 16,000 patients a year. Like its companion Bethesda Naval Hospital located just outside DC city limits, it also on occasion treats ailing prominent government officials and notable foreign personalities.
To its credit, the Walter Reed Medical Center has added several tenant institutions and facilities to its roster (according to its web site). These include the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research; the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology; the Army Physical Disability Agency, and several smaller units. The Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, if in fact such an agency exists on Observatory Hill, could easily be transplanted here, or even more likely, to the equally spacious grounds of the Bethesda Naval Hospital (not described herein). More revenue- productive uses could also be added or placed on carved-off corners of the property. Any number of commercial medically-oriented companies might be attracted to the area, particularly those involved in the expanding field of "bionic prosthetics" (a fantasy NARPAC term attempting to cover the whole new field of artificial or regenerated limbs and nervous systems).
Ft. McNair (100 acres) Ft. McNair's main gate is only about ten blocks from the southern edge of the National Mall, and occupies some of DC's prime real estate. It is virtually surrounded by land which is about to undergo major developments. The facility is outlined in red in the lower center of the click-up aerial photo below. The large East Potomac Park with its 18-hole golf course is to the left, bounded by the Potomac River (far left) and the Washington Channel to its right. At top left are the pleasure boat docks of the Southwest Waterfront, a 48-acre site about to be completely rebuilt for combined higher residential, commercial and entertainment uses. DC's well-known Theater in the Round is across Maine Avenue from the waterfront, and the large building (top center) is the old Waterside Mall about to be totally rebuilt. That mall has the Waterfront Metrorail station, the only one in this area.
The broad road is M Street which is undergoing a major uplift. It intersects the major South Capitol Street, which is also due for redevelopment, including a new bridge over, and tunnel under, the Anacostia River. The beginning of the Southeast Federal Center next to the Washington Navy Yard is at the right edge of the photo. All of the area near the river from the Yard to Fr. McNair are due to major development as part of the city's ambitious long-range Anacostia Waterfront Initiative. The three large buildings along the river's edge to the right of Ft. McNair (and the small-boat marina) at 'Buzzard's Point' are also due for complete overhaul.
The large formal building at the south end of the campus is the National War College (NWC) which also houses the Institute for National Strategic Studies. At campus center left is the Inter- American Defense College (IADC), and center right is the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF), and the Information Resources Management College. The campus includes barracks and other old buildings at its north end. Among others, they house a Center for Military History and the 767th Ordnance Company. This latter team is on high-alert and specializes in explosive ordnance disposal at federal installations throughout the National Capital Region, including of course, the White House and Capitol buildings.
The NDU central mall has room for several tennis courts and a nine-hole golf course. Along the banks of the Washington Channel north of IADC, there are a dozen stately homes for the region's senior military officers. There is room further south for several more should the need arise as a result of closing other facilities within the city limits.
Ft. McNair has a rich military history and is the second oldest Army post (after West Point) in the nation. It was established in 1791 on about 28 acres and, as "Greenleaf Point", was included as a major defense site in L'Enfant's grand plan for Washington, the Federal City. An arsenal was established there is 1794, but it was taken over by the British in 1814. Land was bought to the north for the country's first federal penitentiary. Those found guilty of Lincoln's assassination were hanged there. A small hospital was added in 1857, and a larger general hospital founded in 1898 at which Major Walter Reed worked, known for his work on malaria and yellow fever. The Army War College was formed there in 1901, the Industrial College in 1924, and the Army-Navy Staff College in 1943, later to become NWC. It was renamed after Lt. Gen. Leslie J. McNair in 1948. The Army's "Old Guard", its ceremonial unit, moved to Ft. Meyer (adjacent to Arlington Cemetery) in Virginia in the 1960's.
There is no question that Ft. McNair will always be a significant feature of the nation's capital city. Nevertheless, it is about to be surrounded with higher density redevelopment, and essentially move closer to the city's centroid of activity. NARPAC believes that there is plenty of room for additional activities of interest to the public and the city's many tourists, even if its nine-hole golf course is relinquished for an improved one across the Washington Channel.
Naval Observatory (USNO) (incl. the VP Residence and Bunker) (80)
No aerial photograph of this site is available for wartime security reasons (!), but it is clearly shown on DC visitor maps like the click-up to the right. The Vice President's residence can be clearly seen by pedestrian and vehicular traffic from Massachusetts Ave. There is no nearby Metrorail station. The 2000-ft. diameter circle (upper, center) is located in Northwest between Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues. Across Massachusetts Ave to the northeast are some of DC's most highly valued private properties. Three blocks up the Avenue (top center) are the grounds of the National Cathedral (green), and in the lower left corner across Canal Road from the north bank of the Potomac River, the Georgetown University campus (yellow). It is noteworthy, at least to NARPAC, that neither of these two often-visited, well-used parcels is much larger than the observatory circle.
If in fact, a new 500-ft radius circle were drawn around the VP's high-security residence (in upper right quadrant of the current circle), it would encompass only 20 acres (compared to the 30-acre White House grounds). A large share of the remaining 60 acres could be made available for other upscale private and/or commercial uses. Neither its past and current military uses, nor its current residents, can possibly justify the use of 80 prime acres in DC's wealthiest Ward, particularly as a prime military target. The military tasks could be done as well anywhere.
The US Naval Observatory site was established in 1830 as the Depot of Charts and Instruments, and its primary mission was to care for the Navy' chronometers, charts, and other navigational equipment. It became the official Naval Observatory in 1893, and is now considered the preeminent authority in the areas of precision time and astrometry. Far more important, its large mansion was taken from the Chief of Naval Operations and converted to the home for the Vice President of the US. As rumor has it, it is also the site for the world's newest and best-equipped deep underground bunker. It is closed to the public except for tightly controlled tours of the Observatory, which require photo ID, proven identity, and prior reservations. Visitors without reservations are not admitted under any circumstances, according to the current USNO web site.
It is important to recognize that the District, per se, is an ever-decreasing share of the total wealth (gross regional product) and population of the national capital metro area. It is not an island, and there is no particular reason why it should have more than its share of the region's poor, the region's sick, the region's military installations, or of the region's parks (a subject for another day). It is also important to recognize that how the District develops within its fixed jurisdictional borders depends in some measure on how the area develops beyond its borders, particularly with respect to the transportation infrastructure. It is no accident that the primary growth in the area has leaned towards Dulles Airport along the "Dulles Corridor" with its excellent approach roads to the west of DC, and along the "I270 Corridor" with its federal highway to Gaithersberg and Frederick to the northwest of DC. The main I95 route up the East Coast of the US has also brought development along the Washington-Baltimore corridor to the northeast.
As has been discussed in prior articles on DC's lands East of the Anacostia, there has been no equivalent growth (yet) along the "Rt50 Corridor" to Annapolis, and virtually no growth towards the western shores of the Chesapeake Bay via, say, Andrews Air Force Base to the southeast. The Southeast Quadrant of the national capital metro area is by far the least developed both inside DC and in southern Maryland. As noted (again) in NARPAC's recent analysis of the new Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital Region draft, the failure to include Maryland's eastern counties, including it's state capital of Annapolis in Anne Arundel County, doubtless contributes to this lower growth rate, to DC's disadvantage. DC's first class metrorail system stops short of Andrews, but the overcrowded Washington Beltway I495 is just outside its main gate.
One can get a crude sense of the geometry of development from the chart below, which shows DC in purple, other densely developed areas in tan, and the region's "empty southeast quadrant" in yellow. Highlighted in red are DC's three commercial airports: the tiny 750-acre domestic flights airport with the giant name, The Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), the huge still underutilized Dulles International Airport (DIA) to the west, and the Baltimore- Washington International Airport (BWI) to the northeast, near Baltimore's "beltway":
Equally important are the relative location and size of the two large green military reservations, Ft. Meade to the northeast, and Ft. Belvoir to the southwest (see below). Both are closer to the heart of DC than it's two major airports. Of greater interest to NARPAC, however, is the location of Andrews Air Force Base shown in red and green stripes to DC's southeast, just outside its beltway. It is both a military installation, and one of the area's largest, and certainly least used, airports because it serves only very special military purposes. These three military installations are described in somewhat greater detail in the following sections, but it might be noted that together they comprise at least 22,500 acres, which amounts to 75% of the District's . total land area of 30,000 acres.
Ft. Meade, MD (12,000+ acres, est.)
This large spread is one of the Defense Department's least discussed bases because it is home to one of DoD's least discussed agencies. The National Security Agency (NSA) essentially eavesdrops on the communications of the rest of the world. Ft. Meade's mission statement is reflected on its web site: "to provide operations support for facilities and infrastructure, quality of life and protective services in support of DoD activities and Federal agencies". Although there are more than 109,000 residents and federal employees on the base, (which equates to nine people per acre), NARPAC has little doubt that additional relevant military functions could be placed there (such as any residual naval security functions on Nebraska Avenue). Moreover, some small sites around its perimeter could be fenced off for, say, taxpaying support contractors on which the military has come to depend so highly.
Ft. Meade does not have a particularly noteworthy history. It was one of 16 cantonments purchased in 1917 to process the millions of troops called up for WW I. By 1919, 100,000 soldiers had passed through the huge area. It stagnated between wars, but became a training center again in WW II with a maximum on-base population of 75,000 in 1945. After that war, it played a variety of command roles for Army units, but only began to come into its own with the arrival of NSA. It now claims to have over fifty tenant units, varying in size from the Army's Field Band (!), to intelligence units from Army, Navy, and Air Force, to several reserve units, and the gigantic NSA facility (which makes it Maryland's largest single business).
Ft. Belvoir, VA (8650 acres)
As military installations go in this area, Ft. Belvoir is also a relatively late addition. Though that area had been privately owned and used in the 1650's by early settlers, the original 1500 acres was not bought by the federal government til 1910 (for a children's reformatory!). Before that materialized, it was turned over to the War Department in 1912, but construction of Camp Humphreys did not begin until US entry into WW I in 1917. By 1919, and the end of that war, it had expanded to some 6000 acres, and become the permanent home for the Army Engineers and its school. In WWII it expanded again to its current size, approaching 9000 acres, and has attracted some other tenant organizations as well. Nevertheless, it has a military population of only some 4500, plus another 1500 students, plus a civilian daytime population of about 10,000. It also includes a substantial hospital
Ft. Belvoir is an attractive site fronting on the Potomac River and Gunston Cove, but none of its functions require a unique location near the nation's capital. With a daytime population density of only about three people per acre, it is clearly capable of taking addition functions and people. It strikes NARPAC as potentially an excellent site for a re-located soldiers' and airmen's retirement home.
Andrews Air Force Base (4320 acres)
Andrews AFB has had an even shorter history. President Roosevelt ordered the land purchased and an airfield built in August of 1941. It was near the small town of Camp Springs and was initially named Camp Springs Army Airfield. It opened in May of 1943 as a base for P-47's. Its name was subsequently changed to Andrews Field, and when the Air Force became a separate service in 1947, to Andrews Air Force Base. In July 1961, it became the home base for "Air Force One", replacing National Airport, which had replaced Bolling Air Force Base. In 1963, the Navy Air Facility was moved to Andrews from the Anacostia Naval Station. It is home to Navy/Marine Reserve squadrons, and to the world's only municipal air national guard unit(!).
Although it is home to 40 tenant units of one sort or another, mostly non-flight oriented, it is primarily known as the home base of the 89th Airlift Wing which provides the "special air mission" (SAM) aircraft for the president and other high ranking government officials. It is also the normal port of arrival for major foreign dignitaries from over 50 different countries, and other solemn events such as the return of President Kennedy's body, and the POWs from the Vietnamese War. What it has gained in prominence, it has lost in activity. NARPAC would not be surprised to find that the average American aircraft carrier has more daily landings and take- offs than Andrews.
There is one minor historical building at Andrews. In the 1850's, Union troops occupied the small Camp Springs country church, and it is still in use as "Chapel 2" on the base.
The diagram below indicates the size of Andrews AFB (red outline) relative to the 750-acre National Airport (blue outline) which hardly covers the base's golf course and some of its housing. Though not shown here, London's 2660-acre Heathrow Airport would also fit inside Andrews AFB without touching the National Airport insert. Whereas Andrews hosts some 21,000 residents and workers (i.e., 5 per acre)and handles perhaps 50 flights per day (a wild NARPAC guess), Heathrow manages to squeeze in 68,000 workers (i.e., 26 per acre), while routinely handling over 1200 flights per day.
NCPC Comprehensive Plan.
The Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process had its origins in the 1960s when the Department of Defense (DoD) finally began to reduce its base structure created during World War II and the Korean War.. Under McNamara's guidance, DoD closed 60 bases early in the 1960s without Congressional or other government involvement. Congress then decided it needed to be involved in the process and passed legislation in 1965 requiring DoD to report any base closure programs to it. President Johnson vetoed that bill and DoD continued to realign and close bases without Congressional oversight throughout the rest of the 1960s.
Economic and political pressures eventually forced Congress to intervene again in the base closure process and to end DoD's independence. In August, 1977 President Carter approved Public Law (PL) 95-82, requiring DoD to notify Congress when a base was a candidate for reduction or closure; to prepare studies on the strategic, environmental, and local economic consequences of such action; and to wait sixty days for a Congressional response. It was codified as Section 2687, Title 10, United States Code and, along with other new environmental laws, assured Congress an integral role in the process.
As economic pressures mounted, the drive to realign and close military installations intensified. In 1983 the President's Grace Commission on Cost Control concluded that important economies could be made in base structure, recommending the creation of a nonpartisan, independent commission to study base realignment and closure.
Although nothing came of this recommendation, continuing declines in defense budgets prompted DoD to take decisive action. In 1988 the Secretary of Defense chartered the Commission on Base Realignment and Closure, and Congress enacted two laws providing for "the closure, in part or in whole, and the realignment of facilities".
Since 1988, four successive bipartisan BRAC Commission actions have recommended the closure of 125 major military facilities and 225 minor military bases and installations, and the realignment in operations and functions of 145 others. By another accounting, the four BRAC rounds achieved 97 base closings and 55 major realignments. This resulted in net savings to taxpayers of over $16 billion through 2001, and over $6 billion in additional savings annually.
The principal mechanism for implementing the policy in both statutes has been an independent, bipartisan commission. Two of the most pressing issues are providing assistance to local communities economically impacted by base closures and establishing a cost-effective program of environmental clean-up at bases prior to their disposition.
During the 1980s no major military bases were actually closed, largely because of the procedural requirements established by Congress. Congress eventually introduced a new base closure procedure in PL100-526. It was enacted October 24, 1988, and designed to minimize political interference. The statute established a bipartisan commission to make closure recommendations to Congress and the Secretary of Defense. Lawmakers had to accept or reject the commission's report in its entirety. On December 28, 1988, the commission issued its report, recommending closure of 86 installations, partial closure of 5, and realignment of 54 others. The Secretary of Defense approved its recommendation on January 5, 1989.
Since that commission approach was successful, new base closure legislation was introduced which also relied on an independent commission. Congress refined the process in 1990 with another Base Closure Act (PL 101-510) that charged DoD with drawing up an initial list of bases for the commission's consideration. In accordance with a statutory provision, it met in 1991, 1993, and 1995.
From 1989 to 1997, DoD reduced total active duty military end strength by 32%, a figure that will grow to 36% by 2003 as a result of the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review [QDR]. After four base closure rounds, DoD's continental base structure has been reduced only 21%, but by 1997, DoD's overseas base structure had already been reduced by almost 60%. When all of the bases from those four BRAC rounds are finally closed, there will still be about 400 bases in the US, 97 less than in the late 1990s, as well as 960 fewer facilities overseas.
The 1997 QDR concluded that DoD still had enough excess base structure to warrant two additional rounds of BRAC, similar in scale to 1993 and 1995, and DoD estimated that two additional base closure rounds would result in savings of approximately $2.7 billion annually. The BRAC 1995 commission recommended that the Congress authorize another Base Closure Commission for the year 2001, giving military services time to complete the current closures in an orderly fashion. Implementing the BRAC actions in the first four rounds would result in $23 billion in one-time implementation costs, offset by savings of $36.5 billion, for a total net savings of $13.5 billion between 1990 and 2001 (when the implementation of the first four rounds was supposed to be concluded). DoD has not included the total cost of environmental cleanup beyond 2001 in the net savings figures. DoD assumed that about half the base closure savings are due to savings in operation and maintenance costs through civilian personnel reductions.
Under the BRAC process, the Secretary of Defense makes recommendations to a commission, nominated by the President, confirmed by the Senate. The commission then reviews these recommendations and makes their own recommendations to the President. The President then reviews the recommendations and either sends them back to the commission for additional work or forwards them, without changes, to the Congress. The recommendations of the commission go into effect unless disapproved by a joint resolution of the Congress.
In 1995 the BRAC commission recommended closing two major depots in politically powerful states. President Clinton proposed that private contractors take over the maintenance work at the sites instead, contrary to the Commission's recommendations. Congressional concern was raised about the integrity of the BRAC process in light of this attempt to 'politicize' the process.
After that, lawmakers did not agree until 2001 to schedule another round of base closings. Before the dispute was resolved, the dispute held up a conference agreement on the FY2002 defense authorization bill (PL 107-107) and led President Bush to threaten to veto the bill if it did not allow a new round in 2005. The Defense Secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee in July 2001 that the Pentagon maintained 25 percent more facilities than it needs, even after four rounds of base closings in the 1990s. By some estimates, the excess military bases annually cost taxpayers as much as $3.5 billion.
federal criteria for military base revisions
The following materials are excerpted from the Federal Register: February 12, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 291) [Notices] Page 6948-6952:
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (DoD) Office of the Secretary
SUMMARY: The Secretary of Defense, in accordance with section 2913(a) of the Defense Base
Closure and Realignment Act of 1990, Public Law 101-510, as amended, 10 U.S.C. 2687 note, is
required to publish the final selection criteria to be used by the DoD in making recommendations
for the closure or realignment of military installations inside the US.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION :
A. Final Selection Criteria
The final criteria to be used by the DoD to make recommendations for the closure or realignment of military installations inside the US under the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990, Public Law 101-510, as amended, 10 U.S.C. 2687 note, are as follows:
In selecting military installations for closure or realignment, the DoD, giving priority consideration to military value (the first four criteria below), will consider:
1. The current and future mission capabilities and the impact on operational readiness of the
DoD's total force, including the impact on joint warfighting, training, and readiness.
5. The extent and timing of potential costs and savings, including the number of years, beginning
with the date of completion of the closure or realignment, for the savings to exceed the
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Mike McAndrew, Base Realignment and Closure Office, ODUSD(I&E), (703) 614-5356.
NARPAC believes that it would be unrealistic to propose the closing or realignment of a military or military-related facility in or near DC without considering the consequences for both parties. We suggest the following five criteria:
1. DC, as the potential beneficiary of the released property, should be able to demonstrate a very significant increase in annual revenues for the city: NARPAC would be willing to stipulate that, upon redevelopment, revenues at current DC tax rates would exceed current income by at least a factor of ten;
2. The valid military functions dispossessed should be capable of being relocated in essentially equally desirable and compatible locations. For instance, in the relevant cases proposed here, the maximum acres released by the military would not exceed 1800 acres: there are three major and under-utilized military properties totaling 21,000 acres at a radius of no greater than 20 miles further than the current facilities are from the center of the Federal City.
3. To the extent practicable, the relocation of still-needed facilities should add to the long-term economic development of a currently under-developed sector of the city and its metro area;
4. In some cases, the property may, per force, remain in government custody. In these cases, efforts should be made (as suggested in the NCPC Comprehensive Plan, Federal Elements) to add attractions open to the public that can generate municipal tax revenues. These could vary from a commercial hotel or restaurant to a museum or an interactive educational attraction.
5. Some of these military facilities have some elements of credible historic value. Efforts should be made to find creative means to preserve the essence of the historic element, or perhaps have it relocated to its subsequent location. A telescope, a statue, even a cottage might be relocated for the sake of posterity.
This is a very important, but time-limited, opportunity for the DC government to step up and ask that the Pentagon close some of its seriously under-utilized (and hence expensive) bases. DC needs additional revenues to become a world class national capital city. It can be a rare win-win-win situation for the Defense Department, the national capital city, and for Americans everywhere who would like their capital city to be the world's best.
Few major federal property transfer opportunities have been as thoroughly ignored by DC's political and institutional leaders as the work of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. A rare joint, and largely de-politicized, creature of the federal legislative and executive branches, this completely open, two-year BRAC process is now complete. DC will eventually gain control of a major under-utilized Defense Dept property available for unencumbered economic development. We believe NARPAC was the only DC area organization to offer constructive recommendations to both the Pentagon and the Commission on such sites within the city.
While the final actions fell short of our ambitious objectives, the Army's 110-acre Walter Reed Hospital complex will close, and the Navy's"Potomac Annex" (west of the State Dept Building) will give up any pretext of military utility. Quite independent of BRAC, the financially-strapped Soldier and Airmen's Home will release a large share of its unique site for economic development. Similarly, the Navy has released its high-value site at Ward Circle, NW, to GSA to serve as the "temporary" headquarters for Homeland Security. But across the Anacostia River, the future of the huge (partly federal-, partly DC-controlled) St. Elizabeth's Hospital site remains mired in indecision. Finally, to NARPAC's chagrin, the BRAC Commission ignored the even larger one- time military airfields which occupy priceless land on the banks of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers.
But the outlook is clear. The "post-Iraq BRAC round" some five years hence will surely continue to shedd federal properties, particularly when they are near potential urban targets. Will DC grasp the potential of these present and future transfers and exploit their vast potential advantages for our national capital city? There's plenty of time, but controversial new guidelines are warranted:
o The fate of these properties is up to the city, not the nearest parochial neighborhoods
Most of these large federal properties have been friendly community landmarks as long as their residents can remember, even though the land itself generated few revenues for the city (a fact DC's CFO is prone to exaggerate) . Most have also provided regular and stable employment, even though most of those jobs were at the lower end of the income scale. But the costs of city living are rising, and the costs of providing municipal services are rising as well. Hence these solid citizens gradually shift from being net revenue-providers to the city to net revenue consumers. DC must find new sources of revenues, if for no other reason than to be able to afford to keep those not paying their way. It needs new land from which to generate more revenues. And it needs to avoid, wherever possible, displacing current citizens in the process.
o Together these sites could provide revenues to permanently assure DC's financial independence
As NARPAC has demonstrated earlier in this chapter, very few of DC's acres are "revenue cash cows", or "oil wells" as NARPAC like to call them. In fact, we estimate that no more than 3200 residential acres (in Northwest) and about 800 commercial acres ("downtown") generate more in taxes than they use in city services. There are that many acres altogether in the federal properties ultimately available for "privatization". Perhaps some of DC's many activists should adopt the slogan: "Privatize, don't Gentrify".
o These sites are "outside the bowl" and need not be constrained by L'Enfant's 200-yr old limits
There are no more hysterical activists in DC than those devoted to protecting the original plan for the layout of the original city. Clearly, it is important for the nation's capital city to preserve its heritage. However, there is a near-universal insistence that the entire District be treated to the same development limits as have applied for over two hundred years to the original city boundaries. Those boundaries were defined by a modest (at best) "topographic bowl" , which must have seemed a lot more prominent to surveyors in the late 1700's than they do today to drivers who drive back and forth across the 'rim'. But the point is that in selected areas outside 'the bowl' there are substantial opportunities to encourage higher-density developments, well outside the viewline of those inside the federal city. DC's boundaries are already marked on three sides by substantially higher buildings in "edge cities" whose "land productivity" is substantially higher than DC's. Those who invoke the age-old "slippery slope" argument ("give in once and pretty soon all is lost") cannot find many examples of limits of American freedoms that have blown out of proportions, from speed limits to income taxes.
o These sites are opportunities to pursue DC's progressive future, not to embalm more of its historic past
NARPAC has estimated elsewhere that there are already more than 30,000 protected 'historic sites' within a city of less than 30,000 usable acres. It would probably be possible to demonstrate analytically that every square inch of available DC land will be hamstrung with historic preservation constraints by the Year 20XX. (Another slippery slope?, well, there is already at least one protected gas station, and one early concrete building!). The point is the nation's capital city should devote some (considerable?) attention to the fact that it should also symbolize the nation's future. There are already modern buildings cheek by jowl with classic Grecian architecture, and there is no conceivable justification for saving in tact the city's first insane asylum, it's first airport, it's first Naval observatory. In fact, modern technology now makes it possible to present historic memorabilia in much more convincing detail through the use of various digital devices and life-like animated simulations as are currently used in DC's "Newseum" and Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. Where are DC's activists for embracing the future as well as its past?.
o DC's should reinforce its unique role and assets and avoid mimicking the suburbs' strengths.
DC leaders and activists have an unfortunate tendency to plan DC as a perfect image of its neighboring suburban jurisdictions, and therefore completely independent of any regional dependencies or individuality. This seems particularly inappropriate for the tiny core city of a multi-million person metro area, especially when it hosts the capital of the US. As NARPAC never fails to point out, DC has 12% of the region's population, 40% of the region's poor, and only 8% of its total "wealth", and less than 2% of its land area. How then could DC possibly try to duplicate the schools, the open spaces, the low density, or household demography of its neighbors? To the contrary, shouldn't the city focus on those institutions most closely related with the federal government and its "camp followers", and those more centralized functions and activities that cannot sensibly be replicated in several dispersed suburban locations?
o DC leaders should make sure the remaining federal properties do not ignore BRAC guidelines
There is a clear and continuing trend towards dispersing military functions from urban areas (with inadequate security) and from sites which are currently under-utilized and essentially no longer serving their original functions. DC would do well, then, to keep an eye on new tenants on these otherwise outdated facilities, and try to discourage such movements. Why should non-aviation office functions be added to a tract of urban land large enough for an airfield? Why should a brand new Coast Guard headquarters be built on the grounds of an empty federal mental hospital? Why should Homeland Security headquarters squat on a "surplus" naval base smack in the middle of DC's wealthiest residential area? If DC does not point out the incongruity of these federal actions before they become fait accomplis, they will seriously reduce their chances of ultimately gaining title to these desirable and appropriate sites for economic development of the nation's capital city.
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